Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Are We Doing?

This post and my outrage is not about my personal support of certain issues but rather the time our governmental bodies are dithering on the relatively less important issues.

I am leaving any thoughts on solutions to perhaps a later post.

My frustrations permeate almost all levels of government.

Our school board is bogged downed squabbling about school start dates. The City is yacking about restricting food trucks. County government is bogged down figuring out how to have fair elections. (It isn’t that complicated We know how to do it. We have had fair elections in South Dakota since statehood. Election problems were caused by unpreparedness and election officials’ mistakes – some who took responsibility and some who did not.)  

The State Legislature spends inordinate time on concealed weapons. We have one of the most pro gun concealed carry laws in the nation.  Is security in the State Capitol in jeopardy? Our Legislature wants to abolish the U S Department of Education (which they have zero power to do) and they are spending lots of committee time, discussion and public engagement on restricting rare almost non-existent abortions. Our federal government is playing political one upsmanship putting national security at risk over the debate on the immigration issue.  

Feelings on these issues vary greatly. Feelings on some are intense, some issues are very personal, and some issues are simply political wedge issues. A lot of time, energy, and political capital are being wasted at the expense of much bigger problems.

South Dakota K-12 education is not doing their job. (Before my school and educator friends put me on their unwelcome list remember School people play the hand they are dealt. It’s up to the Legislature and School Boards to effect policy and change. Taxpayers provide the money.) At South Dakota Universities, about 30 percent of South Dakota High School graduates require remedial work. Should not our Legislature and School Boards be having discussions and taking significant action on high school grads not being ready for higher ed?. Maybe our School Board ought to be working not on when school starts but why the school year isn’t longer or standards higher?

In South Dakota our jails are full. Minnehaha County increasingly is spending more of its budget on incarceration costs. The County has noticed some of the neighboring tenant Counties and they may be turning away their prisoners. Brown County also has said they are nearing over capacity. While all the evidence is not in on our Criminal Justice reforms (and they must be given a chance), new jails may still have to be built or criminals turned lose.

Locally exacerbating the jail problem, the crime rates in the City of Sioux Falls have risen dramatically. The City has been reluctant to admit there is even a problem and public safety has been given a lower priority than development issues.  Despite a 58% growth rate in crime, little focus and less discussion has been given this important basic problem?

Federally our most important issue seems to be a pipeline (that I support and think is a no brainer) while foreign policy is dismissed. We may be on the brink or WWIII (or maybe its already started and we just have not recognized it yet). No one seems to be working of finding solutions to our persistent federal deficits or needed social security reforms  whose fiscal magnitude is overwhelming

Particularly frustrating to me is that despite all the effort (public and private) and the billions of dollars that are spent, people are hungry in America. We have literally thousands of federal programs and grants for practically every imagined and even unimagined purposes yet many people among us including large numbers of children remain hungry.

With all the smart people and our smart elected officials why can’t we even fix this most basic welfare need? For perspective, as a national problem where does hunger rate say compared to the 17 percent default rate on Student Loans over $100,000, the oil depletion allowance, or the space program?

The point of this rant is that we need to focus government and politics on our Big Problems not sideshows. Way too much time is being spent on the mice while we ignore the elephants. The elephants being America’s  kids are falling behind in education, our jails are full, and the world is a dangerous place. And Oh Yes, we are spending billions on food assistance but people are still hungry.

We can solve these problems but we must first give them priority; and then summon the political courage, dedication, and statesmanship to solve them

Monday, December 29, 2014

Guns, Pawn, and Rock & Roll

Sioux Falls business and community leaders have worked diligently over the past thirty-five plus years to change our City from a one industry town to the economically and culturally diverse Sioux Falls of today.

The Queen City is no longer largely dependent on agriculture and meat packing. Unquestionably our city has changed because of the arrival of Citibank and the transformational generosity of T. Denny Sanford. Sioux Falls is viewed as a vibrant city whose economy is led by world class health care systems and financial services.

Sioux Falls is marketed as a great place to live, raise a family, and to do business. For the past thirty-five years, the City has more than doubled in population. Sioux Falls has become the regional retail destination, the Washington Pavilion put through a Cinderella like transformation; Falls Park, downtown (Phillips Avenue and East Bank), and River Greenway revitalized; and the Bird Cage, Convention Center, and Events center constructed. And the Sanford Sports complex

So it is a shock in the last few days, seemingly out of nowhere comes the news of efforts to change our city and its well-crafted image. In the name of entertainment Sioux Falls will now have Rock and Roll 24/7/365 (the radio station), a Guntry Club, and the Midwest’s (if not the nation’s) largest Pawn Shop.

Chuck Brennan of Dollar Loan Center has announced he will build the Badlands, Pawn, Gold and Jewelry entertainment complex, which he describes as “Disneyland or Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory of pawn shops."  According to press reports Mr. Brennan wants to make shopping at the pawnshop fun and “create the pawnshop experience.” It was stated Badlands Gold & Jewelry would be a tourist destination attracting as many as 500 people per day.

Plans for Badlands will include large selections of jewelry, electronics, a gun shop with shooting range, a silver and gold foundry, a FM Rock radio station, a tattoo shop, a delli, and a merchandise shop.  

The Argus Leader  reported the City is excited about this venture and the City’s director of development in speaking about this stated, “this is what we were hoping would come” relative to the creation of the Sioux Falls Sports and Entertainment District.

This development creates a conflict for me. I believe in free enterprise with a minimum amount of government interference. This conflict is similar to my feelings about the issue of limiting the rate of interest and charges assessed by payday lenders.

While I am undecided (still thinking about it and want to see the specific proposal) on the payday lending issue (free market forces versus hurtful business practices), I would not favor the City issuing Badlands an on premisis beer and wine permit or alcoholic beverage license if their were a shooting range at the site. I don’t feel any differently about Badlands than I do about Scheels Sports who I think has created a real destination attraction at their Sioux Falls store with their Ferris wheel, faux shooting gallery, and cafĂ©. Sheels also has an extensive gun shop at their store. Despite I am pro gun, I wouldn’t favor giving Scheels a license to sell alcohol either.

If Mr. Brennan wants to invest his money legally as he sees fit, he can go for it. From my perspective however I don’t think it will materially benefit our city. In terms of attracting high quality jobs, keeping the conservative pro business image required to foster financial services jobs, attracting more family trust business, and projecting our image of hard working Midwestern wholesomeness, I don’t think Sioux Falls should participate with special assistance for Badlands to participate in remaking the Queen City’s image to Pawn City.

Endbar  - I really do like Pawn and Rock and Roll. I frequently watch the “Pawn Shows” on Reality TV. Foremost understand that almost all Reality TV is scripted. I like Pawn Stars with the Harrison family, but I view it as the History Channel’s entertainment version of PBS’ Antiques Roadshow (which I also occasionally enjoy). No day goes by that I don’t listen to 50’s on 5 or 60’s on 6.

While in Las Vegas for the Thanksgiving holiday, (my son lives there) my wife, children, grandchildren, and I played KISS Golf in Las Vegas. It was glow in the dark mini golf with blaring rock and roll. It was great fun for all ages (all 7 of us, from 5 to 68). I don’t know if it would be considered a destination venue but it was a great place. If this was the image Badlands were pursuing it would be palatable. I like Las Vegas but just want to keep it in Las Vegas, I just don’t want a Sin City image in Sioux Falls.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

TCU v Mississippi – Deju Vu

Straight Talk living in the past edition

Words can’t describe my Horned Frog pride in how the Texas Christian University football team performed this season. If it were not for their fourth quarter collapse against the Baylor Bears they would have had an undefeated season that should have put them in the NCAA playoffs.

Sidebar – former Paschal Panther and TCU alum, famed sportswriter and the yoda of Fort Worth’s soul, expressed some skepticism when he tweeted:

When my beloved Frogs beat OU and Texas in the same season, it's a great year. Playoff committee was always about TV ratings, nothing else.

(for more on Jenkins check out his bio or many of the great books he has penned. His latest book, his memoir, “His Ownself – A Semi-Memoir” may be his best.)

Not making the playoffs puts the #6 Frogs in the Chic-Fil-A-Bowl (non officially Peach Bowl) on December 31 playing #9 Ole Miss Rebels (officially University of Mississippi.)

This isn’t the first time the Frogs have met the Rebs in a bowl game. The last time was the 1956 Cotton Bowl game. The Cotton Bowl game then was played at the actual Cotton Bowl at the Texas State Fair grounds in Dallas. Interestingly the game was played not on New Years Day as the only “real” and “major” bowl games were played in the day but on January 2nd, which was a Monday. Presumably then because College Football, a frivolity, was not to be played on the “Lord’s Day.” College football as Jenkins suggest may not any longer be a frivolity.

That day was going to be a great day for me. I was a TCU fan and the Frogs were going to the Cotton Bowl. My hero TCU halfback, Jim Swink, had been named an All American and another Frog and Fort Worth legend Johnny Vaught was the Mississippi coach. Vaught who was Valedictorian at Fort Worth Polytechnic High School played his college ball at TCU and too was an All American. Because Vaught was “local” his career and Mississippi had many followers in Cowtown.

What made the TCU – Mississippi special for me is my Daddy and a friend’s Dad got tickets for the game (I think they were $5 each – and fairly hard to come by). So it was off to Big D for the game. The Rosenthals and the Hermans first made a stop at the regionally famous Southern Kitchen for lunch. They had a buffet with all the fried chicken and shrimp with what were called fixins (now sides) for maybe $3 per person.

It was a clear day and as memory serves (I was 9) cool and brisk. Today I would translate that to between 45 to 50 degrees for the 2pm game. 

One thing I clearly remember was the Mississippi band unfurling the large Confederate Stars and Bars on the field prior to the start of the game and playing Dixie. In sixty years that has changed. While the team is still named the Rebels, their mascot is no longer a Confederate Colonel but a bear named rebel.

It is not the point of this post, but worth noting, one of the flash points of the 1960s Civil Rights movement was the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962 with the assistance of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the Federal Courts and 500 U S Marshalls.

It did not turn out to be a winning day for TCU. They lost 14 – 13, but it was a great game. The Frogs led 13 to zip at the half but could not hold back Vaught and the Rebs. TCU’s big problem was Chuck Curtis, their All Southwest Conference QB, was injured on the kickoff and was out for the rest of the game. You would not ever see that today. Back then players played both ways (O & D) and special teams (we didn’t even know what those were). There were few player substitutions.

Duly noted - Curtis played for a time in the NFL as backup QB for the New York Giants behind Charley Connerly, under assistant coaches Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. Interestingly Connery had played his college ball at Mississippi under Johnny Vaught. Vaught also coached another pretty successful NFL QB, Archie Manning, (who is the father of oh you already know that.)

In 1957 (actually played on New Years Day) TCU returned to the Cotton Bowl and beat Syracuse 28 -27 in another hard fought battle. Syracuse their premier halfback that year, some guy named Jim Brown.

We will see what fate has in store for TCU at the Peach Bowl but they have proven a lot this year. Their performance shows a quality program can be built with focus and good coaching at even a private school with only 10,000 students.

End bar – I have linked in this post quite a bit. If you are interested take a look. The information on TCU’s reemergence as a mini Goliath and the look at Jim Swink are worthwhile.

Monday, October 20, 2014

40 – 28 -28 – 4

It is said, to remain silent is to be thought a fool and to speak removes all doubt. Today I am putting on my Fools Cap and taking out my cracked crystal ball.

The certainty in South Dakota elections this year is: It’s going to be a big year for Republicans. Three reasons: South Dakota is a Republican State, The President (leader of the opposition party) is very unpopular, and for the most part the Democrats failed to show up.

While the pundits are focused on the heads up numbers it would be very telling to know the name identification numbers of the major candidates on the ballot. Can Ms. Robinson be at 30%? Ms. Wismer at 50%?

The World Series hasn’t even begun but the general public shows no signs of being engaged as of yet in the campaigns. There is a feeling among many citizens it really does not make much difference who wins – Government is Broken.

I won’t belabor it but this election cycle has been nothing short of bizarre. The weirdness roosts particularly in the GOP Senate primary, the disgruntled candidates who usurped the Libertarian Party ballot and the Myers – Hubbel Independent Governor candidacy.

The Senate General Election – As I previously intoned neither of the major parties have their best candidates on the ballot and Larry Pressler is making it interesting. While I originally thought the former Senator would take votes from Mike Rounds, he is taking potential votes from Democrat candidate Rick Wieland. Since I posted on Pressler he has come out in favor of Gay marriage, recognition of a Tribal Holocaust, opposed the Keystone pipeline and other left leaning positions.

Certainly Marty Jackley, Dusty Johnson, Kristi Noem, Chris Nelson, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and maybe even Brendan Johnson passed on a solid opportunity. 

All of the candidates for this open seat are running against Washington and have variations of the same message. Larry Pressler has been the most articulate and most specific in expressing his formula for change. The major party campaigns have not been energized. Only the poll two weeks ago showing the race tightening energized the campaigns (all three). Howie is rarely seen. That poll did bugle in the Cavalry with National Campaign Committee and Super PAC cash. Any slippage Mike Rounds had has been recovered.

Thus two weeks out the race is back to square one with the major party candidates. Rounds has the GOP base of 40%, Weiland the Democrat base of 28%. Neither of the major party candidates has added to their base. Pressler has taken all the oxygen. Howie stays at the angry birds you can’t be pure enough 4%.

So that puts the race today and where I predict it will be election night.  Rounds 40% Pressler and Weiland 28% and Howie 4%. It is a dead heat for 2nd place (flip a coin to see who is number 2) and Howie is just a distraction. That is it folks barring any major bomb this last two weeks.

Almost no way can you massage the numbers to have Weiland or Pressler take enough votes from each other to overtake the 40%.

Finally there is the issue of FLUIDITY. When there are more that two candidates in a race for one spot, there can be movement on Election Day. Voters do not want to feel like their vote does not make a difference. Thus if the public believes there are just two real contenders, Mr. No. 3 and Mr. No. 4 can lose votes to No. 1 and No. 2. This phenomenon can be un predictable. It also suggests to me that Rounds and Weiland and their surrogates may want to be careful in their continued attacks on Pressler.

I should only add the above is not based on any polling. This is just pure opinion based on press reports, talking to voters in the coffee shops and saloons, and a little experience.