The Bakken oil boom is making North Dakota rich! Too bad its universities are falling apart:

Students returning this week will attend classes in buildings without adequate ventilation or fire detection systems and in historic landmarks with buckling foundations. A space crunch is making it difficult for researchers to obtain grants and putting the accreditation of several programs at risk, administrators say.

“It’s embarrassing,” said North Dakota state Representative Kathy Hawken, a Republican from Fargo who sits on the higher education funding and budget committees. “We have a divided legislature on higher ed: Some think we put too much money into it and some think we don’t put enough. Buildings aren’t people, so we don’t put dollars there” [Jennifer Oldham, "North Dakota Universities Crumble as Oil Cash Pours In," Bloomberg, 2014.08.26].

Moving that money from petro-tax revenues to classrooms is complicated: Oldham reports that 30% of the money is locked up in a state trust fund until 2017, while another big chunk goes to municipalities. The $300 million the North Dakota Legislature gets faces competition from road needs. While the universities need $808 million in repairs, the state also needs $925 million to fix roads statewide over the next two years, including $485 million for repairs to industry-battered oil-patch roads.

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Rep. Kristi Noem has chickened out of debating Corinna Robinson this weekend, but she will still be lurking around the State Fair. At 2 p.m. today, she will accept a "Friend of the Prairie" award on the Freedom Stage from the South Dakota Grassland Coalition.

If you want to talk to Congresswoman Noem about what she's done to deserve such an award (cutting subsidies to farmers plowing virgin prairie, but reducing the CRP maximum CRP acreage from 32 million acres to 24 million acres and CRP funding from $400 million to $250 million?) or to ask her questions that she might have faced in a debate with Robinson, the Princess directs you to contact her staff.

Worth nothing is the fact that Team Noem sends out notice of her appearance at the State Fair one day before it happens. Sometimes it seems as if Rep. Noem just doesn't want attention. Rep. Noem visited Madison Tuesday, but it was another of those surprise, invitation-only, elites-only visits that doesn't make the paper until after it's done. Her staff appear to have posted notice of that event the day it happened, minimizing the opportunity for the press and other interested citizens to come see their Congresswoman.

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Mr. Powers perpetuates his obsession with picking on Angelia Schultz by rolling in the dead-fish rumors people feed him about the supposed withdrawal of Democrat Schultz from the race for Secretary of State. Team Schultz says hold the phone, she's on her way:

The American News contacted Schultz about the status of her campaign. In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Schultz' campaign strategist Bajun Mavalwalla said Schultz has been assembling a team and they're finalizing their strategy to find the best and most efficient way to get her message out across the state.

"As far as my candidate, she's not missing, and she's not pulling out," Mavalwalla said. "Right now, what Angelia recognizes is what we have in South Dakota is a core group of voters who need to know what she's all about. That's why we are making sure when we put everything out that the message is synchronized and right on time" [Elisa Sand, "Secretary of State Candidate Assembling Campaign Team," Aberdeen American News, 2014.08.27].

I'll admit, now is not the time to be assembling a campaign team. Now is the time to be dispatching the campaign team that you assembled back in June to go flood the State Fair with brightly T-shirted hand-shakers and jawboners to tell everyone that you rock, Krebs is Gant in heels, Stacey is crazy, and Emmett... well, he's just Emmett. You should also be answering the heck out of your phone and angling for every bit of free press coverage you can get.

But Schultz has Mavalwalla on the job, and his Nebula Group appears to be mobilizing in support of multiple Democratic candidates in South Dakota. Better late than never—now let's see some big push!

Related: In addition to his freshly announced work for District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn, Mavalwalla's team has also signed on to blog favorite Robin Page's District 33 Senate campaign. No word yet on whether Page's new campaign consultants have moved her poll numbers, but they have finally launched a campaign website for Robin! Whoo-hoo!

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I've lived in Spearfish. I've seen Gillette. No one can convince me that Gillette is a nicer place to live and work and love than Spearfish.

But former Spearfish teacher Lynnae Fox disagrees. Wyoming's teacher pay just enticed her and several colleagues across the border:

Lynnae Fox is one of seven teachers from South Dakota who have been recruited to Gillette. Fox is a new fifth grade teacher at buffalo ridge elementary.

Fox spent the last four years teaching second grade in Spearfish, S.D., before taking her new position.

The Campbell County superintendent says a lot of out of state teachers come to Wyoming for the salary increase [Melea VanOstrand, "Wyoming Schools Recruit Teachers from South Dakota," KOTA-TV, 2014.08.27].

Just one school district pulls seven of South Dakota's good teachers in one year. That's brain drain isn't going to help our teacher shortage.

South Dakota's only hope for keeping teachers in the nation's teacher-pay gutter is stiff competition:

South Dakota teachers made up 38 percent of out-of-state applicants but the district only hired 2 percent of them. The district hired a total of 74 new staff members [VanOstrand, 2014.08.27].

The lesson for South Dakota: pay good money, and you can afford to be choosy about your teachers.

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Darrell Solberg of Sioux Falls aptly summarizes the legacy of former Governor, now Senate candidate, Mike Rounds:

He... spearheaded the failed Northern Beef Packing plant in Aberdeen, which has cost people millions.

The implementation of EB-5... not only cost investors and taxpayers millions, it has lead to lawsuits, unanswered questions, a death and the distrust of people in state government.

Seven out of the eight years in office, his administration had a structural deficit (more expenses than revenue) and thus took money out of reserve funds to balance the budget.

....Lack of government openness and transparency led to questionable practices, pay to play, tax rebates for oil pipelines and no-bid contracts.

Increasing the number of state employees, many of whom were relatives or friends, increased the state’s expenses and dependency on federal dollars.

...[L]ack of attention and commitment to education funding has caused a severe teacher shortage in the state.

College tuitions are on an upward spiral; South Dakota college graduates have one of the highest educational debts upon graduation, forcing many to leave for better paying jobs.

...Use of state airplanes for the enjoyment of attending Pierre High School football games, with friends accompanying [Rounds] while his son played [Darrell Solberg, letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.27].

I recall Rick Knobe interviewing Scott Heidepriem on KSOO a few years ago. Heidepriem compared Mike Rounds and Bill Janklow. A recovering Republican, Heidepriem said that he disagreed with plenty of Janklow's decisions, but he respected Janklow's big vision and his ability to translate that vision into action. Rounds, said Heidepriem, didn't seem to have any vision. Rounds came and went from the Capitol and didn't really change anything about South Dakota. The only real marks he left were red ink in the budget and higher numbers on the Hobbs meter.

Maybe the South Dakota Republican Party is done giving us Janklows. The party of No and Noem wants pretty smiles that say the right things but do nothing more than raise money and win elections. Mike Rounds's empty gubernatorial legacy shows he fits that mold perfectly.

Anticipated Related Reading: The University of South Dakota is digitizing the Janklow Papers. Janklow gave his papers to his alma mater on the condition that they make the documents available to the public online. The Janklow Papers should make for fascinating historical reading. Candidate Rounds, how about a sneak peak at the Rounds Papers, with a focus on your flight logs and Northern Beef Packers memos?

57 comments
Eight days, 1282.3 miles, 23 posts... 100% South Dakota!

Eight days, 1282.3 miles, 23 posts... 100% South Dakota!

Friends of the blog, thank you very much... and congratulations! Your support—ringing the tip jar, buying ads, encouraging me and telling others about the blog—made possible the first Madville Times statewide tour. It will not be the last.

I drove around the state for eight days and wrote for a few more (next time: fewer events per day, more time built in to hunker down and write!). Your blog love helped produce the following fun, excitement, and quality South Dakota journalism:

  1. Weiland Rocks Rickstock, Builds Long-Term Momentum
  2. Hagel Seeks Common Ground, Better Teacher Pay, Insurance Savings… and Pork!
  3. Josie Weiland on Political Activism: Get Informed, Keep It Positive
  4. Mark Hollenbeck shows me Alligator Rock, a prominent feature of the canyon that cuts through his Edgemont ranch. Somewhere behind us, Powertech CEO Dick Clement and lobbyist Larry Mann contemplate leaving me in the canyon for the coyotes. (CAH, 2014.08.17)

    Mark Hollenbeck shows me Alligator Rock, a prominent feature of the canyon that cuts through his Edgemont ranch. Somewhere behind us, Powertech CEO Dick Clement and lobbyist Larry Mann contemplate leaving me in the canyon for the coyotes. (CAH, 2014.08.17)

    Powertech Tip of Uranium-Berg, Plans Processing Plant to Cash in on Other Miners

  5. DRA Chair Seamans Finds Common Ground with Tribes on Keystone XL
  6. Powertech’s Side of the Story on SB 158 and the Hazards of Uranium Mining
  7. OST Partnership for Housing Builds Financial Smarts, Assets, Community on Pine Ridge
  8. More Indians Get Early-Voting Satellite Stations… But Not in Jackson County
  9. Teach for America Fosters Ongoing Leadership to Improve Education
  10. Young South Dakota Teacher Falls in Love with Spring Creek, Fights Racism
  11. Rounds’s Glass Jaw: Weiland, Pressler, Howie Hammer EB-5 Policy and Scandal
  12. Rep. Susan Wismer, Sioux Falls Democratic Forum, 2014.08.22

    O.K., I admit it: The Madville Times is right. Charge! (CAH, 2104.08.22)

    Gordon Howie Doubles Election Prospects with Smart Campaign Manager

  13. Susan Wismer on Fire: New Democrat Goes on Offense at Dakotafest
  14. Rounds Loses Debate by Attacking Howie’s Fiscal Conservatism
  15. Dakotafest Senate Debate: What Frontrunner?
  16. Big Democratic Forum Crowd Hears Good Candidates, Good News, and Some Blogger
  17. Video: Heidelberger Discusses Wismer, Democratic Heat, EB-5 at Forum

    CAH takes notes as Carter Johnson explains how wetlands fit the business model at EcoSun Prairie Farm. (Photo by Janet Johnson, 2014.08.21)

    CAH takes notes as Carter Johnson explains how wetlands fit the business model at EcoSun Prairie Farm. (Photo by Janet Johnson, 2014.08.21)

  18. Four-Wheeling and Talking Grass with Charlie Hoffman
  19. Pragmatic Hoffman Prefers Democratic Gov to GOP Surrender of Legislative Power
  20. Spawn Seeks District 12 House Seat, Better Teacher Pay, Minimum Wage
  21. Let’s Do Lunch! Moderate McClure Seeks District 14 House Seat
  22. Pressler on Nostalgia, the Universal Service Fund, and Glorious Independence
  23. EcoSun Prairie Farm: Grow Grass, Sell Seed, Feed Cattle, Make Healthy Prairie

23 articles, 24,326 words, 64 photos, 2 videos, 588 (so far) comments... and in that whole opus, just one press release mentioned at the bottom of one interview.

The Madville Times gets jazz hands from Charlie Hoffman. (CAH, 2014.0819)

The Madville Times gets jazz hands from Charlie Hoffman. (CAH, 2014.0819)

You just got more original, diverse, give-a-darn South Dakota journalism from one blog in two weeks than you'll get from the "competition" (yes, let's use that term lightly) all year.

I feel pretty good about that. So should you, dear readers, because you make that journalism possible, with your support—financial, informational, and moral.

This tour caps the ninth year of the Madville Times and its unwavering focus on South Dakota. Big 10 will be even better. Again, dear readers, thank you.

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Mike from Iowa asked for a close-up of bluestem grass. Can do, Mike!

Bluestem, also known as turkey foot, also known as "ice cream for cattle." (CAH, 2014.08.21)

Bluestem, also known as turkey foot, "ice cream for cattle," and the key to putting the prairie back to work. (CAH, 2014.08.21)

Carter Johnson showed me this native grass and a whole lot more on his EcoSun Prairie Farm on a hot summer morning last week. I've written about Johnson's prairie farm and its philosophy before. The SDSU ecology professor gave a stirring speech on his vision for a working prairie at TedX Brookings last winter. But I wanted to see the Prairie Farm for myself.

Read the rest of this post...

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Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) makes a curious request this afternoon, asking Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) to allow the Democratic leadership to appoint a proxy to sit in for her at the September 24 meeting of the Government Operations and Audit Committee.

September 24 is the eagerly anticipated hearing at which the brilliant Sen. Tidemann has asked SDRC Inc. executive (and tax-evading banker?) Joop Bollen and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson to enlighten GOAC about the Northern Beef Packers/EB-5 scandal. Democratic legislators have asked Governor Dennis Daugaard, EB-5-initiating former governor Mike Rounds, and SDRC Inc. lawyer and GOP pal Jeffrey T. Sveen to join Bollen for the September 24 hearing.

Gubernatorial candidate Wismer apparently anticipates awkwardness in the possibility of her questioning her election opponent Governor Daugaard during the hearing:

We need to get the bottom of this, and in order to do that, key EB-5 decision-makers need to answer questions from committee members in person. The people of South Dakota deserve to know the truth about EB-5. If my campaign and membership on the committee creates a conflict, I’m more than willing to step aside during this meeting so South Dakotans can get answers without the meeting turning into political theater [Rep. Susan Wismer, press release, 2014.08.27].

Conflict? Political theater? Oh, Rep. Wismer, we're already there, whether you're in one of the big chairs September 24 or not.

Candidate or not, I wouldn't give up a GOAC seat for anything, not when I could have the chance to look Bollen, Rounds, Daugaard, and Sveen in the eyes and ask What did you know and when did you know it? The crucial meeting of GOAC's entire interim, the only one so far at which GOAC may have before it a prime player and witness to the EB-5 snafu, is no time for someone who has followed the issue, heard the testimony, and read the documents presented so far to step aside and be replaced by a legislator who may need to be brought up to speed.

But if Rep. Wismer's concerns are valid, if we mustn't chance an ugly or spinnable confrontation between two candidates for governor, then let's get someone who's followed EB-5, someone who has been a bulldog on the issue, someone who has some investigative and prosecutorial experience who could bring some cross-examinatory heat to Joop Bollen and whoever else testifies on September 24.

As Rep. Wismer's proxy, let's appoint Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton).

He's not on any ballot this fall. He proposed legislation calling for stiffer action to prevent further EB-5 mischief. He railed against EB-5 and lost tax dollars during the primary season. His experience as an NCIS investigator trained him in asking suspects the right questions.

And to top off his qualifications, Rep. Nelson is a Republican. If we're really worried that Rep. Wismer's presence at GOAC on September 24 would undermine the search for truth with accusations of partisan machinations, what more magnanimous gesture could Rep. Wismer and the Democratic leadership make than to appoint a Republican in her place?

Rep. Wismer, I think you should keep your seat. But if you think stepping aside is best... well, Rep. Nelson, polish your shoes and prep your questions!

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