Dakota Rural Action, Native allies, and other Earth-friendly neighbors go to Pierre today to show their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline at a Public Utilities Commission hearing at the Capitol. DRA was out yesterday in Rapid City and Sioux Falls protesting the proposed Canadian tar sands pipeline:

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Rapid City, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Rapid City, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

Dakota Rural Action protests Keystone XL pipeline in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2015.01.05. (Photo from DRA)

My Orland neighbor Charlie Johnson goes to the Lake County Commission in Madison today to talk about his concerns about the proposed Dakota Access pipeline, which will cross his organic farm land against his will to carry Bakken crude to Illinois refiners. Commission chairman Scott Pedersen tells me that the only permits Dakota Access would have to submit to Lake County would be the boring permits to bore a path for the pipe under county roads. Dakota Access would also have to apply to the township boards to drill under township roads. That's the only local monkey wrench available to pipeline opponents; otherwise, Charlie and friends will have to go to the PUC to talk Dakota Access, just as DRA and friends are doing today on Keystone XL.

I'm glad Charlie and DRA are braving the cold to bring some heat on these pipelines. I wonder: why do so many other South Dakotans seem so eager to embrace environmentally dangerous projects that abrogate our property rights?


I celebrated the New Year yesterday by running my first draft of my 1040. Six W-2s to come, self-employment tax to calculate, but no ugly surprises yet!

Our federal income tax complications are nothing like the complications for folks who haven't paid their local property taxes yet. Lake County Treasurer Linda Fischer says the county just purchased tax sales certificates on 94 delinquent Lake County properties. Fischer tells MDL's Jane Utecht says that's down from 109 last year.

As I review the records on the Lake County property tax database, I find the following properties leading the list of amounts due in delinquent property taxes:

Property Owner Address & Township Bill Year Amount
Krishana Govinda Hospitality 1515 NW 2nd St, Madison 2010 $11,083.55
Krishana Govinda Hospitality 1515 NW 2nd St, Madison 2011 $10,510.63
Krishana Govinda Hospitality 1515 NW 2nd St, Madison 2012 $9,643.06
Krishana Govinda Hospitality 1515 NW 2nd St, Madison 2013 $9,508.93
Devco Properties LLC 1606 NE 3rd St, Madison 2013 $9,016.44
Devco Properties LLC 1606 NE 3rd St, Madison 2013 $5,746.12
Todd R & Denis D Bothwell 102 Silver Creek Dr, Wentworth 2012 $4,971.91
SJ Terveen LLC 602 NW 9th St, Madison 2012 $4,851.07
SJ Terveen LLC 602 NW 9th St, Madison 2013 $4,826.48
Kenneth & Theresa Skluzacek 837 N Maplewood Dr, Madison 2010 $4,567.08
Thomas R Johnson 902 SW 3rd St, Madison 2013 $4,533.13
David & Pauline Thielbar 1300 SE 10th St, Madison 2013 $4,520.85
Kenneth & Theresa Skluzacek 837 N Maplewood Dr, Madison 2011 $4,322.06
Oluf & Fay Hansen 141 S Railway Ave, Ramona 2011 $4,288.08
Alan B & Etal Bowden 4391 Horizon Hts, Chester 2013 $4,147.42
Kenneth & Theresa Skluzacek 837 N Maplewood Dr, Madison 2012 $4,008.43
Oluf & Fay Hansen 141 S Railway Ave, Ramona 2012 $3,769.53
Loren & Amy Lindholm 46038 234 St, Wentworth 2013 $3,744.89
Todd R & Denis D Bothwell 102 Silver Creek Dr, Wentworth 2013 $3,734.65
Joseph Walwik & Janice Jayes 304 NE 4th St, Madison 2010 $3,674.10
Oluf & Fay Hansen 141 S Railway Ave, Ramona 2013 $3,640.45
Jeffrey A Koob 714 Best Point Dr, Lakeview 2013 $3,466.70
Joseph Walwik & Janice Jayes 304 NE 4th St, Madison 2012 $3,223.00
Tom & Kim Paradeis 1106 N Olive Ave, Madison 2013 $3,036.22
Theodore & Marietta Faszer 804 Best Point Dr, Lakeview 2013 $3,025.96

These fourteen top delinquent property holders by themselves owe $131,860.74. They could square up and cover the salaries of three or four county employees.

The smallest delinquent amount listed belongs to friend of the blog Michael Black, who the county says owes $1.61 on Lots 13, 14, and 15 of Block 4 on Rutland Village Original Plat #1322, plus a numerologically auspicious $11.11 from 2012. Mike could head down to the courthouse, buy Treasurer Fischer lunch, and call it good.

Update 11:51 CST: Elsewhere, the legals in the Watertown Public Opinion show that the Watertown Development Company owes Codington County $14,309.05. Better kick those economic development efforts into higher gear!

Jeff Nelson, Democratic candidate for District 8 House

Jeff Nelson, Democratic candidate for District 8 House

District 8 Democrats are back to a full slate of candidates for Legislature. Jeff Nelson filed papers last week to run for District 8 House in place of David Skoglund, the Democratic placeholder who withdrew back in April after Moorhead cops busted him in a sex sting. Nelson's press release does not mention Skoglund by name. It does mention a whole bunch of reasons that Nelson brings some serious campaign-trail power to the Democratic ticket:

  • 24 years as East River Electric GM, meaning Nelson knows utility policy and he knows people;
  • freshly retired, meaning Nelson can give the campaign and the Legislature full-time attention;
  • community service with Inter-Lakes Community Action, the Lake County Food Pantry, LifeScape (the recently merged Children's Care Hospital and School and SD Achieve), and the Mitchell Technical Institute Foundation, meaning Nelson can talk poverty relief, children's health and rehab, and funding for vocational ed;
  • work with the ethanol and wind energy industries, meaning he can campaign knowledgeably on a panoply of energy issues;
  • his wife Trudi, a whip-smart force of nature and former MHS debate coach who will keep Jeff firmly reminded of the need to kick some sense into the Legislature on K-12 funding.

Jeff Nelson joins Democratic House candidate Patrick G. Heinemann and Democratic Senate aspirant (and current state representative and East River wingman) Scott Parsley in the battle to turn District 8 full blue. Nelson faces incumbent Rep. Leslie Heinemann and new GOP challenger Mathew Wollmann.

Below is Nelson's full campaign announcement, issued after lunch today:

Jeff Nelson enters race for South Dakota House

WENTWORTH — Jeff Nelson of rural Madison has announced his candidacy for the South Dakota House of Representatives from District 8 which includes Lake, Moody, Miner and Sanborn counties. Nelson, a Democrat, was nominated by local party leaders to replace a candidate who withdrew from the race.

“With the encouragement of many friends and community members, I’m pleased to announce my candidacy to represent the people of District 8 in Pierre,” Nelson said. “I’m honored to have the confidence of local party leaders and plan to run a positive campaign focused on issues that are important to the people of District 8. I intend to bring experienced leadership and common-sense ideas to the state Capitol that will make a difference in people’s lives.”

A lifelong South Dakotan, Nelson has lived in the Madison area for the past four decades. He worked for East River Electric Power Cooperative for 39 years, 24 as the organization’s general manager, before retiring this past February.
“I’m looking forward to this new challenge.” Nelson said. “During the campaign I intend to lead a conversation focused on strengthening the investment in education, supporting broadened economic opportunity with special emphasis on workforce development and increased pay, and working to extend access to medical care.”

Nelson is active in community activities. Currently he serves on the Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership (ICAP) board of directors and is President of the Lake County Food Pantry. Nelson is also an officer on the statewide foundation board of directors for LifeScape (previously Children’s Care Hospital & School and SD Achieve) and serves on the board of the Mitchell Technical Institute Foundation.

Nelson has been involved in state and national legislative policy for decades. In his professional career he testified before Congress on public power issues and has worked closely with state legislators and government agency officials on many legislative issues. Nelson is credited with helping the ethanol industry gain a foothold in South Dakota by creating a mechanism that allowed electric cooperative members to use co-op patronage as collateral to invest in the state’s first ethanol plants. He was instrumental in creating the Value-Added Agriculture Development Center and the SD Wind Energy Association. He also served on a number of regional and national boards as part of his role with East River Electric.

A military veteran, Nelson served in the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division after graduating from South Dakota State University with an electrical engineering degree. Nelson’s wife, Trudi, is a retired teacher who taught and coached debate in the Madison Central School District for 15 years. The Nelson’s have two grown children and three grandchildren [Jeff Nelson, campaign press release, 2014.07.14].


In Lake County news, my grapevine jingles that Democrat Roberta "Bobbi" Janke is running for re-election as Lake County auditor.

Janke won the auditor's seat in 2010, winning the Democrat primary 88% to 12% over Nicole Schleuter, then fending off a Republican challenge from Shelli Gust in the general 53% to 47%. Janke has given Lake County residents no reason I know of to reverse their decision, performing her duties effectively and openly.

I'll also note that, when I've gone to the auditor's office for information, Janke hasn't charged me a penny for public records or advice. Go, Bobbi!

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Kudos to Lake County Democrats Lorri May and Shirley Harrington-Moore! The county party announced on Facebook last night that these two ladies have collected the most signatures in the state for the minimum-wage initiative petition. Good hustle, Lorri and Shirley!

Have no fear, petition hustlers: you still have today, tomorrow, and this weekend to try beating the Lake County total. But the petitions are due in Jason Gant's office in Pierre by the end of business Monday!

In recognition of their hustle, Lorri and Shirley get to ride with the petition caravan to Pierre on Monday. The Dems will hold a press conference at the Labor Temple in Sioux Falls Monday at 8 a.m. before heading to Pierre to give Secretary Gant something to do.

Few people drive to Pierre in November unless they are carrying shotguns, fishing poles, or completed petitions. And I don't think Lorri, Shirley, Zach, and the crew are going for walleye or pheasant. It sounds to me as if they have the 15,855 signatures necessary to put the minimum wage increase on our 2014 ballot.

That effort may be well spent: Nielson Brothers Polling (not to be confused with Northern Beef Packers) announced last night that increasing the minimum wage has strong support among South Dakota voters:

First, when asked about simply raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour, 63.0 percent of likely voters said “yes,” 26.4 percent said “no,” and 10.6 percent were “undecided.”

Second, NBP asked whether the base wage rate for “tipped employees” should be raised from $2.13 to $4.25 per hour. 67.6 percent of respondents said they would support it, with 17.1 percent opposing it, and 15.3 percent “undecided.”

Third, when asked if the minimum wage should rise automatically with the cost of living, 58.9 percent of respondents said “yes,” 27.3 percent said “no,” and 13.8 percent were “unsure.”

Finally, when asked how they would vote on a proposed initiated measure that would include each of the above named provisions, 53.5 percent of respondents would vote for it, 22.8 percent would vote against it, and 23.8 percent were “unsure” [Nielson Brothers Polling, press release, 2013.10.30].

Separately, each minimum-wage provision wins majority support from Democrats and Republicans alike in NBP's poll. Only on the final question of the initiative offering the complete package does GOP support fall below 50%. 44.1% of Republicans would still vote for it, 29.2% would vote against, leaving a little more than a quarter considering whether they would vote against good and moral economic policy just because Democrats put it on the ballot.

David Montgomery tells Dems not to get too excited about this favorable poll:

...It’s good news, in that it suggests many voters look favorably on the idea of a minimum wage increase. But the poll is also done before the campaign, in which supporters and opponents will make their case to the people. Campaigning can change public opinion quickly, especially on issues where voters don’t have strong opinions.

Remember that in September 2012, a month and a half before the election, NBP found Initiated Measure 15 (the sales tax increase) up by 12 points. It ended uplosing by 13 points [David Montgomery, "NBP Finds Strong Support for Minimum Wage One Year Pre-election," Political Smokeout, 2013.10.31].

He's right: the folks who don't want to pay workers more will fight this initiative hard... and those opponents almost by definition are the folks with more money. So Lorri and Shirley and Dems' work has only begun. Run hard, Dems!


Mr. Ehrisman notices that one of the non-downtowners that Mayor Huether appointed to a Sioux Falls committee working on downtown issues is now moving his business downtown. KELO reports that Eric McDonald is moving his DocuTap electronic medical records business away from the South Dakota Technology Business Center that incubated his company nine years ago and leasing space in the currently vacant CNA Western Surety Building on Phillips Avenue.

KELO mentions that Hegg Companies and Lloyd Companies are upgrading the building for $8 million.

Lloyd Companies... aren't they the same guys who needed Lake County taxpayers to spot them $419,450 just to build a few measly townhouses in Madison?

So really, aren't Lake County taxpayers subsidizing a Sioux Falls company and its Sioux Falls developments?

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Want to know how a Tax Increment Finance District works? Check out my November 2007 explanation, back when Madison created its first TIF district for Randy Schaefer's housing project.

Madison and Lake County are on their way to establishing a second tax increment financing (TIF) district. At their September 5 meeting, the Madison City Commission approved Resolution 2013-26, consenting to Lake County's creation of Tax Increment District Number Two "within the corporate limits of the City."

Funny thing was, neither that resolution nor that night's agenda packet nor any other online document I could find told us where that TIF district would be, or who was asking for it, or what they were going to do with it. Also funny was that the Lake County Commission hadn't taken any formal action on any proposal to create a TIF district.

Tax Increment District 2 proposal draft, cover, showing location of proposed TIF district, Lloyd COmpanies, August 2013

Tax Increment District 2 proposal draft, cover, showing location of proposed TIF district in southwest Madison. Lloyd Companies, August 2013. Click to enlarge!

A little digging revealed that the proposal for TIF district #2 comes from Lloyd Companies in Sioux Falls. Lloyd prefers that their proposal not circulate until they finalize it. But the draft I have says that Lloyd (or, per the plan, a developer LLC that will be formed once Lake County O.K.'s the TIF) wants to build two 14-unit multi-family townhome-style apartment buildings on 1.7 empty acres at the corner of South Union Avenue and Eighth Street Southwest, between Falcon Plastics and the Union Square trailer park. They're ready to start this fall, if you and I and the rest of Lake County's taxpayers will just cover $419,450 of their projected two million-plus in start-up/construction costs.

Oooo. Let's see: if you're building a house, how would like the county to take 20% of the cost off your shoulders?

Yeah. I thought so.

Don't hold your breath. You, fellow home-builder, won't get that deal. State law says that tax increment financing may not be used "for the construction of residential structures." TIFs are to take out blight and promote economic development "through the promotion and advancement of industrial, commercial, manufacturing, agricultural, or natural resources." State law does include some housing projects in its definition of legitimate economic development projects that tax dollars may fund, but only housing for the elderly and the handicapped.

Lloyd reads state law, too. They won't use our money to build the apartments themselves. They'll use our money to clear and grade the lot, put in sewer and sidewalks and pavement, pay their architect, and other items authorized by tax increment finance law. To fit housing into the TIF scheme, Lloyd says expanding Madison's tight housing market is the linchpin to getting local bunnies to fart economic development rainbows:

At the present time, the number one concern in Madison, South Dakota is the lack of residential rental property. A Lake Area Improvement Corporation (LAIC) housing study was completed (2007) which demonstrated that there was need for housing development in many categories. To-date significant rental housing has not taken place to alleviate the need. In 2013 the Madison Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Area Improvement Corporation Housing Committee again determined that Madison was critically short of apartments for workforce housing.

As a result of this shortage, business which would like to expand their work force are having to put such plans on hold because there are not available living quarters for new employees. Dakota State University indicates that potential students have difficulty finding available rental property within the City of Madison, which could affect enrollment. Dakota State University also has concerns related to housing for graduates and incoming university personnel to reside within.

The development of this project will help alleviate the housing shortage, helping local businesses to expand, which will provide additional jobs and business opportunities in the commercial district of the City of Madison and Lake County [Lloyd Companies, "Tax Incremental District Number 2, Lake County, SD Project Plan," draft, August 2013].

We build apartments, workers and students can move here, and then businesses can expand—that sequence shows this TIF proposal is at least one step and maybe two removed from the direct economic development activities authorized by SDCL Chapter 9-54.

But if the legality of another residential TIF district in Madison smells a little fishy, the economics stink a lot. Lloyd cites information establishing six years of at least a perception of tight housing in Madison. All summer, I heard stories about Madison houses going on the market and selling in days. A friend said a California family bought a house for their daughter just for her to live in while studying at DSU.

If there's all this demand and so little supply, why isn't the market solving? What's stopping tool-belted entrepreneurs from putting up sticks and making easy money? Madison's high property taxes? Madison's high utility hookup and service charges? Madison's collusively low wages that that keep new workers from qualifying for mortgages?

Something is holding the market back in Madison. Do we really need government intervention via TIF to solve it?

I shouldn't have a beef with the tax increment financing concept itself. The developers and owners still pay property taxes. Their taxes still pay for public improvements, not private property that they can up and take with them or sell for profit, but streets, curbs, sidewalks, sewer lines, and other infrastructure that the community owns and benefits from. And there is merit to the notion that new housing is a useful component to a comprehensive economic development strategy.

But when we look at the big picture, TIF is a free ride. Go east on Eighth Street two blocks. You find apartment buildings there. I don't know who built them or when, but the developer of those buildings didn't get a TIF district to help make those apartments happen. That developer managed to cover his own construction bills and still pay regular taxes to support the city, school district, and county. TIF removes half of that burden from new developers, giving them an unfair advantage as they enter a tight Madison housing marketplace that ought to be drawing hordes of builders and buildings without taxpayer help.

The Lake County Planning Board apparently isn't too worried about exploring the mechanics of Madison's market failure. The board yesterday recommended the TIF 2 plan for approval. The Lake County Commission will take up the matter on Thursday, September 19, at 10 a.m.

p.s.: Lloyd is requesting this TIF through the county rather than through the city that completely encompasses the proposed district because, with one TIF already going, if the city financed this project, it wouldn't have money left to accept any more TIF requests. (Hmmm... is another ask in the chute for the city commission?) The county has a TIF for Dakota Ethanol on its books, but it still has more fiscal leeway to undertake this TIF #2.


The Lake County Planning Board met yesterday to review a proposed tax increment finance district. If the board was reviewing for grammar and accuracy, they found a hilarious cut-and-paste error on page 5 of the August draft from TIF seeker Lloyd Companies of Sioux Falls:

Excerpt from "Tax Incremental District #2, Lake County, SD, Project Plan," Lloyd Companies, August 2013. Error highlighted by CAH

Excerpt from "Tax Incremental District #2, Lake County, SD, Project Plan," Lloyd Companies, August 2013. Error highlighted by CAH

In the middle of pasting together the vast swatches of boilerplate and baloney that go into convincing the county to cover about 20% of the construction costs for a residential project that the Madison market is screaming for, someone at the office writes "wish i am lying there too lol".

I'm at a loss to explain how that phrase could have landed in that definition. Such a simple, uncapitalized text hardly seems worth the effort of cutting and pasting from Facebook into Twitter. Did the office computer suddenly develop Bluetooth telepathy and read a bored Lloyd worker's phone?

Now if only that telepathic computer had included the picture of where that person wished he were lying... and with whom!

I'll have details and analysis on the TIF district plan itself later today; i'm not lying there lolstay tuned!

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