This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
It was good news for Bismarck last week when the federal Office of Management and Budget announced it will continue to classify cities with at least 50,000 people as metropolitan statistical areas. The agency was considering changing the threshold to 100,000 people, which would have made cities like Bismarck, Grand Forks and Minot micropolitan areas. Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken and others raised concerns that the change in classification could put federal funding at risk. Another concern was how the change could affect future economic development. Nationwide, 97% of public comments submitted on the proposed change were opposed to it, The Associated Press reported.
Strong oil prices are generally good news for North Dakota, with increases having a direct impact on the state treasury. But higher oil prices will have a negative impact on the state’s road construction budget. The increase means the state will need to spend more on oil used for road construction and making asphalt. It isn’t expected to affect projects already bid for this season, the AP reported, but likely will impact projects for next year.
Grand Forks twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson are deserving recipients of North Dakota’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. Gov. Doug Burgum presented the Olympic gold medalists with the awards last week in a ceremony that had been postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. The sisters, who advocate for gender equality and opportunities for disadvantaged youth, are the 45th and 46th recipients of the award. A dual portrait was hung on the ground floor of the North Dakota Capitol last week.
The North Dakota Department of Health reports the number of cases of virus variants continues to increase, with 20 cases of the delta variant now confirmed in the state. The fast-spreading delta variant is a concern nationwide because it is more easily transmitted. The delta variant makes up about 56% of viruses in circulation in Region 8, which covers the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Utah, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. North Dakota's state lab has now identified 1,276 cases of five variants, an increase of more than 18% from three weeks ago. Meanwhile, vaccinations remain stagnant, with 48.7% of eligible North Dakota adults considered fully vaccinated.