- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Williston Herald, Williston, April 30, 2016

Stripping the issue down

The issue of adult entertainment and how to zone such establishments are divisive almost everywhere. In Williston’s case, the combination of topless dancing and alcohol has proven to be especially toxic, with two deaths topping the list of violent incidents that unfolded on the south end of Main Street in the years since the boom.

But the actions of the City Commission, which in January announced a seemingly arbitrary decision to clamp down on the two local bars offering adult entertainment, went from questionable to downright concerning on Tuesday night, when officials held firm on a decree to enforce the separation of exotic dancing and alcohol by May 7.

It’s a fair conclusion that everyone who attended a public hearing on Jan. 12 came away with the understanding that strip clubs had a year left to operate - with dancing, alcohol and all - while the owners hashed out future plans. At the meeting, three separate ordinances that banished strip clubs to industrial zones and required the forfeiture of an alcohol license with the addition of a cabaret license were first introduced.

During the public hearing, which was well attended by media and residents on both sides of the issue, Greg Hennessy, an attorney for Heartbreakers, protested the new rules, claiming the reasoning behind the change was biased and faulty. Then, the discussion turned to the one-year grace period, which, apparently, pertained only to Ordinance 1032, and its relocation of strip joints to Williston’s industrial zones.

City attorney Jordan Evert discussed these guidelines at length, but spent little time explaining the other two ordinances, and never pointed out that they went into effect immediately.

At one point during the hearing, Evert said the ordinance changes were three-fold, but immediately afterward, a commissioner questioned the year timeline. This grace period, Evert said, was offered out of fairness to businesses that will need to either evolve or move in a difficult economy.

So should the owner of Heartbreakers have been surprised when he received a letter in February allowing him 90 days to decide whether to cut either alcohol service or topless dancing?

Mayor Howard Klug said the 90 days, (which were settled upon during a private conversation between officials sometime after the public hearing) are actually an olive branch, and that by rights, the clubs should have lost either their liquor or cabaret license as soon as the new ordinances passed.

It’s troubling, though, that city leaders had to resort to listening to a recording of the January meeting in order to recall what was originally said. During a meeting earlier this month, some commissioners actually said they had clear memories of public discussion about the 90-day limit, which turned out to be the product of after-hours talk. Can it be true that no one on the board remembered whether terms were laid out, or is the real issue that coming clean in front of a packed room at least half full of strip club supporters was a mite uncomfortable?

While it is true that ordinances should be followed as they are written, city leaders have a responsibility to be transparent, especially when ousting long-time businesses, albeit controversial ones.

Evert should have stood up during the hearing and articulated exactly what the new ordinances mandated. Granted, it was the clubs’ and their attorneys’ responsibility to read through the rules and digest them, but it falls on commissioners to write concise guidelines, and when confusion arises, to clear it up.

Anyone listening in January would have reasonably concluded that the clubs had one year to operate as they were. Evert, or commissioners, should have stopped the conversation and explained that the yearlong grace period pertained solely to operating a strip club downtown, and that the new rules banned the sale of alcohol at such places IMMEDIATELY.

The issue goes far beyond any moral concerns over topless dancing. The city made a decision to shut down two businesses at a time when the economy is slow, and years after the violent episodes that gave South Main its notorious reputation.

Taking steps toward improvement is logical and necessary. But when doing so, city leaders need to show some backbone and own their convictions. Allowing public misperception to flourish, then sending a letter informing a business owner of a back-room agreement on a deadline appears nervous and underhanded.

Cut the confusion, commissioners, and when it’s time to discuss upcoming decisions, make sure everyone knows what the conversation is about.

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Minot Daily News, Minot, May 5, 2016

Good to see progress on flood protection

This week’s major concrete pour for a new flood wall to protect Minot’s Water Treatment Plant was a welcome sign of progress on the complicated path to flood mitigation for the city.

The flood protection plan being put into place, its multiple components, stages and financing make for a challenging project for many citizens to fully understand. At times, to some, it might seem like actual flood protection is far off in time and hazy in details.

There’s nothing hazy about a concrete pour, which is why it is such a positive sign and something around which everyone can wrap their heads. Securing the water plant is essential to protecting the city’s supply in the event of another flood. During the 2011 flood, the city’s water supply was compromised.

The pour also illustrates the occasional effectiveness of a infrastructure project, coming as it does after certain over-budget local public projects, a downtown project that stretches on and a jail that could well be filled to capacity as soon as it opens.

With the exception of some final touches, the flood wall project is expected to be largely completed by fall. Already construction crews placed the second lift of concrete on the new pump station on Eighth Avenue, upon which work has occurred for the past eight months.

These signs of progress bode well for Minot.

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The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, May 2, 2016

Wentz party a fine effort by students

Sixteen Century High School students pulled off what has to be one of the most successful parties in school history.

As a marketing class project they organized a celebration of Carson Wentz being drafted by an NFL team. Originally planned for the high school, the event was moved to the Community Bowl. It included games, food and watching the draft on a big screen.

The weather cooperated and the party was a big hit. Money raised goes to the Patriot Pride Fund for CHS students who can’t afford sports equipment or other activities.

Wentz, a CHS grad, was drafted second by the Philadelphia Eagles.

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