Last month I reported that Jackson County was refusing to set up an early-voting satellite station in Wanblee to allow locals to enjoy the same access to early voting as all other South Dakotans without having to make the long drive to Kadoka and back. The voting station wouldn't cost Jackson County a cent, as federal Help America Vote Act money is available to cover the bill. But Jackson County finds that plan too confusing.

The folks who run Jackson County are white. Kadoka is a mostly white community. Wanblee is a mostly Indian community. Get the picture?

Jackson County asked for it; now they've got it. Four Oglala Sioux voters from the Pine Ridge reservation have filed suit in federal court against Jackson County for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Jackson County is probably toast. Other counties have established early-voting satellite stations to help South Dakota Indian communities overcome distance and poverty to access the same early-voting rights that the majority population freely exercises. Jackson County is standing in the way of free and equal exercise of basic voting rights. Perhaps they will have the good sense to avoid further trouble and surrender to equality and democracy before a federal judge orders them to.

8 comments

A couple weeks ago, I mashed together some population and jobs numbers and calculated that South Dakota may undercount unemployment on our American Indian reservations by 57,000, or more than ten percentage points. Today I turn to some locally processed data for a much lower estimate the difference between white and Indian unemployment in South Dakota.

The Black Hills Knowledge Network provides a pile of great data showing the total Indian reservation population, youth percentage of the Indian population, the retirement-age population, and the percentage of working adults aged 16–64 on the reservations.

These data are not perfect; the charts don't provide the age breakdowns for the Lake Traverse and Standing Rock areas, so I've had to extrapolate based on averages from the other reservations. The numbers based on extrapolations are marked yellow below. Plus, the youth population numbers count all under age 18; the working adult counts include kids age 16 and 17.

But here's what I figure: subtract the kids and grannies and grampies from the total population. Multiply that by the given percentage of working adults for each locality to get the number of working adults.

Notice that the working-adult percentage for all of South Dakota is 76.3%. Across all reservations, the average percentage of working adults is 52.1%. So suppose the reservation populations were finding jobs at the same rate as the rest of us. Apply that 76.3% to the working-age reservation population, and we get the number of people who would be on the job if all things were equal. The difference between the actual working-adult numbers and that quasi-ideal state-mirroring number offers another estimate of how many Indians could be working but aren't because of disparities between the reservations and the rest of South Dakota.

%16-64 working # 18-64 working # 18-64 working
if SD rate app'd
IndDiff Guess Indian
unemp
Cheyenne River 54.8% 2,460 3,426 965 28.2%
Crow Creek 48.1% 523 830 307 37.0%
Flandreau 66.0% 169 196 26 13.5%
Lower Brule 54.9% 449 624 175 28.0%
Pine Ridge 42.6% 4,373 7,832 3,459 44.2%
Rosebud 46.8% 2,732 4,453 1,722 38.7%
Yankton 64.3% 2,133 2,531 398 15.7%
Lake Traverse 68.5% 4,113 4,581 468 10.2%
Standing Rock 46.6% 2,105 3,446 1,342 38.9%
Indian Totals 52.1% 19,056 27,918 8,862 31.7%
South Dakota 76.3% 377,584 377,584

My math finds 8,862 Indians on the reservations who could be working if job opportunities were uniform across the state. Add those 8,862 to the 16,555 whom state Department of Labor says are out of work across the state (and do add them, because I still don't think South Dakota is counting the reservations in unemployment data), and South Dakota's unemployment rate would rise from 3.7% to 5.7% at the snap of our statistical fingers.

A lazy morning hypothesis would suggest that the 57,000 I calculated earlier this month is an upper bound, while the 8,862 calculated here is a lower bound. Whichever number of mine you accept, if any, I will point to one more chart from the Black Hills Knowledge Network that should inform our economic development policy. According to their count, the difference between the percentage of white South Dakotan adults working and the percentage of our American Indian adult subpopulation working is 36.1% (higher than I calculate!), the highest white-Indian gap in the nation.

Any number you pick says South Dakota policymakers need to do more to bring employment parity to our reservation communities.

17 comments

One EB-5 investor could pay for a response two and a half times bigger....

Every Voice Action, a Washington D.C.-based super PAC formerly known as Public Action Campaign Fund, has launched a $200,000 ad campaign criticizing GOP Senate candidate Mike Rounds for corruption in his economic development program. I eagerly await the video, which is playing on KELO, KOTA, KDLT, and KTTW. The Pierre Capital Journal brings us the text; I annotate with my gauge of the accuracy of each shot:

  1. "It’s the Mike Rounds Citizenship-for-Sale Scheme." Error: The program sells EB-5 visas, green cards that make permanent residency possible, for $500,000 invested in a U.S. business project that produces at least 10 jobs. One does not get citizenship for investing in an EB-5 project.
  2. "It all started with an exclusive no-bid contract." ***CAH Correction! [21:56 CDT] Contextually incorrect, but factually true! The ad cites Ben Dunsmoor's August 18, 2014, report on the no-bid contract the Rounds Administration gave SDRC Inc. As I reported eight months earlier, that contract happened on December 22, 2009, well after the EB-5 scheme was already up and rolling and well after the director of that scheme had broken numerous laws and policies. However, the state issued another no-bid contract to SDRC Inc. at its inception almost two years earlier, on January 15, 2008. But we've only got 25 seconds of ad left! The point: Rounds Administration approved one no-bid contract, contractor broke all sorts of rules, Rounds Adminstration reward contractor with second no-bid contract.
  3. "Governor Mike Rounds gave his friend a no-bid contract to sell EB-5 green cards to the highest bidder." Closer: the only quibble here is that investors do not bid for EB-5 visas. In South Dakota, they all paid $500,000, plus tens of thousands of dollars in fees to Mike Rounds's friends.
  4. "Now, there’s half-million dollars unaccounted for…" Well, actually, we know where it went: Richard Benda's pocket.
  5. "...it’s under federal investigation..." True, says Senator Tidemann.
  6. "…and taxpayers are left with millions in EB-5 liability." True.
  7. "Mike Rounds. Rich foreigners get green cards. Cronies make a profit. And South Dakota … gets stuck with the bill.” True, although I get the impression South Dakota voters aren't moved by the rich foreigners line. Cronyism and money coming out of our pockets—now that will ring the bells.

That out-state players are willing to spend money on the EB-5 issue sends a grim signal for Republicans: beyond our borders, Mike Rounds is looking weak, and EB-5 looks like an issue that can whittle down his smaller-than-expected lead.

I just wish those out-state players would check with me first to vet their text and make sure they are focusing their precious 30 seconds most accurately.

Update 16:36 CDT: And here's the video:

48 comments

Just like the February version, the August Dakota Poll finds more young South Dakotan adults identifying themselves as conservative (42%) than liberal (23%). But theirs is a queer conservatism. Consider:

  • South Dakotans age 18 to 35 aren't interested in conserving the current two-party system: asked to rate how well "the two-party system is serving the needs of the American people" on a 1–10 scale, 53% give it a 4 or less; only 20% give it a 6 or better.
  • Young South Dakotans wouldn't conserve South Dakota's election system: 56% would like to adopt the Nebraska system—all legislative candidates from all parties go on the same ballot in June, and the top two vote-getters face off in November. Only 29% would oppose.
  • They don't read the Second Amendment as conservatively as the NRA and orange-clad candidates demand: 87% support "reasonable background checks on gun purchases" (that includes 82% of Republican respondents) and 53% say "Local governments should have the authority to ban guns from bars, parks, stores, and restaurants."
  • They aren't strict economic conservatives: as I reported Tuesday, they wouldn't just pass the $8.50 minimum wage on South Dakota's ballot; 56% of them would vote to raise the minimum wage to President Obama's favored $10.10.
  • They aren't strict Grover Norquist conservatives: 70% would raise our minimal teacher pay at least 20%, "even if it means slightly higher sales or property taxes. (A 20% increase would raise South Dakota's teacher pay from 51st in the nation to 41st. We'd still be 16% below the national average and $8,800 behind Minnesota.)
  • They aren't conservative with citizenship: 52% say they'd allow illegal immigrants to stay here and eventually apply for citizenship. Another 11% would let illegal immigrants stay but block citizenship. Only 29% would kick 'em out.
  • They aren't conservative about "family values": 55% say gay marriage should be legal, versus 29% who would keep South Dakota's ban. (But maybe that majority is family-value conservative, taking the position that government should not interfere in two willing adults' decision to make a commitment and raise a family.)
  • They are mixedly conservative on health insurance: almost three times as many respondents think they are worse off under the Affordable Care Act than think they are better off, though a strong 40% say the ACA makes no difference. But asked whether they prefer a mandate to buy private insurance or extending government-based health insurance like Medicare to everyone with income-based premiums, government wins 44% to 26%.

There may be conservatism afoot among the youngest generation of South Dakota voters, but it's not their parents' conservatism.

17 comments

Governor Daugaard's persistent denigration of the liberal arts as disciplines that don't pay off gets me thinking about his current profession. Permit me to rewrite Steve Young's Monday report on the Governor's advice to our best and brokest:

High school graduates considering a career in public service in South Dakota but looking at $25,000 in debt for a college degree should do the math first, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says.

What is more likely to pay off those loans, the governor asks: A good-paying job in state government in neighboring states — such as North Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa — or a job in South Dakota government?

“I’m not trying to tell people what to do or where to live,” Daugaard said. “I just want them to have their eyes open about it. I know it’s a fact that it’s harder to pay the bills as governor or legislator in South Dakota than it is in most other states.”

To some, the governor’s ongoing push for workforce development in only those fields that pay top dollar seems to bring with it a blanket dismissal of public service in South Dakota.

Daugaard would argue that he’s simply making an economic observation about student debt at a time when evidence shows young people who want to be governors and legislators can make more money in 43 other states [Yves Stung, "High Salaries Key—Low-Paying Jobs Not Worth Doing," snark-universe edition of that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.09.15].

But we don't choose to run for office to make money, the responsible statesman says. We run for office to serve the public, to lead important conversations, to make a difference.

Exactly. It would be absurd to encourage young people to consider running for the Minnesota Legislature instead of the South Dakota Legislature just because they'd make a five-times-larger paycheck. It would be irresponsible to urge our Dusty Johnsons and Tony Venhuizens to move their aspirations to Pennsylvania, where they could make 87% more as governor.

It is just as irresponsible for our Governor, as it would be for a guidance counselor or a parent, to use his position of influence to celebrate one field of work based on the opportunity for financial gain and not affirm with equal passion the social value of all the other work—writing, painting, philosophizing, politicking, teaching, parenting—that may not put as many bucks in the bank but offers opportunities for service and fulfillment.

But if the Governor wants to persist in his money-über-alles college advice, then he should practice what he preaches, quit his current job, and seek more gainful employment governing another state... or take up welding.

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for [John Keating, written by Tom Schulman, Dead Poets Society, 1989].

6 comments

TransCanada has put in motion the official process to renew its expired construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. On Monday, the Canadian pipeliner asked the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to recertify its project.

While TransCanada and its dupes peddle their inflated jobs numbers, let's look at the original arguments the coaxed the PUC to approve the project in 2010. The PUC's Amended Final Decision greenlighting Keystone XL included the following findings of fact on the purpose of and demand for the project:

14. The purpose of the Project is to transport incremental crude oil production from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin ("WCSB") to meet growing demand by refineries and markets in the United States ("U.S."). This supply will serve to replace U.S. reliance on less stable and less reliable sources of offshore crude oil.

24. The transport of additional crude oil production from the WCSB is necessary to meet growing demand by refineries and markets in the U.S. The need for the project is dictated by a number of factors, including increasing WCSB crude oil supply combined with insufficient export pipeline capacity; increasing crude oil demand in the U.S. and decreasing domestic crude supply; the opportunity to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign off-shore oil through increased access to stable, secure Canadian crude oil supplies; and binding shipper commitments to utilize the Keystone Pipeline Project.

25. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration ("EIA"), U.S. demand for petroleum products has increased by over 11 percent or 2,000,000 bpd over the past 10 years and is expected to increase further. The EIA estimates that total U.S. petroleum consumption will increases by approximately 10 million [sic] bpd over the next 10 years, representing average demand growth of about 100,000 [sic] bpd per year (EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2008).

26. At the same time, domestic U.S. crude oil supplies continue to decline. For example, over the past 10 years, domestic crude production in the United States has declined at an average rate of about 135,000 bpd per year, or 2% per year.... Crude and refined petroleum product imports into the U.S. have increased by over 3.3 million bpd over the past 10 years. In 2007, the U.S. imported over 13.4 million bpd of crude oil and petroleum products or over 60 percent of total U.S. petroleum product consumption. Canada is currently the largest supplier of imported crude oil and refined products to the U.S., supplying over 2.4 million bpd in 2007, representing over 11 percent of total U.S. petroleum product consumption (EIA 2007) [South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, Amended Final Decision and Order, TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline application, 2010.06.29].

First let us note that Finding of Fact #14 is not fact. TransCanada is not seeking to ship more oil to the U.S. Keystone XL will ship more oil through the U.S. to the international market, raising our gasoline prices in the process.

Besides, TransCanada can't count on the U.S. market, because we are using less oil. Let's look at new EIA data and projections showing the significant changes in the oil market in the four years since the PUC issued its findings:

U.S. demand for petroleum is no longer increasing. U.S. demand for petroleum peaked in 2007, which appears to be the final year the PUC considered in formulating its economic analysis. Petroleum demand plunged during the recession. The EIA projects U.S. petroleum use will remain flat over the next 25 years.

EIA AEO 2014-primary energy use by fuel 1980-2040

EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2014, p. MT-6

EIA projects U.S. crude oil consumption will decrease 0.1% a year through 2040 (see EIA AEO 2014, p. A-1).

U.S. domestic crude production is no longer declining. U.S. production troughed at about the same time U.S. consumption peaked. Booming oil production on the Bakken and elsewhere has erased the preceding twenty-year decline and will likely remain above the previous 1990 peak through 2040.

EIA AEO 2014 - U.S. Crude Oil Production 1990-2040

EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2014, p. MT-27

The EIA projects domestic crude oil and lease condensate energy production will increase 0.5% a year through 2040 (see EIA AEO 2014, p. A-1).

U.S. petroleum imports are no longer increasing. Same arc: increase to the mid-2000s, followed by a dramatic decrease thanks to recession- and conservation-driven reductions in consumption and Bakken-frackin' production increases. In the best-case scenario, the U.S. is a net exporter by the mid-2030s. Worst-case, our imports return to a bit above current levels, still less than 50%.

EIA AEO 2014 - Net import share of US petro-liquids 1990-2040

EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2014, p. MT-29

The EIA projects that U.S. crude oil imports will decrease 0.2% a year through 2040 (see EIA AEO 2014, p. A-1).

TransCanada does not have to make an economic case to the Public Utilities Commission. The pipeliners' burden of proof consists mostly of showing that they'll follow the rules and not kill anybody.

But if Commissioners Hanson, Nelson, and Fiegen are going to include economic and energy security justifications in their discussion of the merits of Keystone XL, they'll want to revisit the oil market and consider the significant changes that have taken place in U.S. oil consumption, production, and imports since the PUC issued TransCanada its initial permit.

4 comments

This morning I explained how Mike Rounds gave up the competitive advantage South Dakota's EB-5 program when he let Joop Bollen privatize his state job.

Funny thing is, as Sibby discovered last October, Joop Bollen agrees with me completely. Or so he told potential investors when he still worked for the state:

South Dakotaʼs Regional Center is truly a state government run regional center where economic development is the reward and not profit for company which manages the regional center!!

...unlike a privately managed program where the company can call it quits and disappear overnight, I can assure you that the State of South Dakota is here to stay!! [Joop Bollen, open letter to potential EB-5 investors, South Dakota International Business Institute, circa 2004–2009]

Don't take my word for it; listen to Mike's man Joop: South Dakota was better off when it directly managed EB-5 investment.

12 comments

On Monday, the South Dakota Democratic Party launched a local ad campaign encouraging citizens to call Senator Larry Tidemann and urge him to subpoena Governor Dennis Daugaard, former Governor Mike Rounds, and other state officials who could explain just what happened in the GOED/Northern Beef Packers/EB-5 scandal. Remarkably, the discussion on this blog turned to the propriety of publishing Senator Tidemann's phone number (a number which is published on Senator Tidemann's official Legislative webpage, as are phone numbers for every other South Dakota legislator).

One eager reader took up the ad's challenge and called Senator Tidemann. The reader got voicemail and left a message. Senator Tidemann called the reader back. Here's the reader's account of their very civil conversation:

When he called me back he was very nice and tried to be helpful explaining what he was doing and what they hoped to accomplish.... We talked about [Richard] Benda, Joop [Bollen], records missing and he basically held to the party stance on this whole thing. He said it was a federal program and I agreed but I pointed out my concern was how it was administered here in SD. It was almost as if there were things with standard responses he made that are used to throw me off and diminish this but I held on and was pointed yet very tactful and respectful.

He said the reason he did not want Joop to be present was that it would have been a circus atmosphere and that the written responses were the same as a subpoena. He mentioned the U.S. Department of Justice ongoing investigation and covered the basis of they are legislators and some of this is better left to police, FBI and DCI agents [blog reader, e-mail, 2014.09.17].

Senator Tidemann's willingness to call a questioner back and discuss serious issues seems to deflate the critique of the propriety of encouraging citizens to call legislators. Senator Tidemann gets extra points for affirming that a federal investigation continues and acknowledging that there appears to be criminal activity in this scandal that warrants investigation.

But Senator Tidemann loses points for talking points. Bob Mercer has rejected the "EB-5 is federal " dodge; so should everyone else.

Senator Tidemann loses more points for his circus-phobia. Is Senator Tidemann saying he is incapable of maintaining order at any committee meeting where a prominent or controversial figure may testify? When is the last time any Legislative committee meeting turned into a circus? How circusy can things get in Pierre? Is Tidemann afraid Bob Mercer will bring peanuts and thundersticks?

The worst that happens if Joop Bollen appears in person in front of the Government Operations and Audit Committee on September 24 is that two bloggers, five reporters, and ten lawyers come to the meeting. Chairman Tidemann raps the desk, points his gavel, and says menacingly, "No circus, or you're out!" And then everyone sits in rapt silence, punctuated only by the raindrop tap of laptop keys, as Senator Larry Lucas and Rep. Susan Wismer grill Joop Bollen.

Senator Tidemann is serving the public trust by talking with voters directly on the phone. Now let's serve the public trust by having former public employee Joop Bollen talk directly with the public at GOAC, in person, under oath, on September 24.

p.s. [09:52 CDT]: The caller notes that Senator Tidemann deserves extra credit for taking a call from a South Dakotan outside his district. The caller made clear in the voicemail that the caller lived in another legislative district, yet Senator Tidemann still took the time to call back. Well done, Senator Tidemann!

8 comments

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