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!

4 comments

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!

29 comments

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!

104 comments

[Note: this post discusses the views of Ashley Kenneth Allen, who is also the newest advertiser on the Madville Times. Readers may draw and post their own conclusions as to the accuracy and fairness of this article.]

Madison City Commission candidates Ashley Kenneth Allen and Jeremiah Corbin both serve on Madison's Downtown Revitalization Taskforce, which launched in October, 2012.

Or at least they did until yesterday. The restart of the downtown thrift store plan has provoked Allen to suspend his participation in this committee, at least until the end of the election. In a sharply worded missive sent to committee members, Mayor Roy Lindsay, and the local media, Allen says the surprise thrift store announcement has tested his trust in the thrift store organizers and the downtown committee.

I yield the floor to Mr. Allen to explain his discontent:

The Downtown & Beyond Committee was formed when the city commission tabled the request for the "Thrift Store" proposal and directed the LAIC and Chamber of Commerce to form a downtown improvement committee with the intent to gain public feedback and hold public meetings on future development. This was to create transparency in the economic development process and promote good relations with the community. This project was talked to "death" in  May and June of 2012. But even after the majority of the community said NO to this plan, the power players in the group proposing this thrift store told me that the project would move forward with or without city support. This brazen attitude surprised me. They did not even attempt, or want to attempt, to open the thrift store as a "trial" in one of the many other spaces available on mainstreet at the time. Why not prove your business plan before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new building?

Since June of 2012, I have seen NO public meetings regarding this project, nothing has been discussed in the local media about revisiting the project, and I have heard nothing discussed with the Downtown and Beyond Committee about moving this project forward. Our local leaders that are part of the boards of the LAIC and the Community Foundation have also not made any public statements on this project in the last two years. The idea behind continuing to fund the LAIC and the Forward Madison 2 project was that half of the money would be used to focus on downtown and retail development in the next phase. In almost two years time, we don't have much to show for it. We completed a survey last year (with results yet to be released because we seem to be protecting specific Chamber of Commerce business members), one downtown store relocated across the street, a specialty shop opened up in one of the stores considered to be demolished for the thrift store, and another store has recently closed. The results of the 2013 survey strongly showed that the biggest desire of Madison residents is to have more options for grocery shopping, not thrift store shopping. Recently, a local woman started a petition to get Hy-Vee to move to town. That petition has almost 500 signatures. There is clearly other needs that are not being met in Madison that should be addressed by the Downtown and Beyond Committee, the LAIC, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Community Foundation. The public is being very vocal and we are not listening.

We have yet to craft a grand vision for what our downtown will look like in the next ten years. I had hoped we would partner with the city, local businesses, and community organizations to form a new downtown district plan similar to what was accomplished by Brookings in the last ten years. I am still hopeful this can happen, but recent actions really make me question the honesty and openess of the Community Foundation, the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, and the Chamber of Commerce. I have discussed options with the Mayor and others recently and I like the ideas of using TIFs for fixing our blighted areas on mainstreet. This would be a good start.

I feel we have not learned our lessons from the 2012 debacle. The biggest reason the community was against this in the past was because there was no public input and it was not fulfilling one of the biggest "needed" items in the eyes of the citizens. It was "dropped" on us from the local power players. You cannot call this a "community" thrift store when the community has been left out of the planning process.

This could have been a HUGE project for Madison. We could have built a multi-purpose building on mainstreet that met the needs of multiple entities. We could have made this a building that housed a thrift store, but also a grocery co-op & farmer's market, the local food pantry, small retailer incubator areas, direct marketing booths (Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, 31, etc.), an art gallery, music performance space that was indoors/outdoors, a community gathering "third place", etc. --- Instead, all we are going to get is this limited thrift store. What a disappointment.

Instead of viewing the constructive criticism given by the public in 2012 as a chance for improving the project, the organizers bundled it up and took it private. Instead of "community" building to get support for this project, they went back to "business as usual" and defaulted back to Madison's status quo of power plays and secret meetings.

The idea that this is not tax payer funded is just a lie. The city helped purchase this property and the LAIC managed it for the city. There may not be direct funding from City Hall for the thrift store, but indirectly many tax dollars are being used. We have yet to see a business plan, estimate for employees, number of employed workers vs. volunteers, a plan on how to get good quality items donated to the store, hours of operation, etc. etc.  The only thing that we have a is a carefully crafted press release that has Mr. Johnson stating "This financial support, which is well over half the projected cost, shows that many agree with the task force in their belief that the project is "absolutely worthwhile". So who are the sponsors? Why not go on record and list the donors. Why does this have to be so secretive? I for one hope there is NO Forward Madison 2 money being dedicated to this project. The LAIC is already handing over a lot by transferring this property to the Community Foundation Inc. We can continue to pretend that these organizations are not "arms" of the city, but the reality is these three corporations would find it difficult to exist without city funding support.

This whole project smells of crony capitalism. I have had many local residents contact me in the last two days that are very upset with this proposition. It is bad public relations for the city, for the LAIC, and the Community Foundation. The situation was handled poorly and not in an open, honest, and transparent method that should be expected from our local leaders and corporations.

I had hoped for more leadership on this issue from your organizations and expected more community involvement. There is a real need for affordable food, clothing, and household goods in Madison. There is also a real need for charity. Because of how this project is being handled, I fear it will split the community and create more divisions, rather than bringing us all together for a worthwhile charitable project.

I hope you will take this constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve the process. We all want to have Madison succeed and move forward. There is still time to reconsider and do something bigger with this project [Ashley Kenneth Allen, open letter, 2014.03.07].

Allen reflects my own disappointment about the lack of community engagement on this "community" project. If the project organizers want to contend that their privately organized project is under no obligation to submit to public scrutiny, I can live with that, as long as they can satisfy Allen's concerns that they really aren't tapping public resources through the LAIC.

My political concern is that Allen's complaint won't help him win the city election. Dissent and disagreement are essential to democracy, but Madison voters aren't used to candidates having real disagreements. Gene Hexom will say Allen is just being negative, a naysayer, and not a team player. Allen's abdication of the downtown committee, even if reasonable in recognizing that the downtown committee is actually powerless to drive downtown development, may convey exactly that impression. And a fair number of voters will roll along with Hexom, not wanting to be troubled by vigorous debate and dissent.

I agree that we should not spend any taxpayer dollars to help a few private developers build a store that will compete against existing  businesses to fulfill a market need that almost no one views as a priority for downtown revitalization. But if those developers and their rich friends think a thrift store is the best use for their mad money, and if they can make it happen within the law and without public subsidy, I'm not sure there's much the voters can do to stop them.

8 comments

Out of 448 bills in the 2014 hopper, South Dakota's legislators have proposed 17 bills that do nothing. No, I'm not talking about the time-wasting karaoke-session resolutions that got Rep. Spence Hawley so cross yesterday. I'm talking about bills that, as written, take no concrete action whatsoever.

Some policies take time to craft. Since South Dakota's legislators try to cram all their work into eight four-day weeks followed by one five-day week, and since they are distracted by resolutions and crazy ideas from wingnuts, they don't always finish researching, negotiating, and writing the first drafts of their serious policy proposals before the bill submission deadline in Week 4.

Our legislators dodge a tardy slip with what we call, in South Dakota parliamentary parlance, hoghouse vehicles, empty carcasses into which lawmakers plan to stuff their legislative sausage later... once they figure out the recipe.

The Legislative Research Council usefully tags and lists this session's 17 hoghouse vehicles:

Bill Title Status
HB 1109 provide for the enhancement of economic development. killed in House State Affairs 2/24
HB 1145 accommodate legislation on medical services. passed House 2/25
HB 1146 accommodate legislation relating to education in South Dakota. passed House 2/25
HB 1147 accommodate legislation on the state aid to education formula and to make an appropriation therefor. tabled HSA 2/24
HB 1191 accommodate legislation relating to the alleviation of livestock losses as a result of the late autumn West River blizzard. tabled House Approp 2/07
HB 1203 improve the financial practices of the State of South Dakota. passed House 2/25
HB 1247 revise certain provisions for the economic development partnership fund. tabled HSA 2/19
HB 1252 improve the work force development in South Dakota. tabled HSA 2/19
HB 1256 increase opportunities and funding for school districts to apply for jobs for America's graduates programs and to make an appropriation therefor. hoghoused House Ed 2/21; killed House Approp 2/24
SB 99 revise certain provisions regarding self-funded multiple employer trusts. hoghoused Senate State Affairs 2/19; passed Senate 2/24
SB 107 accommodate legislation on the state aid to education formula and to make an appropriation therefor. passed Senate 2/24
SB 108 accommodate legislation on medical services. hoghoused SSA 2/21; passed Senate 2/25
SB 109 accommodate legislation on education in South Dakota. tabled SSA 2/21
SB 110 require state employees to make certain payments or contributions for health insurance. hoghoused SSA 2/24; tabled Senate 2/25
SB 141 make an appropriation to fund certain scholarship programs and to declare an emergency. hoghoused SSA 2/21; passed Senate 2/25
SB 146 revise certain provisions regarding the closure of county and township roads due to high water. withdrawn 2/19
SB 168 provide oversight and accountability to certain economic activities. passed Senate 2/24

Seven of these empty bills have been killed. Three have been fleshed out with specifics and passed out of their respective chambers; two were killed once legislators saw the first details.

Yet five hoghouse vehicles have passed out of their chamber of origin in their original empty form. Someone in the Legislative leadership has plans for medical services, education and state aid thereto, financial practices, and "certain economic activities," but after six and a half weeks, these elected officials haven't mustered the data, the consensus, or the guts to put details on paper where we all can see them.

Last year, one hoghouse vehicle, SB 235, carried forward a massive omnibus bill revamping South Dakota's economic development policies. Regardless of the merits and demerits of that bill (which became law), reporter Bob Mercer and I both complained that crafting such important legislation out of sight of the public isn't cool. Legislators, reporters, bloggers, and other interested citizens should all have time to review public policy proposals, seek relevant data, and rouse public activism for or against those proposals.

South Dakota's hoghouse procedure has some merit. Allowing legislators to wholly overhaul (someone in the barn is shouting, "Holy overalls!") bills allows for the possibility that some unexpected information or event might warrant a swift response from the Legislature after Week 4 of the session. Plus, it's just plain fun to say hoghouse! all winter.

But hoghouse vehicles excuse tardiness and shield secrets. Keep the hoghouse, but ban hoghouse vehicles. Forbid the posting of any bill whose text consists of nothing but a general goal statement. Require that by the Week 4 submission deadline, every bill must outline a specific policy action and/or a specific statute that it would change. Such a requirement might sharpen our legislators' focus, get them to beat back attempts by their nuttier colleagues to clog the caucus and committee meetings with fruitless ideological grandstanding bills, and flush more serious policy discussions out into the open, where we all can help.

17 comments

Madison's mid-winter water crisis didn't lead to cholera, but there has been an outbreak of political enthusiasm. My hometown now has four filed candidates—Ashley Allen, Jennifer Wolff, Jeremiah Corbin, and Gene Hexom—vying for two open seats, and a fifth, Kelly Johnson, taking out a petition (deadline is this Friday, Kelly!).

Allen, Wolff, and Corbin all have Web presence. Hexom likely won't be online unless one of crony capitalist Darin Namken dispatches a flunky to whip up some placeholder page. Besides, the only people Hexom needs to talk to are his familiar old pals at the Community Center, not all those young complainers on their computers.

Speaking of whom, what are our youth candidates saying to the online electorate?

Corbin's new website leads with water as an issue. Corbin touts his experience as a source water protection specialist with the South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems. He also has water all over his brief bio page.

Allen leads with infrastructure as his number-one priority. He talks water but also broadens the topic to include street maintenance and electrical issues.

Wolff's campaign website takes a less traditional, more bloggy approach. Her website so far lacks the standard landing and About pages that we get from Corbin and Allen. Allen does have a blog section on his website, but the blog is the homepage for Wolff. Water does not figure in Wolff's blog posts so far... but she does include some humdingers on the need for repairs to Madison's conceptual infrastructure. In this morning's post, Wolff details how Sioux Center is growing while Madison "stagnates," then offers this hypothesis as to why:

So why the dramatic difference in economic, population, commercial, industrial, and residential growth? For two towns that seem so alike on the surface, when you put them side-by-side, one seems to be floundering while the other flourishes. One relishes being a "little big city"; the other relegates itself to a "big little city".

Perhaps the secret lies in Sioux Center's tagline: "Progress Through Cooperation". This is a city that doesn't let itself be defined by its limitations. It's also a city that seems to embrace partnerships with other organizations and encourage active citizen participation. It has a comprehensive plan that provides a 20-year road map for Sioux Center's future and outlines seven goals. The first goal? Collaboration & Cooperation [Jennifer Wolff, "A Tale of Two Cities," We Want Wolff campaign website, 2014.02.26].

By the way, Sioux Center, like Madison, is still waiting to be hooked up to the Lewis and Clark water system.

Wolff mentions in another post that Madison seems to view "citizen input... as a nuisance rather than a necessity." In a democracy, citizen input is as vital as water. Wolff, Corbin, and Allen all appear to agree on that principle.

2 comments

Rick Weiland continues to have fun on the campaign trail. In the process, he integrates his populist message into his marketing strategy, turning the webcam spotlight on the voters he's meeting in every town (now up to #287!) in South Dakota.

In this morning's e-mail pitch, Weiland says a gal he met in Bowdle sent him a quick little video where all she said was, "I met Rick Weiland in Bowdle." This supporter suggested Weiland collect similar clips from the thousands of folks he's meeting at the Red Line Tavern, Jake's Corner, and elsewhere. Said the voter, "That would be a great way to show the difference between your take it back campaign and all the other politicians."

Rick's verbatim response:

Well DUH!!!! I guess so. Wish I had been smart enough to think of that 287 towns ago.

I wasn't smart enough back then. But at least I'm smart enough to recognize it when a fabulous idea gets in my face [Rick Weiland, campaign e-mail, 2014.02.19].

And the video response: lots of your neighbors saying they've met Rick, and some even saying they'll vote for him (Rick nearly has to mug one guy from Canova to get him to say it, but he says it):

The metaphor is apt: Weiland's video shows he wants regular South Dakotans to have a voice in the Senate.

Also helping: Weiland gets some headline photo exposure in the national press as part of what ABC News calls the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. Are you listening, national Dem donors?

44 comments

Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) is playing catch-up with Senator Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea) in fighting the Common Core school standards. Rep. Bolin vowed to lead the fight against Common Core this year, but Senator Otten launched three bills on the topic into the Legislative hopper before Rep. Bolin could file one.

But here it is, Bolin's House Bill 1075, which revises an existing statute on Common Core. In a sly bit of sweeping evidence under the rug, HB 1075 first deletes a phrase in SDCL 13-3-89 that states that Common Core is "a state-led effort launched by state leaders through their membership in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers." That statement runs counter to the misconception popular amongst the anti-Common Core political footballers, that they are fighting some evil federal government program. Removing that clause from statute removes an embarrassing reminder of the misleading rhetoric coming from the loudest Common Core opponents.

The substance of HB 1075 expands statute to subject any binding multi-state educational standards to at least four public hearings, in Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. HB 1075 makes government move even more slowly, requiring that each hearing be at least sixty days apart. (On that time frame, we might as well require Department of Education Officials to walk from hearing to hearing.)

Interestingly, HB 1075 does not speak subject unique standards created wholly within South Dakota to such scrutinizing delay. If a new set of curriculum standards were to spring forth fully formed from Education Secretary Melody Schopp's fervent imagination, HB 1075 would not require any hearings. I find that omission interesting: South Dakota bureaucrats are just as capable of creating bad school policy on their own as they are in collusion with out-of-staters, but Bolin and the anti-Common Core crowd apparently see no threat in our homegrown errors.

There's nothing wrong with public oversight of the Department of Education. But House Bill 1075 represents just one more distraction from making practical improvements to our education system.

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