1. The Grand Forks blogosphere really has come into its own -- and what fun it is to read and track daily! I'm so impressed by the lineup of comments on Tu-Uyen's site
, Boyd Drive Follies
, Grand Forks Life
and the others that now seem to be popping up every other day. It's a tremendous addition to civic life here in town ... and it's just a matter of time before it becomes a political force, too. Was it a force on Tuesday? Well, no, I don't think so; I don't think local blogs have a "critical mass" of readers yet. But more about the election in a minute.
2. Real quick-like, I just want to respond to a few of the comments
on my Dunkin Donuts post. To the readers who asked about the Canadian Tim Horton's chain, I absolutely agree: A Tim Horton's would be great ... I've had their brew up in Winnipeg, and it's terrific. In fact, Tim Horton's itself is a amazing business story: This
extensive Wikipedia entry notes that "Tim Hortons has supplanted McDonald's as Canada's largest 'fast food' operator," and "holds 62 percent (!!) of the Canadian coffee market (compared to Starbucks, in the Number 2 position at 7 percent)." There's even a hockey connection, as the original Tim Horton played in the NHL.
AND the company has U.S. expansion plans "in the Northeast and Midwest," according to this
excerpt from a 2005 Wall Street Journal story. With Canad Inns opening here, I'm guessing that a Tim Horton's in Grand Forks might not be far behind. Yay!
Personal to Tu-Uyen, who's not a big chain store fan, judging by his calling me and other DD and TH fans "corporate-juggernaut loving freaks": Hey, buddy, let me repeat: It's the coffee! I like the Urban Stampede, love its atmosphere and have spent and will spend a lot of dollars there, but gourmet coffee is ... I don't know, too strong or too bitter for me or something. Donut shop coffee is smooth.
Here's what you do, Tu-Uyen: Hop on a jet (using those new and lower Northwest fares that you wrote about), wing out to Theodore Frances Green Airport in Providence, R.I., find a Dunkin Donuts (it'll take you about 30 seconds), sample the coffee, then fly back here and tell me what you think! Take the Dunkin Challenge, mah man!
3. Now, about the election: I've got a theory that Grand Forks is a little like Minnesota circa 1975, which was about the time Time magazine ran its famous "Minnesota: The State that Works" cover story. The Minnesotans I've talked to say they remember that cover story as accurately reflecting their feelings about the state, because their dominant feeling they recall from that time was contentment.
And why wouldn't they be content? The schools worked. The city governments worked. The state government worked -- and the Time headline about this Scandinavia on the Prairie captured it all: "The State that Works."
Sadly, that feeling proved unsustianable. In the 1980s and 1990s, the public's discontent grew, fueled especially, I believe, by the crime rate's shocking rise in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and a few other places. That set the stage for Jesse Ventura and other twists in the state's political history, such as its current split between a liberal DFL-majority Senate and conservative IR-majority House.
But in my view, Grand Forks (and even, to some extent, North Dakota as a whole) has a touch of that "State that Works" mentality right now. I think the mood among most, though clearly not all, of the population is contentment -- not happiness, mind you, but contentment, regarding the city's good schools, low crime rate and overall level of decent and reasonable public services.
Think about it. This would explain the low turnout in the election, in that people generally are satisfied with the way things are and see no real reason to vote. (When they do
see a reason, they do
turn out to vote, as they did in the October 2003 special election on the water park.) This would explain why those residents who did vote gave a resounding "yes" to the status quo -- Mac's election being the important exception here, but one that's explained, at least in part, by Mac's Marine officer status and service in Iraq.
The theory also would explain why whole years pass between letters-to-the-editor complaining about Grand Forks schools or crime. Those things dominate debate in so much of America, yet they're almost non-issues here.
I agree that the local rise in property taxes is a big issue. But I'd argue that the ho-hum turnout suggests that, on balance, people think the City Council, School Board etc. are dealing with the issue adequately by moderating the taxes' rise. There's a problem, and public officials respond: That's what happens in a "State that Works."
So that's my basic theory on the election. Let the comments fly! I'm very interested in hearing what others have to say.