Oil Patch news is what it isSome of the wise monkeys in North Dakota’s Oil Patch (“see no evil,” “hear no evil,” “speak no evil” of Japanese folklore) would like the state’s news media to censor the news coming out of oil country.
By: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Jamestown Sun
Some of the wise monkeys in North Dakota’s Oil Patch (“see no evil,” “hear no evil,” “speak no evil” of Japanese folklore) would like the state’s news media to censor the news coming out of oil country. Maybe “censor” is too strong a word. They want news manipulated to emphasize the positive (there is plenty of it) and downplay the negative (there is plenty of that, too.)
But news is what it is. The effects of the unprecedented oil boom are what they are. Those impacts that can be characterized as negative are as important to the story as are those factors that are obviously positive. The reality is this: While good jobs, big tax revenues and a newfound economic vitality are very good news, the downsides cannot be ignored or minimized if an entirely new set of social, law enforcement and infrastructure problems is to be addressed honestly and effectively.
More of the downside made headlines this week:
* Caseloads for oil country parole officers are growing as more ex-convicts flock to western North Dakota for jobs.
* Williston, the city in the heart of the Bakken play, is moving to outlaw “out-of-control” living in campers.
There certainly is nothing automatically wrong with parolees looking for a fresh start in a place where job opportunities abound. The problem for North Dakota is that tracking the increasing influx of out-of-state parolees is nearly impossible. Caseworkers, already busy with the regular workload, are being asked to take on hundreds more, most of them coming into the Oil Patch.
Additionally, it is extremely difficult to track violators who jump parole in another state and come to North Dakota. And given the desperate need to fill jobs in oil country, some employers might not do thorough background checks on job applicants.
The situation in RV “housing” in Williston is so serious the city commission this week began work on an ordinance that will make it illegal to live in a camper in the city limits unless the RV is in an RV park. The violation would be a Class B misdemeanor that carries a $500 fine. The city is dealing with some 400 campers in parking lots, driveways, yards and even vacant lots. It’s a health and safety risk, said one commissioner.
No one in the news media is fabricating this stuff. The facts are coming directly from state and local people who are confronting circumstances that are unique to the oil boom. Lasting solutions will be elusive if Oil Patch cheerleaders insist on seeing no evil, hearing no evil or speaking no evil.