In gun news, while deferring action on House Bill 1206, the controversial concealed-weapons-on-campus bill, the South Dakota House rejected House Bill 1183, which would have allowed concealed weapons in the State Capitol.

During floor debate on HB 1183, Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) told a startling story that she said crystallized her feelings on guns and this bill. She said that, back in the 1970s, when she had taken a new teaching job, a student told her that, during a family visit to the Capitol one summer Sunday, he and his family had been taken captive by a man with a knife. She said a former Capitol employee later told her he remembered that incident.

It appears Rep. Greenfield was referring to this 1975 incident:

On October 26, 1975, the Glenn Arneson family of Hayti, South Dakota, visited the State Capitol at Pierre. While touring the Capitol Building, Mr. and Mrs. Arneson and their youngest child were confronted in an open hallway on the fourth floor by petitioner [Romeo Tony Eaglehorse] and another man, Robert Stein. After asking the Arnesons if there were any other people in the building, petitioner pulled a knife and demanded money from them. Mr. Arneson complied, giving him $20.00. Petitioner then demanded that the Arnesons gather the rest of their family, including two other children who had run ahead, and forced them at knife point to a secluded room on fourth floor, blocking the only exit from that room. Petitioner again demanded money, ordering the Arnesons to place all their money on a table. Petitioner then proceeded to torment the members of the family, starting with the youngest child, an eight-year-old girl. He picked her up by the hair, held the knife to her throat, and demanded that she give him her money. After demanding photos of the family, petitioner threatened to kill them if they ever informed the authorities of what had happened. Petitioner continued to torment the family by holding the knife to Mr. Arneson's *330 neck and asking the rest of the family if they would like to watch him die. Petitioner told the Arnesons that he, petitioner, was a killer, and forced the parents to drink vodka from a bottle with him. He also threatened to cut the eight-year-old girl's eyes out with his knife. After leaving for a few minutes, petitioner returned and grabbed Mrs. Arneson. At this time Mr. Arneson was able to strike petitioner with the vodka bottle, allowing the family to run to safety. All told, the Arnesons were held in the room at knife point for from forty-five minutes to an hour after Mr. Arneson first gave petitioner the $20.00 in the hallway [Eaglehorse v. South Dakota, 1979].

Now Rep. Greenfield didn't connect the dots for us. She didn't explain how this incident of crime 40 years ago justifies allowing us to walk around our Temple of Democracy and Civilization with firearms tucked in our britches. The point of her anecdote seemed to be simply to arouse fear.

One violent crime forty years ago. Hmmm... sounds to me as if the Capitol Building is one of the safest places a person could be.

But let's look at the incident Rep. Greenfield cited in the context of the bill she was advocating. The Arnesons were on a family visit. They likely did not anticipate trouble. There is no indication that Mr. Arneson or his wife held concealed weapons permits or had said on their way into the building, "There might be danger here, but the law says we have to leave our guns in the car."

Had HB 1183 been in effect, would the Arnesons have been armed? Had they been concealedly armed (which is what HB 1183 envisions), would Eaglehorse not have pulled that knife? When Eaglehorse pulled the knife, would Mr. or Mrs. Arneson have been able to execute a quick draw before Eaglehorse could do harm?

And would the presence of a gun have produced any different result from what really happened: Mr. Arneson grabs the vodka bottle, whacks the bad guy, and gets his family out to safety. No one but the bad guy is hurt, and the authorities arrest Eaglehorse and Stein, without shooting anyone.

Your story is plenty scary, Rep. Greenfield, but you failed to explain how it logically defends the policy position you advocated. Fortunately, this time, faulty logic and faulty gun policy did not prevail in the Legislature.

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There is another sign that House Bill 1216, the repeal of the property tax cap, will not pass: the Governor doesn't support it. He sent Mike Houdyshell from the Department of Revenue to offer the only opponent testimony in House Taxation yesterday.

Houdyshell defended the property tax cap as the product of voter demands expressed through a series of ballot initiatives. Houdyshell listed four initiated measures that he said represented a popular revolt against property tax increases, which averaged 6% a year from 1947 to 1995:

Year Measure Provisions Vote Yes Vote No
1980 Constitutional Amendment B (“Dakota Proposition”) set maximum property tax at 1% of full and true value 37% 63%
1988 Constitutional Amendment C (“Dakota Proposition 2”) set maximum property tax on ag land at 1%, non-ag land at 2.5%, based on 1984 values 39% 61%
1990 Constitutional Amendment E set maximum property tax increase at 2% per year 45% 55%
1994 Initiated Measure 1 set maximum property tax at 1% of assessed value; freeze assessments at January 1 1995 level; allow no increase in assessed value except in change of ownership or new construction; cap increases at 1.25% 49.45% 50.55%

As Houdyshell notes, momentum was building for limits on property tax. But none of these four initiatives passed. At no point up to 1995 did the voters express the will to impose the caps that Governor Janklow and the Legislature made law in 1995. Yet Houdyshell portrayed the statutes he came to defend against HB 1216 as an expression of the popular will with which twenty years later we should not tinker.

Wow. We Democrats have only asked for the Legislature to keep its hands off initiatives that actually pass for one year (and House State Affairs killed that proposal, HB 1175, 10–2 yesterday). The Governor's office tells the Legislature it should respect the apparent momentum of four initiatives that failed decades ago.

But hey, maybe the Legislature agrees that it should not cross the popular will. As Bob Mercer reports, the House has soundly rejected one GOP effort to change the minimum-wage initiative voters passed last November. One down, one to go....

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Our Spearfish neighbors are holding an important meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Hudson Hall downtown. The Spearfish Ag Land Committee will discuss the preservation of agricultural land in the Spearfish Valley.

The discussion will likely revolve around the Runnings' property, a 15.4-acre tract near Evans Lane. The land is among the turf in Spearfish Valley, on the north side of Spearfish, that has long been used for farming but now is on the market. A local correspondent tells me that one development deal has fallen through; the property is listed online for $989,000. Developers see an opportunity to build housing to meet demand in a tight market. Advocates for agriculture and sustainability contend that the community is served at least as well by maintaining the Valley's agricultural traditions as well as some local economic diversity.

Ray Running bought his 15 acres* after serving in the Army Air Corps in Italy in World War II. According to Running's 2011 obituary, he claimed his Valley corn was the best corn in South Dakota. Running used his SDSU education and his experience to teach agriculture to veterans in Meade County.

A local Spearfish correspondent sends me information from old-timer Linfred Schuttler, who farmed the Valley for strawberries, raspberries, and other produce. He says the Valley's orchards once supported exports across the Black Hills and to Wyoming and Nebraska. "There were thousands and thousands of apple trees," says Schuttler, "all the way down to the Redwater before there were stands. People would come in the fall with their wagons for miles.” Schuttler is worried that housing development in the Valley will cause more of the irrigation ditches that have boosted the Valley's productivity will be filled in. "Once they're lost," says Schuttler, "they can't be regained."

Can Spearfish have more housing and healthy local food? Tonight's meeting at Hudson Hall will give Spearfish residents the chance to wrestle with that question. Having rented in Spearfish, I recognize the need for affordable housing for workers and families in the Queen City. But I also recognize the unique value of the fertile Spearfish Valley as an economic resource for small, independent farmers. Spearfish needs to figure out the proper balance between these competing aspects of quality of life.

Update 2015.02.03 15:08 CST: An earlier version of this article erroneously attributed additional information about Ray Running's land purchase to a Spearfish resident who, in turns out, has no knowledge about Running's history. I have edited out that information and apologize for the error.

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At the beginning of this month, I responded with abhorrence to the murders of the Charlie Hebdo artists by jihadis and asked whether Islam has a fundamental tendency toward violence that Christianity does not.

In one of those wonderful moments of cosmic connection, I walk into class today and find AP students reading "Postcolonial Criticism and Multiculturalism," a chapter from Stephen Bonnycastle's literary theory text In Search of Authority. On page 230, Bonnycastle directs students' attention to Frantz Fanon's critique of Europe's history of oppression:

...Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience. Look at them today swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration.

And yet it may be said that Europe has been successful in as much as everything that she has attempted has succeeded.

Europe undertook the leadership of the world with ardour, cynicism and violence. Look at how the shadow of her palaces stretches out ever farther! Every one of her movements has burst the bounds of space and thought. Europe has declined all humility and all modesty; but she has also set her face against all solicitude and all tenderness.

She has only shown herself parsimonious and niggardly where men are concerned; it is only men that she has killed and devoured.

So, my brothers, how is it that we do not understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same Europe? [Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 1965, pp. 311–312].

I was aiming too low in comparing jihadis professing Islam to contemporary Christians who seem not produce proportionate holy warriors. I should have looked at the history of the great Western European Empire, at the pinnacle of which I comfortably Tweet, an empire built on the enslavement, exploitation, and extermination of millions from other cultures. Killing cartoonists, colonizing continents... what's the difference?

Update 16:47 CST: In related news, the Super Bowl is this weekend....

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Deadwood is astir over another old building threatened by development. Optima LLC, which owns Cadillac Jacks and Springhill Suites on the north end of Deadwood, wants to move the Fountain House from its property along Main Street, across from the Days of '76 Museum, down the street about a mile and a half, to just past where Sherman Street bends southwest, near the head of the Mickelson Trail.

This move wouldn't be a big deal if the Fountain House weren't a historic house built in 1890. The Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission is meeting this evening to discuss whether moving the Fountain House to the more southerly location will negatively impact the historic nature of the neighborhood.

The Deadwood Trust for Historic Preservation doesn't think the move is a good idea. They are filing this letter with the DHPC this evening to protest the move. They say the Fountain House should stay put. The Deadwood Trust asks the DHPC to reject Optima's request because a year ago, in its original application to move the house, Optima contended that the building couldn't be used for commercial purposes, but Optima now supports the application for this move by contending that the building can be used for commercial purposes.

A February 2014 letter (included in the Deadwood Trust's communication to the DHPC tonight) from CPA Paul J. Thorstenson to Optima manager Paul Bradsky of Rapid City doesn't say the Fountain House is unusable for commercial purposes. CPA Thorstenson says says that the best commercial use for the Fountain property is a parking lot and that getting a return on investment from using the house in its current location would require charging renters three times the fair market value. If my impression of town serves me properly, parking isn't nearly as tight at the south end of Sherman, away from the big Main Street casinos.

But the Deadwood Trust still has a case to make. The entire city of Deadwood is a National Historic Landmark. Every building Deadwood lets deteriorate into uselessness, every building the casinos knock down for parking, takes away history and leaves Deadwood a little less unique and little more like every place else.

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BBC Pop Up, the British broadcaster's new "mobile bureau," spent December in South Dakota. BBC's Benjamin Zand spends a few days on Rosebud and Pine Ridge talking to young people (42% of South Dakota's tribal population is younger than 25) about their identity and aspirations.

Among those appearing in this video snapshot:

  • "America is a stolen country," says Justin Rowland, guide at the Wounded Knee Massacre site and descendant of Lakota people killed by the U.S. Army at the site 114 years ago.
  • Sicangu Lakota Shane Red Hawk has participated in Cowboy and Indian Allians protests against the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Willi White and Indigene Studios co-founder Angela White Eyes are working on their first major project, The People, a futuristic dystopian short shot entirely on Pine Ridge.
  • Scatter Their Own duo Scotti Clifford and Julia Brown Eyes-Clifford says their music "pays tribute to the concepts and philosophy of their Lakota culture while fusing Alternative Rock and Blues into what they would like to call Alter-Native Rock and Roll. They believe that their music celebrates Grandmother Earth." (Calm down, Sibby. It's just rock and roll.)
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I'm not ready to hit the top stories of the year cycle quite yet (six days left! who knows what could happen?!), but Bob Mercer is. South Dakota's last full-time statehouse reporter picks five top South Dakota political stories of 2014:

  1. Rounds wins Senate seat.
  2. Krebs wins Secretary of State.
  3. Democrats nominate women for governor and lieutenant.
  4. State retirement fund earns 18.9% net return.
  5. Voters increase minimum wage.

Mercer does not lay out criteria for "top political stories." Most of his choices seem to revolve around ongoing impact on South Dakota's politics and economy. Ousting the last Democrat from statewide office certainly has ongoing impact on the political landscape. So will changing our top election official: smarter and tougher Shantel Krebs can promote the Republican agenda of Democratic vote suppression much more aggressively than half-checked-out Jason Gant. Our recovering retirement fund promises future economic security, while our minimum-wage hike provides a little economic boost and economic justice right now. The minimum-wage hike also affirms the power of Democrats to promote their pro-working-class agenda through initiatives.

But Mercer's #3 seems the odd woman out. The Dems' executive office nominees, Susan Wismer and Susy Blake, are nice people. But their all-female candidacy is "historic" only in the driest, textbook sense of the word. Wismer and Blake didn't win. They didn't blaze new trails in campaign organizing, fundraising, or get-out-the-vote activities. They didn't capitalize on their womanliness to raise awareness of or change the conversation about women's issues in South Dakota. The Wismer-Blake ticket seemed to win nothing more than its own Trivia Crack™ South Dakota Edition entry, and even that achievement is twinned with failure: political gurus discussing the first all-gal ticket will inevitably mention that ticket was also the biggest loser, ceding the Governor's office to the incumbent by 45 points.

I welcome your critique of Mercer's list and your own lists below; stay tuned in the coming days for my own blog-based lists of big South Dakota news, based on your comments and my own criteria... once I've recovered from all those Christmas Swedish meatballs and pickles! Mmmm....

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O, that we might fly back to 1960s South Dakota, when gentle chirpy music played behind our pheasant hunts and stag parties at the Plains Motel.

South Dakota Tourism tweets this splendid promotional video, Pheasantland USA, produced in the 1960s by South Dakota Game Fish & Parks, the University of South Dakota, and the Conservation Department of Winchester-Western.

At 1:10, a couple of guys hop out their airplane, ready to hunt in their coonskin caps. The narrator says they've flown a thousand miles just to shoot a "wild chicken."

At 3:45, our state scriptsmiths craft the compelling narrative of young Tim, "taking his place in the company of MEN." Wise old Els hands Tim a booklet on hunting and tells him to pay close attention to the section on gun safety to get ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a long time away when you're fifteen and waiting to go on your first pheasant hunt. This isn't just another rabbit hunt. This is a real bird hunt, a man's game played by men's rules. What's going to happen? Will we see pheasants? Will I get a chance to shoot? And will I be able to hit one of those roosters? If I can get a bird or two, what will Dad say? Well, Tim, we'll see. you never know what's going to happen out pheasant hunting [SDGF&P, Pheasantland USA, promotional video, circa 1960s].

The finest French cinematography comes at 6:10, the morning of the big hunt, as the camera opens from the night and lingers on a single frying egg, clearly a symbol of Tim's youthful existential isolation, as well as a subtle homage to the sustaining feminine id.

At 7:45, the film offers a conservation lesson that Governor Daugaard needed eight meetings and workgroup to figure out: pheasants need cover. The film attests to the farmer's conservation mission and the need to keep grassland for nesting cover and shelterbelts for winter habitat. "You don't get something for nothing," says the narrator, "and you can't raise game without cover" [9:20]. A bit later, the film turns a fine phrase, saying that if we "protect[] a few places from the cow, the plow, and the match" [12:22] we'll have pheasant hunting in the fall.

From there on, the film is mostly hunting wisdom and joy. After the "first action of the day" at 11:40, MEN sit on the ground by the tailgate of their International pickup truck and make white-bread sandwiches of ring bologna and longhorn cheese sliced by their own knives in the field. Never do men live as well as at this moment.

Around 16:00, the men deploy in a cornfield, with the dog crew driving the birds through the golden rows toward the stealthy blockers out by the fence. "It doesn't make much difference if the birds know that the drivers are there, but the presence of blockers should be a military secret."

And at 17:23, we get the sign Lee Schoenbeck has on his new desk in Pierre: "Those two retrievers can be the equal of several men."

This film is mirthfully dated, yet entirely up to date. This fifty-year-old film is exactly the reel playing in every South Dakotan's mind as we head out to the field to blast our state bird.

Related Viewing: Compare that 1960s entry with this amped-up, slo-mo rock-themed 30-second spot on South Dakota pheasant hunting:

As thanks to the country that sent us the wily pheasant, here's an official South Dakota Tourism video promoting our fair state... with Chinese subtitles.

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