...and smut peddlers.

Speaking of subversive activity, the Center for Equality is hosting the third annual Sioux Falls Pride Festival today from noon to 5 p.m. at McKennan Park in Sioux Falls. Promoting "a vibrant positive interaction within the community through advocacy, education, visibility and participation of LGBT and Allied members" (Allied! There's the label I can use!), the Pride Festival will feature music from Mike & Jay, Freewryte, Kat Jax, and Rick Weiland. Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether will offer opening remarks; visitors can also hear speeches from the newlyweds leading the lawsuit to overturn South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban, Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn, and their lawyer, Joshua Newville.

In the juxtaposition of the day, the Pride Festival will offer a kids' zone complete with face-painting and, starting at 3 p.m., an all-ages drag show what I'm sure will be more remarkably painted faces. When you get done outside, you can head to the Icon Lounge downtown for the official Pride After Party (there will be no kids' zone here).

I'm mostly excited about this event. A number of sponsors are: Wells Fargo Bank, the Sioux Falls Free Thinkers, Midcontinent Communications, Alphagraphics, Great Plains Zoo, and the New Joy Community Church, a Sioux Falls United Church of Christ congregation that preaches extravagant love for everyone, including Socialists.

Alas, Pride Festival sponsors include Sioux Falls smut shop Annabelle's, which will have a booth at the event along with their Tea sex-commoditization counterpart Olivia's. I don't know if Annabelle's and Olivia's will be displaying their standard masturbation aids, but my tolerance has limits. Inclusivity and equality are cool; the objectification of sex is not.

While I wholeheartedly support the overarching message of the Pride Festival, I cannot in good conscience take my child to an event where smut-peddlers are present, and I must recommend that other responsible parents not subject their children to that particular negative influence.

West River, you'll get your dose of Pride next month: the Black Hills Center for Equality is hosting a full weekend of LGBT events July 11 through 13.

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Subversion and hooch afoot! Unapologetic liberals are gathering for libations at Wiley's Tavern at 330 North Main in Sioux Falls after work today, 5 p.m., as they reconstitute the Sioux Falls chapter of Drinking Liberally. Among topics that may stir conversation:

The National Partnership for Women and Families finds South Dakota is one of the crappiest places to be a working mom:

NPWF grades for working mom conditions June 2014

Grades by state for legal protections for working mothers, based on state laws on family leave, sick leave, and other family issues. Data from National Partnership for Women and Families; map from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hmm... probably won't see Governor Daugaard plastering that map on a banner ad for South Dakota in the Minneapolis airport... where NPWF finds much better conditions for working moms.

The Affordable Care Act still hasn't caught the United States up with other countries in terms of quality health care. For the fifth year in a row, the U.S. ranks last in the Commonwealth Fund's scoring of eleven industrialized nations' health care systems.

health-ranking 2013

(Click to embiggen!)

Continuing a long-standing trend (compare the numbers from 2010), the United States continues to spend far more (50% more than extravagant Switzerland, 88% more than colder Canada, 150% more than clammier Great Britain) per capita on health care than any of our industrialized counterparts. Interestingly, many of those countries also drink more alcohol per capita than we do. Hmm... Drinking Liberally Sioux Falls, what can you do about that?

Of course we know poor working-parent policy, inefficient health care, and all of our other problems are caused by irrational, ignorant, unempathetic conservatives... or are they? Discuss, tonight, Willy's Tavern, 5 p.m.!

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Billings, Montana, wants to be better. It wants to be like Sioux Falls. Billings economic development boss Steve Arveschoug and other interested Billingsians visited our eastern Queen City last month to divine our "secret sauce". What do they think makes Sioux Falls grow?

“You take a bucket of the energy and vision of their mayor (Mike Huether); a bushel of private service leadership; three shovelsful of expertise from city planning, the chamber and economic development — and sprinkle it with a sales tax,” Arveschoug said [Mike Ferguson, "Business Leaders Look to Cook up Billings Version of Sioux Falls' Success," Billings Gazette, 2014.06.15].

What?! Taxes are a useful ingredient for economic growth?

Over and over during their presentations, Sioux Falls leaders emphasized the importance of the city’s share of state sales tax revenue — 2 cents on every dollar spent — in building and updating infrastructure. In many examples, private investment has followed public spending. The two-cent local share of sales tax revenue adds about $100 million to city coffers each year, half of which is typically spent on infrastructure to help support growth [Ferguson, 2014.06.15].

Montana does not have a general sales tax, but it does tax certain items. It does have resort and local option sales taxes, but only for towns with population under 5,500. The largest sources of state revenue are income and severance taxes. Large local governments like Billings thus don't have the same revenue-generating power as Sioux Falls.

But notice that Billings's economic development chief thinks Sioux Falls invests its money most wisely not in handouts to specific businesses, but in infrastructure that directly benefits everyone:

“It is very clear to me that communities have to provide infrastructure if they want to attract new businesses and help existing businesses grow,” [Arveschoug] said. It’s important that the investments are made strategically, he said — such areas as convention centers, recreational facilities, trails, civic plazas and downtown redevelopment. “Sioux Falls has 1,350 acres of commercial space infrastructure ready to go. If you want to consider coming to Sioux Falls, they had somewhere to take you,” he said. “That’s a strong platform for them, and I’d like to see us develop that concept, that ability to develop.” In Wyoming, he said, the legislature can appropriate $25 million or more to communities to help build infrastructure to attract and retain businesses [Ferguson, 2014.06.15].

Give one company a big grant or tax kickback, and when they go belly up, that money's gone, and you have to come up with a new incentive package for the next big fish. Build a good park or downtown plaza that makes Company X say, "Oooo! We want to move to your town!" and if Company X doesn't make it, that same park or plaza will be there to incentivize Companies Y, Z, A, and B.

I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled about a regressive tax to make Billings more like Sioux Falls. And the first infrastructure Billings needs is not a park but a big scrubber to get rid of the refinery smell we get every time we zoom by on I-90. But we should note with pride that our neighbors will come to Sioux Falls to figure out how to do economic development right.

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Speaking of breaking laws on Election Day, some Sioux Falls voters thought maybe they'd caught GOP candidate for Senate Mike Rounds in an FEC faux pas, as an airplane towed a banner exhorting them to "VOTE ROUNDS FOR SENATE."

Jonathan Ellis's photo doesn't make it clear, but an eager reader complains that he couldn't make out any "Paid for by" disclaimer on that banner, as required by the FEC rules on political ads and solicitations. Holy cow: will Bosworth and Rounds share a paddy wagon after the polls close tonight?

One might think a banner on a plane would be considered an "outdoor advertising facility," just like a billboard. However, the FEC exempts communications where it would be "inconvenient" to print the "Paid for by" notice. That exemption covers the small and the really big:

In situations where a disclaimer notice cannot be conveniently printed, the notice is not required. This provision affects items such as pens, bumper stickers, campaign pins, campaign buttons and similar small items. Further, a disclaimer notice is not required for communications using skywriting, clothing, water towers or other forms of advertisement where it would be impracticable to display the disclaimer notice. 11 CFR 110.11(f) (See also AO 2002-09 [PDF]) ["Special Notices on Political Ads and Solicitations," Federal Election Commission, published October 2006, downloaded 2014.06.03]

The assumption here is that there is no way one could create a banner that a plane could safely carry that would present a full "paid for by" disclaimer to viewers  on the ground. The Rounds sky banner thus appears to conform to FEC rules.

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Growth is great, right, cancer?

Sioux Falls continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. According to Census data complied by Governing's Mike Maciag, Sioux Falls added 4,446 residents from July 2012 to July 2013. That's 2.8% annual growth. Compare that 0.72% for the U.S. and 1.1% for the planet over the same period.

Sustain 2.8% annual growth, and Sioux Falls will double in population every 25 years.

2.8% makes Sioux Falls #11 out of cities over 100,000 people. Among the cities growing faster is Fargo. Fargo!

Rank City State % change Total change 2012 pop 2013 pop
1 Frisco Texas 6.5 8,328 128,463 136,791
2 Odessa Texas 4 4,220 106,500 110,720
3 Gilbert Arizona 4 8,749 221,223 229,972
4 McKinney Texas 3.9 5,527 143,032 148,559
5 Midland Texas 3.6 4,268 119,665 123,933
6 Cary North Carolina 3.6 5,294 145,794 151,088
7 Fargo North Dakota 3.2 3,516 110,142 113,658
8 Irvine California 3.2 7,343 229,373 236,716
9 Round Rock Texas 2.9 3,111 106,710 109,821
10 Murfreesboro Tennessee 2.8 3,173 113,871 117,044

Minneapolis is #35 on the list, only growing at 1.9%. Sustain those rates, and Sioux Falls will surpass Minneapolis in population by 2113, when both cities would have a little over 2.5 million people. Throw St. Paul in (#86, 1.3% growth), and Sioux Falls doesn't catch up with the Twin Cities until 2147, when both metros would have over 6.4 million. But then it would only be fair to compare the Twin Cities to Sioux Falls + Harrisburg and all the outlying suburbs (Madison and Beresford will be Sioux Falls's Wayzata and Burnsville)...

But well before then, folks will be comparing Fargo, which at current growth rates will catch Sioux Falls by 2105. Oh! Someone build me robot legs so I can live to see all this!

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The Sioux Falls School District used children as unpaid guinea pigs this spring in its field test of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the new statewide, online standardized test our children will take to measure their fulfillment of the Common Core standards. Some computers crashed on both the student side and the testmaker side, but the District reports that its "technology and infrastructure performed better than expected." Sigh.

Here are some reasons from the District's report to be annoyed that we are trundling mindlessly along into another cycle of fruitless education reform churn:

  1. "Each classroom test administrator set aside from three to ten hours to read documents and view Smarter Balanced required test administration modules/videos." Up to ten hours: that's two full days of classroom instruction lost to learning how to administer someone else's test.
  2. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is two to two and a half hours longer than the Dakota Step test it replaces. Two and a half hours: that's as much as three class periods that each student misses to sit and answer questions instead of learning.
  3. Twelve parents asked the Sioux Falls School District to excuse their students from the SBA. The District told them state law and rules require all students to take the SBA. Then the District apparently kept tabs on those students during the tests; the District report says teachers observed five of those students "randomly answering questions or choosing the same answer and completing the test in half the time of the other students." The report offers no count of other kids blowing off the test. So try to opt out of an oppressive and wasteful testing regimen, and the Sioux Falls Schol District will single your kids out for special surveillance.
  4. Some kids knew their stuff but had trouble banging out answers fast enough on the computer keyboard. The report's response: we need to keep pushing keyboard and mouse skills. This is teaching to the test at its most offensive, not even teaching subject matter, but teaching specific technology skills that will let kids take tests about subject matter.

What does the report recommend the school board do? "Acknowledge the review of the Smarter Balanced Assessment administration 2013-14 school year."

Acknowledged. Ack!

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The Sioux Falls Optimist Club must be the nation's leading chapter. An extensive Gallup survey finds Sioux Falls is the most optimistic city in the country. Specifically, Gallup asked folks if they feel the city in which they live is "getting better". 77.7% (a lucky number!) of Sioux Falls respondents said, "You betcha!"

Here are the ten most optimistic and most pessimistic cities Gallup identifies:

Gallup-Optimistic Cities 2012-2013

Nobody from Minnesota in the top ten! Join me and Joel Rosenthal in saying whoo-hoo, Sioux Falls!

Of course, our neighbors in the Twin Cities could contend they don't need to worry about whether their town is getting better, because they are already plenty satisfied. The Gallup data show Prince's people ranking 17th in metro-satisfaction, while Sioux Falls ranks 36th. The percentages are 91 and 89.4, respectively, so in a hundred random conversations, you'll only find one or two more cranky people dissing their town at the Empire Mall than at the Mall of America.

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KELO radio talker Greg Belfrage caught heck from some Republicans for endorsing Democrat Mike Huether for re-election as mayor of Sioux Falls. (Huether won yesterday, 55% to 45%, over Republican Greg Jamison.)

Now in response to yesterday's election results, Belfrage is sounding like an outright socialist:

Sioux Falls is a growing community. People realize that facilities and large commercial developments need to go someplace. They can't all be relegated to the rural outskirts of town.

There seems to be an understanding that sometimes things may not be best for us individually, but they're best for the community [Greg Belfrage, "City Election Had No Big Surprises, But Loud Message," KELO-AM: The Daily Dose, 2014.04.09].

Hee hee.

Seriously, in an earlier post, Belfrage enunciates a profoundly important point about how party labels don't matter at the local level:

As I read through the comments of those criticizing me (Republican) for supporting Huether (Democrat), I couldn't find a single reason for their scorn other than party label. Not a single person has yet to articulate to me how Huether's liberal political ideology has negatively affected Sioux Falls.

...This is precisely why Sioux Falls has tried to keep city races non-partisan. Because for some... all thought processes stop when they hear the word "Democrat" or "Republican" [Greg Belfrage, "My Huether Endorsement Draws Blistering Criticism," KELO-AM: The Daily Dose, 2014.04.07].

We hear that stoppage of thought processes all the time when we hear the media trying to boil important and complicated policy issues into thin political soup.

Belfrage goes on to admit that his conservative ideology doesn't translate to the local level:

Admittedly, you may not find me to be very conservative when it comes to local government. I often support large public projects that I feel will benefit the community, such as the Denny Sanford Premier Center. I'malso in favor of spending money on conveniences like snow gates, which I feel will improve the general quality of life during winter, especially for seniors and the disabled [Belfrage, 2014.04.07].

I've seen this disjunction before between national-level political squawking and local community improvement: when we need to pay teachers, pave streets, and put out fires, all the hollering about socialism and Obama and liberal-foisted dependency doesn't amount to a hill of beans. We just want our city councils and school boards to get stuff done. We work together through those governments to fix problems.

Belfrage defends his federal conservatism/local liberalism (that is what it is, isn't it, Greg?) dichotomy by saying we citizens can better hold our local governments to account than we can the federal government.

Is Belfrage's fine distinction really all conservatives and liberals have been arguing about? Belfrage seems to be saying, "Government is not inherently bad. At the local level, vigorous government is good! Liberalism is really a good model for managing a community; it's just tougher to ensure liberalism works in larger communities, like nations." Is liberalism superior philosophically, requiring only the practical check of conservatism at scale?

So if we could come up with a means to promote more transparency and accountability in federal government, if we could keep special interests from co-opting the federal government with big money (McCutcheon, Ravnsborg! McCutcheon!) and empower regular citizens to exert control over their federal government similar to what they can exert over the Sioux Falls City Council and the Madison Central School Board, would we agree that we should go with liberalism instead of conservatism as our primary governing philosophy?

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