Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Kind of Town

Sioux Falls voters went to the polls on Tuesday and said they are for the most part happily living in the Queen City on the Prairie.

Sioux Falls is a good place to live was good news for incumbent candidates who were all re elected (Mayor Huether, Councilpersons Erpenbach and Rolfing, and School Board member Morrison.) Our new Councilors for the open seats are State Representative Christine Erickson and Rick Kiley.

The losers were the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) forces. Included in this category were the measures against the outdoor pool at Spellerberg Park, the construction of a Wal-Mart at 85th and Minnesota, and the Shape Places new zoning ordinance. Ms. Schwan who lost the Southeast District Council seat was also closely identified because of her activism and outspoken opposition to the 85th and Minnesota Wal-Mart zoning and construction.

I am not sure we have heard the last from Ms. Schwan or of her opposition to building that Wal-Mart (despite the vote).

Voters said that while the some opposition may be valid progress is important and the City need to move forward.  

It is instructive that the ballot percentages for the losing NIMBY elections (the three NIMBY issues and the Southeast Council seat) were essentially 2 to 1.

The Mayor’s election was the variant. Mike Huether won re election by 56% to 44%, approximately 10 percentage points less than the anti progress yet otherwise happy Sioux Falls Citizens.

In analyzing the election it is important to understand that incumbent Mayors win re election. The candidate with the most money also usually wins. Mayor Huether also aggressively used the power of incumbency during the preceding two weeks before the election if not the preceding three years. There was an announcement from the City almost every day.

Briefly summarizing the campaign, Mayor Huether’s campaign was one of personal accomplishment. The Mayor talked about what has happened in Sioux Falls in the last four years and either specifically or generally took personal credit for everything good. This includes resurfacing the streets, the events center, river greenway, and even non-governmental activities like building housing and creating jobs.  

Economic cycles play an important part in elections. That certainly is the case in Sioux Falls. When the Mayor took office in 2010 Sioux Falls had almost zero growth in sales tax collections. This was a result of the effects of the great recession and the aftermath of what had been explosive growth in the Ethanol industry that peaked and whose growth couldn’t be sustained.

After Mayor Huether took office sales tax collections began to rise again (politicians take the credit, but the City of Sioux Falls had little to do with the economic turn around.) Also Sioux Falls credit card industry took a hit with the passage of the Dodd – Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2011. After extensive employee layoffs in Sioux Falls and subsequent successful litigation by the credit card industry, many financial jobs in Sioux Falls were restored. I believe some of these new jobs were baked into the Mayor’s claim of creating 3000 new jobs.

Challenge candidate Councilman Greg Jamison, in contrast focused his campaign on People First. Jamison laid out a plan of what he would he like to accomplish and specifically raised the issues of traffic control, returning tax dollars to taxpayers rather than increasing historically high treasury reserves, and addressing the rising crime rate in Sioux Falls. Jamison also challenged the Mayor over his ethical behavior that the Mayor refused to address.

Interestingly in each case the Mayor deferred to engage on these choosing to basically relying on his self-proclamations of accomplishment, or trotting out his Police Chief or City Finance Officer to address the issues with them saying the City was already taken care of that issue. Specifically on the crime rate the Mayor when first asked denied there is a problem stating that so many people would not be moving here if there were.

While people like their City, that 10% difference between NIMBY and the Mayor’s race results represents increased dissatisfaction among some over the Mayor’s job approval.

Mayor Huether to my judgment, lives in the here and now. His governing philosophy is about time and money. He is focused on personal impact and accomplishment with little vision of the long term.

However things are not perfect. There are problems. Crime is on the rise and is correctable if addressed. Increasingly there are retail vacancies downtown that the private sector needs to address with City encouragement. Parking is a pressing issue as well, particularly on the East Bank. Maybe getting rid of that River Ramp so quickly wasn’t the best idea. Railroad relocation is still an issue as is public transit.

People are happy here in Sioux Falls and while NIMBY seems to have been addressed, government goes on and there are still issues both short and long term. Essentially this election has formed a new government with the same Leader.

I wish them well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seuss Falls

The WP scores another BIG Hit with their current exhibit: Seuss Falls: Discovering the Arts andScience of Dr. Seuss.

The Washington Pavilion has brought another Do Not Miss exhibit to Sioux Falls. I love books. Cultural and social history is far more than a passing interest to me. The Seuss exhibit is well done; for history it is a solid A and the art, which is quite familiar, yet still interesting gets a B (not spectacular.)

Theodor Seuss Geisel was inventive, innovative, and imaginative. His career, as his art went through very diverse stages. Primarily Geisel was an illustrator. His illustrations take on a very artistic touch. Though artistic his drawings are welcoming as shown later in his creatures that have a certain warm cuteness. In addition to his drawing talent Geisel was poetic. He was fascinated by sounds and hypnotic rhyme; He possessed a strong social conscience.

During his lifetime Geisel’s privately created serious artworks that are an interesting segment of the exhibit dubbed his “Secret Art.”  The piece of his more serious Secret Art that I liked was done in 1932 titled, “Incidental Music For a New Year’s Eve Party. One of his cartoons that touched me took on a political tone. It was a 1940 work called “The Knotty Problem of Capital Hill” …further described as: “Finding a way to raise taxes without losing a single vote.”

Geisel began his career as a Cartoonist, working primarily for magazines, creating cartoons, illustrations, advertising and covers.

From magazines he segued into the Advertising creating “Ad Art.” He worked for some of the Big Boys including Standard Oil of New Jersey and Ford Motor Company. For Standard Oil of NJ (Humble Oil and Refining Company we called it in Texas) he worked on a bug spray named “Flit.” Apparently Flit contained DDT or some type of human toxin for which Geisel later felt some embarrassment by association. Years later he penned  “The Lorax” that extolled the virtues of environmentalism.

Geisel worked in the Advertising field for fifteen years, though interrupted by his service during World War II. In the Army he worked for the U S Military Office of Information and Education creating posters and other advertising matter. In 1943 he authored movie scripts for a military unit headed by Frank Capra, the renowned director doing war documentaries. Geisel won two Academy Awards  (Documentary Feature and Animated Short Film) for his work in the Army and was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Geisel’s next career field was as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Dr. Seuss (Geisel’s pen name taken from his middle name) is probably the most well-known and popular Children’s authors of all time. He sold over 600,000,000 (that’s 600 MILLION!) books.

Among his most popular books are: “The Cat In the Hat”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “How the Grinch that Stole Christmas”, and “Horton Hears a Who.”

The good Doctor’s social conscience besides, “The Lorax” and environmentalism, extended to “Sneetches”  - tolerance and racial prejudice and “Yertle the Turtle” dictatorship and expansionism.

Factoids of fancy for me – “The Cat in the Hat” was written as a reading primer and contained 225 new reader vocabulary words. “Green Eggs and Ham” was written as the result of a $50 bet between Geisel and his publisher at Random House, Bennett Cerf; that Geisel could not write a book using only 50 words. Dr. Seuss won. The resultant 62-page book used only 50 words, 49 of them were one syllable and the 50th word was “anywhere.”

Geisel believed, “no matter the media, every piece of paper was a canvas.”

This exhibit was a solid effort by the WP. The cost is a little spendy, $18 adult admission. Despite the higher cost, I hope the Pavilion programmers keeping bringing on these art exhibitions.

Cultural Notes – Endbar

In conjunction with the Seuss Falls exhibit there was (they took it away before my second visit) a display case in the entryway outside the entrance to the exhibit that contained four or so whimsical music instruments (perhaps Geisel inspired) loaned from the American Music Museum on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion. As many of the exhibits at the Vermillion museum, they are unique.

The American Music Museum (formerly Shrine to Music Museum) needs to get “Out There” – it’s a TREASURE and nobody has ever heard of it much less seen it.

Unfortunately music lovers just are not traveling to Vermillion. The museum’s collection is World Class, nothing else even close in North America and maybe (I understand) one of the three best on the Planet Earth. I understand a new building is planned and a new marketing is being studied. If you haven’t seen the American Music Museum it’s less than an hour’s drive. You will not regret the trip. They have a world class website – check it out.

More music but closer to home is the America’s Music series that is ongoing at Siouxland Libraries.

A film, lecture, and performance series has been first rate. It continues through the end of June. On successive Sunday’s Augustana College Music Department Chairman, Scott Johnson has lectured, led discussion, and shown films on the history of Rock and Roll, Broadway, and Jazz. There was an outstanding presentation on guitar craftsmanship, last month by a local guitar maker (luthier), Josh Rieck, and I am looking forward to SDSU music faculty Anthony Lis who will talk again about Blue Yodels, Prairie Radio, and Arizona Swing: The Country Music Life of Billy Burkes.

Culture is alive in South Dakota.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hometown Heroes

Golf today is the connection between my Fort Worth hometown pride and my adopted home of almost 40 years, South Dakota.

Argus Leader sportswriter, Mick Garry pens a very nice feature story in the Sunday Leader about hometown Girl made good, LPGA star and Sioux Falls native Kris Tschetter. The story ran in conjunction of Tschetter being inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.

Fort Worth and Sioux Falls have much in common. Both are Cowtowns, have a meandering river thru town, and have abundant beautiful parks. Garry although only describing Tschetter, catches the character traits the citizens of Fort Worth and Sioux Falls most have in common: “hard work, resiliency, friendliness.”

Kris Tschetter is a (TCU) Horned Frog. She attended Texas Christian University to play golf. She later went on to her distinguished LPGA career. For a time she too was a resident of Fort Worth. While in college she established a relationship with golfing great and legend Ben Hogan. 

She wrote a wonderful book about her relationship with as she refers to him “Mr. Hogan.” Tschetter’s book, “Mr. Hogan, The Man I Knew” is worth the read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much in fact after reading today’s Argus may give it a second read.

My brush with fame – I too spent time with Hogan, only was far too young to appreciate his greatness or even his close proximity. Clearly because of golf, Mr. Hogan related to Miss Tschetter. Not so much with a five year old. In 1949 Hogan was the victim of a horrific automobile accident with a Greyhound Bus. He double fractured his pelvis and broke his collarbone. For a time it was doubted that he would walk much less play golf again. In 1950 he won the U S Open.

In 1950 I was diagnosed with paralytic polio, fortunately a mild case. The U S Open winner and I shared an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Louis Levy, of the Fort Worth Bone and Joint clinic. On several occasion throughout those years “Mr. Hogan” and I took physical therapy at the same time at the clinic. Though too young to appreciate it, the golfing legend was in the next cow tank over, getting a warm whirlpool before being stretched out and put through our rehab by the therapist.

Endbar – Hogan who lived in Dublin, Texas until age 9 when he moved to Fort Worth. Local trivia says Hogan was the second most famous person from Dublin; the first being Dr. Pepper, that was invented and first bottled in Dublin. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Texan Who Conquered Russia

Van Cliburn, a Long Tall Texan, left us this week.

I was full of Texas pride as I reflected and read about Fort Worth's most famous citizen since Ben Hogan.

Foreign Policy is occasionally affected thru cultural exchanges. Oftentimes it is felt that understanding another nation’s culture helps to improve relations. Senator George McGovern sent the South Dakota State Basketball team to Cuba, President Nixon sent the U S Ping Pong champions to Red China, and Dennis Rodman was in North Korea basketballing with Baby Kim this week.

Sidebar - Speaking of This Week, Rodman was on the Sunday ABC news show with George Stephanopoulos (whom I respect). George asked a few probing if not tough questions to which Dennis made a fool of himself. It must have been a slow news week to give Dennis 8 minutes. I suppose Bob Woodward and Sequestration weren’t worthy of more time. And of course elevating experts like Rodman.  Rodman and Kim are a joke. Is Dennis Rodman the image of America we want to project?

Van Cliburn in contrast was a Cold Warrior that won the Russian people’s affection thru his talent and warm-hearted spirit. Time Magazine called Cliburn the Texan who conquered Russia.

Watch the video below of Cliburn and Gorbachav at the Reagan White House to understand the depths of  Cliburn's talent musically and diplomatically.

Van Cliburn rest in peace.

End bar – Cliburn’s association with another Long Tall Texan