This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
It’s been nearly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change how we do business, but the Burleigh County Commission is still trying to figure it out. Commissioner Mark Armstrong requested better remote accessibility of meetings after nearly a year of not attending meetings in person. Dakota Media Access broadcasts the meetings, and Zoom access is available if two or more people are attending remotely. The commission should ensure that remote participation is always an option, or it needs to require masks and greater social distancing during in-person meetings. Armstrong, meanwhile, should be more accessible to his constituents, particularly if he’s not at meetings where members of the public can approach him with questions. Armstrong is the only commissioner with no phone number posted to the county website. Last week he said he won’t talk to the media. Answering questions of the media is a way of communicating with the public, which all commissioners should consider part of their job.
The number of North Dakotans who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine has exceeded 100,000, or about one in every seven residents. The state had administered 163,792 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as of last Tuesday, with more than 24,000 doses administered in Burleigh and Morton counties. Nearly 14% of North Dakotans age 16 and older have received their first dose; nearly 7% have received their second dose. North Dakota’s rate of total coronavirus vaccine doses administered remains among the highest in the country.
It was unnecessary and divisive for members of the North Dakota House of Representatives to hold a moment of silence after the death of Rush Limbaugh. As House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Louser noted in his comments, Limbaugh was a controversial figure. Republicans may hold the supermajority in the state, but they also represent people who found Limbaugh offensive. There is no doubt Limbaugh was an influential person in the worlds of conservative politics and talk radio, but he also built a career on racist, misogynistic and bigoted commentary.
Members of the North Dakota House made the right call by rejecting a bill to increase the speed limit on interstates from 75 mph to 80 mph. An increase would have led many motorists to drive 85 mph. It also likely would have led to more injuries and fatalities, as well as more damage to the highways.