This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
North Dakota’s population looks like it’s on the rebound. After posting its first estimated population loss in 15 years in 2017, a drop of 155, things are looking up. The Census Bureau estimates Cass County gained 3,162 residents from July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017. Burleigh County picked up 601 residents. Grand Forks County grew to a lesser degree by 199 residents. Ward County, on the edge of the oil patch, dropped by 1,207. Overall, rural counties struggled the most to maintain populations. The good news is the increased activity in the Bakken and improving economy seems to have stemmed the outward migration.
The airline industry needs more pilots and if it doesn’t find them airports in rural areas will suffer. Federal aviation rule changes, mandatory retirements and economic reasons are fueling the shortage. Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of the Municipal Airport Authority at Fargo’s Hector International Airport, says the shortage is nearing the crisis level. If the nation doesn’t get more pilots trained and in the air small airports could see flights canceled and larger airports could have problems adding more flights. The University of North Dakota Aviation Department hopes to be able to help fill the void. It’s going to be a big challenge.
State Auditor Josh Gallion has decided to review Gov. Doug Burgum’s travel spending. It was Gallion’s decision to do a performance audit related to the governor office’s “travel related expenditures and use of state resources.” The audit will include the last months of Gov. Jack Dalrymple's time in office. Burgum drew criticism for accepting Super Bowl tickets from Xcel Energy and he paid back the company. It took confidence by Gallion to audit a fellow Republican. In the end it could be beneficial for everyone involved. If no problems are found it could help erase the Super Bowl concerns and demonstrate Republicans aren’t reluctant to review each other.
The Bismarck School District is losing some of its top administrators and that’s unfortunate. Fran Rodenburg, the elementary assistant superintendent, is the latest to resign. She’s been in the district for more than 30 years. She hopes to find work with youth, possibly with at-risk youth and pertaining to substance use disorders. The principals at Grimsrud, Northridge and Liberty elementary also have announced they are leaving. Superintendent Tamara Uselman plans to leave early in the summer. That’s a lot of talent going out the door this year.
The Senate has passed a bill adding Indian Country to the Amber Alert program. The alerts are issued to help find and protect children who have been abducted or run away. It was unfortunate Indian Country wasn’t included in the beginning. This could be a big help for the reservations across the country. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced the bill.