Sunday, December 5, 2010

Double D, Dusty & Chris

Front Bar – Another delay in posting on 2011 Redistricting; I have wanted to post on the Governor’s appointment of Dusty Johnson to Chief of Staff and announcement of his intent to appoint current Secretary of State Chris Nelson to take Johnson’s place on the Public Utilities Commission. Additionally I wanted to look at what the election means in terms of change in the leadership and management of South Dakota Government. Both subjects are combined in this what I expect will be a lengthy post.

From the outset, I have known Dennis Daugaard for 15 years, have worked with him on his political campaigns and learned from him. He is of the highest character. Dennis Daugaard is easy to like. Based on 14 years in public office we don’t know all that much about him. During his quest for out State’s highest office over the past 3 years I never had a sense of his vision and consequently expected little change from the passive Round’s administration. Much of his campaign was spent on his biography, compelling personal story and South Dakota work ethic.

In my experience, you have activist Governors or passive ones. Think Kneip (activist), Wollman (passive – served 6 months), Janklow (activist), Mickelson (both active and passive), Miller (passive – a little under 2 years) Janklow (activist), Rounds (passive to the point of caretaker though very high public approval ratings).

Sidebar – Ron Volesky when he was a candidate for Governor in 2006, in his stump speech asked his listeners to take out pen and paper and write down three accomplishments of Mike Rounds’ administration. A pretty good test I think for any Governor.

In retrospect based on events and support that Dennis Daugaard had, I expected more of the Rounds’ passivity. Daugaard had Mike Rounds’ endorsement, the support of the Pierre establishment, and Round’s inner circle and the extended regular GOP establishment. Compound that with a three year run up to the Primary. What insiders, high level State appointees, or contractors were going to go somewhere else three years out? The Daugaard campaign was well organized and executed. The fact that Jason Glodt, a former SD Party ED and Governor Rounds’ inside political guy was involved gave the Daugaard inside access to the party apparatus.

The Lt. Governor talked conservative, is against raising taxes, pro gun, and pro life – all requisite Republican primary voter positions. The DD campaign raised over a million dollars early on and basically both in the primary and general election ran as the front runner, saying little, avoiding controversy, really just a run out the clock campaign. Compound these advantages with a personality that is easy to like and a great work ethic, it was a winning combination.
Dennis Daugaard received over 50% of the vote in a five way primary and winning in a landslide in the general election.

Daugaard threaded the needle in his support of Rounds and stating his own positions. During the primary he denied there was a budget crisis or even a big problem that we could not grow out of. During the general election campaign he continued with this line of response offering little more specifics except to say that he would not spend money that he did not have. Only on election night did he say he was going to work on the budget problem.

Consequently after the election, I felt South Dakota was in competent hands but had little expectation of much change.

The reorganization of the Governor’s office staff, the dismissal of about one half of Governor Rounds’ cabinet, and the appointments of Dusty Johnson and Chris has altered my opinion.

Dennis Daugaard may be more of an Activist Governor.

Sidebar – for another look at gubernatorial management style see this recent article by Bob Mercer.

Dusty Johnson – I have been involved with South Dakota government and politics for just over thirty years, with the exception of Bill Janklow there has not been a more completed policy package than Dusty Johnson.

Disclaimer – I have known Dusty for over 15 years since he was Chairman of the South Dakota Teen Age Republican organization. I was one of the people who encouraged him to seek the Public Utilities Commission seat in 2004, and have advised and worked with him on both his Statewide campaigns.

Dusty is extremely smart and bright but is no egghead. He plain just gets it! He is balanced and fair, analyzes and does not jump to conclusions. Dennis Daugaard made a great selection in Dusty. There has been discussion and speculation that Johnson might be sidetracking his career in elected office, but this was not an overriding consideration in his accepting the Governor’s request. Dusty is not in this for personal fame or gain. He wants to make a difference! He understands managing policy for 10 activist agencies and divisions (including Economic Development, Game Fish & Parks, Environment and Natural Resources, Commerce, and Agriculture among others) for the Governor is a far broader portfolio than the Utilities Commission. Dennis Daugaard could not have made a better pick.

Chris Nelson – I have know and worked (to varying degrees) with Chris Nelson also for about 16 years. He was Director of Elections in the Secretary of State’s office when I served as Party Chairman as well as an outstanding candidate for Statewide office in 2002. I have not always agreed with Chris but he is always consistent. He has two outstanding traits; he is always faithful to the law and he is focused. While I agree that there is appearance of the GOP playing musical chairs on the Second Floor of the Capitol, in this case the Governor elect could not have made a better choice. Chris Nelson will be an outstanding Commissioner (fair and balanced one) and a good candidate for his Party.

Note – there has been a lot of carping that someone qualified was not named. Horse puckey – since when is qualifications an issue. Was Laska Schoenfelder, the Davison County Register of Deeds qualified? Or Jim Burg a farmer, Pam Nelson a former legislator and self described consumer activist qualified? Ken Stofferahn? Get over it. With the possible exception of Bob Sahr who is an accomplished Attorney, few are qualified the first day on the job. Chris Nelson will be outstanding.

I note the Secretary of State’s remark upon his appointment that he recognizes the important balance between the consumer and consistently reliable service that can only be provided by vibrant utilities.

With these two appointments, Dennis Daugaard shows thought and action and I applaud him.

I am a little more circumspect about his office reorganization but because of the actions noted above give him more than a big Straight Talk Benefit of the Doubt.

It is now well known that the Governor elect has decided to become hands on CEO Governor. He has formed what is essentially a governing council. The Chairman of his Transition Committee is Jeff Erickson, who it appears suggested the Governor elect adopt a management organization more similar that is found in the private sector. In effect there will now be five or six persons doing what previously one or two were doing. How this provides for better government I am unsure, maybe even doubtful, but Governor Daugaard was elected and is entitled to shape his administration to his liking and as said previously deserves the benefit of doubt. (I certainly don’t see the efficiency and any cost savings.) The proof is in the government.

It will be interesting to see how it works out with the Lieutenant Governor Matt Michaels also now going full time.

There has been criticism of Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s son in law serving on the management committee. Tony provides pluses and minuses. The minuses are the political; the Governor elect has noted that there would be criticism. On the plus side Tony is extremely bright and energetic, and experienced. He served on the Board of Regents for five years and did a clerkship in a rural Judicial Circuit with Judge Tim Bjorkman in Salem and Mitchell. Tony also managed the Daugaard campaign. No one seriously believes Tony is not capable of managing his portfolio.

Overall Dennis Daugaard is off to a decisive, speedy and first class start.

Endbar – Governor Rounds will give his Budget address this coming week. News reports are that it will be an austere budget. The Governor elect has indicated that he plans to offer his own budget. What similarities there are will be interesting. Several months ago Governor Rounds asked his Cabinet Secretaries to look for cuts. Times being tough and revenues not meeting projections have been the case for the past couple of budget cycles. Thus it is interesting (and perhaps cynical of me) that Governor Rounds is now looking for cuts when he will not be governing with reduced expenditures. Throughout the Rounds’ Administration we have been operating with what Governor Rounds has termed a structural deficit (an interesting phrase).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Festival of Lights

Straight Talk Commentary – Chanukah is here, my third favorite holiday ((1) Passover (2) Thanksgiving). Following is the thought provoking holiday message by Israeli Statesman Yoram Ettinger.

As Ambassador Ettinger refers to our National motto, “In God We Trust.” I read recently that the essence of our Nation (The United States of America) can be found succinctly on our coinage. As Ettinger points out tshe message of the Macabees suggests the divine providence of America.

Like Passover, Chanukah is a Freedom holiday.
Chanukah 2010 Guide for the Perplexed
By:Yoram Ettinger

December 1, 2010
1.George Washington first learned of Chanukkah while at Valley Forge,Pennsylvania, 1778: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it is long past...It pleases me to think that miracles still happen."
2. "In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees’ battle cry, which adopted Moses battle cry against the builders of the Golden Calf. A literal translation of Moses' battle cry is “Whoever trusts G-D; join me!
3. The Maccabees' sacrifice and political-incorrectness inspired PatrickHenry's "Give me liberty or give me death" and New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die." The Maccabees followed in the footsteps of Abraham, Phineas the High Priest, Joshua & Calev, King David and Elijah the Prophet, who walked against the grain, in defiance of the establishment and conventional wisdom.
4. Inspiration to Benjamin Franklin's "Rebellion against Tyrants isobedience to God." The Maccabees were a tiny minority of “rebels” -condemned by the "loyalists/pragmatists" - rising against an oppressive super-power. They were condemned, by the Jewish establishment, as "enemies of peace" and "extremists." They prevailed due to their principle-driven, determined and can-do state-of-mind and adherence to roots and long-term vision against any odds. They demonstrated the victory of the few over the many, right over wrong, moral over immoral, truth over lies, faith over cynicism and opportunism. The Maccabees became a role-model for the US'Founding Fathers, including Paul Revere (who was referred to as a "modern day Maccabee") and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party. They realized that no free lunches were available for freedom-seeking nations.
5. "Chanukah has a special significance in Montana these days. In Billings in 1993, vandals broke windows in homes that were displaying menorahs. In a response organized by local church leaders, more than 10,000 of the city residents and shopkeepers put make-shift menorahs in their own windows, to protect the city’s three dozen or so Jewish families. The vandalism stopped" (New York Times, Dec. 4, 2009, Eric Stern, senior counselor to Gov. Brian Schweitzer).
6. Historical context Alexander The Great - who held Judaism in high esteem and whose Egyptian heir, Ptolemy II, translated the Torah to Greek - died in 323BCE following 12 glorious years. Consequently, the Greek Empire disintegrated into five, and thirty years later into three, kingdoms: Macedonia, Syria and Egypt. The Land of Israel was militarily contested by Syria and Egypt. In 198BCE, Israel was conquered by the Syrian kingdom. In 175BCE, a new king assumedpower in Syria, Antiochus (IV) Epiphanies, who viewed the Jews aspro-Egyptians and held Judaism with contempt. In 169BC, upon his return to Syria from a war against Egypt, he devastated Jerusalem, massacred the Jews, forbade the practice of Judaism (including the Sabbath, circumcision, etc.) and desecrated Jerusalem and the Temple. The 167BCE-launched rebellion against the Syrian (Seleucid) kingdom featured the Hasmonean (Maccabee) family: Mattityahu, a priest from the town of Modi'in, and his five sons, Yochanan, Yehuda, Shimon, Yonatan and Elazar. The heroic (and tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees, were consistent with thereputation of Jews as superb warriors, who were hired frequently asmercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other global and regional powers.
7. The Hasmonean dynasty *Mattityahu son of Yochanan, the priest-led rebellion – 166/7BCE *Yehuda the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 166-161BCE *Yonatan the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 161-143BCE*Shimon the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 143-135BCE *Yochanan Hyrcanus son of Shimon – 135-104BCE *…*Mattityahu Antigonus – 40-37BCE
8. Key geographic Maccabee sites are located in Judea and Samaria: Mitzpah (also Samuel's burial site), Beit El mountains (Judah's first headquarters), Beit Horon (Judah's victory over Seron), Hadashah (Judah's victory over Nicanor), Beit Zur (Judah's victory over Lysias), Ma'aleh Levona (Judah's victory over Apolonius), Adora'yim (a Maccabees' fortress), Elazar & Beit Zachariya (Judah's first defeat), Ba'al Hatzor (Judah defeated and killed), the Judean Desert, etc. Jerusalem (beyond the "1949 Lines") was the Capital of the Maccabees. Are the descendants of the Maccabees "occupiers"in thecradle of their own history??? Is Chanukah a holiday of "occupation," or is it a holiday which highlights Jewish moral-high-ground in their historical land?!
9. The legacy of Shimon the Maccabee. He succeeded Judah and Yonatan the Maccabees, while responding to an ultimatum by the Syrian emperor, Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33): "We have not occupied a foreign land; We have not ruled a foreign land; We have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation." Thus he responded to a super-power's ultimatum to end "occupation" of Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gezer, Ekron and Gaza.
10. Chanukah's uniqueness. Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday whichcommemorates a Land-of-Israel national liberation struggle, unlike Passover (Exodus from Egypt), Sukkot/Tabernacles & Shavouot/Pentacost (on the way from Egypt to the Land of Israel), Purim (deliverance of Jews in Persia), etc. Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday (8 days) with the most intense level of Light (8 consecutive nights of candle lighting).
11. The origin of the name – Chanukah – is also education-oriented.According to the first book of Maccabees, Yehuda (who succeeded Mattityahu) ordered the Jewish People to observe an eight day holiday on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, 165BCE, in order to commemorate the inauguration (Chanukah, çðåëä, in Hebrew) of the holy altar and the Temple, following Syrian desecration. A key feature of Chanukah is education of the family (Chinuch, çéðåê, in Hebrew). The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of two words, Chanu, çðå,(they rested/stationed) and Kah, ëä, (25 in Hebrew), which refers to the fact that the Maccabees re-consecrated the Temple on the 25thday of the month of Kislev (purging it from the idolatries installed by the Syrians/Seleucids). Some have suggested that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later (January 1) have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (which always “accompanies” December) and the 8 days of Chanukah as well as the 8 days of circumcision.
12. Holiday of light and remembrance. The first day of Chanukah is on the 25th day of Kislev, the month of miracles (e.g. Noah's Rainbow appeared in Kislev). The first and last Hebrew letters of Kislev – åë - equal (in Jewish numerology) 26, which the total sum of the Hebrew spelling of Jehovah. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Ark on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the foundation of the Second Temple by Nehemaya. The 25th (Hebrew) word in Genesis is Light (OR, àåø, in Hebrew). A Jewish metaphor for the Torah is light. The 25th stop of the People of Israel - on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land - was Hashmona (same root as Hasmoneans in Hebrew). Chanukah commemorates the victory of Light (Maccabees) over Darkness and Remembrance over Forgetfulness (the Hebrew spelling of darkness – çùëä – employs the same letters as forgetulness - ùëçä).
13. The origin of the name, Maccabee (îëáé or î÷áé). Yehuda’s middle name was Maccabee, derived possibly from the Hebrew word Makevet (î÷áú), Power Hammer), which described Yehuda’s tenacious and decisive fighting capabilities. It may have derived from the Hebrew verb Cabeh (ëáä, to extinguish), which described the fate of Yehuda’s adversaries. Another source of the name suggests that Maccabee, îëáé, is the Hebrew acronym of “Who could resemble you among Gods, Jehovah” (“Mi Camokha Ba'elim Adonai” îéëîåê áàìéí é').
14. Eight days of Chanukah represent divine capabilities and optimism. The ancient Temple Menorah consisted of seven branches, which commemorated the seven days of creation. The Chanukah Menorah has eight branches, reflecting the additional level of divine capabilities over and beyond human expectations: The victory of the few over the many and the lasting of one day supply of oil for eight days. Some have suggested that the eight day celebration was designed to make up for the holiday of Tabernacles, which could not be celebrated by the Maccabees due to their war of liberation. The shape of the digit 8 represents infinity: No end to divine capabilities to enhance human fortunes, as evidenced by the survival of the Jewish People against all odds. The root of the Hebrew word for 8 (Shmoneh, ùîåðä) is "oil" (Shemen, ùîð), which is also the root of "Hasmonean" (Hashmonayim,çùîåðàéí).
15. Chanukah-Purim-Passover. The heroes of Passover and Purim had nochoice but to defy their enemies. The Maccabees turned down the option of physical peace in return for spiritual assimilation. They refused to sellout the cradle of Jewish history. They were willing to pay any price for adherence to their roots, values and heritage. Chanukah symbolizes the victory of monotheism over paganism, conviction over convenience and opportunism/cynicism (sometime presented as "realism" or "pragmatism"), compassion over egotism, self-control and restraint over temptation and promiscuity, endurance over vacillation.

16. Seven Chanukah (inauguration)-like events: Chanukah of the Creation (Genesis 2:1-3), Chanukah of the Sanctuary (Numbers 7:1-11), Chanukah of the First Temple (Kings 1, 7:51, 8:1-11 & 62-66), Chanukah of the Second Templeand the Ingathering (Ezra 6:13-18), Chanukah of Jerusalem's Wall (Nehemiah 6:15-16), Chanukah of the Temple Priests in 165BC (Maccabees 1, 4), Chanukahof the After World. Some attach the significance of each such Chanukah to a corresponding day of the Creation

Friday, November 19, 2010

South Dakota Switcher

Newly elected District #17 State Senator Eldon Nygaard becomes another Party Switcher joining other notable Democrats who have become Republicans including Ronald Reagan, Phil Gramm, John Thune, Norm Coleman, and Dave Knudson.

Nygaard said in a statement about his switch, “I firmly believe I can represent my district's needs in Pierre more effectively as a member of the Republican Party." Nygaard is right.

Particularly in the State Senate Democrats are irrelevant. With only 5 or 6 members they can barely at best cover the committee work, where the heavy lifting is done. If you assume that 2 Senators will serve on the Appropriations Committee, that leaves only 3 others to cover the other committees.

To put in perspective and for reference the nine “major” committees are: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Judiciary, Local Government, State Affairs, Taxation, and Transportation.

The Democrats in their Senate Caucus will be clueless as to what is going on and powerless to shape legislation in any meaningful way. On a party basis (most committee work is not overly partisan) they won’t even have another Democrat available to second their motions. Further any hope of having an impact is greatly diminished. Dems will for the most part go to Senate Caucus and just wonder what the Republicans are going to do. – No impact!

When Nygaard says he can be more effective as a Repub he is not kidding! As a Republican he can at least get consideration of his bills in the overwhelmingly Majority caucus.

Sidebar – The Democrats got decimated in the State Senate for primarily one reason – Barack Obama. He was like the plague that just rolled out over the Heartland. Many Democrats never had a chance. The President and the Pelossi apologists are in denial. Independents and moderate Democrats who are the swing voters screamed “Change.” Given the dissension in the party ranks in the Democrat Caucus in the U S House this week, I expect you will see a few party switchers moving from D to R in that Legislative Body as well. Looking back; Scott Brown’s election in the Teddy Kennedy special U S Senate election in Massachusetts last January was the canary in the coal mine. The President and Congressional Democrats didn’t listen.

That covers Nygaard’s public explanation. I view his switch as a little more political opportunism.

There are interesting factors in play in Clay County. Prior Clay County Results - In the 2002 Gubernatorial Mike Rounds lost to favorite son USD President Jim Abbott 38.4% to 59.8%, in 2004 John Thune lost to Tom Daschle 36.6% to 63.4%, in 2006 Mike Rounds lost to Jack Billion 48.3% to 49.6%, in 2008 McCain / Palin lost to Obama / Biden 61% to 36.8%, also in 2008 (in the District #17 Senate race) Jerad Higman lost to Ben Nesselhuf 40.6% to 59.4%.

The kicker – in 2010 Dennis Daugaard lost to Scott Heidepriem 49.6% to 50.4% and Teri Jorgenson lost to Nygaard 46.6% to 53.4% (thank you Barack Obama) but the trend to GOP is notable. This trend is not lost on Nygaard and explains part of the reason for his switch.

I also believe that the 2011 Legislative Redistricting Sweepstakes combination Cake Walk and Musical Chairs also is a factor. Redistricting is a more complicated analysis that I will speak to, specifically regarding Clay County, the current District #17, and far southeastern South Dakota in my next post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Has Her Opinioned Changed?

This afternoon after watching a the Vikings getting drubbed by the Bears special teams and failing on so many third down conversions without pulling myself off the couch, I started surfing. The Cowboys and the Giants held no appeal and then came across a CSPAN program I was unaware of: Turn The Table.

“Turn The Table” is a weekly show broadcast from the Newseum in Washington, DC. Produced by Politico the show is moderated by John F Harris, Editor and Chief of Politico. Each week the panelists are the hosts of the Sunday Morning national Talk Shows. It appears that the show is taped before each week’s respective Sunday broadcasts in front of a live audience of Washington types, media representatives, and what I judged were a smattering of students.

The panelists were David Gregory (NBC Meet the Press), Bob Schieffer (Face the Nation), Candy Crowley (CNN chief political correspondent filling in for some other dude (wasn’t Wolfie who does their show) and my lunch pal from the ABC Newsmaker Luncheon (ABC This Week’s Christiane Amanpour).

Sidebar – The moderator commented on Schieffer’s distinctive purple socks. Schieffer responded they were a statement for his Alma matter, T C U who is in contention for the BCS. Schieffer noted in this regard he is biased and had editorialized on the National Collegiate Football Championships. Worth noting is that the School of Journalism at Texas Christian is the named for Schieffer.

While watching “Turn The Table”, I was caught off guard by a remark that Ms. Amanpour made. The former well known foreign correspondent for CNN said that this week during our President’s Asian trip, the Chinese were openly questioning whether America is the leading economic power in the World.

I was startled. During my recent lunch conversation with Christiane I asked her about how she felt about China as an economic competitor to the United States. She answered forthrightly that it was a misconception as she did not feel that the Chinese viewed themselves as competitors to U S having the world’s largest economy. From her answer and the way it was delivered I believe she implied this was an American perception (as opposed to a Chinese one.)

Given her report of the Chinese assertion I wonder if her opinion has changed?

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The ABC News sales organization under the influence of Straighttalk's Senior Research Associate extended me an extremely kind invitation to their 2010 Newsmaker Luncheon Friday in New York City.

What an exciting and memorable day! The invitees included ABC sales staff, reporters, journalists (broadcast and digital) (including the “Talent”), advertisers, and the important media buyers. There were a little over two hundred persons in attendance. This outstanding event was held at the famous New York Athletic Club.

The ABC sales team knows how to put on a great show. Reception before a prime rib lunch with cocktails, beer (two open bars) and world class munchies with butler service included fresh shrimp and rack of lamb. As a Foodie I shouldn't forget to mention a lox and eggs breakfast at the “Stage Delicatessen” (in the heart of the Theater District), my Dad's all time favorite deli.

My research director has friends in high places as my luncheon seatmate was Christiane Amanpour, the recently coronated host of ABC's Sunday Morning, “This Week”. Ever the world class reporter Ms. Amanpour asked where I was from and wondered what my connection was to ABC. When she heard I was from South Dakota and, she immediately told me of her interest in the Female Faceoff in our U S House race. She said that she had considered doing a feature on the race on several levels but the story it did not materialize.

On learning of my political involvement (particularly on the GOP side), she intently (though courteously and with I thought a tad of indulgence to my unwashed views) pursued a line of questioning of how the Republicans, specifically, were going to deliver on their promises, to cut spending, cut taxes, decrease the deficit, balance the budget, conduct two wars, create jobs, and increase economic growth.

Sidebar – Her hypothesis was similar to one I heard on election night from CBS commentator, Jeff Greenfield who described the GOP wish list as a Hot Fudge Sundae Diet. Since I had been thinking about Greenfield's metaphor, I was somewhat prepared for my distinguished luncheon-mate's question.

We had a lively exchange. I thought I answered her questions adequately; the featured guest on “This Week” tomorrow will be Kentucky Senator elect, Rand Paul. I expect Dr. Paul will get the Hot Fudge Sundae Diet question with both barrels.

The Newsmaker Luncheon program was a presentation of reporting, analysis, and opinions from the ABC news team. The moderators were World News Tonight anchor, Diane Sawyer, and Good Morning America anchor and ABC chief political correspondent George Stephanopoulos.

The topic of conversation was the mid term elections, what happened, what it means, and where do we go forward from here.

Stephanopoulos said that it is important to understand the “magnitude” of the change. He reminded the audience that he was working in the White House during the 1994 change election. He said that in '94 the White House / Democrats were blindsided by the change in power. In contrast this year those in power saw it coming but either did not understand or under estimated the magnitude.

Stephanopoulos said The President is at least a “little” in denial. The effervescent George continued the President believes in his programs, but he seemingly does not want to drill down and figure out what caused the change. Stephanopoulos described the GOP win as a tidal wave that rolled across Interstate 80 changing many Congressional seats from blue to red. The GOP made significant pickups in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois. I liked the Highway 80 metaphor.

At that point in the presentation, there began a discussion about whether the two parties work could work together and effect compromise. The question came up as to the future of dethroned House Speaker and chief GOP villain, Nancy Pelosi. About 20 words into the subject, Senior Political Correspondent, Jonathan Karl interrupted with the announcement he had just received a text that the Speaker had announced she would indeed seek the Minority Leader post.

Sidebar – I wonder what Stenny Hoyer thinks of that? (Where do you get a name like Stenny?) Personally I thought Madame Speaker was going to resign from Congress within the next couple of weeks. Wrong about that. I guess she just loves the life and cannot let go.

Karl continued that the Liberals, pretty much those Democrats that remain want her to stay and they see her as the defender of their belief in Obamacare and the $800 Billion stimulus that has failed at meaningful job creation. At that juncture of the conversation, The Grande Dame of ABC News, Cokie Roberts interjected that the Republicans were in no mood for compromise anymore than the remaining Democrats. She explained that moderate and even conservative Republicans had lost primary challenges and while the Dems had tilted even further left, the GOP has shifted further right.

Sidebar – At my Research Associate's insistence, at the earlier reception we introduced ourselves to Cokie Roberts. I have always considered her the whole package -very smart, well spoken, and attractive. Mrs, Roberts who is the daughter of Hale and Lindy Boggs, Louisiana politicians (both were Democrat U S Representatives, her Father was the House Majority Leader and Mother also a U S Ambassador) has equanimity and the ability to ask probing questions to get information not score points. It was a thrill to very briefly seek and receive her thoughts on job creation, American competitiveness, and education.

Political Potpourri
Many other topics were covered in the one hour presentation. A few of the highlights –

The challenge to the health care law would work itself through the Court System ultimately reaching the Supreme Court in two or three years. It was questioned whether Justice Kagan would recuse herself from the deliberations and decisions as she might be conflicted having worked on the health care issue when she worked on domestic policy in the Obama White House.

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not issues in the election.

The Tea Party Movement – What are there positions on the wars, free trade, terrorism, immigration? These are important issues. Do these undefined positions have the possibility to fracture the Tea Party and their coalition if there is not agreement?

Hispanic voters – There are 50 million. To which Party are they loyal? Are they persuadable by either party? How does immigration play into building a coalition with them? Related factoid – Harry Reid received 64 percent of the Hispanic vote in his race while in the same election Nevadans elected a GOP Hispanic Governor Brian Sandoval. The other very interesting Hispanic / Immigration fact that was mentioned was in relation to Florida Senator elect Marco Rubio. (You may remember that Rubio expressed “some concerns” about the Arizona immigration law.)

U S law treats Cuban “immigrants” more as refugees. All a Cuban has to do is put a foot on U S soil and they are admitted legally into the Country. This is distinctly and far different than Mexicans who just arriving in the US if they get caught gets them a one way ticket back to where they came from. Many are suggesting that Rubio is the new face of Hispanic Republicans. Will the Immigration issue trip him up?

Al Qaeda – There seems to be a change in tactics. Rather than mind blowing events like the World Trade Centers or the Pentagon, Al Q. is looking to smaller events like the two recent bombing attempts on aircraft, the Times Square attempt, or last Christmas’ underwear bombing attempt. It seems now Al Qaeda just wants to get on the scoreboard, they don’t need to be Headline News thirty days in a row with a Peal Harbor type event.

Even mentioned was how Americans this year have embraced Flu vaccinations. Children and adults are getting them, a very distinct change from last year. (Pharmacies are now giving shots. Either it is profitable or a great lost leader to generate store traffic. I think that the free market promotion may be a factor.)

Facebook and Social Media – In 2008 the Obama campaign owned it. In 2010 the Elephant took over.

Sara Palin – There was a brief discussion as to the extent that she captured the Tea Party crowd. Her endorsed candidates won 62 percent of the time (though she also endorsed incumbents, GOP nominees as well as Tea Party supported challengers. Stephanopoulos ventured his opinion that she would continue to be at odds with the GOP Machine and that Karl Rove in particular would be the he said to her she said. He did not think she would be a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2012 but said he might be weakening ever so slightly on her running. Stephanopoulos did say she could be a factor in who does win the nomination however.

As it concerns the official program, ABC News’ pollster (I do not know his name and am unsure if he is in house or otherwise) gave his summary of 2010 which at a minimum set the stage for voter attitudes. His thought was the most cognizant of the day. He said, “It’s the Economy.” He pointed out the high rate of unemployment, the average length of those on unemployment (the highest since the late 1940’s) and that three fourth of American households have not seen personal income growth in the past two years being the deep causes of voter discontent.

The pollster went on to say, what Americans most want is Security, Liberty, and Opportunity for Prosperity and they feel extremely unsure and threatened at the moment.

Thinking about the day, I saw an ABC News in transition. Gone were David Brinkley and Charlie Gibson. There was the venerable Diane Sawyer who had been a White House staffer for Richard Nixon (she was at times suspected to be “Deep Throat” during the Watergate investigation), whom I perceive is the transitional character to a younger generation of Stephanopoulos’, Karls, and Amanpours. Not only is the Talent turning over but so is the venue. Digital Baby!

ABC is delivering not just on television and radio but extensively on the Internet including their programs and video reports. If you have access, check out their IPad Ap.

As I reflect on sitting there thinking of change, I saw my daughter with her new leader, her other younger and bright colleagues, the wonderfully talented Catherine Sullivan, President of ABC News Sales. I thought about the changing of the guard not only at a communications and media powerhouse network but understanding in a very personal way that Change is inevitable (Yes I’m aging).

My Dad often told me, that the only thing that does not change is Change.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tight as Dick’s Hat Band

In the South Dakota At Large House race, the intensity has stepped up this weak to fever pitch.

I am not party to any polling but based on daily charges, counter charges, actions by the respective political parties, allied groups, and independent expenditures but based on my observation the race currently is a dead heat.

Just guessing - both candidates are stuck on numbers in the mid 40 percent range (perhaps 44 to 46 percent). Throw in Independent candidate, B. Thomas Marking with maybe 2 percent (which could go higher on election day when those disgusted with both parties opt for him to express frustration over the status quo.) In most instances Marking takes voters from Noem. That leaves maybe 6 to 10 percent of voters undecided.

The Undecideds are the voters Noem and Herseth Sandlin are slugging it out over. They have to persuade them to get there vote. Most of the persuading is negative (not to vote for their opponent) rather than positive (why they should vote for me). Expect all Pollyanna beginning about Thursday or Friday before the election to put a pleasant reassuring face on the candidate just before Tuesday’s election.

In the meantime no holds barred. This week we had the food fight that even got a story in the “New York Times”. As posted previously it’s possible that the Democrats will execute the Social Security (let’s scare our Seniors) card the weekend before the election.

The South Dakota race is perhaps the closest House Race in the country. This week it has received extensive national media coverage. Noem raised more money in the last quarter than any other challenge candidate. There were extensive stories calling her the next Sara Palin, even internationally.

Besides capturing the undecideds both campaigns are using their advertising to mobilize their voters. Citizen disillusionment with President Obama’s policies (in particular the so called health care reform law, and the budget busting stimulus and jobless creation bill has increased voter intensity and produced a strong headwind for Democrat candidates. The fact the incumbent is not marshaling a majority vote and has not raised more campaign funds than her opponent is usually accepted as a tale tell sign of defeat. Incumbents should poll over 50 percent and in 95 percent of all races, the candidate with the most money wins.

This week it appears some one showed up with some money for the GOP as there are signs of increased voter turnout activity in the trenches. More than likely it was the Republican National Committee or the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. As the race gains profile the national committees usually are not far behind. It is another sign the race is close.

I also heard, as a result of Kristi’s Hannity appearance and showing up on the home page of the Drudge Report, the donations are rolling in like a tidal wave to the Noem campaign. Certainly it has helped the Republican challenger regain her previous momentum.

The next 10 days will be a slugfest. I would not rule out an October Surprise from either campaign but if I were wagering, would expect it from the Democrat camp.

This is the closest race since Tom Daschle beat Leo Thorsness in 1978 by 14 votes, and 139 in the recount.

This race is tight!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is This a Federal Responsibility?

Sioux Falls’ sewer emergency commenced on August 4, quick action by the City’s Public Works Department and executive leadership by Mayor Huether ensued and little over five weeks later repairs are made. Good Job!

The sewage line collapse exacerbated by the severe summer rains caused an emergency and disaster was probably averted. Today in a news story titled “Sewer Repair tally: $1.4 million”, it was reported the total cost of the temporary by pass and permanent improvements and upgrade is $1.4 million dollars. The article also indicated that City officials “are hoping that the federal money will help cover the costs.

Money is tight in a City that has uncertain sales tax revenue in an uncertain economy and is operating on a slimmed down budget using significant budget holdbacks implemented by former Mayor Dave Munson.

While the sanitary sewer system was being repaired, a separate track was also being pursued by City officials. On August 31 the City requested from the Minnehaha County Commission a declaration of disaster that would allow the Governor to declare a disaster and trigger a request for FEMA funds to help pay the Sioux Falls’ repair bill.

Sure it is great for someone else to pay your bills but it should not be the Federal government’s responsibility to pay for what is solely a Sioux Falls problem.

$1.4 million while significant is something the City could have handled. The last I understood, there were almost $40 million in reserves.

Is it any wonder that our Federal Treasury is broke? A break in an old sewer line is Sioux Falls under lots of pressure from Mother Nature should not a Federal case. To have any hope of straightening out the fiscal mess in Washington we must get off Uncle Sam’s benevolent teat. More than a little self reliance is called for.

The Problem is ours, not Washington’s!

Endbar – Taking into account the bureaucratic costs, it cost a lot more that the $1.4 when the County, State, and Sugar Daddy get’s involved. And don’t forget whose money it really is, ditto not Washington’s!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Happy New Year – Rosh Hashana 5771. Israeli Statesman Yoram Ettinger weighs in on this Jewish New Year, both its current and historic relevance.

Rosh Hashana Guide for the Perplexed
By: Yoram Ettinger
September 8, 2010

Based on Jewish Sages

1. Rosh Hashanah - unlike all other Jewish holidays - is a universal(stock-taking, renewal and hopeful) holiday. It is celebrated on the sixthday of The Creation, which produced the first human being, Adam. Rosh(Hashanah) means in Hebrew "beginning," "first," "head," "chief." The Hebrew letters of Rosh constitute the root of the Hebrew word for Genesis,"Bereshit", which is the first word in the Bible. Just like The Creation, soshould the New Year and our own actions, be a thoughtful - and not a hasty - process. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which means beginning/Genesis in ancient Akkadian.

The Hebrew spelling of Tishrei is included in the spelling of Genesis. Rosh Hashanah is referred to as "Ha'rat Olam" (the pregnancy of the world), and its prayers highlight Motherhood, Optimism and the pregnancies of Sarah and Rachel, the Matriarchs, and Hanna, who gave birth to Isaac, Joseph & Benjamin and Samuel the Prophet respectively. Sarah (the root of the Hebrew word, Israel) and Hanna (the root of the Hebrew words Pardon, Amnesty and Merciful) were two of the seven Jewish Prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Hanna, Deborah, Huldah, Abigail, Esther. Hanna's prayer has become a role-model for God-heeded-prayers which are recited by the "non-privileged". Noah – who led the rebirth of humanity/world - also features in Rosh Hashanah prayers.

2. The transient/tenuous nature of human beings is highlighted by thecelebration of Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of a New Year) and the end ofthe previous year. Recognizing human fallibility, Rosh Hashana highlightshumility, soul-searching, responsibility, renewal/rebirth and the need forsystematic education.

3. The Shofar (ritual horn) is blown on Rosh Hashanah as a wake-up call tomend human behavior. Rosh Hashanah is also called "Yom Te'roo'ah" (the day of blowing the Shofar). Shofar is a derivative of the Hebrew word forEnhancement/Improvement (Shipur), which is constantly expected of humanbeings. It requires humility, symbolized by the Shofar, which is bent and isnot supposed to be decorated.

The Shofar is the epitome of Peace-Through-Strength: It is made from thehorn of a ram, which is a peaceful animal equipped with strong horns, inorder to fend off wild animals. The numerical value of the Hebrewword,"ram", is 41, equal to the value of "Mother."

While the blowing of the Shofar is a major virtue, listening to the Shofaris at least as pertinent a virtue. The Hebrew root of "listening" is Ozen,ear, which contains the balancing mechanism in our body. Ozen is also theroot for "Scale" and "Balance", which is the zodiac sign of the month ofTishrei. Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (when people balance their good deeds vs. bad deeds) are observed during the month of Tishrei.

4. The three ways of blowing the Shofar express the inner constant values(Te'kiyah), the tenuous nature of human actions (She'va'rim) and thedetermined pursuit of faith-driven long-term vision (Troo'ah). The last,and very long, blow of the Shofar (Te'kiyah Gedolah) represents long-termsteadfastness capability in face of challenges and threats.

The three series of blowing the Shofar highlights the liberty ofhuman-beings under G-D's Kingdom (Malkhooyot), the centrality ofhistory/memory/roots (Zichronot) and enhancement (Shofarot).

The blows of the Shofar represent the three Patriarchs, the three parts ofthe Bible and the three types of human beings on judgment day (pious, eviland mediocre).

Rosh Hashanah services include 101 blows of the Shofar. It is the numericalvalue of the Hebrew spelling of Michael, a Guardian Angel, which was one ofthe names of Moses.

5. The pomegranate - one of the seven species blessing the Land of Israel -features during Rosh Hashanah meals and in a key blessing on Rosh Hashanah: "May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate."

The pomegranate becomes ripe in time for Rosh Hashanah and contains -genetically - 613 seeds, which is the number of Jewish laws (of Moses). Itwas employed as an ornament of the Holy Arc, the Menorah (candelabrum) and the coat of the High Priest. It is employed as an ornament for the TorahScrolls. The first two letters of the Hebrew word for pomegranate, Rimon -which is known for its crown - mean sublime (Ram). The pomegranate (skin and seeds) is one of the healthiest fruit: high in iron, anti-oxidants,anti-cancer, decreases blood pressure, enhances the quality of blood and thecardiac and digestion systems. Rimon is a metaphor for a wise person:Wholesome like a pomegranate.

6. Commemoration Day ("Yom Hazikaron" in Hebrew) is one of the names of Rosh Hashanah. One can avoid - rather than repeat - past mistakes by learning from history. The more one remembers, the deeper are the roots and the greater is one's stability and one's capability to withstand storms ofpressure and temptation. The more stable/calculated/moral is the beginningof the year (Rosh Hashanah), the more constructive will the rest of theyear.

Rosh Hashanah commemorates:Faith in - and Awe of G-D;
Optimism in the face of daily adversity;
The first human-being, Adam, who was created on the sixth day of theCreation; The cycle of nature - seed planting season and the equality of day andnight;
The opening of the Ark of Noah following the Flood;
The almost-sacrifice of Isaac (thou shall not sacrifice human beings);
The three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were conceived/born duringthe month of Tishrei, which is called "The Month of the Strong Ones" -Nature and the Patriarchs; The release of Joseph from Egyptian jail;
The receipt of the Ten Commandment and the Torah;Deliverance from spiritual and physical slavery (which inspired theAbolitionist movement);
The Prophet Samuel (who inspired the early Pilgrims, US Founding Fathers and the rebellion against the British) was conceived in Tishrey;Reconstruction of the Second Temple and destruction of both Temples;
The ingathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel; The first of the Ten Days of Personal, Annual Self-Examination (similar to afull service of one's car).

7. A Hebrew word for atonement/repentance is Te'shuvah, which also meansspiritual and physical Return to core values and to the Land of Israel. OnRosh Hashanah one is expected to plan a "spiritual/behavioral budget" forthe entire year. The prerequisite for a wholesome "budget" is humility, apre-condition for an effective "stock taking." The three Hebrew words,Teshuvah (Repentance/Atonement), Shivah (Spiritual and Physical Return) and Shabbat (Creation concluded) emerge from the same Hebrew root. Theyconstitute a triangular (personal, national and spiritual) foundation, whosestrength depends on the depth of Education and Commemoration. According to King Solomon, "The triangular cord cannot be broken."

May the New Year (5771 according to the Jewish calendar) be top heavy onTruth, Realism and Endurance and low on misrepresentations, delusion andvacillation.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kristi – Get On Message

In my previous post, Not Just Another Pretty Face, I concluded that the South Dakota Congressional will be a hard fought close election. It had been a little over a week since Herseth Sandlin played the Social Security card when last week Democrat operatives exposed what they presume is a character flaw in the Republican candidate. On Thursday KELO TV ran the story “Noem Not Proud of Driving Record.”

Essentially the story reported on the driving records of the four major candidates on the ballot in the November election, (Heidepriem, Daugaard, Herseth Sandlin, and Noem). Particularly to speeding tickets Heidepriem 17, Daugaard 12, Herseth Sandlin 1, and Noem 20. What seemed so egregious is that Noem’s last ticket was for 94 miles per hour and she failed to pay several fines, with failure notices being sent and warrants issued.

Understand that most political campaigns do some opposition research. Even the most rudimentary check their opponent’s positions and their background to varying degrees. For major campaigns like for Governor, U S Senate or House, professional researchers are usually employed to do the opposition research to find the hickeys. In these major campaigns, often candidates even have their own backgrounds and records checked to see what their opponent is finding out about them. If this seems a little unseemly, it may be but there is a lot at stake on the outcomes, it is not illegal, and it is part of the drill for a successful campaign.

Public records are checked, both civil and criminal. Besides driving records, property records, mortgages, liens, judgments, employment histories, divorces, and even visits to the neighbors. You may remember a couple of years ago when Democrat Senatorial Campaign staffers watched prospective candidate and former Lt. Governor’s Steve Kirby’s home to see pet groomers come to his home to tend to his dogs. Remember in the 2004 Senate campaign when Republicans discovered Tom Daschle’s declaration of D C residency on his Washington, DC residence? In my years at the State Party oppo research just came with the territory. As is often said, politics ain’t bean bag!

I can only imagine the light hearts and smiles in the Herseth camp when Kristi Noem’s driving record was exposed, particularly the failure to appear aspect. They had been given a gift.

Herseth Sandlin has been behind in this race, evidenced by both her campaign style and the polling that had been released (primarily by Rasmussen Reports). Stephanie played the Senior card at the Sioux Empire Fair and as previously discussed put Noem on the defensive. Then about 2 weeks later the driving records are exposed.

Sidebar – some may want to shoot the messenger, but it is newsworthy, and it is part of the campaign drill to help the media to its job. The Parties, special interests, candidate’s campaigns send out releases, talking points, blast faxes, emails, now tweets, retweets and on and on incessantly to push messages.

In South Dakota today we have just about lost our political press. I think the AP still has a State Capitol reporter and the R C Journal, the Argus, Bob Mercer, Tupper at the Daily Republic pretty much is the political press. With changing if not failing business models, mainstream media has little budget to do their own research. With high staff turnover and other coverage demands there is little time to scrutinize public records. So when presented with Noem’s failure to appear, it was in a word – Sensational.

When the story broke and confronted by KELO, Kristi Noem did the right thing. She said she was not proud of her record, was working to improve, and wanted to talk about important issues other than her driving record.

The Noem campaign and Republicans now need to move on. Quit talking about driving records, theirs and others. Don’t make this a two day or two week story. Democrats will try to keep ginning this story but the candidate has answered and must resist all impulses to keep talking about it.

What is happening is that Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has regained the momentum. HS is defining Noem rather than Noem doing the defining. I.e. Senior Citizens can not trust Noem and she has character flaws. All the while, Stephanie is running feel good ads appealing to the her Seniors and reassuring her prior voters who might otherwise be questioning her values that she is the independent voice for South Dakota and not the candidate who is on the political fringe.

South Dakota voters do not support the President and the budget deficits are the number one issue. This is the issue South Dakotans care about. Kristi must tell South Dakota voters that Barack Obama is taking our Country in the wrong direction. His $800 billion budget busting stimulus plan is not working. Stephanie supports the President’s wrong direction and supports and voted for his stimulus plan. In her advertising Kristi should look right into the camera and deliver this message with conviction.

Tell voters, real South Dakota values are paying off the mortgage for the future not adding to it. South Dakotans understand you can not buy prosperity. Tell ‘em.

Kristi Noem needs to get on message!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not Just Another Pretty Face

The political winds are blowing at close to gale force at the backs of the GOP and into the face of the Democrats. It is very safe to say that Democrats are going to have a terrible electoral year.

The cause and ultimately the blame will be President Obama.

Citizens are worried about the economy, jobs, and particularly the deficit. Surprisingly health care reform that was shoved down the throats of a skeptical and divided nation seems more like a symptom than a cause of voter anger.

The shift in political winds has had a profound effect on the At Large U S House election in South Dakota.

During the primary election campaign, I believed the SD GOP had three very good candidates. In terms of articulating the issues and offering solutions I believed Kristi Noem was the weakest. I thought Chris Nelson and Dr. Curd better articulated the issues. In the end while I thought Nelson would pull out the win, I was not surprised Kristi Noem won. Her gender was a clear distinction and she had the organization and financial support of many activists in the Thune Camp. (I have believed for many years that Women make good candidates.) This is nuanced as nearly 100% of South Dakota GOP activists are in the Thune Camp. Particularly helpful to Noem were the Women for Thune group that worked so diligently for Thune in 2004. They were feeling their oats as a few of the Women for Thune had been in Massachusetts last January working for Scott Brown to win the Ted Kennedy seat, and they returned fired up to put our House Seat in the GOP column. Kristi became their cause. Contrary to suggestions in blogosphere I do not believe that Senator Thune or any of his staffers (campaign or otherwise were involved.)

Polling by Rasmussen has shown for sometime that Stephanie HS is facing a real battle this election cycle. She has the Democrat base and those supporters who have been with her now thru four elections. But she has lost much of her GOP support and the important Independents that supported her in past elections and Barack Obama in 2008. The effected GOP and Independent voters now want another Change.

The latest polling by Rasmussen Reports shows Noem with a 51% to 42% advantage, and on Friday (August 20) the non partisan, call them like you see them, and usually right, Charlie Cook calls the Noem / Herseth Sandlin a toss up.

Without question, the US House race in South Dakota will be the Marquis election in 2010. I suspect that toss up is right. Kristi Noem has the momentum and Republican voters are energized, Democrats are despondent. However Herseth Sandlin as well as the National Democrats has dusted off the Social Security card. In the past this has been a very effective play for them (blaming Republican candidates for wanting to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.) Given the current state of the House race, the seniors will be the deciding factor in who wins.

A smaller factor in the race is Thomas Marking the Independent candidate. Marking presents some interesting ideas, seems to be a Conservative with a Libertarian bent. He will get some attention but not real traction. His one to four percent of the vote will come from what would otherwise be Noem voters. I will get back to the Social Security issue and debate this past two weeks, after just setting up a few preliminaries

Prelims – Herseth Sandlin is well known, very articulate, a skillful debater, has battled in close elections (Janklow and Diedrich), and is popular. On the downside, last year she seemed to be off her political game. She did not do open events. To the extent she touched her constituents, everything was very controlled. Certainly part of it was the public mood (she wanted to avoid confrontation and the Tea Party) but some element was her desire to be with her infant son when the Congress was out of Session. Her voting on the big issues in the last two years has not followed any distinct pattern. She voted against TARP twice, for the Obama Stimulus package, against Cap and Trade, and against the Health Care Reform bill. To avoid a primary she apparently has promised not to work for health care reform repeal.

Mrs. Noem won the primary election. She has served in the Leadership but in four Sessions not notably led on any Statewide “hot political” issues where she distinguished herself as Mrs. Go To on an issue. In her advertising she ran heavily against Washington, DC and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Politically this bothers me on several levels. While Kristi is running against Washington she has travelled there seeking National Party support and money. It is an assumption on my part but if the past is any indication she is probably accepting money from other GOP Congressional Leadership PACs. Perhaps national GOP figures will come here to campaign for her. Is this an anti Washington message? Send me there and I will become part of the team.

The other Noem statement that “gets to me” is her saying she can not support the San Francisco limousine liberal, Nancy Pelosi. Foremost, the voters that Noem needs to win over for the most part do not know who Pelosi is. They do know President Obama is who they don’t like and the GOP should save their fire for him. The claim is made that Stephanie votes with Nancy 95% of the time. That is probably true but which votes? Does that include only roll call votes or procedural and voice votes as well? For comparison, what percentage of the time does House Minority Leader, John Boehner, 65% or 75%? Noem repeatedly claims she will not vote to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House. Well of course not!

The only vote that a Congressional Candidate (House or Senate) owes their party is to support their Caucus’ nominee for leadership.

In watching the day to day soap opera of national government and politics we sometimes forget that the Legislative Branch of Government (The Congress) is Bi-Partisan and is organized by the two major political parties. The Majority Party organizes the government. The Speaker of the U S House of Representatives organizes the Committees, and oversees the apparatus by which legislation proceeds. The majority rules.

Thus when a person becomes a candidate for a partisan ballot and declares they are a Republican or a Democrat they owe it to their party’s voters to support their party when organizing the government. Otherwise in all other matters, they represent all of their constituents regardless of party by doing in their judgment what is best for the common good.

The Debates, Social Security, and Medicare – Both Candidates have faced off now several times in the past two weeks. I will comment on the two that I watched on the Internet, Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls on August 11 and Dakotafest in Mitchell on August 17.

If you watched the Sioux Empire Fair debate and were unfamiliar with the issues, the candidates, and the politics, you would have easily determined that the more strident, voice raised, finger pointing Herseth was trailing in the polls. Kristi Noem was calm and collected and accounted for herself and made no gaffes. Herseth however did lay a glove on her a couple of times and began positioning Kristi on the Social Security issue. The first time was in response to being question on the vote the day before to spend more for teachers and supplements for health care to Seniors. Herseth Sandlin said used her replied that South Dakota caregivers, nursing institutions, and Seniors themselves had contacted her about lost benefits and lost jobs. Kristi did not respond. In the second instance when questioned about her Stimulus vote, Herseth responded very directly to the GOP candidate that the GOP in Pierre had deficit spent for 7 of the last 8 years and in fact had used the Stimulus dollars that Noem was criticizing to balance the budget. Noem did respond saying that had South Dakota not used the dollars some other State would have.

Thus began the positioning of Noem as not a friend of Seniors. In the next few days both campaigns continued to position themselves and their opponent on the issues.

Stephanie claiming that Noem would cut payments to Seniors or supports privatizing social security (I continue to think this is not a bad idea if properly constructed and with proper oversight. - a complicated issue for another time perhaps. Social Security today is a Ponzi scheme that would embarrass Bernie Madoff.).

Kristi took a pledge of her own promising to protect Seniors and promising to repeal Obamacare that cuts Medicare funding. Unfortunately, the problem is the more Kristi talks about that Stephanie is lying about her position; she is talking about it instead of Congress or President Obama.

At the Dakotafest debate there were more charges and counter charges but this time Kristi punched back and refused to be labeled. Kristi Noem accounted for herself well on issues and presence. She looked like a Congresswoman.

Sidebar – While the debates were pointed it was for the most parts on issues. This was not a catfight. They did however demonstrate why a man running against a woman is at a disadvantage another woman is not at. My observation in the Herseth Sandlin losing effort to Bill Janklow in 2002, Janklow was careful to not be critical of his opponent.

Just a quick note on Stephanie and seniors -They are her secret group. When she campaigned in 2002 she seemed like she was at every senior center in South Dakota. Perhaps she just found it easy to campaign there or she genuinely wanted to build this coalition. (Note to the Noem campaign – go to a few of these also and remind the seniors what Obama and deficits are doing for their grandchildren.) Stephanie has not forgotten them. Remember the advertising in 2008 with Herseth Sandlin playing the piano for the Democrats and Republicans that supported her? Mrs. HS has worked this group and will be all over them this time. You can also expect to see her telegenic Grandpa pitching on her behalf again this year.

And back and forth it will go. I expect there will be money coming in on both sides talking about Medicare, Social Security, and Health Care. Stephanie will try to keep Kristi in the box and Kristi must get out. If the debate is not changed, the current Noem lead may evaporate.

The Senior vote is important and critical to winning. Larry Pressler in the mid 1980s and early 1990s was a hero to Senior Citizens. By the 1996 election against Tim Johnson, unfortunately many of his earlier supporters had passed away. In 1986 in the very close Abdnor Daschle Senate election, the weekend before the election (before dialer calls)the Daschle campaign attempted )and completed many) to call every Senior Citizen in the State and tell them that Jim Abdnor had voted to cut Social Security. It has happened before and the stage is being set for history to repeat itself.

At the end of the day, this election will not be a beauty contest and despite the political winds, it will be hard fought close election. Maybe not a Johnson v Thune but a nail biter.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sioux Falls Sewage Emergency

Public Works are one of civilizations amenities until they are non operational - then utilities you take for granted that are out of sight and out of mind, during an emergency or disaster become a necessity.

Wednesday afternoon one of the City’s trunk sewer lines apparently collapsed. It collapsed likely because of the age of the sewer line, the stress of high ground water tables and heavy use; the heavy use being exacerbated by errant homeowners discharging basement sumps into the sanitary sewer system rather than outside and into the storm water system. Until investigation and study are completed, the exact causes won’t be known and longer term remedies will not be determined. The temporary fix consists of an above ground bypass of the collapsed portion of the sanitary sewer.

Natural disasters such as floods, forest fires, blizzards, tornadoes, and the like are excellent opportunities for political leaders to demonstrate leadership. The events surrounding such disasters also assure high media exposure. Politicians neither enjoy nor wish for these kinds of problems but the exposure and real political opportunity exists none the less. It goes with the territory.

When the sewer line break was discovered and the potential for vast damage was assessed the Sioux Falls Public Works department, the Emergency Management folks, and Mayor Mike Huether swung into action forcefully and expeditiously.

It was reported the break was about 2:30pm and by 4:30pm the Mayor had gathered the media and announcing an action plan. Included were pleas and orders for restricting all water use west of Minnesota Avenue north of 26th Street, and all of Sioux Falls west of Interstate 29. The Mayor also encouraged residents in the north central section of the City to action to move valuables in their basements to higher elevations. Employers were encouraged to let employees return to their homes to protect their property.

City Departments appeared coordinated, including Police, Fire, Public Works, Emergency Management, Media Service, and the Mayor. (Certainly there were others, I am just unaware of all who were involved). Over the past two days our public servants have done their job. While any damage is too much, painful and tragic to the affected, other than to infrastructure real disaster was averted. There was minimal damage. Tonight reportedly 30 homes were affected. Undoubtedly there will be more, but thousands of homes, businesses, and other buildings could have been damaged.

Maybe the City’s orders went too far. Perhaps there was overkill. But in this situation overkill is justified. Residents responded appropriately and Mayor Mike did take the lead.

The Mayor seemed to be enjoying the attention at times, but to the point: actions and results (and that is what really counts) were appropriate, timely, and effective. I understand throughout the emergency, the Mayor communicated with and briefed the City Council on the emergency.

Overall City Government worked as we would expect and deserve high marks.

Caveat – Proper repairs and improvements should be made to the infrastructure, but we should not shoot a pigeon with cannon. Several years ago when there was flash flooding and basements with water in the 33rd Street and Minnesota Avenue area in near South Side and Central Sioux Falls, the City Council rushed to judgment with their cannon to make overly extensive storm water improvements – spending $42 million on what was proposed to be a $24 million project. Our City Fathers should take a deep breadth before hurrying to call in artillery again.

Sidebar - I have been observing Mayor Huether’s job performance since he was elected and it is still too early to assess his job performance. An assessment two and one half months into his term would be anecdotal. Pundits and the public should give him a year so that he is judged by results. However, I do plan to post on Mike Huether a Work in Progress in the near future.

Endbar – Associated Thoughts – I have heard some grumbling about the discharging of massive amounts (over a million gallons) of raw sewage into the Big Sioux River and Covell Lake. I question if it would have been better backed up in homes? Is putting raw sewage more or less egregious than a petroleum spill?

With all the rain we have had in the last several weeks, the high water table, and specifically the two of 5 and 6 inch plus downpours the end of last week; what is the explanation as to why there was not flooding in the areas the Army Corps of Engineers says is in the Flood Plain? Sioux Falls is spending millions to comply with Corps’ Flood Plain revisions and property owners are paying large premiums for flood insurance – Should not there be an explanation?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Library Budget

Mayor Mike Huether presented his City Budget for 2011 on Thursday. For practical purposes it is a no growth budget. It holds spending at current levels based on the Munson administration’s 2010 “holdback budget” levels. Sales taxes for 2011 are projected with NO increase and there are no increases in City employees.

The Argus leader proclaimed in their front page above the fold story on Friday, “Mayor Seeks Budget Cuts.” The front page story below a very out of the ordinary photograph of the Mayor’s backside with both arms raised above his head (Elmer Gantry style) has the sub headline, “Huether’s plan trims spending for police, snow removal.” Beyond the unusual photograph is the more interesting headline on page 4, where the news report continues and proclaims, “Budget: City libraries also face cuts.”

It is the Library cuts I wish to address. While factually accurate, the headline takes the facts out of context and leaves the wrong impression.

Public Lending Libraries are important! They are an important element and component of life long education, important to our culture and important to our civilization. As Sioux Falls continues to evolve into a medical research center and as out of state talent are recruited to relocate to Sioux Falls, our Library is becoming a part of our economic development effort as well.

In my youth and at the University much of the best time I spent was at the Library.

I have a strong interest in our libraries (libraries are evolving in how they are being used (extremely digital) – a subject for future posts). Currently I have the honor and the privilege of serving on the Siouxland Libraries Board of Trustees. Consequently I have more than a passing awareness of “what’s happening” concerning the proposed City Budget, particularly as it affects the Library.

Sidebar – The Board of Trustees are not responsible for the operation of the Libraries. The Mayor thru his administration sets budgets (with the approval of the City Council) and operates the Siouxland Library System. Direct operational control is vested in the Director of Libraries. The current Director is Sally Felix who has been at her post for about seven years.

The Library “Board sets policies for the library and provides citizen input and recommendations for administrative actions to the Library Director, Sally Felix, and to the governing bodies.” (taken from the City website)

The Board of Trustees is very committed to assuring that our libraries are responsive to the needs of our Community.

Back to the Budget and the “Argus Leader”

The “Argus Leader” story reported –

“Total expenditures for Siouxland Libraries would drop form $11.7 million in the original budget to $6.6 million in 2011 under Huether’s plan, according to the budget documents.”

The report is accurate but totally misleading. The appearance is that the Mayor has gutted the Libraries budget. For whatever reason, the reporter did not drill into the budget, failed to ask the Mayor, the City Finance Director, or the Director of Libraries for an explanation. The reporter did not actually look at line items in the 2010 budget or for any explanation. Had they done amy research they would have found that the 2010 budget included $4.3 million in one time monies for the planning and construction of the Westside Library that will be built at 26th Street and Discovery Avenue in 2012. The funds were budgeted in 2010 and secured through the Quality of Life Bonds II issued last year. The money for the Westside Branch is in the bank!

In the Mayor's proposed 2011 budget there is also a reduction of expenditures from the use of sales tax monies for the capital acquisition of materials. Much of the materials acquisition shortfall will be made up of the use of funds leftover from the Main Library construction and renovation project. This project came in under costs estimates in part due to the poor economic conditions of the past two years. The budget procedure being employed in 2011 is similar to what is currently being done relative to the 2010 budget holdbacks.

Yes, budgeting can get a little complicated, but the Library will continue to be operated in 2011 without any significant cuts in service. Overall the 2011 is about a 0.4% reduction over the 2010 budget with holdbacks.

The Argus has a duty while getting the facts, intentionally or otherwise not to leave a misimpression.

Siouxland Libraries has a dedicated staff that makes our Libraries one of the Crown Jewels of our community.

A little advertising and promotion –

If you have not seen the renovated and expanded Main Branch Dowtown Sioux Falls, it is a MUST.

In the first two months of operation there were:

126,000 visits – up 53% over 2007
91,000 items borrowed – up 20% over 2007
17,000 computer uses – up 3% over 2007
950 new library cards issued – up 22% over 2007
2,600 people attended programs – up 2% over 2007

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goin’ East Bank

C N A Surety formerly locally owned Western Surety made it official Tuesday it is relocating its offices to a new location on at the Schoeneman lumber yard site on the East Bank of the Big Sioux River on East Eighth Street.

Coincidentally the City of Sioux Falls this week commenced a street project renovation on East Eighth Street from Phillips Avenue going east across the Big Sioux River. The construction work includes utilities improvement, road resurfacing and streetscape (don’t you just love that word?) improvements. Presumably streetscape improvements mean center medians with trees and liberal use of the red brick that is finding its way into other downtown projects. Streetscaping improvements I assume will be the same or compatible to the median and sidewalks on the south side of the Holiday Inn and the Main Library on Eighth Street.

The effects of these two developments will be interesting and impact Downtown in several varied ways.

In the most positive way it sets up development on the East Bank of the river downtown. The new Lloyd Properties development (C N A Building) will be an anchor property on Eighth Street that mirrors the Cherapa Place property at Sixth Street and the river. Both Cherapa Place and the C N A building are being developed down to the riverbank. Also in the planning stage is a City Amphitheatre on the East Bank at the riverbank just south of Cherapa Place. The City bonded for these “river greenway improvements” in July of 2009 with the sale of Quality of Life II Bonds.

These two blocks on the River between Sixth and Eighth Streets will become the Gateway to the East Bank. I do not personally know Jeff Scherschligt, President of Howalt Mc Dowell Insurance, and the mover and shaker of Cherapa but have heard rumors that he envisions an active River Walk on the East Bank than might include gondola rides on the river.

With the development of the Schoeneman property the last remaining trophy parcel along the river bank is the Sioux Steel / Rysdon property north of Sixth Street on the West Side of the River. This property not only abuts the River but the primo property east of Phillips Avenue leading to Sioux Falls’ crown jewel – Falls Park.

Worth noting – The “Argus Leader” reported the Schoeneman property also might be the sight for another commercial property or a hotel.

The effect will be to make Phillips Avenue a little bit more of a shopping, dining, and entertainment district and less of a commercial district. Consider that moving 400 or 500 employees out of the Western Surety Building leaves another major downtown looking for tenants (Midland Life building and recent closure of the DME / Canadian Pacific Office at the former I B M Building on the riverbank at Eighth and Phillips).

Sidebar - It was rumored some months ago that Sioux Falls City government who needs more office space was negotiating for the purchase of the Midland National Life building. However negotiations ended without completing a deal. Will the City now consider purchasing the Western Surety Building at Ground Zero (Ninth and Phillips -just 2 blocks east City Hall)?

What happens to the Up Town development? (on Main Avenue north of Fifth Street) – It seems to me, barring a major tenant being found for one of the properties on Main Avenue abutting the development ground west of Phillips Avenue leading to Falls Park, development has been pushed back on the calendar. These properties seemed particularly “hot” prior to the recession because of the prospects of using the land on the west side of Philips north of Sixth Street. With the East Bank opening up to more offices and ultimately, hotels, dining, and entertainment perhaps Up Town can best be used for Housing and boutique shopping. This area too could be used for burgeoning growth of the County and City government Campus.

Much of this is speculation on my part and will not be completed for perhaps ten to fifteen years but the good news is: Development is happening and those C N A jobs will not be leaving the Queen City. Going East perhaps but not too far!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Act of Political Courage

The “Argus Leader” online edition reports that in discussions the Minnehaha County Commission discussed whether to declare the County an “economic recovery zone.” County Auditor, Sue Roust, said such a declaration would entitle (emphasis added) the County access to $2,785,000 of stimulus money.

Remarkably Auditor Roust is quoted as saying, “I don’t think we are distraught.” Minnehaha County currently has an unemployment rate (as reported by the “Argus” of 5.5%, while the national rate is closer to 10%.

Commissioners Anne Hajek and Dick Kelly balked.

Certainly County Government could always use more money. Can you think of any person or organization that couldn’t use more money? The brief article does not report that any specific need was mentioned.

Debate rages in the nation as to whether the economy is truly in recovery or in the throws of a double dip recession. Employment lags and deficits grow. Partisan finger pointing speaks to is the President’s Stimulus Package working. The White House says without qualification YES. They refer to the 2.5 million jobs that have been created or “saved” (whatever that is?)

I understand the temptation of the Washington Pols to use our money (or more accurately borrow) to give us a presents they can take credit for. I also understand the logic if we don’t take it someone else will.

This insanity must stop. The DEFICIT is the number one political issue. It is the glue that binds the Tea Party movement and certainly is motivating Republicans, Independents that are moving in droves (according to polling), and even some Democrats in their support of GOP candidates. The President though and many Democrats, particularly the U S House Leadership, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Appropriations Chairman David Obey, think the road to recovery is paved with more Federal spending. There is even talk of Stimulus II.

Our Government and Economy are a mess. Deficits must be tackled and real leadership is required. I understand how hard it is to give up the teat but as everyone knows (and has known for a long time and has not had the courage to do it) we must give up our share too. Entitlements must be reigned in.

The Commissioners need to act decisively and find the courage to say No, and the taxpayers need to understand that the only way to stop our collective fiscal insanity is to say No.

Endbar – Recollection - In the early 1980’s the City of Faith turned down a federal development grant of $400,000 to build a rodeo arena. Local Citizens did not understand why the Federal Government should pay for a local project. They built it themselves. It has been a generation ago but it is a great example of the kind of political courage all of us need today.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanks Ike

Today is the 91st anniversary of the commencement of the Transcontinental Motor Convoy. The convoy was the first convoy across the Continental United States. It departed Washington, D C on July 7, 1919 and arrived in San Francisco on September 6.
An endeavor of this kind was important because armies move on roads.

One of the prominent leaders of the convoy was Lieutenant Colonel Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower who graduated West Point in 1915 never deployed overseas during World War I. He stayed stateside developing the use of armored Tanks for warfare. Eisenhower was third in command of the new Tanker Corps. During the War Eisenhower spent some time training and developing tanker tactics at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For a training ground he used the hallowed ground of the location of Pickett’s Charge on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Many years later Eisenhower and his wife Mamie purchased a farm home, at Gettysburg adjacent to the battlefield. The home on the farm was remodeled (actually rebuilt) during Eisenhower’s Presidency. The Eisenhowers never took up full time residency until 1961 after Ike left the Presidency. The Eisenhowers were married in 1916. The Gettysburg farm was the Eisenhowers first home.

During the convoy due to the poor highways and the heavy nature of the tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, if any rain or otherwise wet roads were encountered the convoy stopped. During the 1930s Eisenhower studied the German Autobahn.

During his career Ike learned the importance of good roads.

In his book, “At Ease Stories I Tell to Friends”, Ike relates how he came to think about and push for the establishment of the Interstate Highway System. BTW, “At Ease” is a great read. From the book:

“The old convoy had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.”

“This was one of the things that I felt deeply about, and I made a personal and absolute decision to see that the nation would benefit by it.”

Happenstance is a great thing about history. There is little doubt that without the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System our nation and our commerce would not be what it is today.

The superhighways enabled suburbanization.

Given today’s current political environment, both the partisan gridlock in Congress and the bureaucracy’s inability to deal with large projects (think protecting borders, natural disasters, oil spills, that such a project could pass the Congress or be constructed in a fiscally responsible (large cost overruns) or timely way.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Significant Development

Saturday found me at another of Mayor Huether’s weekly listening meetings at the Whisk & Chop. This is the fourth I’ve attended. They are extremely informative and I have learned quite a bit about the operation of City government.

Yesterday’s forum featured Mike Cooper director of Planning and Building Services. As all the division heads have done, Cooper gave an informative presentation on his department, spoke to the current hot button issues, and took questions (hard and soft) about his responsibilities. All of the Division Directors have been very professional.

A few of the facts that Cooper reported that I found interesting were that in the first half of this year building permits were issued for 455 new housing units in Sioux Falls of which 234 were for single family homes and that 25% of the workers in Sioux Falls do not live here.

This morning’s “Argus Leader” reported on the meeting and led with the headline, “City Plans Zoning Code Revisions.” While there was a good deal of discussion about public notification about zoning changes and code enforcement, the news report missed the big news of the meeting.

While Cooper was talking about long range (emphasize long range) planning specifically to roads he mentioned that an overpass is contemplated that would connect Russell Street with Rice Street to make another Cross-town Boulevard similar to what is being developed on 57th Street. While this is long term and other to what I believe conceptual, this overpass might begin at North Main Avenue and connect where Weber meets Rice at the intersection of the Stockyards and Morrells, past the north end of Falls Park. (any interpretations or misinterpretations here are mine – not Mr. Coopers).

This prompted a question about the future of the Stockyards. The Stockyards represents a large (I think he said about 34 acres) site for development within the City – actually near downtown. Cooper answered (at the urging of Mayor Huether to let the cat out of the bag) that the site had recently been purchased by Peska Construction (presumably for development) and an announcement was forthcoming in a couple of weeks.

Sidebar – Hello “Argus Leader” isn’t this news? Did anyone call Peska Construction for comment?

My guess given the fact that the site was a Stockyards and it’s across the street from perhaps the largest slaughterhouse and meat processing complex in the United States (certainly it’s one of, if not the last 19th Century old school multi story plants left), the zoning has to be the heaviest of Industrial zoning unless Stockyards have their own zoning classification.

Finally worth noting from the meeting, Mayor Huether said that he had a call from “Money” magazine within the last two weeks and that he was told Sioux Falls was again being considered to be named their best place to live in America. The Mayor was generous when talking about it and said any credit belonged to Dave Munson.

Along with Sanford research, an announcement by “Money” and Stockyards redevelopment Sioux Falls is moving forward.

Endbar – in the spirit of good things starting to happen, it was reported (yes in the “Argus Leader”) that several of the empty big box retail spaces in The Meadows have recently been leased. These good things are happening despite a languishing recovery in the national economy.