1. Bismarck.org -- Official "City of Bismarck" Website with information, call for volunteers, etc.
2. Bismarck/Burleigh is urgently requesting sandbagging volunteers at the Bismarck Civic Center. Volunteers should be at least 14 years old, wear work clothes and gloves, and bring a shovel and a water bottle. (From KFYRTV.com.) Park in the south parking lot. I think they said (on public radio) to enter in the Southeast entrance (entrance E-52), closest to Denny's.
3. KXNet.com -- North Dakota School Cancellation Announcements and Community Announcements
9. Google (AP) -- Ice jams make flooding worse around Bismarck
10. WZZM13.com (Grand Rapids, MI) -- Local volunteers help flood victims in North Dakota
11. DaveArntson.com (Photojournalist) -- Lots of great photos of the Fargo flood and sandbagging efforts
12. KXNet.com -- Bismarck Officials ask for sandbagging help (with hotline phone number 701-355-1579)
13. MyFox9.com (Twin Cities, MN) -- Red River at 34 feet, Volunteers head north
14. The ice jam north of Bismarck just broke. Hold on tight. The development north of Bismarck near Papa's Pumpkin Patch has just been evacuated. Kirkwood Mall is closed. Flash flood WARNING for south Bismarck:
AT 903 AM CDT/803 AM MDT...THE ICE JAM NORTH OF BISMARCK WAS REPORTED TO HAVE BROKEN. RAPIDLY RISING WATER LEVELS ARE EXPECTED DOWN STREAM OF THIS ICE JAM...INCLUDING LOW LYING AREAS OF BISMARCK AND MANDAN. FURTHERMORE...STORM DRAINS IN SOUTH BISMARCK HAVE BECOME OVERLOADED WITH WATER AND AS A RESULT HAVE CAUSED LOCALIZED FLOODING. SEE THE LATEST FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS AND STATEMENTS FOR DETAILS ON FLOODING IN THE BISMARCK AND MANDAN AREA
[I should note that callers are calling in to KFYR 550AM and saying the north ice jam is still in place. No need to panic?]
Now 10:36 am they are now confirming that the ice jam has not broken north of Bismarck.
15. They're reporting that police are going door to door in the "German street names" neighborhood in southwest Bismarck, telling people to be prepared to leave their homes.
16. Low lying areas in Mandan are dealing with a mandatory evacuation.
The Morton County Office of Emergency Management and the City of Mandan have issued a mandatory evacuation notice for residents in the Missouri River area south of the MDU Heskett Plant and east of 40th Avenue SE. Areas at risk include the Riverbend, Captain’s Landing, Bridgeview Bay, Marina Bay, Borden Harbor, Lakewood and 40th Avenue residential areas.
Eastbound Lanes of Memorial Highway Closing on West End
Eastbound lanes on the west end of Memorial Highway (the Strip) are being closed in order to enclose an earthen dike system for the Heart River. This is near the intersection of Memorial Highway, Main Street and Mandan Avenue south of Burger King.
This action is being taken per an agreement between the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the City of Mandan and Lower Heart River Water Management officials.
Traffic should detour to Main Street in Mandan or Interstate 94. Memorial Bridge remains open.
34. KARE11.com (Minneapolis - St. Paul) -- Residential dike breech forces rescues near Fargo
35. KQCD.com (Dickinson, ND) -- This is a link to all the NBC affiliate "Sky Spy Photos." They are photos submitted by people all over the Western North Dakota area (i.e. Bismarck, Dickinson, Minot, etc.) recently. This must be a very popular website. It's a horribly slow download. KFYR, etc., need to upgrade their server.
36. Fargo Forum -- Flood Update: Fargo makes final push to protect city; officials still asking for volunteers
Highway 1806 Closing for Blast of Ice Jam & Other Flood Updates
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Mandan Police Department have been informed by the N.D. Department of Emergency Services that they need to close Highway 1806 from 19th Street south to County Road 138 immediately so that experts can blast the ice jam. Residents in the area of the blast are being notified of the blast via the reverse 911 system. The blast is expected to occur between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Residents south of 19th Street and north of County Road 138 should stay away from exterior windows and move to interior locations should shock waves occur from the blast. More than one blast may be required depending upon results of the first attempt.
In other flood news, Ron Manchester of the Lower Heart River Management reports that Heart River’s water levels are receding.
41. YouTube --BiggerBlast -- This is the YouTube page for the company that's doing the explosives work on the Missouri River today
42. National Guard -- National Guard battles winter storms in five states
43. WDAY -- Obama meets with ND delegation on flooding
44. Marketwire (press release) -- Water Damage Company, Damage Control, Inc., Prepared for Flood Restoration in Fargo, Moorhead, and Bismarck
45. KFYR Radio -- If you live out of town or are at work and don't have a radio, but you want to listen to KFYR radio's broadcast over the internet, you can do that today. They don't normally stream their audio, but they're doing it today because of the flooding. So far today it has been a non-stop flood news and information show.
60. A bridge collapsed on Hwy 200 between Stanton and Pick City.
61. Townhall -- ND Mayor 'optimistic' after blast to clear ice jam
62. There probably won't be any more updates here for a few hours. If you see any new news online, please post a link in the comments. Please use this format: Source name, title of story and then the link. If you put the link first, it messes up the format for a while. Thanks.
63. President Obama met this morning with Senators Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Congressman Earl Pomeroy to get up to speed on the flooding in North Dakota.
I'm not sure what we can do here to help people around the state, but if anybody has anything to report or needs help or shelter or wants to volunteer, please use the comments to speak your mind.
As I type this, there's a blizzard going on out there (in Bismarck). There are two ice jams on the Missouri near Bis/Man; one north of town, one south. They're flying in explosives experts to try to deal with the ice jams. Parts of Bismarck -- Southport and [oops] Fox Island have been evacuated. The folks at the City are recommending that anybody who lives south of the Bismarck Expressway and West of Washington Street might want to move valuables out of their basement, and put a row or two of sandbags around their houses. Water is backing up into the south part of town because of the south ice jam. The powers-that-be are worried the north ice jam might break and send a bunch more water down to get further backed up by the south jam. It's nasty.
People are sandbagging like crazy in Fargo. The universities were closed (right?). People were using Facebook, among other things, to invite people to "sandbagging events." People are driving in to Fargo from all over to help with their sandbagging efforts.
They've started distributing sandbags in Bismarck and Mandan. Mandan is experiencing some flooding in low-lying areas. Here's a photo from Mandan:
Part of Linton is flooded. Washburn is recommending that people boil their water. Part of Mott is flooding. Part of Beulah has some water trouble. A bunch of rural courthouses were closed today, as were quite a few schools. After school programs closed early today. Lake Tschida is very near record water levels. It's just crazy out there.
Please, share your stories... Send me your photos...
I've been adding to the list of news updates all evening. I'm going to put a link to Flood Information right here -- KXMB -- because it has a lot of useful information, contact numbers, evacuation information, etc.
You may have seen my blog post on the ad in the Bismarck Tribune seeking reports of corruption in North Dakota. (If not, click here.) I expressed some concern about the ad. I had questions so I connected with the person behind the ad.
Here's our question and answer session:
NorthDecoder: Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
ND Corruption Reporter: [The ND Corruption reporter indicated he's from Northeastern ND, identified himself to me, but asked that I not disclose here who he is. He indicated he has some concern for his personal safety. For the record, I had gotten a tip as to who he was before he told me, but I didn't tell him that. He probably knows now.]
ND: What inspired you to place the ad in the Bismarck Tribune? (Are you, by chance, the victim of some government corruption?)
NDCR: I had some dealings with corruption but a friend of mine is the reason I decided to get involved in this.
ND: Did you put the ad in any other newspapers or magazines? Any radio or TV ads?
NDCR: I put the ad in the Grand Forks Herald, Cavalier Chronicle, Bismarck Trib, and Walsh Cty Record. I haven't done TV ads yet, because I wanted to see how many stories I got from the newspaper ads. I have only gotten a few stories. I think its because people think saying something will come back to bite them in the ass. I don't want names of private individuals because I can't print them without getting sued. You can say just about anything about ELECTED OFFICIALS THOUGH.
ND: How many people have you heard from? How many stories have you been able to verify?
NDCR: I have only heard from about 3 people. I heard from one that I think is from the Gov's office or Atty Generals office who wanted to know who I was and I told them. I am sure the BCI and swat team will be at my door soon!
ND: Before you do your Corruption Report, will you do any independent verification of the stories people tell you? If so, are you willing to give an example or two of what kind of verification you're doing (generally or specifically)?
NDCR: Yes I will do some independent verification of the stories if I get enough to print. I can give an example of what kind of verification I am going to do when it happens. I have a regular job, so I have to do this at night. If someone does send a story, about the only way I can verify it is through court transcripts and affidavits I think.
ND: When and where do you plan to release your report?
NDCR: I was going to print a small tabloid type paper and deliver them to stores and gas stations and various places all over North Dakota. Not sure when.
ND: Are you planning to focus on any particular kind(s) of corruption?
NDCR: I have heard mostly stories about family courts and the corruption of judges and social services so I was going to focus on that aspect mostly. If it is one thing I hate, it is child abuse, and people that do the child abuse and the people in the courts, and social services that enable people to abuse children. NOTHING MAKES ME MORE ANGRY THAN PEOPLE ABUSING HELPLESS CHILDREN!
ND: I noticed your ad references "family courts" first. Do you have a special interest in family courts?
NDCR: I do have a special interest in family courts. I have a friend who had his children taken away from him by a corrupt judge and he never did anything to hurt the kids, but the judge told him that he can NEVER see or talk to his kids ever again! Gee, I didn't know that was legal. Oh yeah, it isn't but the judge let the order stand.
ND: I also noticed your ad doesn't include "state agencies," "city government offices" or "county government offices." Did you exclude those intentionally because you're not interested in corruption in those kinds of offices, or is there some other reason you didn't ask for those types of corruption? (I'm wondering if you're interested in pursuing reports of corruption in those types of offices.)
NDCR: Yes I am interested in it, but didn't really think about it when I put the ad in the paper.
ND: What about corruption in private businesses? Say, for example, a business that has a "cost plus" contract with the state and is cheating on what its costs are; are you interested in those kinds of stories of corruption?
NDCR: Iam interested in those kinds of corruption. I just didn't have any first hand experiences or stories of that type of corruption.
ND: Are people asking you to protect their anonymity? Are you offering to protect reporters' anonymity?
NDCR: Yes they are asking to protect anonymity and I will protect them. I will need to verify stories and I wouldn't print any names of anyone except Elected Officials. I can only use fake names or initials or fake initials.
ND: What kinds of assurances can (and do) you make to people who send their stories to you regarding anonymity? I'm thinking of a whistleblower whose job might be at risk if they are identified after you release your report and it becomes clear you've gotten inside information from a state or county office, or a business.
NDCR: I would have to make sure to show the person that sent the story to me gets to read it to make sure it is ok to print before it is printed. I would never want to jeopardize someones job, personal life, or safety for any reason. I think of the people that worked for WSI and went to the AG and said give me whistleblower status and he said he would and then they got fired. Another example of a criminal in power as far as I am concerned.
ND: Besides outrageous outcomes in family law cases, are you willing to share a "teaser" (before your report comes out) on some of the corruption that's been reported to you?
NDCR: Yes I will.
That's our Q&A exchange. I should note that I've edited exactly two things in this: (1) there was one typo [an extra letter "L" that I've taken out]; and (2) there was something that I assume was directed to me, personally, and I took that out.
Though I'm interested in seeing what comes of this, I have to admit I'm really not all that interested in hearing people's complaints about the outcomes in their divorce cases. I get enough of that in my job and in my personal life, so I'm not all that interested in those cases even if some of you are.
I got this in an email and decided to make an announcement for those of us in the Fargo area that are able-bodied
The flood forecast changed drastically yesterday with the raising of the projected river crest and changing the date of the projected crest from mid April to March 28th. If you look at your calendar you will see that the 28th is only a little over a week away.
So, what can you do? The City of Fargo will open Sandbag Central tomorrow at 8:00 AM and run through 8:00 PM and then reopen on Saturday morning and then basically run 24 hours a day until they have enough sandbags. So, the city needs sandbags, lots of sandbags, over a million sandbags.
Sandbags don’t fill themselves, so they need people, lots of people, not millions, but still lots. What they would like is people to come over to Sandbag Central to work 4 hour shifts to fill sandbags. It is hard, dirty, sweaty work – a lot like going to the gym, without the cost and fancy workout clothes. As an added benefit, the Salvation Army will serve up coffee to keep you energized.
So, what can you do? You can forward the request for help and information on to your associates and friends. You can organize your friends to have a sandbag filling party sometime this weekend at Sandbag Central – it can be fun! The contact information and parking information is listed below.
How To Volunteer
Volunteer Hotline - 476-4000 Call between 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.
All volunteers are asked to park at the Fargodome and take shuttles to sandbag headquarters. To make sure shifts are equally covered, volunteers are also asked to call the volunteer hotline, 476-4000, before arriving on site.
40 feet will break the '97 record, I moved up here immediately following the flood, but lived in SD, which was only less bad than it was here. Well...let's get moving!
I plan on helping out sometime on Saturday. Email me if you care to go with me then. (Adam.Blomeme@DON'TSPAMMEgmail.com)
Maybe you saw this story in the papers yesterday and today...
ND: Group used federal disaster funds for booze, other questionable items, misspending $200K
BISMARCK, N.D. - Nearly a quarter of the federal disaster planning money spent by a North Dakota nonprofit was used for "unallowable or questionable" items, including alcohol, a state official said.
The North Dakota EMS Association, which represents about 1,800 ambulance and emergency workers, also spent money it shouldn't have on lobbying, cell phones, meals and some salaries and bonuses, an internal association audit and other records obtained by The Associated Press show.
Tim Wiedrich, chief of the North Dakota Health Department's emergency preparedness and response section, said Wednesday that the "unallowable or questionable" items made up nearly $200,000 of the roughly $810,000 the Bismarck-based group received between 2004 and last year to help produce a plan to fight bioterrorism and other mass disasters.
As is noted in the story, this has the potential to turn into a federal criminal case.
A notable quote was in the middle of the story. It went something like this:
"I think we felt we spent money for the right reasons and that we were spending that money appropriately," Weber said. "We have nothing to hide. Every dime we spent was to promote EMS."
Bismarck Tribune (You know that game where you insert the words "in bed" at the end of your fortune cookie phrase? Well, I like to insert the words "on beer" or "for beer" in spots throughout this story and this quotation. For example, "Every dime we spent ON BEER was spent to promote EMS.")
Is it just me, or does that sound strangely familiar to anybody else?
I know a good lawyer who would have suggested to the good folks at the ND EMS Association that they should not talk to the press and they cannot talk to anybody else about these allegations. They might not have done anything wrong, but... I'm just sayin'.
It'll be interesting to see if Steve Cates sees this story in the papers and takes up the banner for all people accused of misspending public money on booze, lobbying and meals (or limos and hookers, for that matter). Maybe there will be another "guaranteed to have no lies, misrepresentations or inaccuracies" (ha!) 20 page, illegibly small font "story" that nobody reads in the Dakota Beacon.
The EMS Association has the potential to do some really important and really good things in a state like North Dakota, where we have vast expanses of rural areas that need adequate emergency medical services. I sure hope this story falls apart.
North Dakota's top local and national progressive radio talker Ed Schultz will have President Barack Obama on his afternoon "national" show TODAY. We get his local/regional show in the morning, but I don't think you can get his national show on the radio out here in Western North Dakota unless you have XM radio service or stream it online (click here for places to get the stream). You can get a tape-delayed version of it in Fargo on KFGO from 7 to 10 pm, Central Time. According to his website the show is live from 12pm to 3pm Eastern (or 11am to 2 pm CST).
I don't know what time the interview will be on and don't know if I'll have time to tune in. If anyone knows what time the President will be on, please post the time in a comment. I'd kind of like to tune in while he's on, if I'm not too busy.
On Tuesday of last week -- March 10th -- the Clerk of Court in Burleigh County received a Notice of Appeal from the judgment of conviction of former North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) director, Charles "Sandy" Blunt. (Click here for PDF of the docket sheet from NDCourts.com)
Blunt has also asked for a "stay of execution." Apparently Blunt doesn't want to have to start doing the community service work he was ordered to do. Heaven forbid he serve the community.
You'll recall Blunt was charged with and convicted of "Misapplication of Entrusted Property" for abusing public money while he was the director of North Dakota's worker's comp agency. Blunt and his apologists have blamed everyone in sight for his problems at WSI. I may get this out of order, but it seems like first they blamed it on the Democrats, then they blamed it on disgruntled former WSI employees, then they blamed it on the State Auditor's Office (run by a Republican), then they blamed it on the highway patrol investigators (under North Dakota's Republican Governor's control), then they blamed it on a reporter at the Fargo Forum, then they blamed left-wing bloggers (e.g. yours truly), then they blamed it on overzealous prosecutors, then they blamed it on whistleblowers who -- before being retaliated against -- worked in top positions at WSi. Now, it seems, they're blaming it on twelve jurors and the trial judge.
Have I missed anybody?
Oh yeah. I forgot. They blamed previous administrators at WSI.
Oh yeah. And the WSI legal department. It was their fault, too. Bad legal advice, apparently.
Now... Did I get everyone?
Do you suppose North Dakota's media has time to tell the public about Blunt's appeal?
Nah. It's probably not news anymore. It happened so long ago.
I sat through a short legislative committee hearing Tuesday morning that got kind of spicy. It was the North Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on House Bill 1416. The part people seemed to be fighting about is this:
12-60-08.1. Power of the attorney general to issue subpoenas in bureau investigations. The attorney general may issue an administrative subpoena compelling the recipient to provide records or information to an agent of the bureau of criminal investigation in any criminal matter being investigated by the bureau.
The horribly unconstitutional (in my opinion) provision is being pushed through the legislature by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. It's kind of flown under the radar so far this session. It was passed in the House and is now in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. What was interesting is that the States Attorneys showed up and testified in opposition to the bill. So we had local prosecutors arguing with the state's top prosecutor about the legitimacy of his claimed need for this bill. Here's how it played out:
Assistant Attorney General Jon Byers got up first, and testified that there's only one way for prosecutors to get subpoenas issued for out-of-state internet Internet Protocol (IP) information and that is by contacting a cop in the state where the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is located, convince them to set aside all their other work and go talk to a local prosecutor, and get the prosecutor convinced to seek the issuance of a subpoena by a judge. Byers and the BCI cop who testified in support of this bill acknowledged that this relates, almost exclusively, to internet-related crimes. He made it sound like the process for getting these out-of-state subpoenas is horribly burdensome, but it's the only way this can get done. He claimed states attorneys can get subpoenas through the "States Attorney Inquiry" process, but that the subpoenas ultimately are issued without court participation. He was wrong.
After Byers and the other A.G. employee supporter of the bill got done testifying about how the A.G.'s office needs this subpoena power, then McLean County States Attorney Ladd Erickson got up and essentially said -- without saying it -- that Jon Byers has no idea what he's talking about. He pointed out that there's a process that involves both a state and federal statute that he and other states attorneys use all the time to get this out-of-state internet information. He described the process. It included court participation and the issuance of a court order. He said states attorneys all around the state use the same process all the time. It sounded like it was quick and easy and not a big deal, but that it also protected citizens' privacy and due process rights by involving the court and requiring a minimal showing of proof (something the A.G.'s bill doesn't include). Intentionally or otherwise, Byers was made to look like he was completely clueless about how subpoenas are issued by prosecutors "in the real world." I watched Byers as Erickson described this process. His face turned redder and redder as Erickson explained how the real world works. I couldn't tell if he was angry or embarassed. Perhaps both.
Bottom line? The A.G.'s office was either wrong, or they were deliberately providing false information to the committee. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they probably just didn't know what they were talking about. They usually don't.
Erickson was asked by the committee's chairman, David Nething, why he hadn't testified about this bill when it was in front of the House committee. Erickson explained he had tried to work something out with the Attorney General. It sounded as though the A.G. wasn't willing to work with him. Erickson said he had some proposed amendments, but it sounded as though the A.G. wasn't interested in looking at them. Erickson provided copies of the proposed amendments to the committee members.
What's interesting -- and controversial -- about this bill is that it purports to create a process for issuance of an "administrative subpoena" by the A.G.'s office -- without any checks or balances by the judicial branch -- in ALL criminal cases being investigated by the A.G.'s office and it's investigative arm, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. For people who aren't law trained, that might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Generally speaking, subpoenas can only be issued in the name of a court. An exception probably exists in investigations by administrative agencies. An example might be that the Department of Human Services has authority to issue administrative subpoenas when it is investigating a licensed daycare provider. Or the Securities Department might issue an administrative subpoena when it is investigating a stock broker. Same with the North Dakota Insurance Commissioner's office. Those sorts of administrative subpoenas in non-criminal cases are fairly normal. If evidence of criminal conduct is discovered during the course of information obtained with an administrative investigation, the agency might involve a prosecutor. Again, that's normal.
But this bill would open the door wide open for the A.G. to issue subpoenas in every criminal investigation with no standards being imposed and no judicial oversight. It would essentially invalidate and/or circumvent Rule 17 of the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure, which requires that all subpoenas in criminal investigations have to be issued "in the court's name." If you're a constitutional law buff, you might know that the legislature has tried invalidating/circumventing court procedural rules in the past, with little success. State v. Hanson comes to mind. That was a case where the legislature tried to override the Supreme Court's rules relating to the exchange of information between defendants and prosecutors in criminal cases. The Supreme Court said that's a power limited to the government courts and threw out an entire section of the North Dakota Century Code.
A nearly identical proposal was the subject of much debate in Washington, D.C., last month. D.C. cops made all the same arguments being made by North Dakota's A.G. The A.C.L.U. got involved in fighting the D.C. law, but we don't have any civil liberties in North Dakota, so they haven't engaged here. This is an area of the law that's pretty hot around the country, yet our local media hasn't written anything about the fact there's a fight going on here. They're too busy not writing about the way our legislators are trying to mis-use the stimulus money to not write about big fights between North Datota's law enforcement entities.
Those of us who work with this stuff sometimes wonder how the Attorney General -- a guy who has sworn to uphold the laws and constitution of the State of North Dakota and of the United States -- can be the person advocating for what appears, pretty clearly, to be an unconstitutional law. It must be awkward for him and his staff, especially when they show up at the hearing so unprepared and end up making significant misrepresentations to the committee members.
It was interesting to see local states attorneys fighting for people's rights while our Republican Attorney General was fighting to circumvent the constitution. One thing one of the county prosecutors said in his testimony was that he hates to ever be on the opposite side of the A.G.'s office on a bill. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. This bill has obviously caused some stress in the relationship between the A.G.'s office and the local prosecutors.
It'll be interesting to see where this horrible bill ends up.
Look for a story on this in tomorrow's Bismarck Tribune or Fargo For 'em, but don't hold your breath while you look. This stuff is too hard for them.