New data from Governing and the National Research Center suggest that democracy is hard to do. Only 19% of respondents to the nationwide survey say they have contact local officials in the past year. Only 24% say they've attended a public meeting. Participation in local politics increases with age: 11% of folks aged 18 to 24 attend public meetings, while 32% of the 65–74 set do. (Local political participation drops again for the over-74 set.)

Participation predictably increases with income and with length of time lived in a community, but it does not vary much with race. Blacks and Indians go to local public meetings just a touch more frequently (27%) than their white neighbors (25%). Asian citizens show the only marked difference along racial participation lines, with only 17% going to public meetings.

What's a small-d democrat to do to keep public discourse from being dominated by rich retirees and extremists? How do we get more people to participate in the process? Mohammed, mountain. Go where they are:

Connecting with these groups of residents requires stepping outside of city hall and meeting residents on their own turf. Park City officials say they’ve held meetings in school lunch rooms, performing arts centers and with local homeowners’ associations.

“To truly engage the community,” [International City/County Management Association's Cheryl] Hilvert said, “managers have to think broader about it than in the past” [Mike Maciag, "The Citizens Most Vocal in Local Government," Governing, July 2014].

And remember: a lot of citizens, especially the younger ones, are online:

Some localities employ unconventional approaches to raise the level of citizen engagement. When the city of Rancho Cordova, Calif., debated permitting more residents to raise chickens on their properties last year, it launched an online Open Town Hall. More than 500 residents visited the interactive forum to make or review public statements. “It is noisy and smelly enough with pigeons, turkeys, feral cats, and untended dogs without adding chickens to the mix,” wrote one resident. The city drafted an ordinance reflecting citizen input, then emailed it to forum subscribers.

Outreach efforts through local media or civic organizations help further community involvement. Some residents also form Facebook groups or online petitions to promote their causes.

The city of Chanhassen, Minn., relied heavily on social media to connect with citizens when it confronted an issue that’s about as contentious as any local government can face: a proposal to build a new Walmart. The city posted regular updates on its Facebook page and uploaded all documents online [Maciag, July 2014].

Social what? says Mike Rounds, who is better at going where donors are than where voters are.

1 comment

Hey, Democrats! Want to warm up for next week's SDDP convention with on-the-street activism? Want to roadtrip to Pierre? Then give Corinna Robinson a call!

Our U.S. House candidate is organizing a big marching crew for the American Legion parade happening during Oahe Days in Pierre Saturday afternoon. Carry Corinna's banner, hand out candy and campaign lit, wear a Corinna t-shirt, spread the word!

If you're interested, contact the Robinson campaign. Then get yourself and ten friends to Pierre's Griffin Park, the parade staging area, by 3:30 p.m. Central. Forward, march!


One of the talking points Democratic nominee Susan Wismer needs to adopt from her vanquished primary opponent Joe Lowe is his talk of the "culture of corruption" fostered by the Rounds-Daugaard administration. Why?

  1. It's true!
  2. Fighting a "Culture of Corruption" will synergize with the "Take It Back!" populist message of Sue's new best buddy on the prairie, Rick Weiland.
  3. South Dakota's higher-than-normal corruption has policy impacts, like an over-emphasis on economic development based on bribe-prone corporate handouts and less funding for education and health care:

...Economic development projects are ripe for corruption, the study published this spring in the Public Administration Review, found.

Using data from the Department of Justice that encompassed more than 25,000 public corruption-related convictions nationwide between 1976 and 2008 of elected officials, judges and local employees, the study concluded that higher instances of corruption correlate with more spending in certain areas. Among the most corrupt states were Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Dakota and Alaska.

The study found that high levels of corruption in a state can shape its budget allocation. More corrupt states tended to spend money on construction, highways, and police protection programs, which provide more opportunity for corrupt officials to use public money for their own gain. These states spend less on health, education, and welfare, which provide less opportunity for officials to collect bribes... [Liz Farmer and Kevin Tidmarsh, "What Corrupt States Spend Their Money On," Governing, 2014.06.06].

Wismer can also point out that the culture of corruption ends up hamstringing the economic development that Daugaard and pals say they are promoting:

The shakedown culture can also be a deterrent to economic development, with developers who are attempting to play fair getting disenchanted by pay-to-play politics, he added. After all, there's little incentive to spend time and money on a bid when the winning bidder has already bought political favor [Farmer and Tidmarsh, 2014.06.06].

Corruption could even have something to do with lower voter turnout:

Public confidence in government is also a hidden – and immeasurable – cost of corruption, added Sergio Acosta, a corporate attorney who was the former federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois [Farmer and Tidmarsh, 2014.06.06].

The culture of corruption that Joe Lowe identifies hinders public welfare, economic development, and civic life in South Dakota. Sue, that's your message, in one sentence. Get on it!


Want to learn the facts about Medicare? Well, you can't count on Mike Rounds to tell the truth about the most popular health insurance program in America. Better go see Rick Weiland, who's holding a town hall forum Friday on "The Future of Medicare":

  • Who: You and South Dakota's next Senator, Democrat Rick Weiland!
  • What: "The Future of Medicare"
  • When: Friday, June 6, 4 p.m. CDT
  • Where: Second Street Diner, Madison, SD

Team Weiland says our next Senator will tackle the following questions (and any others you care to bring):

  1. How does the Affordable Care Act really impact Medicare? (Short answer: positively!)
  2. What are the downsides to turning Medicare into a voucher program? (Short answer: don't vote GOP, and you won't have to find out!)
  3. How can we truly make healthcare more affordable? (Short answer: go easy on the mayo, and vote for Rick!)

Expect some discussion of Weiland's plan to make Medicare and America healthier by extending Medicare eligibility to anyone who wants it.


Vote now in the latest Madville Times polls... and this time, it's a triple play! With two weeks until the South Dakota primary, I ask you who gets your vote in the Democratic primary for Governor and the Republican primaries for Governor and U.S. Senate! Your choices:

Democrat for Governor:

Republican for Senate:

Republican for Governor:

Now let's take a shot at making this poll as honest as possible. Stick with the polls you can actually vote in. Dems and Indies, you can cast ballots in ballots in the Democratic primary between Wismer and Lowe. Republicans (yes, you know you're reading, and I'm glad you are!), click on your Republican choices for Senate and Governor. And while you're not obliged, you're certainly welcome to explain your vote in the comment section below.

These polls are open until breakfast time Thursday, at which time we'll all play swami and speculate as to the bellwetherliness of Madville Times readers. Vote now, bring your friends, and spread the word!


In tonight's salute to neighbors, I note Scott Ehrisman's announced hiatus and transition at South DaCola, one of the longest-standing, hardest-working blogs in the state. Ehrisman has focused relentlessly on Sioux Falls politics, especially in the run-up to Tuesday's municipal election.

But Sunday, Ehrisman announced it's time for a break:

South DaCola will remain up, but commenting will be turned off to prepare for changes. Not sure what the new format of DaCola will be, but a (small) team of South DaCola foot soldiers and associates have been weighing our options. I can tell you this, it will no longer be a bitch session but a proactive community activism website and news source (what many don’t realize is the activism my site inspires that doesn’t grace the pages of the interwebs, they are numerous, and often). Not sure how long this transition will take, but I am guessing about a month. Some of the things we will be doing will be definitely ground breaking and ‘different’ to the Sioux Falls market (yes, I will be selling advertising), and different then any traditional media source that currently exists in the Greatest Little City in the country. I am looking forward to it, but I am also looking forward to the break from my tireless obsession with city government [Scott Ehrisman, "South DaCola, Change Is in the Air," South DaCola, 2014.04.06].

The South DaCola comment section is indeed closed... and "comment" and "closed" in the same sentence always makes my heart twinge.

Ehrisman notes that good blogging takes a lot of time, time that he'd like to reclaim for himself and some of the finer things in life. But Ehrisman has also found what I've found: blogging opens doors to new conversations and unexpected friendships that never would have happened otherwise.

Ehrisman promises to stay engaged in his community ("I Love Sioux Falls") and to make his reboot a part of his ongoing local activism. I like the sound of that. Rest up, Scott, and come back swinging!


Speaking of mediocre voter turnout, my friend and city commission candidate Ashley Allen reports that so far on what he calls a beautiful spring day, turnout for Madison's municipal election is 6.5%. That's with less than four hours left to go vote.

Really, people? Five interesting candidates to choose from, representing an interesting cross-section of Madison ages and interests, and that's all the interest we have so far?

Voters around the state, I welcome your reports of voter turnout at your local polling places on this municipal election day. I hope we hear some higher numbers as quitting time approaches!

You get the government you ask for. Declining to vote does not absolve you of blame; it lays the blame on you for not picking someone better. Get out and vote!


I wonder how you make a narcissist go into histrionics....

Pat Powers gives you one corn chip; I give you the whole enchilada. For your reading enjoyment, I offer Annette Bosworth's Republican U.S. Senate nominating petition, filed yesterday with the South Dakota Secretary of State:

Bosworth nominating petition sheet

Those seven signatures from the Lakeview Hutterite Colony out by Lake Andes are just page 9.1 out of 213 sheets submitted. Here's the link to the entire petition, all 122 megabytes, nicely numbered:

Annette Bosworth Nominating Petition: 213 sheets, 122 MB

That's an awful lot of petition to download all at once. If you don't want to give your Internet connection a hernia, here's the petition in nice ten-sheet (front and back) chunks:

  1. BosPet 000-009
  2. BosPet 010-019
  3. BosPet 020-029
  4. BosPet 030-039
  5. BosPet 040-049
  6. BosPet 050-059
  7. BosPet 060-069
  8. BosPet 070-079
  9. BosPet 080-089
  10. BosPet 090-099
  11. BosPet 100-109
  12. BosPet 110-119
  13. BosPet 120-129
  14. BosPet 130-139
  15. BosPet 140-149
  16. BosPet 150-159
  17. BosPet 160-169
  18. BosPet 170-179
  19. BosPet 180-189
  20. BosPet 190-199
  21. BosPet 200-209
  22. BosPet 210-213
  23. EXTRA! Added 2014.03.31! BosPet214-227 submitted by mail, received by Secretary of State after certifying the originally submitted 213 pages.

Look it over. If you notice any Democrats or Independents or non-voters or non-people, or if you want to point out anything else you find interesting about the petition, feel free to leave a comment below. Have fun, everybody!


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