Burgum elected chair of WGA, unveils policy initiative 'Reimagining the Rural West'
The Western Governors’ Association (WGA) on Wednesday elected Gov. Doug Burgum to serve as WGA chair for 2019-2020, on the final day of the association’s three-day annual meeting in Vail, Colo.
Burgum began his one-year term by announcing his central policy initiative for the coming year, titled “Reimagining the Rural West.” This initiative will examine challenges and opportunities in rural economic development, infrastructure and quality of life, with the goal of recommending policies and best practices to support vibrant and enduring rural communities in the West.
“Being elected to lead the Western Governors’ Association is a tremendous honor, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to build upon the bipartisan, common-sense policy development that has become synonymous with WGA,” Burgum said, thanking Hawaii Gov. David Ige for his outstanding leadership as chair this past year. “By Reimagining the Rural West, western governors can work together to solve our workforce shortages, improve our economic health and enhance the quality of life for all citizens.”
WGA will conduct a workshop and webinar series for the initiative that assembles stakeholders, policy experts and thought leaders to discuss emerging issues, share success stories and develop bipartisan solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the rural West. Burgum announced that the first workshop will be Oct. 1 in Fargo.
Burgum also announced that North Dakota will host the WGA 2020 Annual Meeting next June in Medora, showcasing one of the state’s top tourist attractions. The announcement included a 3½-minute video promoting North Dakota and its influence on President Theodore Roosevelt, produced by the North Dakota Tourism Division.
The governors also elected Oregon Gov. Kate Brown as WGA vice chair at the meeting. The WGA represents the governors of 19 western states and three U.S. territories, supporting bipartisan policy development, the exchange of best practices and ideas, and collective action on issues of critical importance to the western United States such as agriculture, energy, water, economic development and natural resource development.
Burgum meets with Interior Secretary Bernhardt at WGA
Gov. Burgum met Monday with U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt at the WGA meeting, discussing a variety of topics including natural resources, energy development and improvements to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Burgum thanked Bernhardt for his proposal announced last week to increase access to public lands by creating new or expanded fishing and hunting opportunities at 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Valley City National Fish Hatchery in North Dakota.
Bernhardt also reaffirmed his support for the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Medora, at the doorstep to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
“The future of managing these public lands is going to involve – and we need to involve – a strong commitment by the public sector, good partnerships with the private sector and a lot of community support, and that’s what that project represents, and it’s a great story,” Bernhardt said.
The Interior Department oversees the National Park Service, which recently reported that visitor spending in communities near national parks in 2018 resulted in a $40.1 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 329,000 jobs.
“We deeply appreciate Secretary Bernhardt’s continued collaboration, responsiveness and understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by North Dakota and other Western states,” Burgum said.
First Lady delivers address at Amazon opioid summit
First Lady Kathryn Burgum on Monday shared her story of addiction and recovery and her mission to eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction as she kicked off an opioid panel at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C.
The session, titled “Battling the Opioid Crisis with Help from the Cloud,” reconvened founding members of the AWS Opioid Crisis Council, as well as new members and supporters, to discuss how AWS has been teaming up with governments and technology partners to collaboratively address the opioid crisis since its declaration as a national public health emergency in 2017.
“I am honored to engage in dialogue over how leaders in government and technology can work together to eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction and empower recovery in communities and the workplace,” First Lady Burgum said. “We have an incredible opportunity to harness the power of technology to drive solutions for those struggling with this disease and remove the shame and barriers to care in the process.”
A panel of public sector customers, including Dorman Bazzell, chief data officer for the State of North Dakota, shared details on how they have implemented cloud-based solutions across agencies in multiple levels of government to securely ingest, analyze and distribute citizen data in support of programs designed to address substance abuse and behavioral health in their communities.
Governor's request for presidential major disaster declaration granted
Gov. Burgum on Wednesday thanked President Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for granting North Dakota’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration, triggering the release of federal funds to help communities recover from widespread spring flooding.
“We are extremely grateful to the Trump administration for recognizing the significant hardship that North Dakota farmers, homeowners, businesses, local governments and first responders experienced as a result of substantial – and, in some cases, unprecedented – spring flooding,” Burgum said. “This presidential disaster declaration will help our local governments and agencies recover from extensive infrastructure damage and make resources available to help communities reduce the long-term risk of future flooding.”
As requested by Burgum last month, the declaration covers the period from March 21 to April 29 and includes the counties of Adams, Barnes, Cass, Dickey, Emmons, Grand Forks, Grant, Hettinger, LaMoure, Logan, McKenzie, Morton, Pembina, Ransom, Richland, Sargent, Steele, Traill and Walsh.
Preliminary damage assessments indicated that flood damage was expected to exceed nearly $8.5 million. It’s estimated an additional $2 million could be eligible when final assessments are completed.
Burgum congratulates NDDOT on award for Pop-Up Demonstration Projects
Gov. Burgum congratulated the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) this week after its Pop-Up Demonstration Projects won a regional award in the “Quality of Life/Community Development, Small Project” category in the 2019 America’s Transportation Awards competition.
The annual competition is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and showcases projects that are making communities stronger, the economy more efficient and quality of life better, all while utilizing technology.
This year, 81 projects from 39 states were nominated in three different categories. As a regional winner, the Pop-Up Demonstration Projects will be considered for inclusion in the competition’s “Top 12” which will be announced in August.
“To create healthy, vibrant communities that attract and retain workers, we need smart, efficient infrastructure that encourages public engagement and supports multiple modes of transportation, from walking and biking to ride-sharing and busing,” Burgum said. “Working with local communities, NDDOT has done a fantastic job of demonstrating the possibilities, and we congratulate the department and the communities on this well-deserved award.”
The Pop-Up Demonstration projects were part of the NDDOT’s first State Active and Public Transportation Plan called ND Moves, which looked at more ways to integrate different modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, and transit into state transportation systems. The pop-up projects were small, short-term projects that test design concepts prior to full construction, including curb extensions, bike lanes, back-in angle parking, roundabouts, road diets and pedestrian amenities.
Nine communities across the state designed concepts that connected bicycles and pedestrians to businesses, jobs, recreation, and schools while generating public engagement: Bismarck, Bottineau, Grafton, Grand Forks, Hazen, Horace, Mandan, Rugby and Williston.