Washington Post: North Dakota Sucks

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Reading this front-page Washington Post story about life in North Dakota’s oil fields doesn’t really feel like reading about our state and our communities. The impression the Post gives is a popular one among certain political activists and news reporters who visit the area looking for details to fill into a negative story about the oil boom they already have written, but it doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the reality we’re actually living with.

The Post sensationalizes the crime statistics, but doesn’t point out the context of booming population. Recently Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem reported that western North Dakota is no more dangerous than any other part of the state. Stenehjem also reported that, despite the oil boom, crime rates in the state are actually lower than they were a decade ago. But these facts don’t fit the Post’s narrative.

Yes, housing is short, but new housing is also being built at a break-neck pace to keep up with demand.

Yes, traffic is up, but much like crime rates the rate of traffic accidents is actually a little lower than before (probably because a lot of the new drivers on the roads are professionals).

Yes, more people are locking their doors at night and buying things like tasers and pepper spray to keep themselves safe, but that has more to do with perceptions from hysterical media reports like the Post’s than reality.

Yes we’re having problems building out infrastructure to meet growth, but the state put $1 billion in to western infrastructure in the last legislative session plus more during the interim session since. Most of the projects that money funded haven’t even been completed yet, and we should beware local politicians and bureaucrats leveraging the oil boom and the impact as an excuse to inflate budgets and staff.

Yes, the culture of western North Dakota is changing and most likely for good, but what can we do about that? Should we hamstring this growth we’ve seen in the west so that some, most of whom don’t actually live in western North Dakota, can keep in their minds the picture of the quaint sort of small-town western communities they think existed before oil boom? Do they not realize that those western communities were dying before oil revitalized them?

There are problems and challenges in the west, and they should be talked about, but a lot of the people who are reporting and talking about western North Dakota aren’t doing so in good faith. The oil boom in North Dakota is an inconvenient truth for those who believe economic growth should be “stimulated” by the government. The oil boom is inconvenient for those who believed in peak oil. For those who believed that the age of fossil fuels was over.

These people want to paint an ugly picture of the oil boom, and their vehicles for doing so are lopsided, unfair stories like the one in the Post.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dakotaquinn Mike Quinn

    North Dakota could follow the lead of Alaska and share the oil wealth with every citizen. However, the Republicans would rather channel the money into the pockets of the rich. While thousands of North Dakotans have no health insurance, and teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country, the greedy Republicans sit on billions trying to figure out how they can convert the money into tax breaks for the rich. In Alaska every citizen got a check for $1,200, but in North Dakota where sharing is a crime, we still suffer from the problems oil money could correct if the Republicans would use it to help the common man instead of making sure it is funneled to their buddies.

    • Clarence A. Herz

      You sound like a communist. What right do YOU or the government have to my money. I mean other than the 28% excise tax you already take? What right do you have to direct a duley ellected party to run a state of republicans, by republicans for republicans. You may feel better if you moved to Minnesota or Maryland where the rest of the liberals live.

      • bottineau bay

        I am giving up on this blog. I understand it to be a conservative blog, but it seems that every day it devolves into less a discussion of policy and more of a place where the same ten folks call each other names. Rob, if you ever want to get bigger, clean up the act a bit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it as I depart. Source your material better, concentrate on real issues and not FOX news generated subjects.

        • Gern Blanston

          The negative stories about the oil boom come from mFox News? THIS story is not a real issue? It’s a shame BB has left and cannot answer these questions.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          You’re one of the worst offenders fit name calling and now you’re on your high horse. The commenting community is a ssmall post of the readership.

        • Onslaught1066

          Hanniturd! is that you threatening to leave this blog…Again!

          • two_amber_lamps

            Little surf-turd-burglar keeps getting our hopes up….

        • Guest Observer

          Wahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I see someone hasn’t put on their big boy pants today.

        • two_amber_lamps

          Toodle-oo!

      • Roland

        The New Socialists–When they have a personal problem that only the government can remedy, some conservatives become ardent statists.
        RAND PAUL-Like many other Republicans who represent states that receive more money from the federal government than they send in (like NORTH DAKOTA), the Republican senator from Kentucky wants as much federal money coming to Ky as possible–if it is not money for poor children….
        According to the Tax Foundation, there are about 33 “recipient” states (almost all red) and 16 “donor” states, all blue.
        SARAH PALIN has longed called for cutting government funding for social programs, with a notable exception: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Her son Trig has Down’s syndrome.
        NANCY REAGAN was first lady when President Reagan ended federal support of research into embryonic stem cells. After he developed Alzheimer’s, she became a passionate advocate for federally funding the study of stem cells.
        MARK KIRK-The Illinois Republican senator’s debilitating stroke in 2012 gave him new appreciation for Medicaid, a program he previously advocated cutting. Kirk now worries the program doesn’t provide adequate rehabilitation for stroke victims.
        JAMES INHOFE-In January, the Republican senator from Oklahoma joined 36 other Republicans to vote against an aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy. In May, however, he called for federal help for his tornado-ravaged state.
        CINDY MCCAIN-Like her husband, Republican Senator John McCain, she believes in limited government spending. Nevertheless, she campaigns for federal research into migraine headaches, from which she suffers.

        • JoeMN

          Your study hangs on weak hinges.
          First, it counts on the inclusion of a number of purple states that have actually sprung for Obama in the last election.
          Politics would explain full well an influx of federal dollars there.
          Second, thanks to the progressive income tax, states with higher per capita earnings, and higher costs of living pay in more.

          1
          Maryland
          $70,004
          $69,272
          $70,545
          $68,080
          $62,372

          2
          Alaska
          $67,825
          $68,342
          $70,378
          $67,035
          $64,169

          3
          New Jersey
          $67,458
          $67,034
          $68,595
          $65,967
          $59,972

          4
          Connecticut
          $65,753
          $66,953
          $68,460
          $64,333
          $57,639

          District of Columbia
          $63,124
          $64,098
          $67,214
          $63,746
          $60,681

          5
          Massachusetts
          $62,859
          $64,081
          $65,401
          $62,365
          $56,236

          6
          New Hampshire
          $62,647
          $60,567
          $63,731
          $62,369
          $60,489

          7
          Virginia
          $61,882
          $59,330
          $61,233
          $59,562
          $55,108

          8
          Hawaii
          $61,821
          $59,290
          $57,936
          $54,317
          $47,221 (2005)[8] PDF

          9
          Delaware
          $58,814
          $58,931
          $61,021
          $59,948
          $53,770

          10
          California
          $57,287
          $56,860
          $57,989
          $54,610
          $52,214

          And the grand daddy of them all, DC was for some reason not included.
          The Federal government spends an additional $39,234 for every man woman, and child there.
          (I guess not being a state has it’s Democrat benefits)

    • Rock

      You must be a DemocRAT, wanting someone else to take care of you while you sit on your lazy ass.

    • two_amber_lamps
    • JoeMN

      From where I stand (as a producer) sharing at the point of a gun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    • awfulorv

      Sarah Palin had a lot to do with the Alaskans recieving those checks, I’ll bet. Watch the libs come out of their rat holes on this one, just watch em…

    • Professor Umnik

      Boy, I bet that $1400 goes a long way, idiot. Get off your a$s and go to work, you lazy ba$tard. The money is there to be had working in the oilfields if you can get yourself out of your Mom’s basement and off the computer. By the way, you make a lousy Viking. They were adventurous and fought for a living. You want to be spoon-fed like somebody’s disabled wheel-chair grandma. You are not a man.

  • bigdaddybernie

    Mr, Quinn, . . . In the words of a bumper sticker I saw 30 Years ago, . . ” If you don’t have an oil well . . . . GET ONE ” You’ve certainly had plenty of time ! Whiner ! Don’t drown with your principles !

    • http://www.facebook.com/dakotaquinn Mike Quinn

      Seems like the people in Alaska have a better idea, share the resources. Of course selfishness is he keystone of the Republican party. If I have health insurance, why should I care about anyone else. As long as I got mine the hell with everyone else. Yes, there is no question Jeeeeus was a Republican, he would have been all for their greed.

      • cylde

        The Alaska oil is on govt. owned land not private property, of course socialists do not recognize any right to private property. and are congenital liars and thieves.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        In Alaska the government owns the mineral rights, mostly because nobody has ever really settled in the areas where the oil is which are very inhospitable.

      • joeb

        The mineral rights in the areas of Alaska being drilled belong to the State, Tribal, of Federal Governments, much like the mineral rights on schoolhouse sections (State owned land) here in ND, or Federally owned land in our State.
        It isn’t about ‘greed’ or Republican versus Democrat, but it is about private property.
        Private land (and private mineral rights) are normal in America.

        It isn’t about “greed”–it’s about ownership, but your calling it “greed” tells me you don’t own any mineral rights (and probably no land) and you want that money redistributed to you, which reeks of Socialism. That just isn’t American. There are dozens of Socialist countries on the planet, take your pick and move to one.

        • Guest Observer

          Martin Quinn is a self proclaimed socialist as he admitted so on a Facebook post last winter. His posts on SAB provide minutes of comedy for the rest of us.

          • Roland

            Reagan–Great American socialist.
            Many conservatives and members of the media have praised Ronald Reagan’s tradition of limited government.
            However, Reagan doubled military spending in the early 80s, which led the US to “blow an extraordinary economic lead” based on faulty intelligence and ideology. (CIA reported Soviet GDP at 62% of US economy when it was 25%–and greatly overestimated Soviet military power: Every member of joint Chiefs of Staff said their military branch was far superior to Soviet counterpart, as exemplified by 80-0 shutout of Soviet Migs by US jets over Lebanon in the early 80s.)
            Federal spending exploded to 22 to 25% of the economy under Reagan after being under 20% from 1946 to 1980, and the federal debt tripled in dollars and almost doubled as a percentage of the economy from 33% to 60% after having decreased from 122% in 1946 to 33% in 1980.
            The Reagan ideology of free markets and deregulation also provided fertile ground for the decline of manufacturing and the rise of financial services
            (the US moved from making things to making bets)–and for the US to go from the world’s leading creditor nation to the largest debtor nation.

          • Neiman

            The truth is, he raised military spending big time to spend the Soviet union into oblivion and it worked and the Soviet union is no more. He was the star player on stage in the ending of the Cold ware. Because of that gamble, Clinton benefited from the ability to cut many military bases and reduce the size and spending of the military, which means he looked good because Reagan did something right first.

          • JoeMN

            Sure Roland.

            The US government could have instead built a utopia to offer up to the incoming Red army.

            However…….Something happened to the FORMER Soviet Union.

            Oh yea, they suffered an economic collapse.

          • Guest Observer

            Roland/Mike–Great American Dumbass
            You sound disappointed that Ronald Reagan destroyed the Soviet Union, comrade.

  • borboygmi

    It is the Washington Post , Who Cares

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    As a citizen of a western North Dakota town on the outer part of the oil boom, I want it to continue. My salary has gone up (as a teacher, I’m payed by taxpayers), the enrollment at my school has stopped declining, my Main Street is quite good for a small town, and I am seeing young people coming in. We need new minds and hands working in local government, running local events, and in our local businesses.

    There are things going on that I don’t like, but overall, oil has been a win in my community.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think that’s the assessment most in North Dakota are doing. Is it perfect? Of course not. Is it a generally good thing? Damn straight.

  • Paula

    So ND Sucks Washington Post? I think I have a better chance of surviving a walk on the town in the little city of Williston than I would on the streets of Washington DC. Does Washinton DC still hold the title for number of murders per capita? If not, I’m sure it is still pretty close.

    • two_amber_lamps

      And God help you if you carry a gun to protect yourself in the bountiful land of the DC. Get caught carrying a firearm concealed and go to pound-you-in-the-#@$ prison.

      A city-full of sheep at the mercy of the wolves in their midst, by autocratic leftist edict.

  • Gwen Nelson

    Great article. Media can make or break a system, business and and location. We are just fine leave us alone bad mefia

  • Cole

    Before this boom started this state was laterally dying. Ten years a go I was going to Williston State College and all that we talked about was “Out migration” and are rapidly ageing population there were Huge intensives for ND grads to state in the state .
    Right now things suck and what worries us locals who have lived around here since we were kids we renumber the last Bust. The entire town packed up and left in 2 mounts rigs cut up for scrap iron trail parks closed. My folks bout there first house in 1984 when i was 3 years old for 32K 3 year before the same house was 50K the doors and a lot of the fixtures were taken out by the previous residents be cues it was reposed by the bank. We lived on 28th street. We lived in that house until i was 8 and there were 4 houses on are block that never had any residents.
    I live on a ranch now 75 miles south of Williston 8 years a go we had no traffic I would see 3 cars a day drive by and know every one driving. Now i have seen over 100 trucks a day halling scorieo.
    Every thing is getting better by leaps and jerks. This will slow down when things slow down we will have better roads and better rural water fiber optic TV and phones, a better air port shopping and eating establishments. Williston will be a small city and it will be fun.

  • Professor Umnik

    As a former Willistonian, I can say, yes, it was nice and quiet in the old days, and it will be so again, when the boom is over, like so many other booms that have left ghost towns. It’s a cycle; our nation needs the energy and the jobs. Washington is doing nothing but impede. Let Free Enterprise save this nation. Politicians just get in the way with their inconvenient ideology and agendas. The only constant in the world is change. If this nation is to become solvent it needs to use its resources for its own good. Just make sure when the last oil tanker leaves that everything is cleaned up before you turn out the lights in Mondak.

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