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Our View: Mr. President, it’s time to come to North Dakota

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opinion Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

President Barack Obama has a very important question on his hands: Should I come to North Dakota?

According to an anonymous White House administrator and an article published last Friday on the Washington Post’s website, the president plans to do exactly that in June. Though no member of North Dakota’s delegation knows any specifics, an official claims Obama will visit an unnamed Indian reservation. The story has many guessing where it will be and why he is coming — and for good reason.

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It’s hard to believe that the White House wouldn’t break this news earlier, and the fact that media relations will not comment on the trip is suspicious. We have our doubts Obama would take Air Force One to the Peace Garden State for many reasons. Obama is a lame duck president, so he has nothing to gain from a trip as far as elections go, unless he feels there is a Democrat he wants to back. North Dakota traditionally votes Republican in presidential elections. Even if there was a presidential election, it wouldn’t help his efforts much. We have three electoral votes, making any campaign in the state almost useless.

So why would the president want to come to North Dakota? There are plenty of reasons to fuel up his personal jet — one of them being fuel.

But let’s tackle his potential visit from a specific side. As Forum News Service reported Sunday, there are so many issues to deal with on Indian reservations, including poverty, disenfranchisement and child abuse. Not to mention any relations the U.S. government can build with Native American leadership is extremely important.

We can’t also forget that North Dakota is arguably the most successful state in the country. We have the fastest-growing population and development, the state has more than 25,000 jobs available and has created thousands more, our unemployment rates were at 2.6 percent as of April — as opposed to the U.S. rate of 6.8 percent — and our economy is off the charts.

North Dakota is also the focal point of many issues the president is trying to address.

The Keystone XL pipeline as the potential to take excess Bakken oil to the Gulf of Mexico and free up trains for other uses, which could help take a lot of crude off the road and tracks, and prevent fiery accidents like near Casselton. Health care is obviously an issue in the state. The state also produces coal, which could be affected by his plan to reduce emissions.

The state is also one of the most diverse as far as energy goes. The Bakken has enough crude to keep oil and jobs pumping for decades, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. The Lignite Energy Council states we could mine coal for more than 800 years. We are a hotspot for wind energy and businesses are starting to take advantage of ethanol plants to make renewable resources. We have refineries under construction — including the first greenfield refinery built in the U.S. since 1976 right outside of Dickinson.

But this doesn’t come without its challenges. North Dakota is growing faster than anyone could have imagined, making officials’ heads hurt as they try to find funds for schools, roads, water and sewer infrastructure, etc. People with average-paying jobs are forced to pay some of the highest rents in the country. Crime, especially drugs and human trafficking, is growing.

Other Washington officials are seeing the need to come to North Dakota, mostly at the urging of our congressional delegates. This year alone the Federal Aviation Administration’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s top officials traveled to the state. The Secretary of the Interior spent time here last year and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack could be the next to make an appearance. Other Washington leaders know they need to see North Dakota, so shouldn’t the president come too?

We understand that the president is busy with pressing issues, like the Affordable Care Act debacle, Ukraine and the economy in general. At the same time, the office Obama has taken is required to be in touch with the American people. North Dakota is the biggest success story of the 21st century — and it’s part of his success, too. We don’t want to sound pompous, but the country would be a lot worse off if North Dakota wasn’t creating jobs and leading the way to energy independence.

The last time a president visited the state was when George W. Bush came to the Bison Sports Arena in 2005. Most presidents haven’t make it west of Bismarck, which is sad considering what all of the state has to offer. Though they may have had no reason to come to this state, except to push their own agenda or recognize an achievement or disaster, Obama definitely has plenty of reasons to come now.

Whether you agree with Obama or not, there is no question that he needs to see the success and problems that North Dakota has had — and not just in the vacuum of an Indian reservation. We have a lot to offer, and he could learn a lot from a quick tour. If he wants, he could think of it like visiting a foreign country, of which he’s seen plenty during his time in the Oval Office.

The president can listen to all the media stories and hear all the reports he want, but until he sees what’s happening in North Dakota for himself, he will never truly understand or appreciate the state for what it is.

Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and Assistant Editor April Baumgarten are members of The Dickinson Press Editorial Board.

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