Josie Weiland, at home in Piedmont, South Dakota, 2014.08.16

Josie Weiland, at home in Piedmont, South Dakota, 2014.08.16. (That snake on her arm isn't permanent; she was entertaining kids with face-painting at her uncle Rick's fundraising concert Saturday.)

Josie Weiland just graduated from high school. She's headed for Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Her uncle Rick is running for U.S. Senate.

Josie Weiland made her own political news last February, when she stood up at a crackerbarrel and challenged Senator Phil Jensen's absurd assertion that his proposal to let businesses discriminate against homosexuals was really an "anti-bullying free speech bill." She took a break from entertaining the kids at the fundraising concert her dad Kevin hosted for her uncle Rick yesterday to talk about what led her to political activism.

You might think that her politically minded family led her to her political consciousness, but Josie says that's not the case. Her own political curiosity (Weiland genetics?) led her to start reading up on homosexuality and equality issues on the Internet. She read about the combination of mounting empirical evidence and political action that led the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses. She raised the subject of homosexuality and social responses to it at home, and while her family openly discussed the topic, she formed her own views.

Weiland sees most of her generation understanding and accepting homosexuality (a view shared by her young East River political counterpart Cody Hausman and supported by this 2013 Washington Post/ABC poll). But a vocal minority of her peers motivated her own interest in LGBT equality. She attended a conservatively oriented school where she regularly heard students tossing about ignorant anti-gay insults like, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Despite more positive messages about LGBT tolerance from at least one teacher, Weiland left that school her freshman year. Yet even in a somewhat more diverse and tolerant environment, she still heard ignorant attitudes causing others harm. That injustice provoked her to action.

Initially she didn't plan to speak up at the February 1 crackerbarrel in Rapid City. But the night before the event, she thought more about the injustice inherent in the discriminatory legislation proposed by Jensen and other legislators across the state and nation and decided to prepare some remarks and a question to defend gay and lesbian fellow citizens from discrimination.

After she confronted Senator Jensen, Weiland was distressed by the legislator's unwillinginess to engage in open dialogue. She dealt with sloppy journalism and personal attacks online with pretty good aplomb for a high-school senior unaccustomed to the invective political activists can draw.

But Weiland has not let those negative reactions from others drag her into similar tactics. Her interaction with equality opponents and supporters alike has shown her the advantage of positive messaging. She recalls that at the crackerbarrel, she and other supporters started a rallying chant in which they listed states that ban gay marriage and shouted "Shame!" after each name. One member of her group interrupted the chant and asked that they replace the shaming with something more positive. So instead of "Shame!" the group started responding to the list of states blocking equality with, "Yes we can!" Weiland says that simple change in language changed the emotion and energy of the group to something that felt more hopeful and proactive.

Weiland sees her generation ready and able to engage in politics. However (again reflecting views reflected by Hausman last spring), Weiland sees traditional political activities like crackerbarrels as "old school" and says young people see more ease and usefulness in social media. When a friend invited her to attend the February 1 crackerbarrel, she first thought of the restaurant, not the public forum.

Yet Weiland says that even with such powerful learning and organizing tools in their hands, young people seem largely apathetic to political issues. She thinks part of the problem may be too little discussion of politics in school. In her government class, Weiland says her teacher avoided discussions of "taboo" subjects like gay rights and abortion. Weiland thinks avoiding such topics deters students from discussing controversial issues. They get frustrated and tune out.

Weiland counters with her experience on the high school debate team (ably coached by Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo). Debate is all about sharing and testing ideas and letting opposing views contest each other. Weiland says that letting more students experience that vigorous and healthy contest would incline more students toward engaging in politics.Weiland would like to continue engaging in politics, although she does have a few other important things to do, like figuring out a major. When she finishes university, Weiland doesn't envision running for high office like her uncle, but she likes the idea of involving herself in local politics. But above all, she wants to do her civic duty by reading, learning, and speaking up about LGBT equality and all the other issues affecting her community and encouraging others to do the same.


Here's a pile of awesome to start the day: GROW South Dakota and Dakotafire Media  have received a Bush Foundation grant to promote constructive conversations among rural economic development experts and community members around northeastern South Dakota.

GROW South Dakota will use the $200,000 Community Innovation Grant to create the Prairie Idea Exchange. The money will help Dakotafire expand its weekly circulation from 12,000 to 30,000. GROW SD and Dakotafire will organize community forums to "discuss the ideas presented in the magazine, add their own ideas, and determine which of those ideas could be applied to their own communities." They offer an online branch of those conversations as well, for those of us who don't get out as much as we ought.

The Prairie Idea Exchange isn't politics as usual, but it is inherently and healthily political. The project represents what we should think of as politics: citizens coming together to discuss, formulate, and act on ideas for living together in community (the polis, as the Greeks who gave us the word politics would have called it).

Don't just wish this healthy political project well; be a politician (one who seeks to build and maintain the polis) and participate in it!

Spearfish Mountain and me, August 14, 2014

Spearfish Mountain and me, August 14, 2014

Don't forget: the Madville Times Blog Tour starts today! After lunch, I'll mosey over to the Green Bean Coffeehouse here in Spearfish for an afternoon of blogging, tweeting, and (I hope!) rhubarb pie. Blog readers, stop in, say hi, and if you're feeling sufficiently caffeinated, shoot a "South Dakota Sound Off" video to tell our great state what's on your mind.

I'll be at the Green Bean today from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. I'll be the guy with the computer, the camera, and the really big "Home Sweet Home" smile on his face. See you there!

*   *   *

Remember, next big stop on the blog tour will be Rickstock in Piedmont on Saturday from 1 p.m. until 10 p.m. I'll be chipping in my $9 to benefit Rick Weiland's campaign and enjoying the music. I'll also be interviewing friends of Rick, friends of the earth (I hear some folks working to to stop Keystone XL and the Powertech uranium mine will be there), and friends of the blog.

A bigger name touring the state and making time to stop at Rickstock is songwriter Michael Johnson. He's performing Friday night at the Homestake Opera House, then hitting the Rickstock stage Saturday. Here's a promo he's recorded to boost Weiland:

Keep that Senate seat blue... and keep your browser tuned to for more great South Dakota blogging!


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.

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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!


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