I might find South Dakota's religious right wing more tolerable if they'd stop bullying our LGBT neighbors and kids and get back to saying crazy stuff about sustainability and Agenda 21.

Here, wingnut friends, look at the Green Aberdeen project that Ipswich United Church of Christ Pastor Enno Limvere is promoting:

Green Aberdeen will concentrate on community action, education and advocacy, he said.

The group plans to take on projects, such as cleaning up along Moccasin Creek, Limvere said. It will also look to educate people about climate change and what they can do to help. As for advocacy, he said, Green Aberdeen will check into things, such as why the present city recycling program doesn’t accept glass.

The goal, he said, is to make Aberdeen a more sustainable community.

“Burlington, Vt., is now 100 percent renewable energy,” he said. “We could come up with 25-50 percent” [Elisa Sand, "Green Aberdeen Advocates Increased Sustainability," Aberdeen American News, 2015.03.03].

Hear hear on the glass recycling! There are practical economic reasons cities may decline to collect glass, but nothing that separate bins can't solve!

Limvere's plan sounds good, but then he tips his globalist hand:

Limvere said global change will require the support of the United Nations, but individual communities are already rising up to make a difference.

“There are communities that are bagless,” Limvere said, explaining that customers at stores bring their own reusable shopping bags.

On a much smaller scale, he said, people can simply make a conscious effort to use less energy. And that can start with simply unplugging charger cords from outlets. Because those chargers, even when a phone isn’t plugged in, will still use electricity.

“We’re making goals for 2030,” he said. “It’s about sustainability. How can we live as a community so we’re not just adding to the dump site” [Sand, 2015.03.03].

United Nations?!? Aaaaaahhh! Pastor Enno is calling in the UN to take away our plastic bags and ration our phone time!

Pastor Enno's plans sound much more fun than picking on transgender kids. Come to Green Aberdeen's next meeting—Monday, March 16, 7 p.m., downtown at the Red Rooster here in Aberdeen—and see what you can do to make Aberdeen greener. Blue helmets are optional.

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¡Es necesario enseñar inglés! Aberdeen Development Corporation CEO Mike Bockorny (left) addresses Commissioner Tom Fischbach (right) and other members of the Brown County Commission, Aberdeen, SD, February 24, 2015.

¡Es necesario enseñar inglés! Aberdeen Development Corporation CEO Mike Bockorny (left) addresses Commissioner Tom Fischbach (right) and other members of the Brown County Commission, Aberdeen, SD, February 24, 2015.

Aberdeen Development Corporation CEO Mike Bockorny briefed the Brown County Commission this morning on his organization's current aims. Bockorny, who took the ADC reins last August. Bockorny upheld the conventional wisdom that they greatest obstacle to economic development in South Dakota is a shortage of workers. Bockorny said that while South Dakota's business climate remains much more attractive than the business climate on either Coast, if a business swoops in with an offer to move to Aberdeen and asks ADC to help them find 200 to 400 workers, "that would be a challenge."

The South Dakota Department of Labor puts Brown County's unemployment at 2.9%, meaning 640 workers out of a workforce of 21,675. I agree that the chances that the skills of one to two thirds of those waiting workers aligning with the needs of a single big employer are slim.

Bockorny told the Brown County Commission that he and his brand-spankin' new workforce development coordinator Kati Bachmeyer are working on targeting certain markets for recruiting new workers and integrating newcomers and refugees in the community.

When Commissioner Rachel Kippley asked what areas ADC is targeting for those new recruits, Bockorny said we pretty much have to look to foreign immigrants, to "folks that don't look like the majority of us." Bockorny said Aberdeen currently has 250-some Somali, Karen, and Latino workers, mostly toiling away in the industrial park. Bockorny said the ADC has "acquired contacts" with certain relocating groups who could bring immigrant workers to fill the needs that we can't on our own.

Bockorny said that Aberdeen and Brown County will need to support the integration of these foreign workers. An essential part of that integration will be the English as a second language program at Northern State University. The need for language skills means we're going to need teachers to help these immigrants make themselves at home in South Dakota...

...which leads us to the payoff for this story: Teachers are essential to South Dakota's economic development. If we don't recruit good teachers with good wages, our new immigrant workers won't be able to learn English and integrate into our communities, and we won't be able to keep the workers we need to grow.

Economic development starts with teachers. English teachers.

Tangentially Related Reading:

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Voters in Sioux Falls will decide in April whether to require their schools to start before or after Labor Day. Here in Aberdeen, we aren't getting a post-Labor Day start, but our superintendent is acknowledging that a little later is better:

Because of the way the dates fell on the calendar, the district was able to add a whole week between the final day of the Brown County Fair and the first day of school, Superintendent Becky Guffin told the Aberdeen Public Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday at the Hub Area Technical School. Usually, the Aberdeen School District starts school the Tuesday after the Brown County Fair.

“The Brown County Fair is a little earlier this summer — it’s Aug. 10-16,” Guffin said. “That would have allowed us to start school shortly after that. We are proposing that we start school on the fourth Monday in August, which would be Aug. 24 for next year. This start date does allow us to enjoy as much summer as we possibly can” [Katherine Grandstrand, "Later Start to School Year Possible in Aberdeen," Aberdeen American News, 2015.02.24].

Hold on, Superintendent Guffin: I wouldn't say August 24 allows us to enjoy "as much summer as we possibly can." It's entirely possible to pack all the school learning we need into the days between Labor Day and Memorial Day, which would leave children free for every day of American cultural summer.

Instead of wondering whether we'll start on the 24th, the 20th, or back in the teens of August, running school between Labor Day and Memorial Day would create consistency for kids and parents. It would bracket the school year with national holidays, emphasizing the importance of school in kids' minds. Aberdeen is nodding in that direction; Sioux Falls, see if you can do better.

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I think we need to talk out in the hall—New Angus CEO Doug Cooper (far left) and executive chairman Keith DeHaan (far right) consider what they'll say on the record to Brown County Commission on their effort to resurrect the former Northern Beef Packers processing plant in Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17.

I think we need to talk out in the hall.... New Angus CEO Doug Cooper (far left) and executive chairman Keith DeHaan (far right) consider what they'll say on the record to Brown County Commission on their effort to resurrect the former Northern Beef Packers processing plant in Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17.

Walk into a room with a press tag and a tripod, and the first thing New Angus officials will say to you is, "We're not giving interviews at this time." Ask to record their comments to the Brown County Commission about their plan to reopen the former Northern Beef Packers processing plant, and the first thing they'll ask for is an executive session.

Brown County Commission, prior to meeting, Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17

Brown County Commissioners prepare for the excitement of the New Angus briefing and local blog coverage, Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17

New Angus CEO Doug Cooper and executive chairman Keith DeHaan came to this morning's Brown County Commission meeting at the courthouse in Aberdeen to update commissioners on their progress toward processing beef on the south side of town. Cooper and DeHaan seemed to think that their update, listed on the agenda as a public item item and recorded like every Brown County Commission meeting for posting on YouTube, would be a confidential matter. Alerted to the presence of a local blogger and the commission's own camera, Cooper and DeHaan indicated they'd prefer to speak in executive session. Commission chairman Duane Sutton said the commission could consider that. I asked Commissioner Sutton if the New Angus update would fall under any of the exceptions for legal or contractual matters that allow public boards to close their meetings. Commissioner Sutton said he'd check with the state's attorney.

Ten minutes later, the meeting began, and it remained open.

Among the highlights of these public comments:

  • CEO Cooper sticks with previous projections to reopen the plant this year. He says if the plant doesn't open in 2015, he and DeHaan "probably be sitting here, because it means we didn't get it done. It's not anybody's fault but ours. We accept that." Cooper declines to give an exact date, because he says that disclosing an exact date could "send a wrong signal" that would cause producers to make decisions and investments that could cost them thousands of dollars. "We're trying to fill a bucket with credibility and not drain it in one shot." To that last comment, one commissioner replied, "That would be something new for out there."
  • CEO Cooper says the plant was set up properly and was USDA-inspected. He says New Angus is only making minor changes to accommodate the production plans dictated by their current market analysis.
  • Commissioner Doug Fjeldheim asked if New Angus is primarily targeting the export market. CEO Cooper said yes, primarily Asia, although the Canadian and Mexican beef markets are also open and cheaper to export to. Cooper says Brown County has "the finest cattle in the world" and that the Asian market is particularly hungry for marbled beef younger than 30 months.
  • Commissioner Sutton asked if New Angus plans to operate at the 1500-head-per-day capacity. Cooper said yes: "That's what the engineer plate says."
  • Commissioner Rachel Kippley said a lot of folks come into her tax office who worked for Northern Beef Packers, have stuck around Aberdeen doing other jobs, and are ready to go back to work at the plant when New Angus opens. DeHaan said the handful of staff they've brought in say they know others around the community who are ready to come back to work when the plant reopens.
  • Chairman DeHaan notes that he looks forward to discussing cattle deals with Commissioner Kippley and her husband Jeff. No conflict of interest there when time comes to check on the beef plant's compliance with zoning and environmental regulations or to spend county dollars on road upgrades around the plant....
  • CEO Cooper said he doesn't know what happened in Northern Beef Packers' operations, but he says New Angus's operations are "going to be transparent." Looking forward to that transparency, I presented my card to Mr. Cooper and said that I'll be happy to come for a tour of the plant when he and DeHaan are ready to give interviews.
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Get ready for an initiated measure to banish Standard Time and put South Dakota on Daylight Savings Time year-round! In his testimony on House Bill 1127 yesterday, Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) told House State Affairs that he brought HB 1127 on behalf of a District 3 constituent who claims to have the network in place to bring an initiated measure on Daylight Savings Time to a public vote. Rep. Kaiser said his constituent claims that his proposal has lots of support around Aberdeen.

For his part, Rep. Kaiser told the committee that locking in Daylight Savings Time would keep that extra hour of daylight in the winter, giving us all more time after school and work to (these are Rep. Kaiser's examples) make snowmen and snow angels and hunt for pheasants. He also cited, without attribution, statistics that he said a "gentleman" provided him (meaning the stats were at least polite, if not proven) that making Daylight Savings Time permanent would save an individual 41 cents a day or $149 a year (which makes no sense, because the change proposed by HB 1127 would only affect 125 days, meaning an increase in annual savings of just $51.25... but we'll save that math for when we see the petitions).

Committee chairman Rep. Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) did catch the language mix-up that I noted in my coverage of HB 1127 last week. Rep. Gosch recommended and the committee approved an amendment to clarify the intent to keep "summer hours" year round. But Rep. Gosch also rained on the time-change parade by pointing to the federal law (Title 15, Section 260a) that says states can opt out of Daylight Savings Time but can't opt into it year-round. Rep. Kaiser gently raised his libertarian hackles and asked rhetorically, "[I]s it the states that make the federal government or the other way around?"

House State Affairs chose not to tease that bear and killed HB 1127 yesterday. The Summer Hours Forever/I-♥-DST initiative drive should thus be launching any day now. I'll be watching for the petition at the crackerbarrels and the Brown County Fair.

Related Reading: Utah legislators killed a similar Daylight Savings Time proposal yesterday. One legislator said that the U.S. tried year-round summer hours in 1974, only to see more kids get killed in early-morning accidents on the way to school. Be ready to shout "Baby-killers!" at the Brown County DST petitioners.

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Representative Dan Kaiser, Representative Al Novstrup, Senator David Novstrup, permit me to introduce your newest District 3 constituent:

Cory Allen Heidelberger, editor-in-chief of the Madville Times, in front of the Brown County Courthouse, in his new home city of Aberdeen, South Dakota. 2015.02.03

Cory Allen Heidelberger, editor-in-chief of the Madville Times, in front of the Brown County Courthouse, in his new home city of Aberdeen, South Dakota. 2015.02.03

As of this morning, I am the 24,752nd registered voter in Brown County and the 17,293rd registered voter in Aberdeen. Under current law, I could gather enough signatures to refer any bad bills my new legislators may propose without leaving my home county. Yum! (David Novstrup, why are you co-sponsoring Senate Bill 166? Here, read this, David, and then let's talk at the next crackerbarrel.)

Regular readers know that I have spent the last eighteen months in a sort of exile as I accompanied my wife during her pastoral internship and the completion of her seminary studies out of state. But my wife is now a master of divinity (on top of so much else!) and will soon be ordained as a full-bird pastor. We are thus back in South Dakota, as we intended all along.

Readers, I know you may have shared the worries I had that a South Dakotan abroad might lose touch with South Dakota and would not be able to sustain a serious South Dakota blog. But your faith, your support, your comments, your questions, your news tips and your cash tips (I am still amazed, not to mention immensely grateful, that some people think what I do here is worth real money) have all helped me stick with writing about South Dakota.

And now I'm fully back, with my body and bikes back where my heart and soul have always been, in South Dakota.

Aberdeen's new slogan is a pen, and its new slogan is, "Write Your Story." How very appropriate for my new home. I'm glad to be here, Aberdeen! And I'm glad to be back to continue serving South Dakota.

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You know that argument South Dakota Republicans like to make that South Dakota's purportedly low cost of living makes up for South Dakota's low wages?

That argument is working for workers, says the Aberdeen Development Corporation, discussing the problem of recruiting workers in northeastern South Dakota (NESD):

Compounding this challenge is the difficulty we face retaining future stakeholders in our community who are graduating from our colleges and regional technical schools. A large portion of these individuals have the desire to stay in NESD, but are not finding competitive salaries for knowledge-based jobs available in NESD. Therefore, they leave for higher paying jobs in larger cities in other states, regardless of the cost-of-living increase they may encounter. Even those who may be unskilled leave NESD for higher paying manufacturing jobs in other states due to higher wages, but also because of the opportunities available to them including free/less costly education or additional technical training to advance their careers. Once they have left and settled into careers in other states, it becomes quite difficult to recruit them back to South Dakota [Aberdeen Development Corporation, Community Incentives Matching Program application, November 2014].

The state is granting the Aberdeen Development Corporation $60,000 to work on research, marketing, recruitment, newcomer integration, vo-tech classes, and graduate retention. Not included in the grant proposal: an initiative to promote higher wages.

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As we discuss the merits of different districting schemes for better democratic representation, David Newquist notes that our Congressional delegation is leaving northeastern South Dakota out in the cold on constituent service:

When Democrats were in office, Aberdeen had three offices carrying on the business of government. Now it is down to the one office that John Thune grudgingly established when his party supporters insisted that he have a presence in our part of the state.

Noem has never offered much in the way of response or service to this part of the state. Rounds has indicated he will follow her lead.

The voters ultimately get what they ask for. In the cases of Noem and Rounds, nothing [David Newquist, "No Access to Congress for Aberdeen," Northern Balley Beacon, 2014.12.28].

Newquist provides a description worth reading of the value good staffers add for constituents on the ground.

If you're thinking that Rounds and Noem are shunning Aberdeen as a partisan swipe at all those Herseth/Wismer/Knecht Democrats up in northeastern South Dakota consider these election numbers: Nearby Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties picked Rick Weiland over Mike Rounds by slim margins (5%, 0.5%, and 1.5%, respectively). Brown County itself, which Aberdeen seats, gave Rounds an eleven-point edge. To the west, Rounds doubled up and more on Weiland, 54–24, while Charlie Hoffman and his neighbors delivered McPherson County to Rounds 66–17. Noem beat Corinna Robinson in all six of those counties this year, from a 9.5-point margin in Day to 63.8 points in McPherson.

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