Ralph Kingsbury: Clay Jenkinson's Oil Boom Column Disappoints


Unless you consider yourself a scholar, or at least have never been a resident of the western part of the state anytime in the past 30 years or so you may not know who Clay Jenkinson is.

Among other things, he is a former Rhodes Scholar who stayed in North Dakota. That alone makes him an exceptional person. Most of those types leave the state for good after their senior year in high school.

Also, in the Chautauqua tradition, he has a very good program on PBS in which he plays Thomas Jefferson having conversations about many different topics with other historically famous people who were not necessarily contemporaries of Jefferson. I find it one of the most entertaining and educational programs presented by any media. It is obvious Jenkinson is an intelligent and highly educated person, at least in the formal sense.

That’s why I found his recent column in the Bismarck Tribune so disappointing.  Here his intelligence certainly does not shine through. I guess he is no different than most of the other Democrats in the state attempting to  gain some seats in the legislature, and maybe even one or two of the statewide offices with columns by people like Jenkinson and Omdahl, and letters to the editor complaining about this huge increase in the economy of North Dakota.

Jenkinson’s column contained nearly every negative he could come up with: The rents are too high. The roads are crowded. It’s too dusty. Too much money is going out of state. Train wrecks and oil spills are the fault of the Republicans, even when it appears it was God’s fault that Tioga pipeline leaked after being struck by lightning.

One letter from a Democrat legislative leader even said it was the voters fault for having elected too many Republicans. I wonder if the perpetual minority leader ever thought it was the Democrats fault for not having positive proposals such as they did in 1980 with Measure 6. In those days they were considered a real alternative. They defeated several incumbent state wide office holders including the Governor, the Attorney General, the Agriculture Commissioner, and even a U.S. Senator, and they didn’t do it with a negative letter writing campaign.  Then they lost Lucy and other pros and they fell apart as a party.

I thought Jenkinson and Omdahl have missed some issues. They have never written anything about the diploma scandal at Dickinson State University, and many other issues about the higher education system. Then I remembered, one of  Jenkinson’s paychecks is signed by Dickinson State. How would that look? An embarrassment about the place that gives you your paycheck, even though it is not only a legitimate criticism, but probably it was also a criminal one. Lee Vickers, considered by many to be the best institutional president while I was on the Board of Higher Education, must be so embarrassed to see what they did to “his” school.

The Democrats may need to worry about running out of issues the voters will give any thought to, or about having enough writers that readers might recognize. Recently Forum Communications printed a column about one of their journalist’s first trip to the oil patch. He went out there to visit his father who is living in a mobile home. The father moved there to get one of those high paying oil patch jobs to make enough money to pay off his house mortgage “back home”. Something he apparently couldn’t find a good job wherever back home is. The son wrote his dad could live in better housing, but by his own choice he says this is fine. It gives him more money to use for the mortgage payment. Still the journalist complained about his father’s living conditions.

Repeated throughout the column was the terrible wind the writer encountered while he was in Williston. Now, I have heard of the oil boom being blamed for many things, but this is the first time I realized it was the reason for the wind.

I mean if you think that is unfair what about all the wind we have had in the Red River Valley this winter, but not one drop of oil. That’s not fair. Why last year that Canadian company didn’t find any diamonds while drilling near a field of mine. I haven’t seen one letter to the editor blaming the Republicans for that failure. Where are those writers when a fellow could use them? Life just isn’t fair.