This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
While some people in Bismarck-Mandan may complain about restaurants and other establishments being busier during the legislative session the added business is welcome. Legislators, staff, lobbyists and citizens who come to listen and testify provide a boost to the local economy. While there’s no way to know the fiscal impact on the economy there’s anecdotal evidence. Hotel occupancy was up 12.3 percent and lodging tax revenue was up 11.3 percent in January 2019 compared to January 2018, according to the Smith Travel Report. Bismarck restaurateurs say the session brings an added bump to their establishments -- about 10 percent to the Blarney Stone Pub, co-owner Jim Poolman estimates. It all adds up to the Legislature being good business.
The Bismarck Tribune has been a strong supporter of the initiative and referral processes. The initiative process can be flawed, but it provides residents with a way to take action. There are proposals before the Legislature to make the process more difficult. The latest, House Concurrent Resolution 3010, would raise the threshold for passing initiated constitutional amendments at the ballot box to 60 percent instead of a majority. If passed by the Legislature it would need approval by voters. The Legislature should respect the process and reject efforts to hinder initiatives.
Bismarck Public School staff received some special training last week that could prove very valuable. Thirty counselors, social workers and school psychologists took a Mental Health First Aid course that is operated by the National Council for Behavioral Health. The program focuses on youth ages 12 to 18 and trains staff to respond to a student exhibiting suicidal behaviors or other mental health disorders. The program isn’t intended to turn staff into mental health professionals, but is about building awareness of mental health issues and when to recognize a student is in crisis. The training was funded from the $1.4 million the Bismarck School Board set aside last year for school safety and student mental health efforts. It’s a good step by the school district.
North Dakota, unfortunately, ranks high in another study related to alcohol use. About 5.73 percent of North Dakota drivers report a DUI in their history in a seven-year period, according to the study by Insurify, a website that helps users compare auto insurance quotes. North Dakota ranks first and the other states in the top 10 are Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. The study may have its flaws, but it’s another indication the state has a drinking problem.
We come in contact with many people as we go about our daily routines. The gas station attendant, the bank teller, the restaurant server, and the list goes on. We may know them just by their first name, but they always provide a friendly greeting and good service. One person who fits this mold is Loretta Boehm. who works at the Capitol Cafe in the Capitol. She’s been at the cafe since 1969 and has served governors, legislators, Supreme Court justices and staff from the various offices. She’s been a mainstay, someone others can count on. It’s people like Boehm who keep things humming. We need to show our appreciation to them more often.