Gun Nut Shelley Gidding is throwing an NRA fundraiser in Sioux Falls next week. No, really, she calls herself a Gun Nut.

A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League holds a launch party Thursday, October 9, 6–9 p.m., at Prairie Berry in Sioux Falls. Yes, Prairie Berry, because what goes better with firearms than alcohol? The launch party will include a raffle, proceeds of which go not to the club but to the NRA Women's Network... which doesn't seem to need much in the way of donations, since, like the entire "A Girl and a Gun" national organization, it is sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Gidding has had this project in the works since last spring, after attending the national conference of the "A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League (also sponsored by Smith & Wesson).

Shelley and her husband Caleb write a lot about guns on Gun Nuts Media, their shooting sports news site... also sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Hang on, I'm having trouble telling the difference between this shooting league launch and a Pampered Chef sales meeting.

But hey! Have some wine, and help Smith & Wesson sell more product.




In a victory for private property rights and unhurried home improvement, friend of justice and blogs Bruce Danielson has beaten code violation charges brought against him by crabby neighbors and the city of Sioux Falls.

Evidently Danielson has been taking his time renovating his house and has a lot of construction material stockpiled in his yard. A neighbor climbed a ladder to take photos of Danielson's stash over his six-foot fence, and the city took the position that children playing near Danielson's property could be harmed by varmints who could take up residence in the construction materials.

Judge Joni Cutler didn't buy it: she said the city failed to show that Danielson's junk really was fostering varmints. By the city's logic, police should have arrested open-carry advocates for creating a public nuisance during their July 2013 armed march up Minnesota Avenue, because their guns could have harmed somebody.

Now let's see if Danielson can prove that he shouldn't have to pay fines for parking an RV on his own property.


Just when you thought the Libertarian brand could suffer no greater damage, police arrest Emmett Reistroffer for raising hell at Eastgate Towing:

When officers arrived they found Emmett Reistroffer, a Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State.

His car was towed to the lot because of unpaid parking tickets; police say Reistroffer insisted the company had no right to tow it.

He's charged with a misdemeanor charge of unlawful occupancy ["Candidate Charged with Misdemeanor,", 2014.09.10].

Don't worry, Emmett. I'm sure your fellow "Libertarian" Chad Haber will be happy to lend you a car. Maybe he can use his awesome political fundraising skills to guilt some gullible Christians to buy you a campaign car.

But maybe Reistroffer has done us all a favor. His arrest puts the lie to the candidate immunity theory that arose last May when Attorney General Marty Jackley said would not arrest or prosecute anyone who is on the ballot, for fear of interfering in an election. Reistroffer is on the ballot. Are Sioux Falls police interfering with an election by arresting him and subjecting him to bad press? If it's o.k. for Sioux Falls police to arrest a Secretary of State candidate for getting hot when his car gets towed, is it o.k. for the U.S. Attorney or the state Attorney General to perp walk a Senatorial candidate for aiding and abetting fraud and violations of state law?

Or maybe Reistroffer has shown us that the "standard practice though not an ironclad rule" of prosecutorial non-interference in elections only applies to the rich, big-name candidates and the candidates whom the powers that be think serve their agenda.


Mr. Ehrisman rightly dings his hometown for plopping a school in a neighborhood with no sidewalks and then banning students from walking. The absurdity of a pedestrian ban around George McGovern Middle School rankles on multiple levels:

  1. Cities should not build any public facility that can be accessed only by motor vehicle.
  2. Schools dedicated to teaching kids healthy lifestyles should never make a rule against walking.
  3. Local governments should spend less time bickering about jurisdiction (the city's "flagpole annexation" of 40 acres for the school and just a narrow strip to connect it to the city proper makes unclear who ought to lay footpath along the connecting road) and more time solving problems.
  4. Parents should not put up with the school's interference with their lifestyle choices. If George McGovern Middle School parents want their kids to walk home, then when the school calls to alert them that their children are walking, the parents should respond, "Yup, they sure are. What's it to ya?"

City Engineer Chad Huwe says a four-foot sidewalk in a developed urban area costs $25 per foot. A ten-foot-wide asphalt pedestrian path costs up to $140 per foot. Let's meet in the middle and say we could build some sort of walking path for George McGovern Middle Schoolers for $80 a foot. Let's say we need to build two miles of walking path around the school on Maple Street and Marion Road to the nearest housing developments. That's $844,800. If one bus route costs a school district $37,000 a year, the school district could pay for those two miles of sidewalk with the savings of eliminating four of its bus routes from McGovern over six years.

But if the city and county and school board can't find a way to make the kids safe, then it's up to us. I know it's asking a lot of Sioux Falls motorists who seem to think cars always have the right of way, but motorists, slow the heck down. Pay attention, share the road, and let those kids get to and from school.

Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

Chris McClure, Democratic candidate for District 14 House, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014.08.23

I'll bet Dennis Daugaard wishes this philosophy major would take up welding. Democrat Chris McClure wants to bring his political philosophy and experience to Pierre as District 14 Representative.

McClure emphasizes that he views himself as a moderate. He says he sees no need to raise taxes or impose an income tax. He considers the state's fiscal situation to be pretty good. He supports small business. Harkening to his working-class upbringing (Mom and Dad both worked retail), he believes firmly in personal responsibility. At the same time, he supports social programs that help hard-working families advance.

McClure applies a bothersomely cautious moderation to women's issues, specifically to abortion. He says he's personally pro-life but respects the Constitution. Unfortunately, he also says he would leave South Dakota the way it is, which those of us fighting for women's reproductive autonomy will tell you is mean and misogynistic. McClure says that as a male, it's not his place to comment on whether South Dakota's 72-hour abortion waiting period is appropriate (if we were philosophizing, I'd say he's inconsistently yielding to those males who think it is their place to impose such a waiting period).

We all can understand why McClure and other Democrats in South Dakota may shy away from abortion as a campaign issue: speak up for abortion rights, and it's far too easy for Republicans to mobilize the rabid right and distract us from discussing the shambles GOP policies are making of our schools, roads, and workforce. And as I found with my Catholic socialist neighbor Gerry Lange, we South Dakota Democrats can't afford litmus tests.

But moderation that allows women to be second-class citizens is bad moderation. I'll keep working on McClure.

Now if I got really cranky and exclusive, I could tell McClure to take his moderation to the GOP. McClure says Republicans have indeed tried to recruit him. But he won't bite. "I believe in being the party of reason," says McClure, and that means being a Democrat (yes!). He sees the right wing taking the GOP so far right that Democrats now represent the center. There is no far left in South Dakota, says McClure, among candidates or in the media. McClure says that if he were in Massachusetts, he might be a Mitt Romney Republican... although he carefully points out that he means Governor Mitt Romney, the guy who invented ObamaCare, not 2012 Mitt Romney, the guy who tacked unconvincingly right to get the ultra-conservative donors and votes.

However moderate McClure may be, his main issues mirror those his cross-town counterpart Ellee Spawn puts at the front of her campaign: teacher pay (raise it!), Medicaid expansion (do it!), and minimum wage (boost it and more!).

When I ask if he has a plan to raise teacher pay, he says yes, he does: "Pay teachers more!" There's no complicated socio-economic phenomenon depressing teacher salaries: we pay teacher rock-bottom "because that's what Republicans want to do." McClure calls it "ridiculous" (did someone say moderate?) that South Dakota pays teachers $17,000 to $18,000 less than Wyoming, Minnesota, and the national average.

He says we need to pull more money from the surplus and from economic growth into education, cut other programs, and establish reliably dedicated funds. But voters don't trust Pierre to do that because they have seen that Pierre does not prioritize education, and that's the fundamental problem that we must solve.

McClure says that moderates and conservatives alike should be able to agree that Medicaid expansion roacks from a fiscal perspective. McClure says we're giving up 1,900 jobs and $420 million in federal funding over three years by refusing to expand Medicaid. We'd help workers get health care, which means they'd stay healthy, work more, and boost the economy. Either way, we're paying taxes to cover the expansion, but our recalictrance means we get zilch in return. That, says McClure, is a "very bad financial decision."

McClure says Initiated Measure 18, which will boost the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, won't create a living wage, but it's closer. He says 70% of South Dakotans support raising the minimum wage and predicts IM 18 will pass. McClure argues that, just like expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage makes sense, since lower-income workers are more likely than anyone else to spend their additional dollars and stimulate the economy. Boost the minimum wage, and you boost everybody.

At 32, McClure is the youngest candidate in District 14. Yet his résumé makes a strong case for his ability to legislate. He worked as head attorney for the state's child support enforcement division. He saw children and parents suffering under loopholes in the state's child paternity laws, and he helped the 2012 Child Support Commission revise those laws to establish a clearer process for determining paternity and better protect children's best interests (see 2013 House Bill 1021). McClure is now an associate at Swier Law Firm in Sioux Falls.

Prior to his work in government and law, McClure was student body president at Augustana. He helped start the Big Event concert series, which has brought some pretty big musical names to Sioux Falls. McClure points to that organizing experience as evidence of his ability to defy expectations and get things done.

McClure majored in philosophy at Augustana. Plato said that we'd get the best government when philosophers became kings or when kings started philosophizing. But have no philosophophobia: McClure won't fill you full of abstractions. He'll get a little Socratic, saying that we must recognize that we cannot know everything and thus that our intellect can always err. But he says that knowledge of our fallibility must not stop us from doing our best and acting against injustice. McClure says he'd like to hear more politicians acknowledge their fallibility, admit when they are wrong, and not fear changing their positions for the good of the state.

And that's about as philosophical as McClure gets on the campaign trail. He says the key to winning votes is (his slogan!) "Hard Work and Common Sense." For McClure, hard work means knocking on more doors than the other candidates, who in District 14 include fellow Democrat Valerie Loudenback and Republicans Larry Zikmund and Tom Holmes.

Hard work also means getting people of all political persuasions back to talking to each other. In that spirit, McClure says, "Let's do lunch!" Really! McClure extends an open invitation to any resident of District 14 to join him for lunch between now and November 3 to talk legislative issues. It's first come, first served, so call or Facebook McClure, pick a date, and have lunch with candidate McClure.

I'll remind my new philosopher friend that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. But McClure will remind his friends and neighbors on the campaign trail that his moderate political philosophy and useful experience can bring good policy for District 14 and South Dakota.


Proud blog sponsor Sioux Falls Democratic Forum invited me to speak to their noon meeting today. Thank you, friends, for having me and coming out to listen! (And thanks to an eager reader for catching some of these photos!)


Democratic candidate for governor Rep. Susan Wismer says she's still surprised when folks hand her a microphone. Forum chair and District 11 Senate candidate Tom Cool (at the podium) would agree with me, Susan: you shouldn't be surprised after Wednesday's rock-'em-sock'em Dakotafest debate! People want to hear you preach that Democratic gospel of good schools, good roads, and good government!


Wismer's running mate Susy Blake and I enjoy hearing the good news from other Democrats at today's Forum.


Former legislator Denny Pierson is excited about (a) running for state treasurer and (b) his new website, coming soon! (Denny, send me a link when it's hot!)


"I mean every word I say": I tell Susan Wismer to her face, as well as the rest of the crowd, what an awesome job she did in Wednesday's Dakotafest debate.


Susy Blake breaks the great news straight from Twitter that, in a stunning reversal, Senator Larry Tidemann has asked SDRC director Joop Bollen to speak to the Government Operations and Audit Committee about the scandalous EB-5 program. That isn't a subpoena, but it's a great step forward for all South Dakotans who want answers about how Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, Joop Bollen, and others have used the state's authority and good name to promote the EB-5 program and economic development.


What, you expected me to speak without waving my arms?

Sioux Falls Democratic Forum meets every Friday at noon at the VFW on South Minnesota. They will be hosting lots of legislative candidates in the coming weeks, so come learn about and discuss the great South Dakota issues of the day with your neighbors!

Well, that's one way to get to Sioux Falls....  Photo by Charlie Hoffman, on the prairie northeast of Eureka, South Dakota, 2014.08.19

Well, that's one way to get to Sioux Falls.... Photo by Charlie Hoffman, on the prairie northeast of Eureka, South Dakota, 2014.08.19

Hey, Sioux Falls readers! After loads of fun in Spearfish, Piedmont, Manderson, Mission, Eureka, Mitchell, and the Colman backcountry, the rollicking statewide blog tour is now in the great Queen City of East River, Sioux Falls. Here are the big public events:

  1. At noon today, I'll be speaking at the Democratic Forum at the Sioux Falls VFW, on South Minnesota just north of I-229. Folks from all parties and from no party are welcome!
  2. At 4:30 p.m. today, KSOO Radio will allow me the privilege of speaking on the public airwaves as a guest on Viewpoint University. Rick Knobe and friends can't fit spectators in the studio, but you're all welcome to tune to AM 1140 for all the fun and excitement (and, as you listen, for the full effect, be sure to imagine me waving my arms).
  3. From 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow, I'll be hanging out Tweeting and blogging at Josiah's Coffeehouse. I'd love to see you there, just to have the chance to thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, and making this blog the best political blog in South Dakota.

I'm also conducting more interviews, with more great road posts to come. Stay tuned, and come join the fun in Sioux Falls today and tomorrow!


Governor Dennis Daugaard wants you to believe that he came up with a really great idea with his 2013 criminal justice reform omnibus bill. But a report last week from John Hult suggests that counties were already getting on top of the incarceration problem:

Minnehaha County actually was doing nearly most of the things prescribed by 2013's criminal justice reform package long before it passed. Plenty of counties, were, frankly. Repeat DUI offenders and methamphetamine users regularly got suspended prison time and six months in jail.
Charles Mix County commonly used a "30-30-30" sentencing scheme prior to the reform, former State's Attorney Pam Hein told me. That meant thirty days in jail and a year on the 24/7 sobriety program, which requires twice daily breath tests.

...The truth is... that plenty of places in South Dakota were busy with felons and looking for ways to deal with them long before criminal justice reform passed [John Hult, "Sioux Falls Area Crime Rate Leaps 78 Percent," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.04].

But whatever good the county and state initiatives are doing to reduce prison populations may be swamped by a surge in felony filings in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties:

Felony charges have grown 78 percent over the past five fiscal years in the Second Judicial Circuit.

A number like that is bound to put pressure on the county jail.

There were 1,763 felony cases filed in fiscal year 2009. For FY 2014, that figure was 3,114 [Hult, 2014.08.04].

There were 2,267 felony filings in the Second Circuit in FY2013. After Daugaard's criminal justice reform passed, FY2014 Second Circuit felony filings jumped 37% to 3,114.

(Funny: I don't recall Governor Daugaard mentioning that felony spike while he was telling the Manhattan well-to-do what a wonderful place Sioux Falls is to do business.)

Daugaard's criminal justice reform may borrow some good ideas from the counties on what to do with criminals once they end up in the system. But maybe we need a little more emphasis on policies that keep people from committing felonies and landing in court and jail in the first place.


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