27% of registered voters in Spearfish and Spearfish Valley showed up at the polls yesterday to reject the city's proposed annexation of some of the nicest not-quite urban, not-quite rural agricultural land in South Dakota. On a 54.6%-to-45.4% split, referendum voters chose to keep the split between the city proper and that island of anti-municipal anarchy between campus and I-90.

Mayor Dana Boke sighs plaintively over this split:

“As we move into the future still a divided city, it becomes more and more imperative that leadership groups focus on communication, collaboration, and ensuring that the decisions made are focused primarily on the benefit of the people we serve,” she said. “While the division continues, we must find a way to work together — the people of the city and the people of the valley — the future of Spearfish depends on it” [Heather Murschel, "Public Votes No on Annexation," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.12.10].

But Mayor Boke isn't exactly speaking a soothing balm to bring those her disagree with her back to the bosom of brotherly community-building:

“I believe in our democratic process, and I accept the decision of our voters,” Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke said. “While the Council determined that all Spearfish residents should share equally in the necessary costs of operating our community, it is clear from this election that the majority of the residents of the City do not feel the same way” [Murschel, 2013.12.10].

Translation: I believe in sharing things equally, but you jerks don't.

Try that management style out for size in your office, see how that works with your team.


Tim Johnson gets stuff done! South Dakota's senior Senator questioned Deputy Secretary of the Interior nominee Mike Connor Tuesday on the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has short-sightedly threatened to close. Evidently a little Congressional scrutiny has encouraged Interior to look a little harder for ways to keep Spearfish's hatchery open:

The D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery is a huge asset to Spearfish, with over 150,000 visitors each year and an estimated $2.1 million annual economic impact. The survival of the hatchery is vital, and it is important to be sure we don’t permanently lose key federal sites while navigating current budget pressures.... In response to my questions, Mr. Connor indicated that the Department of Interior has a short-term strategy to maintain funding for Spearfish and other hatcheries, and that the Department will work with members of Congress on the long-term sustainability of their budgets. This is great news for Spearfish, and I’ll continue to do all I can to keep D.C. Booth up and running [Senator Tim Johnson, press release, 2013.09.17].

Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke, Senator Tim Johnson, and D.C. Booth Society director April Gregory meet in Washington D.C., Sept. 11, 2013. Photo from Senator Tim Johnson's office.

Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke, Senator Tim Johnson, and D.C. Booth Society director April Gregory meet in Washington D.C., Sept. 11, 2013. Photo from Senator Tim Johnson's office.

Also helping the feds find the will to keep the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery open is Spearfish's new mayor Dana Boke, who led a delegation of Booth Society boosters to Washington last week to make the case for one of the prettiest federal facilities in South Dakota. Well done, Mayor Boke!

And for good measure, Rep. Kristi Noem has finally caught up with the rest of South Dakota's delegation in supporting the Booth Hatchery. The Rapid City Journal reports that Rep. Noem sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell yesterday explaining the economic impacts of closing the hatchery. That makes South Dakota's Congressional delegation unanimous in telling FWS that closing the D.C. Booth Hatchery is a bad idea for all parties involved.

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Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke understands that we need to save the D.C Booth Fish Hatchery:

“This is part of our culture,” Boke said. “My 10-year-old daughter read about it in the paper, and it brought her to tears. That’s how all the kids feel. There are memories all across South Dakota and beyond of this place and the family memories it’s created over time. It’s tied to who we are.

“We need to champion the cause and assist in any way we can to get this thing turned around,” the mayor added [Tom Griffith, "Spearfish's D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery Helped Change South Dakota History," Rapid City Journal, 2013.08.25].

Senator Tim Johnson seems to get it, too:

“I am very disturbed about the rumors that the D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish might be closed by the Fish & Wildlife Service,” Johnson said. “The D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery is a tremendous asset of the Black Hills. I have fought hard for funding to invest in the restoration of the hatchery and to make it an informational and educational showcase of fish hatchery operations in the Black Hills and the U.S.” [Griffith, 2013.08.25]

I think Congresswoman Kristi Noem gets it, although as usual, Noem's aloof, self-absorbed talking-point detachment makes it hard to tell. Rep. Noem told a packed Spearfish town hall Friday that she'll "push to get more information and ask the right questions." But after hearing such vociferous feedback from so many Spearfish residents and even visiting the hatchery herself Friday, our Congresswoman's only social media reaction to the town hall is to thank "interested parties" for the "info" and to post photos of herself while cheering the great turnout at "my townhall".

Kristi, get with the program. You go to a town hall during working hours in Spearfish. Concerned citizens pack the hall to express concern about an obviously bad decision from Washington that will kill jobs and hurt tourism and tax revenue. The mayor's daughter is in tears! Politically, the D.C. Booth Hatchery issue is a no-brainer. You tell those eager constituents on the spot, "The Hatchery rocks. It stays open. I'll call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and read them the riot act." You use your social media presence to send the message immediately that you listened and you're doggedly on the case. "Thx for the info" doesn't rally the troops or make a memorable impression on voters who want to know you'll fight for them and for the Hatchery.

I understand Rep. Noem may have difficulty getting passionate about an issue that doesn't appear in the weekly briefing points from Speaker Boehner. But South Dakota's lone Representative needs to get off script and join Mayor Boke in representing her constituents and fighting to save the D.C. Booth Hatchery from the thoughtless Washington budget axe.


That final push worked! Dana Boke unseats 13-year incumbent Jerry Krambeck as Spearfish mayor. Here are results from the Black Hills Pioneeer Facebook feed:

City of Spearfish - Mayor
Dana Boke wins with 899 votes [53%]
Jerry Krambeck received 790 votes [47%]

Spearfish City Council
Paul Young wins with 290 votes [55%]
Mitch Moe received 240 votes [45%]

Spearfish School Board
Jeff Sleep wins with 1,043 votes
Dave Bressler wins with 933 votes
Brett Rauterkus received 611 votes

109 votes separating Boke and Krambeck... folks waving Boke signs at three major intersections in Spearfish in the snow all day long could well have made the difference in that tally. Smart campaigning, Dana!

But Mayor Dana Boke—Spearfish will now enjoy three years of bland management-speak at the helm... while new Lead Mayor Jerry Apa drinks Spearfish's milkshake.

Update 21:27 MDT: When I visited the polls at 17:40 MDT, 1,428 city folks had voted. With 1,689 votes in the mayor's race, that's 261 more votes... a large number of which would have been early/absentee ballots. The back of my envelope says total turnout in the mayoral race was around 24%.

p.s.: We play "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV every Christmas. Every Election Day, big or small, we should play the "Democracy in America" episode of Northern Exposure.

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I've given Spearfish mayoral candidate Dana Boke heck for not naming names (or any other specifics that would justify her contention that she could run Spearfish better than the oligarchy she sees in charge). I must thus criticize some supporters of Mayor Jerry Krambeck for not naming names.... specifically, their own names:

Anti-Dana Boke campaign ad, Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.04.08, p. 7

campaign ad, Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.04.08, p. 7

The above ad ran in last night's Black Hills Pioneer. Lifting lines directly from Mayor Krambeck's opening statement at the March 27 public forum, the ad criticizes Boke for never previously voting in a Spearfish city election, a technically true but tricky charge, since Boke just moved into the city limits two years ago. It criticizes Boke for not attending any city council or committee meetings. It then praises Mayor Krambeck for Courage, Commitment, and Proven Success and urges his re-election.

Of course, these Krambeck advocates lack the courage and commitment to put their names to their advocacy. The Black Hills Pioneer lets them publish this ad under the classic vague moniker "Concerned Citizens."

State law also permits this evasion. State campaign finance law requires that anyone advocating for or against a candidate must "(a) identif[y] the person or organization making the independent expenditure for that communication, (b) state[] the address or website address of the person or organization, and (c) state[] that the communication is independently funded and not made in consultation with any candidate, party, or political committee" [SDCL 12-27-6]. This year's Senate Bill 200, a response from Republican leaders who felt terrorized by anonymous robocallers last summer, tightens those requirements.

But South Dakota's campaign finance reform act of 2007 (that year's House Bill 1048) included a section that became SDCL 12-27-39, which exempts elections for municipal offices from our campaign finance rules. You want to circulate anonymous fliers calling Dana Boke a deathly boring mid-level manager who will lose all of Spearfish's economic development leads to a more aggressive Mayor Apa in Lead? Go right ahead. You want to make robocalls deeming Mike Huether a knuckleheaded usurer who can't take a joke? Have at it. You want to rent a plane and fly a banner over Rapid City telling people to vote for anyone but theocrat-mayor Sam Kooiker? Knock yourself out. You don't have to report your activities, your name, or your financial backers to anyone.

But you should. We need to know that the ad is not mere sockpuppetry by the candidate. Oligarchy or not, citizens have a right to know who is spending money to influence their vote. On a personal level, if you're going to attack a person by name, it's only fair that you place your name before the public for similar scrutiny. You presume to use my name, you should permit me to use yours.

If there is a Spearfish oligarchy, what are the "concerned citizens" afraid of? The oligarchs don't punish those who defend the oligarchy.

Dana Boke is a rotten candidate, and I'm not afraid to say so. The "concerned citizens" are running a rotten attack ad, and they are afraid to take responsibility for it. Their cowardly attacks, given an extra week by snow until the postponed election, may sink in and have the opposite effect. Boke and Krambeck both should hope the Black Hills Pioneer will reject future anonymous ads the way it rightly rejects anonymous letters.


The snow has me trading the classroom for the blog and the shovel today. The snow also has postponed the Spearfish, Lead, and Deadwood elections for one week. Spearfish mayoral candidate Dana Boke thus has one more week to work up the courage to talk about specific issues (Dana P. has a great suggestion!).

Boke also has an interesting campaign opening. As her opponent, Mayor Jerry Krambeck, noted in the March 27 candidates forum, he's flying to Germany at the end of this week. Barring a change in plans, Mayor Krambeck will thus be out of town when the election happens on Tuesday, April 16.

The municipal election delay also gives me some extra time to find out what anonymous group ran the anti-Boke ad in last night's Black Hills Pioneer. Stay tuned!

1 comment
Mayor Jerry Krambeck, Spearfish, South Dakota, 2013

The Oligarch?

Spearfish holds its city election Tuesday. My neighbors have two choices for mayor: three more years of Mayor Jerry Krambeck, who has held the position since 2000, or political newcomer Dana Boke, who says Krambeck runs an oligarchy that she will overthrow with a new regime of managerial listening and collaboration.

Dana Boke, Candidate for Spearfish Mayor, 2013

The Pretender

Always eager to overthrow oligarchy, I have read Dana Boke's campaign website and Facebook page. I listened closely at the Spearfish candidates forum March 27.

Dana Boke is full of crap, and she's not a good crap salesman. I know, because she sounds a lot like me... in eighth grade.

In 1984, the Presidential election had my friends and me spouting some kind of political nonsense (yes, some things never change). Our eighth grade teacher, Cheryl White, indulged us one day and permitted some sort of political speeches during class. One of my friends stood up and recited things he'd heard from his parents and TV about Ronald Reagan. I stood up and preached Quadism.

What the...?!

Oh, Quadism was a new party, a new movement. The Republicans and Democrats were old parties, like an old tree that would snap and topple in the winds of change. But Quadism was a young tree, able to bend and withstand the tempest.

I didn't actually say tempest in Miss White's classroom, but (memo from time-traveling self) I should have. Tempest would have fit the sound, the tone, the rhetorical force I heard echoing in my imagination. I wanted to rouse the crowd through metaphor and familiar memes (another word we didn't know in eighth grade)... because I had no clue what I would do if I were President or Congressman or any kind of practical policymaker.

Neither does Dana Boke, and she's not an eighth grader. She's applying to be mayor of South Dakota's eleventh-largest and first-prettiest (you want to rumble?) city, and when asked to define the most important role of the mayor, she says something about being a "cheerleader of sorts," then struggles to stammer out a vague patchwork of her own campaign slogans:

Good night, Dana! You're applying for a job. It shouldn't be that hard for you to lay out your two-minute understanding of that job. And if you really think the mayor's main role is cheerleader, you'd better discover the key to good cheerleading: enthusiasm!

Boke returns in almost every statement, live and online, to her main selling point: change. I've heard people in Spearfish say they're ready for change, too. But change to what? A bunch of dull management seminar rhetoric? Listening to Dana Boke makes me feel like I'm at a really bad school in-service: she says a bunch of carefully crafted words, but when she gets done, she hasn't really said anything.

None of Boke's public statements have included any examples of the strongarming, the not-listening, the personal agendas, or the oligarchy she says she's fighting. The suggestion that you fight oligarchy by replacing a janitor with a banker is first-blush laughable. Boke could stave off my laughter if she'd name names: tell us who the oligarchs are, what harmful agenda they're pushing, whom they've strongarmed, whom they've favored, and what policy changes you'll make to end that oligarchical favoritism.

But no. The only vaguely specific policy statement Boke has made actually sounds like more oligarchy. Boke says she wants to increase funding to the Spearfish Economic Development Corporation so it can be "proactive" instead of "reactive" (yeesh—more empty management-speak). Boke is a professed fiscal conservative advocating more government spending on crony capitalism... even though Spearfish rocks the socks off other communities that spend much more on economic development.

Dana, I'm from Madison. I know oligarchy. I know the damage oligarchy can do to economic opportunity and local culture. If an oligarchy is harming Spearfish, then by gum, we need to change it. Spearfish neighbors, I urge you to vote for a knowledgeable, forceful leader who can make that change.

Alas, Dana Boke's flat version of my eighth-grade political speech about change shows she's not the leader we oligarchy fighters are looking for.

* * *

Disclaimer: Jerry Krambeck paid me money to build his campaign website. His money does not buy him my opinion on the Madville Times.


I can't tell if the Black Hills Pioneer is in the tank for mayoral candidate Dana Boke or current mayor Jerry Krambeck. In the Spearfish paper's Saturday coverage of Wednesday's public forum, reporter Heather Murschel catalogs many of Boke's implied charges against Krambeck:

  • "...she wants to bring a fresh perspective to city government, make the overall operations more transparent, and to provide a 'voice' for area residents."
  • "...when someone holds an elected position for too long, they oftentimes get too 'comfortable' and tend to not see the bigger picture anymore."
  • "Boke said she would be an advocate for the city, encourage growth and lead without bringing an agenda to the table."
  • "Referring to how she would garner support of city council members, it will be to not 'strong arm' them to get things done."

Murschel does not supply details of how the current administration has become "comfortable," fails to see the big picture, brings an agenda to the table, or "strong arms" council members... but then neither did Boke.

Murschel does not balance this laundry list of attacks—studiously gentle, nameless, and implied as they were—with the pointed attacks Krambeck lodged against Boke:

So sort that out for me: the local paper gives inches to the challenger's attacks on the incumbent but does not mention the incumbent's attacks on the challenger. Is the Black Hills Pioneer trying to promote the challenger's anti-status-quo campaign slogans and prevent the mayor's counter-attacks from getting legs? Or, operating on the assumption that people don't like negative campaigning is bad, is Murschel trying to hang Boke with all of her attacks while keeping Krambeck's more blunt and personal attacks from public view?

Either way, readers of BHP's Saturday coverage aren't getting the full picture of the debate dynamic that emerged between Krambeck and Boke in their only shared public appearance last week.

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