BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, June 18, 2015
N.D. tops nation in economic growth
Despite an accelerated drop in the price of crude as 2014 came to a close, North Dakota still emerged as the fastest growing economy in the United States last year. Not surprising, the energy sector was behind much of the state's growth in 2014 compared to the previous year.
North Dakota's gross domestic product expanded 6.3 percent in 2014, best in the nation. Following North Dakota, Texas came in second with a growth figure of 5.2 percent. In both states the mining sector which includes oil and natural gas extraction, was a major contributor.
West Virginia, Wyoming and Colorado rounded out the top five states, with growth figures ranging from 5.1 percent to 4.7 percent over the previous year. Their growth rates were considerably better than the national average of 2.2 percent.
2015 will likely shape up differently for North Dakota, given current lower oil prices. How North Dakota fares this year and how the state's overall balance sheet looks like at year-end is a work in progress.
Although oil-related headlines have dominated the news over the past several years, the state economy is diverse, extending well beyond the energy sector. Transportation, professional and business services, and manufacturing were all up in 2014. Granted, it's important to recognize how each was positively influenced by energy-related activity this past year.
While the state has benefited recently as a result of oil exploration in the Williston Basin, other sectors including agriculture are still in play, perennial contributors to the state economy. Despite low grain prices, the ripple effect agricultural activity has on the state's economy continues to be felt in communities throughout the state.
North Dakota is fortunate in that it has experienced cyclical price swings for commodities before, and has effectively navigated through challenging times. Realistically, the impact from oil price declines likely haven't been fully felt yet, with a more pronounced effect potentially occurring in the second half of the year.
The latter part of 2015 will be more telling as hedged energy production transitions from set, to current market pricing, and the backlog of uncompleted wells slowly unwinds. The final outcome, however, largely will be predicated on the price of oil.
The takeaway for state leaders is straightforward — measured growth in any sector and effectively positioning the state to be economically diverse, is critical. Smart policy-making knowing market dynamics can and will change is prudent.
Local communities too, appreciate and desire a balanced approach, one that can be effectively managed in good times and bad.
North Dakota has had an impressive run, a trend that can certainly continue.
Minot Daily News, Minot, June 17, 2015
Most of us who have traveled by air over the past 13 years have experienced the inconvenience of dealing with Transportation Security Administration screenings, random searches and regulations. And, most of us dutifully packed our toiletries in tiny containers, inside separate clear plastic bags; submitted to full-body scans and pat-downs; took off our shoes; endured the long lines ... followed all the new rules, because we believed what we were told — that it all would keep us safer.
In fact, the invasions of privacy and increased hoops to jump through were billed as necessary in order to ensure that our larger freedoms remained safe. Now, as the result of a Department of Homeland Security investigation, we are learning we were duped. An internal investigation conducted by Homeland Security teams showed TSA airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons an unfathomable nearly 96 percent of the time. Banned items made it through screening in 67 of 70 attempts in airports across the country.
In announcing what has become the typical response to government failures these days — acting administrator for the TSA Melvin Carraway has been "reassigned" — Homeland Security reminded Americans that airport screenings are but one of many ways in which we are told the government keeps us safe. An agency representative cited "intelligence gathering and analysis, cross-checking passenger manifests against watch lists, screening at checkpoints, random canine team screening at airports, reinforced cockpit doors, Federal Air Marshals, armed pilots and a vigilant public."
We know intelligence gathering does not stop a man in a gyrocopter from landing on the U.S. Capitol lawn. We know screening at checkpoints fails almost every time. We know reinforced cockpit doors mean once a crazed co-pilot gets the pilot out of the cockpit, no one can get back in to stop him. We know watch lists can contain gaps and mistakes, and do not account for first-timers.
That leaves us to put our faith in dogs, armed marshals and pilots, and each other — not a bad plan, actually.
But meanwhile, more than $540 million in taxpayer money has been spent on baggage screening equipment alone, with millions more spent on training users, over the past six years. That is well over half-a-billion dollars for a program that simply does not work. Lawmakers had better demand a lot more accountability than simply the reassignment of one administrator for that kind of waste.
Daily News, Wahpeton, June 15, 2015
A reminder for drivers to yield to pedestrians
How many of you have ever read about an accident involving a pedestrian and car and questioned how the pedestrian missed seeing the car?
The real question that should have been asked is, how did the driver miss seeing the pedestrian?
Driving habits become routine after a while and sometimes we are so absorbed in getting to our destination we forget there are others on the road, especially people out walking, playing and riding bikes.
Drivers have a responsibility of safety when they turn their vehicle on and hit the road. It is the driver's responsibility to watch for pedestrians, animals and bicyclists when on the road and sometimes they are unrecognized obstructions when we are in a hurry. It cannot be stated enough that an accident involving a car and any of these three obstacles does not bode well for the other person.
After a number of close calls right outside the Daily News office, it has become necessary to remind drivers to start paying attention. When a pedestrian is at a marked crosswalk and given the green light to proceed, they have the right of way. When driving through a neighborhood where young children are playing in their yards, assume one of them may dart in front of your car at any point, so drive defensively with their safety in mind.
No one wants to read about a horrible accident involving a driver and a young child, so please, be careful when out on the road.
There are two types of people who most often become pedestrian fatalities: The small child and the older person. In the case of either type, a responsible driver will always check around their car before getting into it to be sure no one is in the vehicle's path. Walking from behind parked cars is a common action in fatal accidents involving a pedestrian, according to the driver's safety manual.
The North Dakota driver's manual spells out the rules of the road even more plainly, "Pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks have the right of way. Drivers must yield when pedestrians are in the driver's lane of travel ... The key to safety is based on careful observation of the pedestrian and common courtesy."
If you have a license, you know the rules, so in an effort to stop an accident before it happens, slow down and watch for those pedestrians. There is no place we need to be in such a hurry to reach that is causes another to be horribly injured, or even killed.
With the warmer temperatures more and more people are spending their free hours out walking, working in their yard and biking around the Twin Towns. This is the perfect time to remind drivers to slow down and take better care in their travels.