As the Government Operations and Audit Committee sifts through the doublespeak and shifting narratives they have received from Joop Bollen, Mike Rounds, and everyone else in state government about the EB-5 program, they should consider the commentary of Aberdeen city councilman Mark Remily. Responding to the fantastical claims of Rory King, attorney for bankrupted EB-5 beneficiary Northern Beef Packers, Remily says that EB-5 and NBP may have brought money for the lawyers, but not for regular folks around Brown County:

Unlike the local family-owned and operated equipment rental business that lost $4,165.27. Or the local dry cleaner with five employees that didn’t receive raises the past year because NBP stuck their small business for $9,443.98. Or, how about the local roofing contractor still waiting for his final $15,636.82 for work performed over a year ago? The list goes on totaling $1,844,228.68. More than 300 plant workers went unpaid. These losses total $104,608.18. Nine states and one territory went without child support payments held out of wages, that total was $5,429.95 [Mark Remily, "Truth Is Missing in Beef Plant Defense," Aberdeen American News, 2014.11.07].

Remily also questions the excuse that NBP was delayed by the 2008 recession.

“Then came the 2008 banking crisis.” What project developer ever develops, and commences building, any project and then lines up financing for said project? And, a $115 million project at that! [Remily, 2014.11.07]

Remily also finds it deceptive that NBP boosters, right up to NBP godfather Senator-Elect Mike Rounds, have tried to poo-poo the failure of NBP by promising future gains:

“Ninety million was raised and spent in Aberdeen.” It is hard to believe that $90 million in total was spent building this plant. There is no possibility that $90 million was injected into the economy of Aberdeen. Quite the opposite. A $115 million “state of the art” failure was injected into the Aberdeen economy. Just ask the various business and the many former unpaid employees how much money was injected into their economies.

“Aberdeen will have a thriving beef processing facility in the near future.” How many more weeks, months, or years will we hear this? Mr. King, face the facts, the plant pretty much closed before it ever even opened. If the facility ever does re-open it will be nothing more than a “kill plant.” The product produced will be nothing more than tubes of hamburger. Not the promised “South Dakota Certified” fine beef we were all told to expect [Remily, 2014.11.07].

The facts on the ground in Aberdeen right now are that a beef-packing plant opened, failed, and now sits empty. Aberdonians and South Dakotans lost money and jobs. And a few insiders—state employees and lawyers—lined up hefty profits for themselves.

GOAC won't follow that money or the trail of lies the moneymakers have laid. Reporters will.

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District 3, which encompasses the Aberdeen–Bath metroplex, has a Democratic primary tomorrow for its State Senate seat. Aberdeen City Councilman Mark Remily would like the job; so would writer Angelia Schultz.

Remily graces the Madville Times with responses to some questions about major policy issues and the direction of the Democratic Party

Mark Remily, Democratic candidate for District 3 Senate

Mark Remily, Democratic candidate for District 3 Senate

Given that Northern Beef Packers sits just outside District 3, and that fallout from the collapse of the plant hit Aberdeen most directly, I asked Remily for the local perspective on what went wrong at NBP and with the EB-5 visa investment program that poured millions of dollars down that economic development black hole. Remily gets the impression NBP was "doomed from the onset." He's pessimistic about the ability of California buyers White Oak Global to restart the plant; the new owners are less interested in Aberdeen and "the over 200 workers and the many local businesses they stiffed." Remily suspects Aberdeen is more likely to see White Oak quietly dismantle and sell the plant than rehire and reopen.

Remily says he's not entirely against the EB-5 program that sustained NBP. He says the program is workable if we have oversight, but that we won't have reliable oversight and transparency until we have a "healthy minority" in Pierre. Until Democrats can check the one-party cronyism of Pierre, Remily says EB-5 should be banned.

Addressing economic development more broadly, Remily says job creation isn't our immediate problem. Unemployment in April was 3.8%, meaning over 96% of South Dakotans have jobs. "In Aberdeen, we have jobs," says Remily, "but the jobs we have do not pay enough to attract workers. It's a conundrum, which won't be solved till we raise the minimum wage." Remily says raising the wage to $15 an hour over time would help us recruit and retain workers.

Another way to recruit workers and boost the economy is to boost education. Remily says South Dakota has great teachers, but we subject them to Walmart working conditions. "Stress levels would be lower" for teachers, says Remily, "if they didn't have to have two jobs to make a living wage. Citing Aberdeen's base teacher pay of $33,240.00, Remily says raising teacher pay $15,000 would be a "good beginning."

Getting the money to boost teacher pay is always the sticking point. Remily says we need to pay our way by creating revenue streams. He likes Joe Lowe's suggestion of a 1% seasonal tourism tax. Remily goes further and recommends cashing in on cannabis:

One idea would be to join 17 other states in legalizing some form of cannabis sales. Using Colorado as an example. Their state coffers are filling up.... And guess what? Crime rate going down. State prisons would empty out of non-violent offenders saving more millions in incarceration costs. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it [Mark Remily, e-mail, 2014.05.28].

Ryan Gaddy, call your Aberdeen chapter....

Remily passionately supports expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He is not as passionate about TransCanada. He says the first Keystone pipeline that runs through Brown County brought only a brief uptick in jobs for transient workers but no lasting economic boost. He does not support laying Keystone XL across West River.

I keep looking for a candidate who has a plan not just for winning his district but for boosting the Democratic Party statewide. The question of boosting Demcoratic fortunes is particularly relevant in Brown County, a traditional Democratic stronghold that just saw Republicans surpass Democrats in registered voters. Remily says there are plenty of Democrats around Brown County; they just aren't registering. he did his part to solve that problem by carrying voter registration forms when he circulated his own petition and earlier when he circulated the minimum-wage initiative petition. Remily says he and his fellow circulators registered nearly 100 new Democrats. "Most people want to be registered," says Remily, "but don't take the time to do it." If you want to build a party, says Remily, you've got to do the work.

Whoever wins tomorrow in District 3 faces Republican Rep. David Novstrup, who is trying to trade seats with his dad, Senator Al Novstrup. Remily ran for House in 2008 and lost to David Novstrup by about 900 votes (hey! at least Remily beat Isaac Latterell!). Remily says he's ready to bring bigger heat this election. He says his 40 years of "very public life" in Aberdeen, plus his friendly connections with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans around town make him "the only candidate who stands a chance of keeping David home next legislative session."

District 3, Mark Remily offers you a Democrat who takes pretty strong positions on wages and education funding. Remily is also willing to rattle cages with his suggestion of legalizing marijuana to generate revenue for the state. He pairs those strong positions with an assertion of long-time familiarity and electability in the community. Will you prove Remily right tomorrow, or will you choose a newcomer who prefers the "moderate" brand?

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I have read with interest the argument between Aberdeen city councilman Mark Remily and Aberdeen policeman and State Representative Dan Kaiser. Remily says Kaiser supports excluding homosexual partners from protection under South Dakota's domestic abuse statutes. Kaiser says that's a lie, an "emotional response to a 'hot button' phrase." Aberdeen's Ken Santema offers some reasonable background on the confusion surrounding the domestic abuse bill and Kaiser's opposite-sex amendment. Blogger Pat Powers calls Remily's accusations "doltish" and politically motivated, accuses Remily of creating a hostile work environment for his policeman, and demands an apology for having "conveniently ignored facts."

What are the facts?

Remily points to this year's Senate Bill 147, which sought to clarify the definition of "family or household members." Neither existing statute nor the original text of SB 147 said anything about same-sex or opposite-sex partners. Rep. Kaiser sponsored the original bill, largely because it would have removed the line applying domestic abuse statutes to "persons who have lived together." That seems reasonable: if you and an old college roommate get in a fistfight, you should be charged with disorderly conduct or assault, not domestic abuse.

But then in the House on February 27, Rep. Kaiser did indeed propose an amendment to exclude same-sex couples from domestic abuse protection. Kaiser and most of his GOP colleagues voted for that amendment and the resultingly anti-homosexual bill (notable exceptions: arch-conservative stingster sweethearts Jenna Haggar and Isaac Latterell).

Remily says Kaiser's amendment shows that he believes "that if you're gay or lesbian you have no right to be protected by law enforcement." Kaiser says "I want all people to have protection under the law." He explains his anti-gay amendment as a procedural move:

I sponsored this bill because in its original fair state it removed the wording “people who have lived together” and replaced it with “people in an intimate relationship.” When the bill went to the Senate, they removed the new wording of the bill and put in the old wording, which would again require law enforcement to arrest former roommates.

Kaiser gets the Senate amendment wrong. Read the original SB 147 alongside the Senate version carefully. The Senate amendment did not insert any old wording that would have required law enforcement to arrest roommates. The Senate amendment only removed "foster parent and foster child" from the definition of family or household members. That amendment may be problematic for other reasons, but it has nothing to do with Kaiser's expressed concern.

Kaiser then offers a procedural defense of his anti-gay amendment:

When the bill came to the House, I tried to pass an amendment to restore the bill to its original fair state. My amendment failed. I knew if I did pass an amendment, the bill would have to go to conference committee and be voted on again, so in order to protect roommates from arrest, I added the amendment to change the wording to opposite sex. It passed [Rep. Dan Kaiser, letter to the editor, Aberdeen American News, 2013.06.24].

Kaiser also gets procedure wrong. When the bill came to the House, it carried an amendment from House Judiciary that removed the language about dating relationships and added language that might have sparked Kaiser's roommate prosecution concerns. The bill that came to the House floor was already different from the version passed by the Senate. SB 147 would have gone to conference committee without Kaiser's anti-gay amendment.

Kaiser's amendment may well have been a poison pill, intended to "cause problems." However, Kaiser testified to the conference committee in March and said "homosexuals deserve the protections everybody does."

But Representative Kaiser's response to Councilman Remily's attack doesn't hold water. The House Judiciary amendment, not the Senate's, created the problem Kaiser cites. And that House Judiciary amendment made the Kaiser amendment unnecessary for the procedural purpose he claims. If Remily is looking just at that amendment and the on-record legislative context of Senate Bill 147, he can't be blamed for viewing the Kaiser amendment as gratuitous gay-bashing.

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