This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
Puerto Ricans who came to North Dakota after losing their homes in Hurricane Maria face a variety of challenges. One of the hurdles is learning to speak English. For students it’s essential for continuing their education. Bismarck has a Welcome Center that helps English learners get up to speed. Mandan also is dealing with a larger number of English learners and is considering a Welcome Center. It’s good to see the schools giving the new residents who have lost so much this needed help.
There are fewer North Dakotans for the first time in 15 years, according to census officials. It shouldn’t be surprising that the state has seen its population drop. The slowdown in the oil patch means fewer workers not just in the fields, but in supporting jobs. The population decline was slight, 155 people, but it still hurts. There’s opportunities for the state to rebound as activity is increasing in the Bakken and our economic outlook is improving.
Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha plans to retire when his current term ends in January 2019. He has served in some capacity in the state’s attorney’s office for 36 years. He’s seen his staff grow, administrative duties increase and a new detention center built. He’s had to adjust to changing times and done a good job. Thirty-six years is a long time in public office and he deserves a big thanks for his service.
The Minot Police Department and Ward County Sheriff’s Department say they are "strained and stressed" fighting violent crime, drug dealers, prostitution and human trafficking, There was an increase in crime during the oil boom and despite the slowdown in the oil patch there hasn’t been a slowing of crime. Minot Police Chief Jason Olsen says Minot has become a target of criminals from Bakersfield, the oil capital of California. The area's crime database shows 250 people from that city. Minot has increased its police force from 65 to 81 officers, but turnover has kept the experience level on the force down. It’s going to take a constant effort by law enforcement and help from the public to get the situation under control.
Lincoln was looking at a loss of paratransit service in the new year, a situation that would have created problems for a number of people. Fortunately, the Lincoln City Council has found enough money to get the community through 2018. The council is confident they can find long term funding for the service. That’s what the community needs and the council should be commended for stepping up.