Travis Betsworth, general manager of the Original Pancake House in Sioux Falls, categorically denies an accusation that it fired an employee for praying with customers.

Mr. Betsworth said this afternoon, "We would never fire anybody for praying." Quite the contrary, Betsworth says he himself has taken time to pray with customers at their tables during regular business hours. Many church groups come to his restaurant; Betsworth estimates some sort of Bible study or other church-related activity is taking place in his restaurant five days out of each week. Many religious customers leave church cards in the store tip jar.

Betsworth was responding to an accusation leveled by a paid political spokesman for failed Senate candidate Annette Bosworth. The spokesman claims that waitress Shauna Rose was fired for praying with Bosworth and her spokesman just before the primary:

The first time I met Shauna was just before the June election. She was working as a waitress at the Original Pancake House in Sioux Falls. I went in with my friend Dr. Annette Bosworth when we were on our way to a press conference. We prayed at the table before breakfast and Shauna, who knew Dr. Bosworth, bowed her head with us.

Shauna was fired by the Original Pancake House a couple of days later. She was told by a co-worker that it was for praying with us.

Guess where I’m not going to eat pancakes again? [paid spokesman for Annette Bosworth, "Update on Dakota Reporter and RIP Shauna Rose," "Dakota" Reporter, 2014.07.25]

Betsworth says he has no knowledge of the alleged interaction between Bosworth, her spokesman, and Rose. Betsworth says that if he had witnessed such a prayerful interaction on the job, he would have praised Rose for treating customers so well. He would not give further details on managerial decisions affecting Rose's employment at Original Pancake House, but Betsworth flatly denied that Rose would have been fired for praying with a customer. Betsworth says he and the restaurant's two other managers make staffing decisions cooperatively, and no such decision to fire any employee for praying has taken place on his watch.

Rose died in a motorcycle accident on July 16. Betsworth says Rose was "very loved" at the restaurant. Many employees attended Rose's funeral, says Betsworth, and he believes the owners of the restaurant sent flowers.

Independent candidate for lieutenant governor Lora Hubbel made a public statement online yesterday citing the Christian discrimination accusation to discourage people from eating at the Original Pancake House, whose Sioux Falls shop on West 41st is the Oregon-based company's only South Dakota franchise. Betsworth says that prior to his interview with the Madville Times, he was not aware of any calls for boycott, complaints made to the store, or the original accusation of religious discrimination. Betsworth says no other bloggers or reporters had contacted him to inquire about Rose's employment at Original Pancake House prior to this Sunday interview.

140 comments
Arc of Dreams™, concept by Dale Lamphere

Arc of Dreams™, concept by Dale Lamphere

Fundraising is underway to create the capstone to the Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk: the "Arc of Dreams™," a 70-foot-high almost-arch spanning the Big Sioux River between 6th and 8th Streets. The design looks pretty cool. But in the spirit of leaping forth with our dreams, and at peril of incurring the wrath of Arc™ designer Dale Lamphere, I propose the following ten improvements to this mighty work of art:

  1. For a memorable welcome to Sioux Falls, make the Arc™ taller so planes approaching Joe Foss Field can fly under it.
  2. Draw Trekkie dollars: reshape the Arc™ into a bat'leth (or two dueling bat'leths! Qapla'!).
  3. Make it wide enough for joggers and bicyclists to get to the top. Leave the gap: let folks jump across to bring to life the dreamers' leap of faith the gap symbolizes.
  4. Close the gap and build one at every intersection as a non-motorized overpass so SUV drivers can rush into traffic without watching for annoying cyclists.
  5. Paint it rainbow colors, in celebration of the inevitable victory of Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn.
  6. Install sprinklers to create a soothing, shimmering curtain of mist making rainbows all day long.
  7. Make it a giant Tesla coil, with spark shows after sunset every evening.
  8. Hang a rope from each end into the water to promote fishing (pranksters are already designing 30-foot carp to hang from the ends in the middle of the night). Ropes can also catch boaters and tubers paddling underneath to cool off in the mist curtain on hot summer days.
  9. Add a natural-gas nozzle to the sprinklers, combine with the Tesla coil—Arc of Flame! Install a barge below, and host an outdoor KISS concert!
  10. Widen the gap and install a slingshot for kayakers (yes, I mean load the kayaker in the pocket and wheeeee!). Also use to celebrate outgoing mayors.

The sculpture fundraisers would prefer your dollars, not your wise-guy ideas. A thousand bucks gets you your own quartzite plaque in the surrounding Walk of Dreams; $50K gets you a quartzite-and-steel pillar. So how much will get me the Tesla coil?

Related: Speaking of Sioux Falls iconography, blogospheric neighbor Scott Ehrisman urges us to vote for his design for a flag for Sioux Falls. The Committee to Establish a Suitable Flying Banner for the City of Sioux Falls is conducting an online survey to pick a flag for our eastern Queen City. There appear to be 90 flags to rate. Uff da! (Yes, that's it! A nice sky blue field with UFF DA! in bold white letters... and the Arc of Dreams™ in the background.)

41 comments

District 15 in northern Sioux Falls has three candidates for its two House seats. Two of the candidates are the incumbent Democrats, Patrick Kirschman and Pastor Karen Soli.

Eric Leggett, Independent candidate for District 15 House (he's the one with the whiskers). Photo: Celebrations Photography

Eric Leggett, Independent candidate for District 15 House (he's the one with the whiskers). Photo: Celebrations Photography

So naturally, I go talk to the third, Eric Leggett. The 23-year-old evangelical Christian and University of Sioux Falls history/political science major is running for his first political office on an interesting mix of conservative, Libertarian, and (dare I say?) liberal policies.

Leggett takes the standard conservative stance on health insurance. He opposes expanding Medicaid because he opposes the Affordable Care Act, saying the ACA causes "less competition, higher costs, less choices, and an even poorer quality of care for our poorest citizens." Leggett shares Governor Dennis Daugaard's concern that we might expand Medicaid, then find the federal government bailing on its financial commitment and leaving us holding the bag.

Translating that concern to the 39.6% of our state budget that comes from federal funds, Leggett sounds downright Daugaardian, advocating self-reliance in all state budget areas before the "inevitable" budget reductions from Washington:

...we should be fairly aggressive in gaining independence from federal funds. It's going to hurt, but if we can get away from federal dependence and find solutions for funding ourselves, it will protect us from a much worse budget shock in the future. I don't think we have a choice. Either we reduce the dependence on Washington ourselves, or they do it to us when the inevitable slashes to spending occur. I think we're in line for another economic winter [Eric Leggett, interview, Madville Times, 2014.07.19].

Leggett diverges from Daugaard on the gasoline tax, saying he does not support an increase. Holding a more conservative line, Leggett doesn't advocate alternative funding mechanisms for fixing our roads and bridges; he says "we're just going to have to make do."

Leggett gives off Libertarian vapors when he says the real problem for wage-earners is not raising the minimum wage (see below!) but reining in the Federal Reserve Bank and its inflationary policy of "using fuzzy math to excuse the continuance of quantitative easing." Griping about the Fed is a favorite Libertarian pastime. Leggett at least has the sense to acknowledge that legislators "have little impact on our monetary policy" and brings up the Fed simply "because it's something to [be] aware of."

Leggett also shares the Libertarian desire to decriminalize marijuana. Leggett says we waste resources incarcerating weed smokers. Throw drug users in jail of they are driving and putting people at risk; otherwise, if we can't wholly legalize, just ticket drug users. Leggett also wants to change South Dakota's policy approach to addiction:

We have a big problem with drug addiction, especially meth. Governor Janklow clamped down hard on drug use. Yet, the problem didn't get better. It got worse. Other states and countries have started treating addiction as a health issue. I think we should follow suit [Leggett, 2014.07.19].

Leggett advocates the veterans court model, a topic which was his first research assignment as an intern for the Legislature during the 2014 session, to deal with addiction issues.

But when Leggett realizes those Libertarian savings in corrections, he wants to go what we might call liberal and use those savings to raise teacher pay. Leggett did home school until high school, but, unlike the Reps. Haggar down the street, home school didn't turn him against the K-12 system:

I look forward to working with our schools and finding a way to raise our teacher's salaries. Education is an investment, and should be viewed that way. While there is truth to the arguments about our cost of living, dead last is not a place we want to be when we are talking about compensating some of the most important people in our society [Leggett, 2014.07.18].

Yet on the liberal side, Leggett supports Initiated Measure 18, the proposed increase and inflation-indexing of South Dakota's minimum wage. Leggett pulls out his USF economics minor and says the impact of higher pay at the low end will have "negligible" effect on unemployment in South Dakota.

Perhaps even more liberally, Leggett wants to abolish the sales tax on food. Reps. Kirschman and Soli have supported the reduction or repeal of the food sales tax in a variety of bills (2014 HB 1149; 2013 HB 1154; 2012 HB 1214). Leggett takes the liberal moral position that we shouldn't fund government on the backs of poor folks buying groceries. But Leggett also takes a the practical economic position that repealing the food tax would boost the economy by drawing shoppers from Minnesota and Iowa.

Ideological labels get messier when Leggett turns to the hot-button issues like the death penalty. Legislative intern Leggett was in the committee room when Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey presented his bill to repeal the death penalty last winter. Leggett says it was a very intense and emotional hearing. Leggett sides with Rep. Hickey, saying he "shudder[s] to think of how many completely innocent people we may have killed in the name of justice." He points to Texas's high rate of executions and high rate of crime as an example of the failure of the death penalty to make society safer. And he says fiscal arguments can't support the death penalty: even if the data showing that executions cost more than life sentences are wrong, killing prisoners to save money is immoral.

Leggett sounds a bit more clearly Christianly conservative on abortion and other women's health issues, but not quite. Leggett says he supports South Dakota's current abortion restrictions. He says other medical procedures require counseling and waiting periods, so making women seek counseling during a 72-hour or longer waiting period is acceptable. He says that as a legislator he will stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves, which is standard evangelical political talk for putting the rights of fetuses above the rights of women (but I told Eric I'd keep my editorializing to a minimum).

Yet Leggett, who was adopted at age 2 after being born by a 13-year-old mother, tells his fellow Christians that they could do more real good by finding ways to support young pregnant women rather than waving signs in front of clinics. He will legislate to limit abortion, but beyond the Legislature's reach, he sees the need for social change, for men to hold themselves accountable and not bail on the women they impregnate.

Leggett also says contraception should be none of the government's business. He doesn't view the Hobby Lobby decision as cause for celebration.  He says Hobby Lobby's contention that certain forms of contraception are abortion is scientifically wrong. But Leggett accepts conservative Justice Alito's assertion that the state must yield to religious believers' alternative science, no matter how demonstrably wrong that science may be.

That said, Leggett says Hobby Lobby could have avoided all this litigation in the first place by decoupling employers and health insurance. Just let companies pay their employees more and let employees buy their own insurance on the individual market.

Leggett's diverse positions support his desire to avoid political labels. While he interned for Republican Reps. Steve Westra and Kristin Conzet last winter, and while he is speaking at the Libertarian convention in August, Leggett does not want to carry either party's label. He  has been a registered Independent throughout his brief voting eligibilty. Leggett sees increasing voter interest in an alternative to the two-party dominance that they see creating gridlocking the federal government. He wants to be part of that alternative.

Absent partisan gridlock in one-party Pierre, I tried to get Leggett to clarify what alternatives he can offer that District 15 cannot get from their Democratic incumbents. But Leggett wouldn't bite. He said he won't spend his campaign talking down other people. Instead, he's more interested in finding common ground with voters on Democratic turf (like repealing the sales tax on food), then pitching his own merits and letting the voters decide. He does plan to include his youth and lack of political polish among the reasons he'd be good in Pierre. The "fresh face!" swing worked as well as a rubber golf club in South Dakota's U.S. Senate and Legislative primaries; we'll see if it comes any closer to the hole in District 15 in the general election.

30 comments

A driver in an SUV kills a woman on a bicycle, and a Sioux Falls police captain says this:

Sioux Falls Police haven't issued any tickets for the crash that pinned Adams under the SUV and as they continue to talk with witnesses they don't believe anyone was doing anything wrong.

"It's a terrible tragedy. A very unfortunate situation and a life was lost because of it," Sioux Falls Police Captain Greg VandeKamp said.

Police don't believe speed was a factor because the SUV was stopped just short of the sidewalk waiting for an opening in traffic and when it pulled out it hit the bicyclist who was riding down the sidewalk.

"You know how it is trying to get out on a busy road. You're paying attention to the traffic, traffic, traffic and you're waiting for that gap. A lot can change in 15 to 20 seconds from one time you look one direction and you look back the other way," VandeKamp said.

Whether it's in a car or on a bike, officers say the crash is a tragic reminder that everyone needs to be paying attention when they are on the streets and sidewalks.

"A cyclist or a pedestrian you never can assume that they see you, or have seen you, because about that time tragedy happens as was in this case," VandeKamp said [Ben Dunsmoor, "SF Police: Bike Fatality a 'Terrible Tragedy'," KELOLand.com, 2014.07.17].

The Sioux Falls police office spends more time giving cyclists advice on KELO Radio:

Adams was legally riding her bicycle on the sidewalk when she was struck yesterday. That raises the question...should cyclists be riding on sidewalks?

VandeKamp says one of the local cycling groups recommends that its members ride in the street in order to be seen more easily by motorists. However, he adds that it's not a good idea to send young children on bikes into traffic.

Police are also reminding those who cycle on sidewalks that they must stop at intersections and walk their bike across the street [Greg Belfrage, "Fatal Traffic Accident Is Painful Reminder," KELO Radio: The Daily Dose, 2014.07.17].

Officer VandeKamp spending an awful lot of time admonishing the folks on thirty pounds of steel and extending sympathy to the folks trying to push two tons of steel into traffic.

Yes, I'll watch where I'm riding. Yes, I'll wear bright pink and chartreuse and other wild colors. Yes, I'll avidly seek eye and voice contact with every driver I see at every intersection so we can verify each other's awareness and intentions. Yes, I'll take my two wheels out into the street and off the sidewalk whenever possible. Heck, I'll even brake and ring a bell or shout a gentle, "Bike left!" to pedestrians I'm overtaking so they don't jump at my swift and silent passing.

But who killed whom at 49th and Kiwanis? Who ultimately did not look, did not see the bicycle coming, and did not think, "Boy, that gal is an idiot, riding her bike during the noon rush hour, but she may have kids in that trailer, she may not want to take that trailer out on the street, and she doesn't look like she's stopping, so I guess it's up to me to avoid this accident and wait another ten seconds to get on my way"?

Little, then big. People on foot have the right of way. Always. Then bicycles. Cars come last. Last, last, last. When we are driving cars, we have the greatest power, and we thus have the greatest responsibility. That responsibility is a small price to pay for the luxury of internal combustion, satellite radio, and air conditioning.

Or you can just kill someone and tell yourself, "She should have been looking," every night.

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Pat Powers does his master's bidding and advertises the "SDGOP Grassroots Express State Tour" with special guest Mike Rounds—

—wait. SDGOP? Snort. Grassroots? Hee hee. Mike Rounds?

Hoo boy! O.K., I'm recovered. Back to work. (Giggle!)

The SDGOP will hold a pep rally for Mike Rounds in Sioux Falls tomorrow, Thursday, July 17, from 5 to 7 p.m. at their volunteer center on 406 S. 2nd, near the post office. They will be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs (Food for votes! Food for votes!)

Some Libertarians are hoping to poop on that pep. The South Dakota Libertarian Party convention page carries this call to action from organizer Emmett Reistroffer:

Who wants to raise some hell at rush hour outside the Rounds campaign office tomorrow? They're having Rounds in for a speech to his supporters. Lets waive picket signs outside to demand answers about his crony-capitalism. The EB-5 program is a perfect example of why the government shouldn't expand its reach into the free market. The South Dakota EB-5 scandal is a picture perfect example of the corruption in our own state government. WE MUST FIGHT THE ESTABLISHMENT! LETS START MAKING NOISE!!! Please like the page Investigate Mike Rounds & Dennis Daugaard NOW and let me know if you're interested in protesting. I'm making homeade signs for as many people need them, or bring your own! [Emmett Reistroffer, Facebook post to SDLP convention page, 2014.07.16]

I don't know, Emmett: shout like that, and you might not get a hot dog. But there's more than one way to roast a wienie.

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...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.

13 comments

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