Voters in Sioux Falls will decide in April whether to require their schools to start before or after Labor Day. Here in Aberdeen, we aren't getting a post-Labor Day start, but our superintendent is acknowledging that a little later is better:

Because of the way the dates fell on the calendar, the district was able to add a whole week between the final day of the Brown County Fair and the first day of school, Superintendent Becky Guffin told the Aberdeen Public Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday at the Hub Area Technical School. Usually, the Aberdeen School District starts school the Tuesday after the Brown County Fair.

“The Brown County Fair is a little earlier this summer — it’s Aug. 10-16,” Guffin said. “That would have allowed us to start school shortly after that. We are proposing that we start school on the fourth Monday in August, which would be Aug. 24 for next year. This start date does allow us to enjoy as much summer as we possibly can” [Katherine Grandstrand, "Later Start to School Year Possible in Aberdeen," Aberdeen American News, 2015.02.24].

Hold on, Superintendent Guffin: I wouldn't say August 24 allows us to enjoy "as much summer as we possibly can." It's entirely possible to pack all the school learning we need into the days between Labor Day and Memorial Day, which would leave children free for every day of American cultural summer.

Instead of wondering whether we'll start on the 24th, the 20th, or back in the teens of August, running school between Labor Day and Memorial Day would create consistency for kids and parents. It would bracket the school year with national holidays, emphasizing the importance of school in kids' minds. Aberdeen is nodding in that direction; Sioux Falls, see if you can do better.

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Graphic of the Week Award goes to Dakota Rural Action for this banner announcing a rally for clean water and democracy:

DRA Voice Vote Values anti-CAFO banner Feb 2015

Dakota Rural Action is holding the "Rally to Protect Our Voice, Our Vote, and Our Values" Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Downtown River Greenway Amphitheater (on the Big Sioux between 6th and 8th Streets) in Sioux Falls.

DRA is steamed about three bills that threaten water quality and the people's right to participate in local zoning decisions:

HB 1173 - Introduced by Representative Qualm (R-21) and Senator Cammack (R-29), this bill would penalize citizens appealing land zoning decisions seen as frivolous. Since courts already have the authority to award damages in frivolous or malicious suits (SDCL 15-17-51), this bills is clearly targeted at preventing citizens from challenging zoning decisions made in their county.

SB 127 - Introduced by Senator Rusch (R-17) and Representative Rasmussen (R-17), this bill would create an exemption to South Dakota law allowing non-family farm corporations to own and operate hog confinements in South Dakota.

HB 1201 - Introduced by Representative Mickelson (R-13) and Senator Cammack (R-29), this bill would reduce the number of votes needed on a county board of adjustment to allow a conditional use permit from 4 out of 5 to 3 out of 5, making it easier for CAFOs to get these permits and move forward [Dakota Rural Action, open letter to South Dakota Legislature, 2015.02.03].

You can sign that open letter, too, and let your legislators know you are tired of their facilitation of the corporate colonization of South Dakota. You can also make legislators hear your voice in person: After briefing the troops, DRA will take its rally to Saturday's Legislative Coffees (apparently Sioux Falls is too sophistimacated to call 'em crackerbarrels): Session 1 starts at 9 a.m. with legislators from Districts 6, 9, and 10; Session 2 starts at 10:45 with legislators from Districts 11 and 12. Both public fora are at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown... where DRA will be out in force guardin' your voice and your water.

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The headline Friday was "Workforce Dollars Bypass Sioux Falls." Steve Young wrote in that Sioux Falls paper that "Sioux Falls was just handed a big goose egg" by the state Workforce Development Council, which rejected an application from economic development group Forward Sioux Falls to spend $56,433 in state money to give consultants a few days' work sitting around thinking up ideas for workforce development.

But Sioux Falls was not completely snubbed. Among the fourteen Community Incentive Matching Grants recently approved by the state is $50,000 to the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota. The AGC plans to spend $100K total implementing a manufacturing apprenticeship curriculum and deploying three mobile training labs for advanced manufacturing, carpentry, and welding. The AGC will use these labs at middle schools, high schools, job fairs, and even at work sites with apprentices to develop the next generation of workers to replace the workers who are aging out of South Dakota's workforce or heading elsewhere for higher wages.

The full list of partners makes clear this project is meant to serve the Sioux Falls area:

Business (listed alphabetically)

  • Associated General Contractors of South Dakota – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Beck & Hofer Construction – Sioux Falls, SD
  • DeGeest Steel Works – Tea, SD
  • Friessen Construction – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Hjellming Construction – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Home Builders Association of the Sioux Empire – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Journey Group (aka Sioux Falls Construction) – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Raven Industries – Sioux Falls, SD
  • Showplace Wood Products – Harrisburg, SD

Education (listed alphabetically)

  • Mitchell Technical Institute, Architectural Design and Building Construction – Mitchell, SD—Provided tool list for carpentry mobile training lab.
  • Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy – Sioux Falls, SD—Provided tool list for welding fabrication mobile training lab.
  • Southeast Technical Institute – Sioux Falls, SD—Provided input on apprenticeship training model and mobile training lab concept.

Government (listed alphabetically)

  • Department of Labor, Sioux Falls Local Office – Sioux Falls, SD—Participated in several Sioux Empire Workforce Development Coalition meetings and provided input on development of proposal.
  • Sioux Falls Community Development – Sioux Falls, SD—Participated in brainstorming session with AGC and HBASE to draw out and develop workforce development ideas that would benefit Sioux Falls area contractors. Also, provided insight into community collaboration and proposal formation [Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, Community Incentive Matching Program grant application, November 2014].

Sioux Falls boosters should probably tone down any talk of goose eggs and snubs. The AGC and other partners in local business, education, and government just landed the city a fair share of state workforce development dollars with a practical, hands-on plan to train and recruit workers.

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That Sioux Falls paper features this piping-hot appetizer showing Sanaa Abourezk turning her 8th Street Gourmet into Coyote Ugly:

Come dance, come eat—what more could Sioux Falls need to recruit workers?

And Jim Abourezk, how do you ever concentrate?

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Sixteen groups applied last November for workforce development grants from the South Dakota Workforce Initiative. The Workforce Development Council rejected just two of those applications: Madison's and Sioux Falls's.

I'm willing to bet that the council rejected Madison's just because it was Darin Namken pitching new online banners with slogans and logos as underwhelming as the old ones his people came up with. Madison's application was just pork to pay Namken's people $5,000 to fiddle with search engines and post vacuous comments to social media. The application says Madison has a housing shortage, a problem the proposed marketing program does nothing to fix, but then goes on to say that Madison already has successful programs in place to recruit workers. I skim the application and see no compelling case to hand Namken's company more free public dollars.

Madison's plan was weak, but at least they offered a plan. Sioux Falls got rejected, apparently because they wanted state money to pay for thinking about a plan. Forward Sioux Falls applied for $56,433 to pay a third of the cost for having consultants help them develop a workforce development plan. (What? People can get paid six figures just for sitting around helping people think? I do that job in the classroom all the time, and I never get six figures for a gig! I need to rebrand: I'm not a teacher; I'm a brainforce development consultant.)

And let's get real: Sioux Falls needs the least assistance developing its workforce. Almost every other town in this state loses workers to Sioux Falls, because Sioux Falls, in the South Dakota scheme of things, has almost everything. Their application and their own woe-is-us reaction to the state's rejection in today's paper state that Sioux Falls has growing and diverse industries. Its population is growing at nearly twice the state rate. The city offers more opportunities, more people, and more money. In an environment like that, the workforce pretty much develops itself.

The proper role of government is to help along those worthy projects that aren't happening on their own. Madison already has the tools it needs to Tweet job openings. Sioux Falls already has the economic and cultural attraction to build its workforce. The state can justify focusing its meager workforce development resources elsewhere.

You can peruse the fourteen winning applications here and see how Aberdeen, DeSmet, the Associated General contractors, and eleven other organizations snagged their pieces of government pie.

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Corporate welfare rolls on in South Dakota. Less than a month after announcing a $50-million partnership with billionaire T. Denny Sanford to fund vo-tech scholarships, Governor Dennis Daugaard is kicking some more state money back toward the Sanford professional family. The Sioux Falls Development Foundation announced Tuesday that the Governor will grant $3 million from the Future Fund to SAB Biotherapeutics. The company genetically engineers cattle to produce vaccines and treatments for various diseases. SAB Biotherapeutics will use this money to expand, possibly creating 200 new jobs paying in the $50K–$70K range in Sioux Falls.

Expanding jobs and curing Ebola is great. But note that this isn't the company's first swig at the public trough. SAB Biotherapeutics started as Hematech in Massachusetts back in 1998. Governor Mike Rounds bribed them into moving to South Dakota in 2003 with a $7.5-million economic development package. Then they became a Japanese company, then a Sanford company at the end of 2012 ("SAB" stood for "Sanford Applied Biosciences").

If the free market doesn't value life-saving vaccines enough to allow biotech firms to pay their own way, well, then I guess spending state money to promote public health is necessary. But perhaps this expansion will allow SAB Biotherapeutics to come up with a cure for addiction to government handouts.

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Steve Young report that the City of Sioux Falls is buying your phone data to track your movements around town to make your morning commute and trip to the Mall smoother:

Cellphone towers pinging phones as motorists travel in and around Sioux Falls are producing valuable information on the routes drivers take and how fast they get to their destinations.

It’s data transportation planners are increasingly using to help predict future road use and demands — how long to make access ramps on and off the interstates, for example, or how many turning lanes to include on those ramps [Steve Young, "Cell Phone Data Helps Map Future of Driving in City," that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.01.03].

Don't worry: Sioux Falls government officials never get a look at your personally identifying data. Heavens no: the private companies gathering your data strip your name and number from their data product before the sale, and they fuzz out your exact start and end points. But they don't have to:

[Sioux Falls ACLU director Heather] Smith said cellphone data that tracks locations could reveal if a person is a weekly church goer, a heavy gambler, a regular at a gym, or even who he or she appears to spend time with.

“It’s important to note that Congress has not legislated a standard for cellphone tracking. It’s largely dependent on state by state,” she said. “So generally speaking, the use of individual cellphone data could leave Sioux Falls residents with concerns about government access to their private information” [Young, 2015.01.03].

Mayor Huether could buy more detailed information about Scott Ehrisman's weekly travel habits. Mayor Huether could buy more detailed data, divide distance by time, mass-mail speeding tickets to every phone user who gets across town in under fifteen minutes. He could buy cell phone data to calculate road usage and send every driver a bill for road usage, essentially turning every street into a toll road. No federal legislation stops him. The Obama Administration says (and the courts so far agree) cell phone users have no reasonable expectation of locational privacy. The only things stopping Mayor Huether from such invasions of privacy are cost and good will:

At this point, Sioux Falls officials don’t have any plans to seek more such available data.

“Cost is always a factor in everything,” he said. “We’re seeing communities that are starting to go down that road and, from my standpoint, we’re watching what’s happening with them and how they’re using the data. It’s something that we would look at maybe going forward in the future” [Young, 2015.01.03].

Am I a conservative or a liberal if I say we need a harder check on government power here? Are our Congressional delegation and our state legislators insufficiently conservative or insufficiently liberal for not advocating a ban on the sale of our private phone data?

Or is privacy a dead concept, a small price to pay for being able to text "I'm on my way!" five minutes from home as corporations commoditize our life histories?

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Cory Allen Heidelberger in the KSOO studio, August 22, 2014. Photo by KSOO's Dan Peters.

A voice and a face for radio! Madville Times on the airwaves New Year's Eve, 6 p.m., 1140 AM, KSOO! (Photo by KSOO's Dan Peters, August 22, 2014)

Programming Note: you can hear the Madville Times live on KSOO Radio this evening at 6 p.m.! Todd Epp will interview me on Viewpoint University to discuss this blog's top stories for 2014 and 2015. I'll also have a chance to restore the IQ of VPU following the indigestible regurgitations of Pat Powers on air at 4:30 p.m.

Start your New Year's Eve off right with some audio blog fun on Viewpoint University, KSOO 1140 AM or live online or on your mobile unit! Feel free to shout at Epp and producer Dan Peters via the VPU Twitter handle.

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