I must have missed the Pierre press release on this one....

Forbes this month issued its ranking of the Best States for Business for 2014:

Rank State Business Costs Rank Labor Supply Rank Regulatory Environment Rank Economic Climate Rank Growth Prospects Rank Quality of Life Rank Population
1 Utah 5 4 9 6 10 16 2,923,000
2 North Dakota 9 9 18 4 2 24 733,200
3 North Carolina 4 7 2 24 9 31 9,901,400
4 Virginia 24 2 1 12 33 5 8,292,700
5 Colorado 35 1 13 8 4 9 5,307,800
6 Texas 13 11 16 1 1 33 26,654,300
7 Nebraska 8 22 9 2 46 14 1,873,500
8 Washington 20 6 30 17 6 29 7,002,500
9 Minnesota 33 18 22 7 23 2 5,439,200
10 Oklahoma 7 31 14 5 15 41 3,865,900
11 Delaware 2 8 26 31 27 36 930,000
12 Iowa 11 39 11 9 42 12 3,099,200
13 Massachusetts 49 3 33 11 16 1 6,719,000
14 South Dakota 1 16 31 10 45 30 848,500
15 Indiana 10 45 3 28 31 15 6,585,000
16 Georgia 27 21 4 38 13 38 10,019,900
17 New York 45 30 20 3 17 10 19,688,400
18 Oregon 12 12 39 32 8 35 3,946,100
19 Florida 38 10 15 36 7 32 19,708,200
20 Maryland 41 5 36 16 32 8 5,947,300

Four of six adjoining states outrank South Dakota, whose Republican leaders portray South Dakota as a business haven.

Forbes ranks South Dakota #1 for low business costs (including labor, energy, and taxes), compared to Minnesota, whose 33 in that category is its lowest ranking in Forbes's six metrics. Forbes says it weights business costs most heavily, but Minnesota turns the tables on South Dakota in four other categories, most notably quality of life, where South Dakota ranks 30th while Minnesota ranks #2.

Further showing that you get what you pay for is the split between South Dakota and Massachusetts. That den of East Coast liberal sin offers the second-highest business costs among the states, but it offers the top quality of life. Massachusetts also offers better prospects for growth, ranking 16th compared to South Dakota's 45th.

We were 17th on the Forbes list in 2010 and 2011. We jumped to 12th in 2012, then peaked at 11th in 2013. Minnesota jumped from 20th in 2012 to 8th in 2013. Minnesota beat South Dakota in 2010 and 2011.

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Independent-Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is awfully popular among progressives. He may run for President in 2016. Our modern Eugene V. Debs tells NPR that Democrats could get their traction back by rediscovering the working class:

...people look out and they say, "Gee, the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well." And where are the Democrats? Do people see the Democratic Party standing up to Wall Street? Any of these guys going to jail? Not really. The average person is working longer hours, lower wages, and they do not see any political party standing up and fighting for their rights. What they see is a Republican Party becoming extremely right wing, controlled by folks like the Koch brothers. But they do not see a party representing the working class of this country [Bernie Sanders, interview with Steve Inskeep, "Sen. Bernie Sanders on How Democrats Lost White Votes," NPR: It's All Politics, 2014.11.19].

Senator Sanders sounds an awful lot like our own Rick Weiland. Does that make Weiland a socialist... or just the right man to lead the South Dakota Democratic Party back to its mission and electoral success?

Senator Sanders recommends the sort of socialism that South Dakotans of both parties love—big federal investment in infrastructure:

...whether you're white or black or Hispanic or Asian, if you are in the working class, you are struggling to keep your heads above water. You're worried about your kids. What should the Democratic Party be talking about, Steve? What they should be talking about is a massive federal jobs program. There was once a time when our nation's infrastructure — roads, bridges, water systems, rail — were the envy of the world. Today that's no longer the case [Sanders, 2014.11.19].

Roads, bridges, water systems—we could be building real public goods that would put millions of Americans to work and serve the national interest, but a majority of Senators in the pocket of Big Oil think it's more important to authorize a private foreign oil pipeline that would hurt the U.S. economy and the working class.

Senator Sanders likely won't derail the Clinton nomination. But his exhortation to working-class politics could point Rick Weiland and South Dakota Democrats the route toward votes in 2016.

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Thought you wouldn't have Larry Pressler to kick around any more? Think again.

Yesterday, Pressler released remarks he prepared for a speech he's making today to the Farmers Union Foundation in Aberdeen. The former Senator continues to press his "Pressler Pipeline Plan" to reroute Keystone XL through North Dakota to carry Bakken crude to Midwest refineries instead of piping tar sands oil down to the Gulf and away to China.

There is a great need to build one or two new pipelines across North Dakota, and the right-of-way for them already exists. The Midwestern refineries in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois are currently under capacity, and diesel fuel would be about $1 cheaper than having it refined in Louisiana.

It is more environmentally friendly to move crude oil and distillates by pipeline and we need to free up our railroad equipment to haul more grain. South Dakota farmers need rail access to get their grain to market, and having two pipelines in North Dakota to carry oil will relieve railroad congestion [Larry Pressler, press release, 2014.11.20].

I still prefer preaching conservation (we should less oil and less of the corn syrup to which most of that surplus ag freight is destined), but Pressler's economic details are better than anything our deluding Big-Oil-mouthpiece delegation will offer.

Larry Pressler, still on the hunt...

Larry Pressler, still on the hunt...

Getting into the swing, Pressler fires off another press release today, this one with three little ticklers. Humboldt's most famous John Deere jockey says he plans to "will work for centrist, independent, moderate thinking in politics." He says contributions to the foundation will be tax-deductible, which I assume means he plans to form a 501(c)3, which can register voters, encourage voting, maybe even form a think tank and host events featuring like minded Indies and centrists but cannot contribute to candidates.

O happy Independence and not having to check with Party Central to make sure he won't hurt anyone's feelings by forming his group! Two recommendations, Mr. Pressler:

  1. The Pressler Foundation should host a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates between prominent political figures on significant South Dakota political issues. Formulate clear resolutions, require speakers to stay on topic and focus on policy, and have you and other centrists serve as strict moderators and judges at the events. (First speakers: Stace Nelson vs. me!)
  2. Use these events and other fundraising to raise money to support and expand speech activities in South Dakota. Nothing promotes independent, rigorous, policy-oriented thinking better in our fair state than high school debate and Student Congress.

Along with promoting independent thinking, Pressler suggests we could also use some ballot education:

Several people told me they mistakenly double voted, as they innocently believed they could vote for two, and of course that invalidated their vote. There is a lot of misunderstanding about independent candidacies [Larry Pressler, Facebook message, 2014.11.21].

Clip from South Dakota general election sample ballot, 2014

Clip from South Dakota general election sample ballot, 2014

Several people? What? O.K., nothing personal folks, but we're voting for Senator. Yes, we have two Senators, but, as the ballot says, underlined, in bold, we only get to vote for one at a time. It doesn't matter how many guys are running for that one spot; you still only get to pick one... at least until the Pressler Foundation successfully passes an initiative to allow instant run-off/ranked-choice voting. (But oh my; if we can't mark bubbles correctly, can we handle marking our top picks 1, 2, 3?)

But before he launches a foundation or agitates for ballot education reform, Pressler's has to pay the bills:

Meanwhile, I have a more immediate task. Our campaign raised only a total of about $200,000, largely from individual contributions such as yours. I know you have contributed, and I have asked, and some of you have contributed again, and while I do feel a bit audacious and embarrassed (but not apologetic), I do have a $250,000 deficit. I will probably pay it myself, but if you have not reached the $2,600 limit, I would ask that you consider contributing more [Pressler, 2014.11.21].

According to the FEC, Pressler reported being $355K in the hole on October 15, so he's made $105K worth of progress. But we should all appreciate the softest sell in any campaign finance pitch this year: I'll probably pay it myself, but if you want to help, that's o.k.

If Pressler is willing to drop that much of his own cash to close out his campaign, it will be interesting to see how much of his own cash and time he'll be willing to dedicate to promoting further political discussion along the centrist lines he desires.

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Like Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, President Barack Obama is using his executive authority to tackle immigration problems. Specifically, President Obama announced last night that he is inviting more than four million illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens to "come out of the shadows and get right with the law." Here's the deal, in the President's own words:

We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you [President Barack Obama, address to the nation, transcript posted by Washington Post, 2014.11.20].

Speaker John Boehner says the President is sabotaging efforts to pass legislative immigration reform, even though in his speech last night, the President explicitly invited Congress to pass a bill that would render his action unnecessary, and even though Speaker Boehner has had an effective, bipartisan immigration reform bill on his desk since June 2013. Speaker Boehner says the President is showing he can't be trusted to enforce the law, even though the Boehner Congress has given the President only enough funding to deport 400,000 out of the nation's 11,000,000 illegal immigrants, requiring the President to choose on which minority of illegal immigrants to enforce the law. The action the President announced last night allows law enforcement to focus on crooks and terrorists.

Someone in Rep. Kristi Noem's office types up a response saying that "'my way or the highway' negotiation won’t work." This from the office of a Congresswoman who supported shutting down the federal government and crashing the economy when the President wouldn't yield to GOP demands to repeal health care reform.

Rep. Noem claims that the President is defying the will of the people of South Dakota. On what basis Rep. Noem divines that popular will is unclear, since South Dakotans all seem content to enjoy the cheap produce and other labor made available by those millions of illegal immigrants and unwilling to crack down on the businesses that exploit those workers.

Rep. Noem mentions something about the President's being unconstitutional, but she has yet to enunciate the legal grounds on which she would prosecute the President... probably because there are none:

...[T]he president’s discretion to enforce the immigration laws has always been the cornerstone of a de facto guest-worker (or, if you want, caste) system from which most Americans have greatly benefited. That’s why Republicans’ claim that the president is shredding the Constitution sounds so odd to people knowledgeable about immigration law. He’s just doing what countless Congresses have wanted him to do, and have effectively forced him to do, so that Congress itself could avoid charges that it has created a two-tier system of citizenship where the bottom tier is allowed to stay in this country and work, but is not allowed to vote, to benefit from welfare programs, to travel freely, or to enjoy the full protection of workplace laws. Of course, you might say that the whole illegal immigration system, with its two-tier system of rights, violates the Constitution or at least constitutional values, but the fault for that lies with Congress, not with the president [Eric Posner, "Obama's Immigration Plan Is Perfectly Constitutional," Salon.com, 2014.11.21].

The President is taking legal and practical action to solve problems. We can only wish Speaker Boehner and Rep. Noem were similarly committed to practical action for the good of the country.

Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come [President Barack Obama, 2014.11.20].

Related: Under President Obama, illegal immigration from Mexico has declined, but overall numbers of illegal immigrants in the country have remained relatively stable, dropping just a bit from 11.3 million in 2009 to 11.2 million in 2012.

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Remember how McGovern Middle School on the northwest edge of Sioux Falls had to ban kids from walking to school because of bad urban planning?

Turn with me to Lakewood, Ohio, a 52,000-strong suburb of Cleveland that embraces sensible, community-building urban planning:

As Lakewood grew, the city opted against setting up a school bus system, focusing instead on building schools to fit within the community. Most of the schools are multistory buildings on relatively small lots, making them easier to incorporate into residential neighborhoods. As the facilities aged over the years, officials chose to restore and upgrade the existing structures, rather than build sprawling new single-story campuses [Daniel Luzer, "The Town Where Everyone Still Walks to School," Governing, November 2014].

The result? Lakewood's schools offer no bus service, and nearly everyone can walk to school.  Kids get more exercise hauling themselves to school, and the schools save money:

...[T]he Lakewood school district spends about $500,000 a year on transportation, about $1 million less than comparable school districts, according to schools treasurer Kent Zeman. That’s money it can use for other things, including the slightly higher costs of maintaining those smaller, neighborhood-oriented schools. As Zeman puts it, “If you’re going to spend extra money, I’d rather it be on a teacher than a bus” [Luzer, Nov. 2014].

Rural South Dakota schools can't get rid of buses completely. But when we save a little money by abandoning neighborhood schools and building big flat buildings out at the edge of town, we shift costs to kids and families who can no longer walk to school, and we impose ongoing costs on taxpayers by requiring bus service for in-town kids who used to be able to hoof it.

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Keenly interested rural observer Don Carr smells bull-fudgery in Senator John Thune's faint signal of sensibility on climate change. Carr says Senator Thune should get serious about science for the sake of agriculture:

If Senator Thune actually believed what scientists and the U.S. military tells us about our dire climate future, he would be compelled to act immediately and with force. He’d have to stop pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline and questioning the economic impact of climate change solutions.

...[W]hat South Dakota farmers urgently need now from Senator Thune is leadership that drives immediate action on mitigating and adapting to a volatile climate, not this incremental, cynically motivated, glacial-pace acceptance.

Continued inaction puts a sector that generates $25.6 billion of economic activity a year for South Dakota at severe risk [Don Carr, "Loos Science Tales: Senator Thune's Science Problem," Republic of Awesome, 2014.11.20].

Carr has a direct stake in saving agriculture from global catastrophe: he's managing his family's farm in South Dakota. Carr notes that Senator Thune is maddeningly capable of acknowledging scientific consensus when it serves his image and corporate backers. Carr even agrees that science says GMOs are safe to eat, showing that he's not some GMO-free corn flake crier (sorry, it's an inside blog joke). Carr is serious about science and agribusiness; Senator Thune should be, too.

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My readers at South Dakota Magazine may not think minimum wage workers deserve any consideration, but fortunately, the are in the minority. Thanks to the good sense of 55% of South Dakota voters, minimum wage workers will get a raise on January 1, from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.

But what about all the jobs ALEC says we're going to lose? South Dakota's going to end up a wreck like Minnesota, where they raised the minimum wage even more this summer, right?

On August 1, Minnesota hiked its minimum wage for small employers from $5.25 to $6.50 an hour and for large employers from $6.15 to $8.00. Those are hikes of 24% and 30%, respectively. South Dakota's upcoming increase is 17%.

Let's look at what has happened to employment in Minnesota since then, with some numbers from the whole past year for context:

Month Labor Force Jobs Unemployed Unemployment
rate
2013-07 2,969,376 2,818,339 151,037 5.1
2013-08 2,968,353 2,819,609 148,744 5.0
2013-09 2,968,482 2,822,623 145,859 4.9
2013-10 2,970,349 2,826,633 143,716 4.8
2013-11 2,965,982 2,828,347 137,635 4.6
2013-12 2,971,572 2,834,248 137,324 4.6
2014-01 2,985,354 2,843,982 141,372 4.7
2014-02 2,995,127 2,850,755 144,372 4.8
2014-03 3,002,431 2,856,843 145,588 4.8
2014-04 3,001,998 2,860,415 141,583 4.7
2014-05 2,999,601 2,860,560 139,041 4.6
2014-06 2,995,361 2,859,447 135,914 4.5
2014-07 2,987,768 2,854,409 133,359 4.5
2014-08 2,981,147 2,852,956 128,191 4.3
2014-09 2,983,397 2,860,969 122,428 4.1
2014-10 2,988,155 2,871,566 116,589 3.9
Source: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

Three months after imposing a higher relative increase in costs on minimum-wage employers than South Dakota's increase will, Minnesota has 17,157 more jobs. Unemployment ticked down two tenths of a percentage point in August, in September, and again in October.

The last three months continue a steady upward economic trend in Minnesota that has taken place under a strong regime of Democratonomics that the Republicans are acknowledging they probably aren't going to overturn with their new State House majority.

Minimum wage goes up; job growth hums along. Minimum wage decriers, cry away.

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The Lake County Commission delayed action this week on a conditional use permit for a private campground on the southeast side of my beloved Lake Herman. Terry and Bev Timmer acquired Larry Dirks's land and proposed building a campground up the hill from the lake in 2012. Timmers have done the first phase, doing dirt work for 16 campsites and installing septic systems. They now seek a permit to move more dirt and add 20 campaign pads. But the county said hold your horses when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Timmers are in violation of their existing state General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activity.

Uff da—what's it take to get DENR to jump on a developer? Oh, maybe the developer getting cited for violations in July, ignoring the DENR's request for a report on fixing those violations, and leaving violations for the DENR to find still occurring in November?

That's the story that comes from the inspections conducted and letters sent to Terry Timmer by DENR water quality engineer Jill Riedel. During an inspection in early June, Riedel found dirt washing off the campground construction site onto adjoining land due to inadequate sediment controls. Timmers also appear not to have filed the Storm Water Pollution prevention Plan required by their construction permit. Riedel's July 24, 2014, letter documented those violations and asked for a response by August 4.

Riedel's November 14, 2014, letter indicates that Timmers never wrote back. The latter letter, with more bold type and "WARNING LETTER" printed at the top, includes a report from Riedel's November 7 inspection finding several violations unaddressed.

Photos 7 & 8, taken by Jill Riedel, DENR engineer, inspection of Timmer campground site, Lake Herman, South Dakota, 2014.11.07, included in warning letter from DENR to Terry Timmer, 2014.11.14

Photos 7 & 8, taken by Jill Riedel, DENR engineer, inspection of Timmer campground site, Lake Herman, South Dakota, 2014.11.07, included in warning letter from DENR to Terry Timmer, 2014.11.14 (click to embiggen!)

DENR expects a reply by November 26. To perhaps focus Timmers' attention, Riedel reminds them, in bold type, that "violations of the general permit can subject you to enforcement action, including penalties of up to $10,000 per day per violation."

$10,000 a day? If the construction site has been in violation for 108 days (let's be generous and just count from the day they were supposed to reply in August), that's over a million bucks DENR could ask for. (Yo! Governor Daugaard! Does the state have any lawyer bills it needs paid?) I don't know what Timmers plan to charge for a night of camping, but if they're going to compete with Lake Herman State Park just up the shore at $19 a night (and really, Timmers will need to charge less, since they offer no trails, less shade, less room for the kids to play, much less shoreline, and a harder to find gravel road for access), but it would take 36 campsites 1,579 days (15 summers!) to generate the revenue necessary to cover that bill.

Since Timmers won't have 36 campsites until the county approves their second conditional use permit, and since that approval won't happen until DENR is happy, maybe the Timmers need to stop disregarding environmental rules and pay more attention to their erosion controls and their paperwork.

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