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Boke Stokes Division with Pokes at Nopes on Annexation

27% of registered voters in Spearfish and Spearfish Valley showed up at the polls yesterday to reject the city's proposed annexation of some of the nicest not-quite urban, not-quite rural agricultural land in South Dakota. On a 54.6%-to-45.4% split, referendum voters chose to keep the split between the city proper and that island of anti-municipal anarchy between campus and I-90.

Mayor Dana Boke sighs plaintively over this split:

“As we move into the future still a divided city, it becomes more and more imperative that leadership groups focus on communication, collaboration, and ensuring that the decisions made are focused primarily on the benefit of the people we serve,” she said. “While the division continues, we must find a way to work together — the people of the city and the people of the valley — the future of Spearfish depends on it” [Heather Murschel, "Public Votes No on Annexation," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.12.10].

But Mayor Boke isn't exactly speaking a soothing balm to bring those her disagree with her back to the bosom of brotherly community-building:

“I believe in our democratic process, and I accept the decision of our voters,” Spearfish Mayor Dana Boke said. “While the Council determined that all Spearfish residents should share equally in the necessary costs of operating our community, it is clear from this election that the majority of the residents of the City do not feel the same way” [Murschel, 2013.12.10].

Translation: I believe in sharing things equally, but you jerks don't.

Try that management style out for size in your office, see how that works with your team.


  1. Dana P 2013.12.11

    wow Cory, you took the words right out of my mouth. When I read her comments in the article, it was really......well, wow.

    She made an interesting statement on her Facebook page yesterday....speaking of how Spearfish needs to "work together", and not be divided. And that voting "yes" to annex, was a first step. (huh?) Yet, in less than 24 hours since the election results, Ms Boke does nothing to stroke the "We Are Family" type feeling with anyone. In fact, discourages it.

    I wish I could show you what she wrote on her Facebook page yesterday, encouraging everyone to vote for the annexation......But magic....that post of hers has been wiped clean from her Facebook page. (hmmm) Also of note is the "One Spearfish" facebook page (that were proponents of annexation and whose treasurer was Councilman Doug Schmit) was taken down immediately after the results of the election.

    Remember her platform when she ran for mayor? "stop the oligarchy"... "open and honest communication"... "collaboration"..... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, sorry, I dozed off a bit there.

    I worry that like most elections in this state.....when they don't go the way the politicians want them to..... (like abortion, for one example)... Spearfish will still attempt to annex the valley (going to the next step) in the feeling that, "well, although you guys voted against it in a democratic election, we are the ones that still know best and will do what WE want to do". I also believe that the tactics and the way they went about this has awakened a sleeping giant.

  2. Wayne Gilbert 2013.12.11

    Annexation of the area in question was a good idea, and Mayor Boke's comment about members of the actual community sharing in the costs is well taken. I am not a resident but I work in Spearfish. For several years I have been a member of the Rec Center and have had a library card. I pay the same Rec Center fees as do residents, and my library card is free. I suspect that such niceties may come to an end, and I would not begrudge the City if it did end them. And I'm not sure why the Mayor is being criticized for taking down a Facebook page about the issue---when an election is over the campaign is over and things like yard signs are supposed to come down.

  3. Les 2013.12.11

    Tell us Wayne, how far do you draw the circle of annexation. Just everything that touches you?

  4. interested party 2013.12.11

    The state should just condemn every septic system between Evans Lane and Upper Valley then everything north of Hillsview.

  5. interested party 2013.12.11

    Better yet: the feds should do it.

  6. Lanny V Stricherz 2013.12.11

    Come on folks. Why has no one given Corey credit for the greatest alliteration of the day, if not week, if not month, if not year? WOW.

  7. Les 2013.12.11

    Why not east of Evans Lane, Lar?

  8. Taxpayer 2013.12.11

    There is some nice agricultural land in the Valley, but what most fail to realize is that the Valley's population is larger than Deadwood. It's a highly-populated area whose residents use taxpayer-supported city services but pay no city property taxes. We're not talking about some rural area either. Residents of one side of Evans lane pay city taxes, and their neighbors across the street do not. Annexation would not have affected the status of ag-zoned lands and would not have raised taxes on ag-zoned lands.

    I take no issue with the mayor's comment. If you think your taxes in Spearfish are too high, just remember that you're paying your share to plow snow, maintain parks, fund the humane society, and pave roads, and you're paying part of someone else's share too. And the city lost this issue because city residents voted to keep it that way.

    As a resident of the city, that's a wrong I would expect my mayor to correct for me. I find it truly appalling that citizens who have taken advantage of free city services for decades on the backs of other taxpayers would so grossly misrepresent the facts of this election. Imagine the impact those residents, through their thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours, could have had on their elected officials to effect change and influence real, important issues if they were a part of their local government instead of fiercely fighting the government they continue to take advantage of.

  9. Wayne Gilbert 2013.12.11

    Les: I don't think it is a good idea to draw a hard and fast rule as to distance, because other considerations do enter in. I think that the law does require that land must be contiguous to existing city boundaries, but I would not argue that contiguity is controlling. I grew up in the Spearfish area and, while I never gave it much thought, I always had a sense that the valley was part of the Spearfish community, even back in the day when practically the whole valley was small farms or nurseries. Annexing the area now just seemed logical to me. But, as I said in my first post, I'm not a resident. So I could make room for the possibility that my ideas are based on inaccurate assumptions. Lanny--I join you in your praise of Cory's headline.

  10. Dana P 2013.12.11

    There are at least 40 + communities that are within a 3 mile radius of the City of Spearfish boundaries. Including "the Valley". For the city to argue that the valley isn't paying their fair share, while not looking to annex these other communities (using the same argument), seems a little odd, doesn't it? Why are they hyperfocusing on the valley, yet not attempting to annex nearby communities since that also (cough) use city services without paying for them? What I'm saying is that it isn't an argument that washes.

    The valley residents and these other "county" communities within the 3 mile radius also bring a lot of revenue into the city by being a consumer of businesses within the city.... ($17+ million with the city collecting nearly $360k in sales tax revenue from that figure) Some of our real estate taxes do go to the library. As far as the rec center goes? I think if the city wanted to charge extra for county residents to use the rec center, that would be perfectly fine. Fire and police? our property taxes do already go to this. According to the annexation study, Spearfish police respond to county residents less than 3% of the time. (unable to quantify how much of this 3% is JUST the valley.) but Lawrence County Sheriff also responds as mutual aid within the city limits.

    Some of the valley is on the Spearfish Valley Sanitation District. (interesting how that battle will play out in court in the spring) For those of us valley residents that aren't on the sanitation district, we pay for our septic and well. All of us valley residents pay for our own road maintenance, trash removal, etc. We don't rely on the city for any services. For the city roads that I drive on, or the 3-4 times a year I go to the Fish Hatchery and city park, I think the sales taxes I'm paying on my purchases are doing a good job of "paying my fair share".

  11. Merlyn Schutterle 2013.12.11

    I will be challenging the powers in Pierre next summer. Are you going to be there, or just writing bs to make the illusion you care?

  12. Merlyn Schutterle 2013.12.11

    Wrong addy. 57442

  13. interested party 2013.12.11

    "27% of registered voters in Spearfish and Spearfish Valley showed up at the polls yesterday" likely the most newsworthy clause in Cory's post.

  14. Taxpayer 2013.12.11

    The 40+ communities you reference are tiny subdivisions, not small cities like the Valley. And they are not located in the center of Spearfish like the Valley is. Water and sewer service is likely impractical, but it isn't in the Valley. I don't find it odd at all that the City would annex lands in its center as opposed to Mt. Plains, for example, which is much farther away and elevated above the city water supply.

    Yes, the Valley claims that their sales tax contributions make up their fair share, but ALL Spearfish residents pay sales tax. Not all Spearfish residents pay city property tax. And you are correct, Valley residents don't use sewer, water, or garbage, but these are not wholly funded through taxes either. They are almost totally funded through user fees, fees which wouldn't start until the services are available.

  15. Les 2013.12.11

    Wayne you have a good feel for the issue. If Dana Boke and her crew wants to annex, bring a whole bunch of how we're going to make your life better not just cost more. Spearfish has already grown over the top of itself. Clean up the mess in town before you add more services you don't have the mechanism to handle at this point.
    If this didn't stink of investor/developer manure it could be a done deal. Pennington has already shown us how you do eminent domain on small ag with a smile. Thankfully they gave it another look see.
    Why are you waiting for summer Merlyn?

  16. Les 2013.12.11

    Taxpayer, you must be in charge of the city sewage, you splain the problems of Mt Plains being higher than city water. Amen. You pump water up hill. Poop flows down buddy/sissy and that is why you have basements full of the stuff. You don't have a proper poop portal passage plan Partner.

  17. interested party 2013.12.11

    lawyers: they're not just for breakfast anymore....

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.11

    [Hey! The pseudonyms are getting a little thick today. Let's have names... or at least real e-mail addresses so I can verify this isn't just one person talking to himself.]

  19. Cranky Old Dude 2013.12.11

    Great headline, Cory. It takes me back...I met my wife while writing headlines for the college paper.

    If the Valley has that many inhabitants, why don't they incorporate and become a city by their own? Then they can fight about all these issues and reap the benefits of municipality.

  20. Wayne Gilbert 2013.12.11

    The reality is that it is very difficult for Mayor Boke to demonstrate that people in the area proposed for annexation will have better lives if their area is annexed. Why is this difficult? Because they already have better lives because of their proximity to, and really part of the community of, the City of Spearfish. They get a library, they get a post office, they get a rec center, they get a real nice downtown to go to for shopping and entertainment--that is all part of being in a community, and it's only fair that they pay for it in the same way that people who live within the legal boundaries pay for it.

  21. Les 2013.12.11

    I'm not quite with you on that one Wayne. Don't we all have that? I think the whole issue of annexation really must revolve around the services received, to be received and the ability of the annexing body to provide them with a more cost efficient means than they are currently using.

    I feel I have what you quote whether it's Lead/Deadwood, Sturgis or Spearfish. Annexation with a vote by those inside the city is a corrupt means of power. A moral use of this power would be using it when those outside of your city want in. If they are using city services, they should be charged a higher value than if they were in the city.
    We build parks and rec centers to bring folks to town and spend money. If the city is using property tax dollars to build these nice things without any method of return other than more property taxes, you have the wrong people in office.

  22. interested party 2013.12.11

    Merlyn: for a good time, text me 605-484-7288.

  23. Wayne Gilbert 2013.12.11

    Les--to some extent it's a matter of degree. I go to Deadwood once or twice a month and take advantage of Deadwood's streets and sidewalks, history offerings or restaurants. People who live in Spearfish Valley take advantage of downtown Spearfish and its services and amenities almost every day. At some point you have to acknowledge that you are a member of a community, and not a farmer living a few miles out of town.

  24. John 2013.12.11

    Dare anyone unfamiliar with the area to drive Spearfish and the "valley" and tell where the city ends and "county" begins. This vote was a travesty. A travesty brought about in large part by the developersters and banksters whom the county, and city, allow to develop willie-nillie. The development is so schizophrenic as to not even have road signs at major intersections such as Hillsview and Evans or ST Joesph. It's as if its a 3rd-world community. Sue the residents for joint and severable liability for the short sewer system payments - putting liens on each property. Then roll in with imminent domain - not just on this non-existent "community", but all within the 3-mile zone.

    Start charging "county folk" to use the city parks, library, pool, sport fields (baseball, soccer, frisbee, etc.).

    Wayne: of course its challenging to "prove" the valley folks will improve their lot by annexation - since they mooch on city and sewer services. It's like South Dakota having to "prove" it contributes to the welfare of the United States when its a mooching federal welfare state.

  25. Rorschach 2013.12.12

    Those blokes are dopes, notes Boke.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.12

    Merlyn! Who's writing are you calling bs?

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.12

    Les gets bonus points for his "proper poop" alliteration. Rorschach's also on the literary ball! Keep it coming!

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.12

    Wayne recognizes one of the practical problems in selling the vote: what further benefits are there to annexation for Valley residents?

    One benefit not mentioned yet that Valley residents are denied is the right to vote on city affairs. I know votes don't balance the city budget, but in a democracy, the right to vote is pretty valuable currency, and Valley residents are leaving that currency on the table. They don't get to vote on the sales tax they pay or the ordinances under which they labor when they work and build and rent in town. How do we figure that sacrifice into the equation of "sharing equally" in the community?

  29. interested party 2013.12.12

    Good point, Cory.

    Tax increases on the larger tracts may force those landowners to develop or monetize ground and likely wash more chemicals into the creek. Humanure contains pharmaceuticals that would leach into groundwater so that's out.

    They should pave over all of it and erect a cement Jesus.

Comments are closed.