¡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 recuriting 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:

  • Economist Mark Thoma says affordable higher education is the best investment the United States could make right now.
  • Former Kansas City mayor, now Governing publisher Mark Funkhouser says local governments should create higher education relations officers to promote the mutual interests of town and gown.
31 comments

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) does not lose gracefully. His Senate Bill 166 was a spiteful and crassly political ploy to weaken voters' right to legislate via initiative and referendum. The press blasted him, a variety of citizens and groups rose against SB 166, and numerous opponents trekked to Pierre yesterday to testify against this destructive bill yesterday.

A bigger man would have responded with a simple apology: I'm sorry. You're right. Senate Bill 166 is a bad idea. I withdraw the bill.

Senator Brown is a bigger something else. When Senate State Affairs finally reached SB 166, after opponents had waited through more than three hours of testimony and discussion in on other issues, Senator Brown took the mic, dismissed "the vast majority" of the opposition as thoughtless and impolite, and craftily tabled—not withdrew, but tabled—his bill before patient, thoughtful citizens had any chance to put their opposition on the record.

Senator Brown also misportrayed Senate Bill 166 as a sincere defense of the state constitution and continued his war against the initiative and referendum by threatening to take petitioners to court.

Here is Senator Brown's complete statement, for the record. All blockquotes are Brown's words, in my transcription. My translations, corrections, and commentary are inserted between blockquotes. This portion of the hearing begins at 3:12:36 on the SDPB audio.

You know, when we are elected, I think most of us take that very seriously and we come here to pierre with the idea that we're going to address problems and issues. Most of the colleagues that I've met here in the Legislature have a true interest in trying to find better ways forward or to take care of things that are deemed incorrect. We also take pretty seriously the oath to defend and support the constitution of the state [Senator Corey Brown, remarks on Senate Bill 166, Senate State Affairs Committee, 2015.02.06].

Translation: I'm awesome. I'm brave and noble. I would never propose a bill just to take away a democratic tool that citizens have used to challenge my party's political agenda and undo the things ALEC tells me to do. Never.

I realize that Senate Bill 166 has generated a lot of discussion.

Translation: I'm awesome for introducing such a thought-provoking bill.

Unfortunately I'd say the vast majority of that discussion has not been nearly as thoughtful as I would have hoped that it would have been.

Translation: People criticizing my awesome idea are clearly idiots.

Essentially we have an issue or at least I believe we do, and a lot of you have heard me speak to this, but I think South Dakota, as you know, was one of the first—it was the first state to allow for initiatied measures and referendums. And in the constitution, there was language that was put in there to talk about qualified electors, and that's what the petitions are supposed to be based off of. You can also turn to section... Article 7 in the constitution which talks about the definition of an elector. When you marry those two things up, I think we run into a third problem, and one of the pieces that really hasn't been discussed in this entire conversation has been the Supreme Court Case in 1994, which was Poppen v. Walker. Now that case didn't have anything to do with initiated measures or referendums. What it dealt with basically the gaming industry.

Poppen v. Walker found in 1994 that video lottery as then constituted was unconstitutional because the Legislature had created a gambling mechanism that did not conform to the court's constructed definition of the "lottery" authorized by popular vote in 1986.

Senator Brown commits supreme irony in turning for legal support to a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had violated a constitutional provision that had been approved by the people.

However, there was a major finding in that case that I think is critical to this discussion today. And I'll just read it to you. Basically the Supreme Court came back and said, "It is the duty of the Supreme Court not the Legislature to determine the meaning of constitutional terms."

Unfortunately, if you look at our state statute, the Legislature at one point adopted code very early in our statehood that tried to define what an elector was, and basically they said you needed to go back and take a look at the last election for Governor, and it will be based off a percentage of that.

Correction: the statute in question, SDCL 2-1-5, was enacted in 1939, fifty years after statehood, and amended in 1976. Neither date qualifies as "very early in our statehood."

The problem is we as a Legislature defined what those electors were, kind of contrary to what the constitution indicates.

Correction: The problem is that not one word of current statute is contrary to language in either of the constitutional provisions Senator Brown cites. Stay tuned: I'm working up a separate post dedicated to that topic.

As we go forward, and I should point out that... I don't know the exact reasoning for why that was put into place way back when, but I think, as it's been pointed out to me, when that was adopted, we were at a point in our state's history where when you registered to vote. you did it every two years. You had to come back in and re-register when the county would call that together, and unfortunately, I don't think the tracking mechanisms were very good.

Essentially, at that point in the state's history, the only way you could really go back and figure out how many people were there was you had to go back and look at the last election and see how many people voted for governor

So I think there was a practical reason to put that in there at one point, and obviously it's remained there for a long time.

However, I think society, technology have got ahead and caught us up to a point where we can go on the secretary of state's website and know how many registered voters there are today. And that's, those are the words that were put in the constitution.

Having said all of that, I'm quite surprised that a lot of folks are willing to not engage in an intellectual conversation.

More irony: A South Dakota Republican legislator complains that citizens are not sufficiently intellectual.

And there was something that occurred last night that made me realize that this has really become too big of a distraction for this Legislature to deal with. I had a call from the page advisor. Opponents are calling the Capitol using swear words and curse words at our high school pages. That is absolutely pathetic. I cannot believe that we would reach that level.

Big translation: Political discourse is over in South Dakota. If activists want to kill a bill, all they need to do is call the Capitol, get on the phone with a high school page, and say, "That bill sucks, dagnabit!"

I find such discourse unintellectual and immoral. But if we're being practical (and I want you to think about the moral compass of various special interest groups), what's cheaper:

  1. Running a candidate to unseat Corey Brown?
  2. Hiring a lobbyist?
  3. Mounting a petition drive to refer Senator Brown's bad laws? or,
  4. Cussing out a page?

Senator Brown is obviously blowing smoke. If I were a legislator, and if some frail blossom of youth on my page staff came weeping to me that some mean citizen had burned her ears with foul language over a bill I cared about, I'd console her, assure her we'd keep her safe, but I'd also take the teachable moment, "Dear girl, some people are nasty, and they will try to distract us from doing what's right. But this bill matters, and we aren't going to let the bullies win."

The shorter translation: Corey Brown has no spine, and he's teaching kids to cave to bullies.

And so in the interest of allowing this Legislature—as you saw by our agenda today, we have many bigger fish to fry and there are a lot of things that we have to discuss and maybe ultimately we just need to let the courts deal with this—I'm going to ask that the committee table this bill so we can move on to the other issues that we have before us.

Translation: With opponents gathered to roast this bill, let's put it on the table. I'm not withdrawing it, and once these people leave, maybe I'll bring it back. Or maybe I'll just sue anyone who dares bring an initiative or referendum this year. Who knows? I'm determined to undermine the initiative and referendum, and if I can't get this bill passed, I'm going to at least create as much uncertainty as I can for all those citizens who think they are better than I am at making laws.

At that point, after allowing Senator Brown his grandstanding and insults, without allowing any opponents to speak, Senate State Affairs did indeed table Senate Bill 166. If SB 166 stays dead, we will at least be spared a bad bill. But sore loser Senator Corey Brown remains unapologetically committed to insulting the people of South Dakota and their constitutional right to legislate.

35 comments

Dander is up in Madison about a December 17 article on SBNation.com about the Dakota State University football team. Head coach Josh Anderson is unhappy with how Duara portrays his program in his exposé of the shady pay-for-play nature of NAIA football. I'll have more to say about Anderson's heartburn and Duara's thesis in a separate post, but for the moment, I'd like to critique Duara's journalistic skill and apparent cultural biases.

In his attempt to paint some cultural context for his far-flung readers, Duara, who grew up in Florida, got bad grades in J-school in Missouri, and now lives in Oregon, opens his piece by painting my hometown as Nowheresville:

The Middle of Nowhere, the very dead center, is probably somewhere on South Dakota's Country Highway 40 in Lake County. The city of Madison, pop. 6,474, birthplace of Entertainment Tonight co-host Mary Hart, is a good enough place to start looking. The town's motto is "Discover the Unexpected." That's as close to a warning as you'll get [Nigel Duara, "An Honest Game," SBNation.com, 2014.12.17].

Middle of Nowhere? Duara has apparently never driven out to interview Larry Rhoden in Union Center.

While I am glad to get an outsider's perspective that matches with my own long-standing assessment that our town marketing slogan invites ridicule, an article that opens with two glaring inaccuracies does not bode well for the writer's commitment to the truth.

  1. There is no "Country Highway 40" that runs through Madison. There is a county road designated as "40," the old pavement that runs west from Bourne Slough, turns to gravel where the old highway curves north at the old implement dealership, and continues west to the back end of Lake Herman State Park and Dirks Resort. Look at all the places on even that back road!
  2. The population of Madison, by the most recent published Census estimate, is 6,949. 6,474 was the 2010 Census count.

Duara isn't making things up when he says Madison is quiet, even on a home game day. "Madison is in a perpetual state of quiet during the harvest season," writes Duara, "when life in the Midwest should be rowdiest." Duara misses the fact that on a sunny October day, that harvest may have many people out in the fields working (which Duara saw on his way into town, men in a combine, but failed to put two and two together). I don't know what Saturday Duara visited, but he also ignored the competition of hunting season, which could draw many sportsmen away from the stadium for sport of their own. For all his striving to be an astute cultural observer, Duara seems to have been wearing blinders to some fundamental aspects of local culture.

Duara then gets personal in a way that further reinforces my impression that he wrote more of what he wanted to see than what he really saw. I don't know what to say about the journalistic credibility about a writer named Nigel Duara who says DeLon Mork is a funny name. "Unlikely" is the word Duara chooses to describe one of the most respected names in South Dakota business. Duara also sees fit to cast Mork in Fargo:

Mork owns the Dairy Queen in town, as did his father and his grandfather. He survived testicular cancer, twice. On National Blizzard Day, he outsells any DQ in the country. He busies himself around the store, fiddling with the shades or clearing counters. Customers leaving get a "see yuh!" in his heavily-accented speech from the Upper Plains. People like DeLon Mork.

A few wins and a few more close losses have him in high spirits.

"Aw jeez, dey're just turnin' it around up there, aren't dey!" he says, his perpetual smile brightening. He, perhaps more than anyone else, believes in this team and his friend, Coach Anderson [Duara, 2014.12.18].

Duara provides no phonetic transcription of anyone else's speech in this article. He certainly doesn't attempt to capture the regional flavor of the speech of California transplant Robert Johnson and his acquaintances back in exotic Palo Alto. He quotes Trojan player Cliff Marshall in standard English, with complete ending consonants and no hint of his Chicago dialect. He gives a hint of dialect from Johnson and another ineligible player, Collins Macauley, whom he catches leaving out a linking verb and an auxiliary verb in the midst of arrogant presumption against their coaches ("These the real coaches... they calling everything wrong") and using foul language.

Duara takes the one local booster who more passionately than any other can challenge Duara's desired portrait of Madison as a losing town and paints him as an ill-spoken yokel.

As Duara acknowledges, people like DeLon. I like DeLon. And DeLon's a tough enough guy that he probably doesn't care what Duara says about him. But I take it personally that, in pretense to literary wit, Nigel Duara thinks that twitting DeLon Mork, not to mention the entire town of Madison, helps advance his thesis that DSU football is part of an abusive NAIA system.

Were he to notice, Duara would likely twit my response here as small-minded, small-town defensiveness, another aspect of the dull culture that annoyed him so one sunny Saturday in October. The thing is, I agree with much of Duara wrote: Madison is not a big-league town. Dakota State University does not play big-league football. But Duara, with his simple inaccuracies and cultural bias, is not writing like a big-league journalist.

Bonus Copy Editing: Duara says Johnson has a tattoo consisting of "blueish rhombuses." I have a hard time finding a dictionary that will attest blueish as a preferred or even acceptable alternative spelling to bluish. And come on: if you love language, if you're swinging for the literary fences, you don't miss a chance to say rhombi.

13 comments

Mike Rounds promised to bring "South Dakota Common Sense™" to Washington, D.C. Mike Rounds is hiring out-state D.C. insiders for his staff.

Imminent Rounds legislative director Gregg Rickman is from Ohio. He's worked in Washington as a Congressional staffer and lobbyist since 1991. Soon-to-be communications director Natalie Krings is from Nebraska. She has worked for Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns since 2008.

I can see the logic and wisdom of a new Senator hiring some folks with Washington experience to help a run the show. I suspect Rickman and Krings are decent, capable workers. I have no ideological principle on which to disqualify Rickman or Krings from working for South Dakota's junior Senator.

But Mike Rounds should have an issue with hiring these D.C. creatures. Republicans who bought Rounds's slogans should have an issue. People who think words mean something should have an issue.

Mike Rounds said Washington needs "South Dakota Common Sense." He's hiring staff who've accumulated years of Washington, D.C., common sense.

Mike Rounds said that Washington is broken. He is hiring parts of the broken machine.

I suppose I should get over being surprised when Mike Rounds says words he does not mean. But such is the misrepresentation with which we are stuck for six years: Mike Rounds saying things that sound nice for the home folks, then acting in ways that expose the meaningless of his words.

29 comments

Hmm... did Annette Bosworth get a job writing fundraising letters for St. Joseph Indian School?

Dr. Bosworth is now marketing example #1 that Base Connect uses to tout its political fundraising potential. On a webpage titled "Nuts & Bolts" (you had her at "Nuts," boys), the Washington D.C. direct-mail firm cites Bosworth as an example of how they can raise millions of dollars on an entirely fake candidate.

Now CNN finds that St. Joseph's in Chamberlain is raking in cash with stories of abused Indian children who don't exist:

According to its financial statements, St. Joseph's Indian School raised more than $51 million last year from millions of Americans who donated because of those mailings.

CNN began receiving complaints about mailings like this more than two years ago. When asked about Josh Little Bear's letter, Kory Christianson, the director of development, wrote us that there was no such student.

"The name 'Josh Little Bear' is fictitious," he wrote, "but unfortunately, his story is not" [David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin, "U.S. Indian School's Fundraising Letters Sent to Millions Signed by Fictitious Kids," CNN.com, 2014.11.17].

CNN sees no sign that St. Joseph's is misusing the millions it makes on what one critic calls "poverty porn." However, making up stories to convince people to give money is something we expect of Annette Bosworth and Mike Rounds, not folks trying to do real good for South Dakotans.

CNN almost got the school's president to discuss the proper boundaries of truth in marketing, but his marketing director cut off the conversation:

We tried unsuccessfully to interview the leadership of St. Joseph's. The communications director, Jona Ohm, first invited us to meet the school president at the small museum operated by the school.

The president, Mike Tyrell, acknowledged that the mailings "push the edge" of marketing and asking about them "is a legitimate question." But Ohm told us to stop.

"You don't have permission to record in any way, shape or form," she said [Fitzpatrick and Griffin, 2014.11.17].

I have no doubt that St. Jospeh's Indian School is doing good work that merits its donors' support. I also have no doubt they can earn that support with simple fact, not fiction.

19 comments

On Friday, U.S. Judge Karen Schreier rejected the bulk of the State of South Dakota's arguments for dismissing the challenge to its same-sex marriage ban. Judge Schreier's ruling says the two main cases on which the state leans to call for dismissal are not binding. The ruling says the six South Dakota couples suing have a "plausible equal protection claim" based on a fundamental right to marry and gender discrimination. The ruling says the defendants—our Governor, our Attorney General, the Secretary of Health, our Secretary of Public Safety, and the Brown County Register of Deeds—"have articulated no potential legitimate purpose" for South Dakota's discrimination against married homosexuals.

The ruling dismisses the plaintiffs' argument that South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban infringes on their right to travel. Judge Schreier says that a key component of the right to travel is that individuals who take up residence in a new state enjoy "the right to be treated like other citizens of that State." Judge Schreier says South Dakota's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages "appl[ies] equally to new citizens and existing citizens of South Dakota." That's tricky reading—our same-sex marriage ban still discriminates, according to everything before the judge so far, but since we're discriminating against all homosexuals and not just those durned furriners from Minnesota and California, the plaintiffs can't challenge the ban on right to travel.

The primary import of Judge Schreier's ruling is that the state loses its bid for dismissal, the case moves forward, and the state appears to have no good arguments on the flow.

Dealt a hard defeat, Attorney General Marty Jackley plays the kid who failed his spelling test, got in trouble for mouthing off at the teacher, but leads his answer to Mom's question about how school was today by telling her they got apple crisp for lunch. "Federal Court Grants in Part State’s Motion to Dismiss Same-Sex Marriage Case," he headlines his Friday press release. Yet not one media outlet in South Dakota has shared Jackley's assessment:

  1. "Late yesterday afternoon, Federal Judge Karen Schrier denied the state's motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging South Dakota's ban on same-sex marriage."
  2. "Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss SD Gay Marriage Case"
  3. "Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss Gay Marriage Case"
  4. "Gay Marriage Case in SD to Proceed"

Come on, Marty: Judge Schreier ate your garlic bread but threw out your spaghetti and sauce. The plaintiffs can walk into court with the same arguments they've offered so far and win, while you have to boil up a whole new pot of noodles to throw against the wall to preserve the false right of the majority to discriminate against the minority.

45 comments

Rep. Kristi Noem and the U.S. House approve Keystone XL? Them's fightin' words, says the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Literally:

“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands,” said President Scott of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people” [Aldo Seoane, "House Vote in Favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline an Act of War," Lakota Voice, 2014.11.14].

I am glad somebody in South Dakota is standing up to TransCanada. The term act of war is apt: a foreign entity is seizing rights from our own landowners, using our own courts and quisling politicians against us. The tribes have done fine work rousing their people and gathering allies to fight this encroachment on our sovereignty, not to mention this threat to our environmental and economic security.

But closing the reservation borders will have no impact on building Keystone XL. TransCanada drew its pipeline route to skirt all reservation borders. Rosebud Homeland Security will have to set up checkpoints and artillery on the 1868 borders.

Related: Rep. Noem and the House need to remember that Keystone XL still needs to go through the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the Nebraska Supreme Court. Lots of battlegrounds, Rosebud neighbors!

35 comments

In small potatoes, Pat Powers farmer-blows his nose on my analysis of the real reasons South Dakota Democrats lost this week and summarizes the Republican effort to brand Democrats in one telling sentence:

I had to chuckle this noon hour as Cory Heidelberger lifted his head from crying in his GMO free corn flakes to offer a sniveling retort to the reality of election 2014, known by Democrats as “Ragnarok” [Pat Powers, "Retort to My Analysis of the Races Forgets a Couple of Things," Dakota War College, 2014.11.07].

GMO-free corn flakes. The proper, immediate, and sufficient response to any comment about my diet is what's it to ya?

I'm going to run down this rabbit hole, because I think Pat makes an important point here about how South Dakota Republicans operate. For the record:

  1. Pat Powers has never had breakfast with me.
  2. I have not eaten corn flakes for months.
  3. Both of the cereals I ate yesterday came from Wal-mart.
  4. I ate a big cheeseburger and onion rings for supper yesterday.
  5. I have never checked any of my breakfasts, lunches, or suppers for GMO content.
  6. Whether one bothers to check one's food for GMOs is as much someone else's business as your choice of boxers, briefs, or commando.
  7. Whether one eschews GMOs tells us nothing about a person's ability to intelligently analyze and comment on South Dakota politics.

Without any evidence or basis in knowledge or fact, Republican Pat is ascribing to Democrat me a food-protest elitism that he and his ilk like to think of as effete and risible. Pat doesn't want you to look at what I'm actually saying about the issue at hand. He wants to hang a fabricated label on me, make it mean what he wants, and use that double falsehood to dismiss my arguments without reading them.

I hear an echo here of how certain opponents attack President Barack Obama by calling him a Muslim. Never mind that public facts demonstrate that President Obama is at least as Christian as anyone in South Dakota. Never mind that there's nothing inherently wrong with being Muslim. People who hate the President grab a label—Muslim—invest that label with a negative connotation, and then hang it on the President to dismiss him, contrary to fact, without looking at what the President really says and does religiously, not to mention politically.

Now zoom out to how South Dakota Republicans use Obama and liberal against South Dakota Democrats. Republicans, even those of often good conscience, hung the Obama label on Democrats (even Dems running for Legislature, where President Obama's policies are far less relevant) and told South Dakotans, "Don't vote for Obama!" GOP vilification of the President was so damning that Democrats themselves ran away from a President with a steady job restoration record and a big basket of other great policy achievements.

Likewise liberal. I can't even tell (and I'll bet most South Dakotans can't either) what liberal means in the contemporary political vernacular. Is it handing out government money? Is it increasing government control? Is it running a budget deficit? Is it simply passing new laws instead of sticking with the status quo? But the South Dakota Republicans who do all of those things plow forth unabashed, shouting Liberal! at South Dakota Democrats, who run for their lives from a word turned meaning-free insult.

Never mind what I eat. I'm a liberal. I believe in maximizing liberty for every citizen. I believe in using the power we have as a community to solve problems.

And I believe in using words to educate and enlighten citizens, not to insult others and avoid unpleasant truths.

72 comments

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