Tuesday, April 28, 2015

So Soon With The Baloney, Mr. Allender?

        Steve Allender's campaign for mayor of Rapid City didn't take long to expose its willingness to use any tactic it can to unseat incumbent Mayor Sam Kooiker.  Former police chief Allender's blog Chiefsview a few days ago took to hyperbolically questioning Kooiker's
Candidate Allender
Here's A Fish Story
(photo from blog.keloland.com)
leadership during the course of the city-wide debate over the civic center expansion this past Winter.  "Who is leading our city?" asks Allender after criticizing Kooiker for turning to the Chamber of Commerce and asking those folks to lead the campaign in favor of the expansion, which voters ultimately turned down by a 60-40 margin. Allender concludes that Kooiker did so "evidently to shield himself from political fallout."  

     To which I can only say, you have got to be kidding me.  First off, I'm no fan of Kooiker, having pasted him here on occasion and calling him "chicken-you-know-what" a number of years back for dodging a forum on TIF-financing that I moderated during one of his earlier runs for mayor. I was hoping Allender would be an appealing alternative--but after reading his hit job on Kooiker I'm having my doubts.  Allender's tortured attempt at calling Kooiker's approach to the civic center expansion vote an effort to escape political responsibility is self-servingly inaccurate.  Kooiker, who may have bungled the process of getting the effort off the ground in the first place, made it plenty clear that he supported the expansion without reservation or hesitation. That Kooiker, besides favoring the expansion, was also diligent in his efforts to include the public in the process by helping circulate the petitions that would bring the matter to a vote is pretty darn commendable in my view.  Yet Allender somehow concludes that Kooiker was trying "to play both sides of the same coin."  
     I don't think so. 
    Meantime, just where the heck was Allender while this city-wide conversation was going on?  Allender calls the failed expansion effort  a repudiation of "Sam Kooiker's promise of open
Kooiker Pushing For Expansion
He Was Out There
(photo from onenewspage.com)
and honest government," which makes for a nice blog-byte but completely ignores the fact that there were numerous public gatherings for months before the vote where citizens had ample opportunities to examine and question the project. I don't know how much more "open and honest" government can be.  Did Allender attend any of these functions?  Did Allender speak up on the subject of expansion when it was loudly and frequently discussed?  I was at two major forums during the weeks ahead of the vote and don't recall Allender making a peep at either of them.  Talk about shielding one's self from political fallout. A twisted interpretation of events is one thing, trying to make political points out of it is another.  This is a real disappointing entree for me into the Allender campaign.

     I've invited both Allender and Kooiker to use The Constant Commoner as a public forum during the course of the campaign.  I certainly hope they'll both come out of the comfort zone of their respective blogs and engage the public blogosphere right here.  


Sunday, April 26, 2015

This Is Rich. The National Review Just Called Thune and Rounds Supporters "Saps."

     From the "Come Again?" department, I just saw a piece in the much-adored fanzine of the
SD Senate Tag-Team
Who Knew Their Supporters Are "Saps?"
(photo from argusleader.com)
American right--The National Review--that characterizes South Dakota supporters of our Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds as "saps."
Talk about a double-take.  I still have a crick in my neck from the way my head snapped back to that phrase after I read it. Andrew McCarthy, a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute, is so enraged by the successful confirmation a few days ago of President Obama's nominee Loretta Lynch as the U.S. Attorney General that he roughed up a handful of Republican senators who made Lynch's ascension possible.  Of the twenty Republicans McCarthy excoriated in yesterday's piece titled "The Disgraceful Republican Cave-in On Loretta Lynch," our usually consistently partisan Republican Senators Thune and Rounds were named as two of those who participated in "the GOP's now routine parliamentary deception:  vote in favor of ending debate, knowing that this will give Democrats ultimate victory, but cast a meaningless vote against the Democrats in the final tally in order to pose as staunch Obama opponents when schmoozing the saps back home."

    According to mad (and I use that in both senses of the word) man McCarthy, Lynch is "an
NR's Founding Icon Bill Buckley
Remember When NR Writers Could Think, Not Rant?
(photo from www.redstate.com)
Attorney General who won't uphold the Constitution."
This, of course, is the completely crazed ranting of a committed ideologue who reads the Constitution as a document suited to his peculiar predilections, whatever they are, not as an organic body of ideas and principles that needs constant re-interpretation by a society that persists in the process of becoming. McCarthy's inflexible obsession with a document that must be adhered to as he sees fit makes his fist-shaking rage against the Republican machine predictable and cloying.  I suppose there are some self-styled committed Constitutionalists in South Dakota who go along with this solipsistic nuttiness, but for the most part, Republicans that I know here tend to be pragmatically, not ideologically, driven.  

     I'm kind of glad that Thune and Rounds did the dance as described in The National Review.  They've certainly earned their fair share of criticism (Thune for selling out to his big contributors, ala net neutrality) and disdain (Rounds for his lackluster record as Governor and atrocious oversight when EB-5 erupted), but at least we don't have to deal with a couple of Cruz-like nutjobs who approach government as the fulfillment of some kind of Constitutionally-blessed mission to reshape American social and political culture.  Being called "saps" by The National Review for sending these two guys to the Senate just shows you how unforgivingly committed to their own reality that this country's leading conservatives can be.  Far as I'm concerned, the wider the wedge between our two Republican senators and these self-styled purveyors of ideological purity, the better.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

We Rapid Citians Have To Take Matters Into Our Own Hands. We Need To Vote Yes For The Opt-Out. If You Can't Do It For The Kids, Do It For You.

     Call me greedy and self-interested, but in the finest tradition of great Republican virtues, that greed, that self-interest, is what will motivate me to vote yes on the school district "opt-
Feeling Proud, Rapid Citians?
This Has Been Going On For Too Long, Now
(photo from rapidcityjournal.com)
out" on June 2.  
As the spouse of a lifelong public school teacher and the dad of a K-12 Rapid City Schools-educated daughter (whose outstanding foundational education here culminated in an honors degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley) I of course have a strong attachment to our local public schools and only want the best for them.  But really, in my heart of Republican hearts, I'm looking at it from another level, which has a lot more to do with the economic basis for getting our schools up to speed with the money they need and can't seem to pry out of state funding sources.

     Yes, it's true that the Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) opt-out essentially means that property taxpayers in the district will have to cough up about $72 a year for every $100,000 that their properties are worth.  Having no idea of the average or mean value of all the properties in the district, I'm guessing that for a lot of property owners, maybe most, the extra tab will amount to a few hundred bucks. Not having kids or grandkids in the school system, there's that natural side of me that's pretty much apathetic to the situation in our classrooms.  But that is such a short-sighted view because it ignores the value of our schools as a major component in the overall value and economic well-being of our coummunity.
    Everybody who's ever made a real-estate transaction knows darn well that one of the first things that comes up in the marketing process is the quality of the local schools.  Homes near high-expectation schools typically demand a premium for that reason, and I think that that micro-reality expands to a macro-consideration when it comes to a school district as a whole.  This year's budget cutbacks amount to more than $6.5 million. Taken line-by-line, you can see that they're an outright reduction in staffing and support services for our kids. You can argue that more cutbacks could have been directed at administrative positions and salaries, but you'd be wasting your time. If readers would like to send me a breakdown of administrative positions that could be reduced or eliminated and just how much money the district could save by going that route I'll be happy to post them as a comment here.  
    You could also argue (which I've been doing here for years now) that the State of South Dakota could find ways of moving more money into the state's education budget, but you'd get
RC High Schooler High-Jumping
Showing The Rest Of Us How To Aim High
(photo from rapidcityjournal.com)
The problem we face is that the schools need money now. After being hectored by sources from around the state since he took office in 2011, Governor Dennis Daugaard has finally responded by appointing a commission to study the teacher pay crisis during the next few months, apparently needing a committee to confirm the fact that teachers making anywhere from 25% to 45% more money in our neighboring states amounts to a problem of significant proportions.  Nothing against the folks on the committee, but I do wonder why we have to go to these lengths in order to master the obvious.  
     So what's the most efficient way for us locals to deal with Daugaard's lethargic, if not altogether indifferent, attitude toward the deteriorating quality of our schools?  You'll be looking at it on June 2 when the opt-out comes to a vote, which is a decision about our schools for their own sake and about our economy for the community's sake. A vote in favor will enrich Rapid City on both counts.  

ADDENDUM, added at 1309 4/26:  Here's the current school year budget for the Rapid City Area Schools.  I invite readers to check it out and share any thoughts about it here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

So If EB-5 Maven Joop Bollen Never Paid Taxes How Can He Be Shielded By A Law That Applies To Taxpayers? By Definition He Wasn't A Taxpayer.

     Joop Bollen, who masterminded the transfer of South Dakota's lucrative "cash for green
Does He Owe Us Money?
(photo from www.sdrc-eb5.com
cards" program from the State of South Dakota to himself is now being looked at by the South

Dakota Department of Revenue. Apparently, after Bollen conducted the switcheroo, which cost the state a ton of money (more than $100 million according to the Center For Immigration Studies), he started lending money out of the company he formed.  Nothing wrong with being a money lender, of course, but there seems to be a question about whether or not he was supposed to pay the state's bank franchise tax as a result of those activities covering the period 2009-2013.  Brown County (think Aberdeen) officials think so and have filed a claim to collect retroactive taxes due, apparently because Bollen's lash-up was headquartered there.
     But just when The Associated Press tries to get some information about any investigation by the State of South Dakota into this imbroglio, along comes news that the State won't divulge anything, including whether or not it's even conducting an investigation.  Bloggers Cory Heidelberger (who wonders if this is some sort of "state secret") and Kevin Woster (who questions the "logic") are as perplexed by this rhetorical weirdness as I am.  SD Department of Revenue spokesman Jason Evans tells the AP that state law forbids the department from disclosing whether  it's pursuing back taxes.  "It's confidential taxpayer information," according to Evans.  Tony Venhuizen, Governor Daugaard's Chief of Staff, adds that it's a "prohibition against state officials."  
     Seems reasonable enough.  Taxpayers have every reason to expect a high degree of confidentiality in any dealings with state tax collectors--except for one thing.  How does someone who hasn't paid taxes qualify as a "taxpayer?"  It's true that Bollen's company last month was issued a license that will require him to pay taxes in the future, but the period in question has nothing to do with that.  During the period in question, Bollen had no license and paid no taxes.  He wasn't a taxpayer.  So how come the gets the veil of confidentiality that taxpayers get? Meantime, are we to infer that the claim by Brown County that it is owed taxes that should have been paid is being ignored by state officials?  Surely somebody must be looking into this matter, and just as surely the statute that bars disclosure of investigations of taxpayers needs to be examined.  How can it bar disclosure of investigations of those who never paid taxes in the first place?  They weren't "taxpayers."  Sounds to me like they were "tax dodgers," and the public has a right to know if they're being investigated as such.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Awareness: A Breakthrough Moment In South Dakota's Political Consciousness.

       Nice to see Pat Costello, the man in charge of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, finally acknowledge that the notion that South Dakota's lack of an income tax gives us an edge when it comes to economic growth is a myth.  Conceding as much in this morning's Sioux Falls
Costello, Grinning And Bearing It:
Outsiders Think SD Is "Remote & A Lot Of Fun For A Week"
(photo from Sioux Falls Argus Leader)
Argus Leader
, Costello admitted that "one of our mantras for business is no state income tax. That doesn't resonate with individuals." Costello  threw the towel in for that antiquated and irrelevant canard at a meeting of economic development officials after a recently completed round of focus groups in the region was conducted in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota by advertising agency Lawrence and Schiller of Sioux Falls.  Even more compelling was Costello's acknowledgement that, if anything, that "mantra" may have a detrimental quality to it, because "individuals viewed that as maybe the state doesn't have good education or fire protection or crime might be high or the park system not adequate. That was almost a quality of life deterrent." That's an interesting concession by Costello, considering that "quality of life," as defined by great outdoor opportunities, has been South Dakota's competitive trump card for generations. But it seems like people have other lifestyle priorities in mind when they make serious life decisions these days. Who would've thought?

     It's most refreshing to hear a dose of reality emerge from an administration that has long been characterized by self-adulation and denial of economic facts.  Last month's annual economic
South Dakota Word Cloud
Great Place To Visit, But . . . 
(graphic from Argus-Leader)
report, prepared by Costello's agency, was an exercise in extended self-puffery that was belied by

the state's negative economic performance and the continuing shortage of skilled workers
that according to Governor Daugaard has stymied South Dakota's economic growth needs. For some unfathomable reason, Daugaard and his administration have been unable to connect the dots between factors like wages, quality-of-life, a regressive overall tax climate and the state's inability to keep and attract an adequate labor force.  
     That it took a series of focus groups in nearby states to raise the Daugaard administration's awareness that "quality of life" issues matter and that outside perceptions of South Dakota's "quality of life" leave a lot to be desired is frustrating.  Lousy teacher pay, low overall wages, poorly maintained roads, slow economic growth--these are things that matter to young people growing up here and potential emigres looking for compelling reasons to bring their skills and their families to South Dakota.  Now that the Dennis Daugaard administration acknowledges as much, its challenge is to see if it can muster up the political will to begin some serious reforms that will change the way our state presents itself to the rest of the world.  I don't think we can make it on fresh air and great pheasant hunting opportunities in this day and age.  


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Azarga (nee Powertech) Uranium Gets Busted. The Would-Be Mining Company In The Black Hills "Clarifies," "Withdraws," And "Removes" Public Statements About Its Prospects.

     'Bout time.  Azarga (nee Powertech) Uranium, the outfit that wants to forever alter the
Dewey or Don't We?
I Say We Don't.  I Can't Trust Azarga Uranium.
(photo from sdpb.org)
composition of the groundwater in our precious Black Hills just got seriously caught over-hyping its prospects on its mining venture in South Dakota--and other spots around the world. Regulators at the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) took Azarga to the woodshed and are forcing the firm to give the public a realistic, not pie-in-the-sky, assessment of how things are going with its Black Hills ("Dewey-Burdock") mining venture that has been bogged down in the permitting process for years.  

     This company, whose stock (AZZ.TO) trades for just a few cents a share (less than 40 cents as of yesterday's close), has been the subject of numerous complaints filed with BCSC since last year.  Last January I filed a complaint with Canadian regulators about Azarga's numerous misleading public statements about the progress of its permitting process, which led British Columbia securities authorities to open a complaint file (File #20150123-13143/ Azarga Uranium Corp. AZZ.TO) on the company.  I know that several letters from other sources followed mine.  The upshot seems to be that overseers at BCSC have been following the company's filings and public statements with some scrutiny that resulted in their demand that Azarga clean up its act.
     Here's some of the language that the justifiably chastened Azarga this morning has used to explain what it has to do:  1) "The company is clarifying certain deficiencies;" 2) Its statements on the Black Hills project "did not include the necessary cautionary language required;" 3) And, in my view the most damaging to its over-hyping tendencies of all, Azarga had to state the following:  "The
Seeing Through Azarga Uranium
I'm With You Guys.
(photo from dakotarural.org)
preliminary economic assessment of the Dewey-Burdock project and the Centennial project are preliminary in nature and include inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves. There is no certainty that the preliminary economic assessments will be realized. Mineral resources are not mineral reserves and do not have demonstrated economic viability."  

     These remarks are a concession to the reality that Azarga's venture is highly speculative in nature and that its prospects don't have any economic viability demonstrated by its explorations.  This is so egregious an oversight that the company's statements include a closing notation that "The Company has removed the Presentation and certain other non-compliant Disclosure Documents from its website until updated documents can be posted to correct the identified deficiencies."   Wow. Could you imagine your own business being required to expunge misleading and deficient information from its website?  These people are effectively being called liars.  
     South Dakota authorities, both in environmentally and financially regulatory capacities, need to look at this.  South Dakotans should be wary of letting a company like this come in and start drilling holes in our Black Hills. They've already been caught misleading--some would say outright lying to--their investors.  What does that say about the nature of their statements and commitments to South Dakotans?

ADDENDUM FOR READERS WHO WISH TO FILE THEIR OWN COMPLAINTS TO THE BRITISH COLUMBIA SECURITIES COMMISSION:  You can e-mail them to  inquiries@bcsc.bc.ca   and reference File #20150123-13143/ Azarga Uranium Corp. AZZ.TO

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The New Confucius Institute At Northern State. Will Students Learn About China--Or About How To Get Along With The Chinese?

     Governor Daugaard was effusive and positively ingratiating in Aberdeen yesterday.  He
Confucius, You Da Man
Will The Chinese Scholars At NSU Operate On That Principle?
(photo from pixshark.com)
was there to welcome the new Confucius Institute to Northern State University. The Confucius Institute at NSU is one of about 100 of these ventures sponsored by the People's Republic of China (PRC), the purposes of which are to teach Chinese language and culture to students around the world.  The CI at Northern will fulfill that mission, an important one to Governor Daugaard, who said at the ceremony, "you can't discuss business, you can't discuss culture, if you can't discuss. Language and understanding of language is foundational to that."  

     There's no contradicting that sentiment, but it does make me wonder why the PRC feels like it has to set up entire "institutes" at American universities in order to facilitate the teaching of language and culture.  Seems to me we have plenty of homegrown scholars that can get that job done without inviting an entire apparatus from the country whose language and culture are to be taught.  And anyway, "language" I get.  But what are fields of study that constitute "culture?" Seems a bit broad to me and my first instinct is to question the motivation.  Before you write me off as reflexively paranoid, consider what's been going on with these Confucius Institutes at other schools around the U.S.  
     But first, our rock-ribbed conservative Republican leadership has allowed this entree into South Dakota's public university system without much discussion or debate.  That's actually pretty amazing, considering that their intellectually and ideologically conservative doyennes at The Heritage Foundation scorched the Confucius Institute last month in a report that concludes: 1) that CI "attempts to stifle free and open debate on China;" 2) "misrepresents" its link to PRC's Education Ministry; 3) "non-disclosure clauses make the entire enterprise opaque;" 4) (Get this one!) "that CIs have been set up as bases for industrial espionage and to pursue Chinese students and other Chinese nationals who stray from the party line here in the United States;" and 5) by selective hiring, "CIs break U.S. labor and employment laws." This is a pretty darn serious list of accusations, well-documented by the folks at The Heritage Foundation.  
     As to the ground game as it has played out on campuses themselves, the Confucius Institute has had plenty of troubles.  The Heritage Foundation piece details issues that came up at
Daugaard Approves
Some Chinese Studies Offered At NSU.  PRC Will Decide Which Ones
(photo from Aberdeen American News)
Stanford and NC State. Meantime, that other virtually mandatory daily read by conservatives, The Wall Street Journal, reports that Penn State and the University of Chicago last Fall dropped CI, citing restrictions placed on fields of study by the Chinese administrators. The South Dakota Board of Regents' Memorandum of Understanding on this explicitly states that CI must adhere to all BOR policies on academic freedom, but something tells me similar MOUs were produced at Stanford, NC State, Penn State and U. of Chicago.  I have no doubt that feisty profs at NSU will understand why the American Association of University Professors last June recommended that "universities cease their involvement with Confucius Institutes" because CI's "third party control of academic matters is inconsistent with academic freedom, shared governance, and the institutional autonomy of colleges and universities."

     My take is that nobody in this process really cares if South Dakota's university students learn a thing about China, its economy, its politics, its form of government.  Or for that matter its disdain for academic freedom.  What we seem to be caring about here is the facilitation of business dealings, and business dealings alone. A worthy mission, whose good intentions are wrecked by forgoing any attempt at learning about what China really is, which, of course, ruins the whole idea of what a university is all about in the first place.    

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Would-Be Uranium Miners In The Black Hills Seem To Be In A Bit Of A Jam. Smucker's Would Not Approve. Neither Should We.

      Azarga Uranium Corporation (AZZ.TO), once known as Powertech and still known as the
In Situ Uranium Mine In Australia
This Is What Azarga Wants To Do In The Black Hills
(photo from www.decarbonise.com)

outfit that wants to forever alter the character of the groundwater in the southern Black Hills by mining for uranium there, seems to be strapped for cash. The company just came out with its audited financials for the year that ended on December 31, 2014, and the conclusion isn't very pretty for investors, although those of us who would just as soon see the company abandon its plans for mining in the Black Hills and get lost for good have to find some comfort in Azarga's financial perils.
     The year-end report's independent auditors were certainly unimpressed.  The guys and gals with the green eyeshades were from BDO International, the mega accounting firm that has 60,000 people working for it out of nearly 1,400 offices scattered all over the world.  It collected more than $7 billion in fees last year. I certainly hope their check from Azarga cleared, considering how negative they are about the mining company's prospects.  If you can follow the link to Azarga's financial report (sorry about the complex navigation, it's the best I could do) you'll note that BDO had this to say about Azarga and its financial condition: "Without qualifying our opinion, we draw attention to Note 1 in the consolidated  financial statements, which indicates that the Company has not yet achieved profitable operations, has a working capital deficit of $1,567,300, an accumulated deficit of $6,272,029. These condition along with other matters as set forth in note 1, indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt upon the Company's ability to continue as a going concern."  *
     As if this dreadful prognosis isn't trouble enough for Azarga, the company seems to be in hot water with its securities regulators, the British Columbia Securities Commission.  I have no way of knowing how closely this matter is tied to the complaint file (File #20150123-13143/ Azarga Uranium Corp. AZZ.TO) that BCSC opened at my request last January when I complained about misleading statements made by the company regarding the progress of its licensing efforts in South Dakota (there were several follow-up letters by others after I posted the process of filing).  What we do know from Azarga's own just-filed preliminary economic assessment (PEA, available in the link provided above) is that as of March, 2015, "the British Columbia Securities Commission ["BCSC") has identified certain technical disclosure deficiencies relating to NI 43-101 that will necessitate the filing of an amended PEA by the Company in the near term. The Company is in discussions with the BCSC regarding the amended PEA and related disclosure, and intends to issue a
An In Situ Uranium Mine In Nearby Crawford, NE
This Is What Azarga Will Do To The Black Hills
(photo from RC Journal, 12/23/12)
news release clarifying the disclosure in the PEA and an amended PEA following such discussions. As such, investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on the information incorporated by reference into this MD&A from the PEA until such time as the Company issues a clarifiying press 

release and an amended PEA in consultation with the BCSC."**
    So what we have here is a publicly traded company whose outside auditors are casting "significant doubt upon the Company's ability to continue as a going concern" and whose securities regulators are cautioning investors "not to place undue reliance" on the company's economic self-assessment.  Why has South Dakota taken a "hands off" approach to regulating this matter?  Just last January, Governor Daugaard was telling the Rapid City Journal that "I don't like the notion that the state duplicates federal regulation.  So to the extent that the Atomic Energy Commission or the EPA is looking at this, I think we should let it run its course.  I don't think it makes sense to disregard scientists, simply because they are not from our neighborhood."  Why is Daugaard willing to give the feds authority to regulate this mine in our precious Black Hills when he is simultaneously telling the Western Governors Association that "States should be treated as co-regulators of the environment?"  That was a resolution that Daugaard propsed to WGA, which adopted it last summer.  This inconsistency is both glaring and troubling.
     South Dakota needs to keep close tabs on a company like this.  And while we're at it, somebody should inform Governor Daugaard that the Atomic Energy Commission was dissolved in 1975.  That its successor during the past four decades, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, didn't come immediately to mind makes me wonder if Daugaard is detached from this whole affair.  I certainly hope the above information is getting our governor's attention, post haste.  

*Page 3, Azarga Consolidated Statement issued 3/31/2015

**Page 6, Azarga Management Analysis and Discussion issued 3/31/2015


Friday, April 3, 2015

What, Me Worry? Congresswoman Noem Can Be Soooo Reassuring . . .

       Our Congresswoman Kristi Noem, who once had a brainstorm that resulted in shutting down most of South Dakota's premier tourist attractions during the peak Fall visitation season, came up with another zinger today. She noted on her facebook page that "President Obama has avoided South Dakota throughout his presidency. I think he could learn a lot about what happens when an efficient, effective, and accountable government respects hardworking taxpayers... Unemployment under 4%. A better lifestyle. A balanced budget. A healthy economy."  Then the Congresswoman asks her facebook friends to weigh in:  "What do you think the president could learn from South Dakotans?"  I doubt this will win me her facebook friendship, but I'll weigh in, anyway.
What, Me Worry?
This Is South Dakota
(photo from www.comicvine.com)
What, Me Worry?
We Can Even Teach The President A Thing Or Two
(photo from politico.com)

     For one thing, Obama could learn that we're not all as indifferent to reality, if not altogether delusional, as Noem is.  When it comes to efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in our "state government that respects hardworking taxpayers," I'd guess that Noem must have missed the recent brouhaha over how our state government let maybe more than $100 million slip away in the EB-5 fiasco. Then, of course, this efficient, effective and accountable government, whose head man Governor Dennis Daugaard a bit over a year ago told us our roads and bridges are in great shape ("South Dakota’s 8,000 miles of paved state highways rank a 4.4 out of 5 for quality, and our state bridges rank 91 on a 100-point scale."), exposed that bit of propaganda this year with a state-sponsored pitch informing us that our roads are in dire need of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of repairs and that our bridges are the 4th worst in the nation, with 31% of them "structurally deficient or obsolete right now."  As long ago as 2008, the American Society of Civil Engineers said that 29% of SD's roads were in "poor or mediocre condition." Thanks, efficient/effective/accountable state government.  That extra 6 cents you just tacked on to the price of gasoline makes me darn glad we live in a state with so much efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.
     Meantime, Noem touts our labor shortage as if it were some kind of asset, even as Governor Daugaard has been scrambling to come up with a solution. Yes, Congresswoman Noem, sub-4% unemployment looks good on the surface, but everybody in South Dakota, except, apparently, you, knows that it's because we can't find enough people to come and work in this state. Given the lowest wages in the region (if not the entire country), the most poorly paid teachers, indifferently maintained infrastructure and a congressional rep who's willing to shut down our national parks in the middle of a prime tourist season, a labor shortage is to be expected. Good grief, Congresswoman Pollyanna, do you even read the news in your home state?
     As to the "better lifestyle," for some of us it's the best.  That's why I live here, but we've got a disconcerting trend going on--a "spike" in poverty during the past few years, notably in the Black Hills, which has its highest poverty level in a decade.  In the meantime . . . back at the rez . . .
     And about that perenially "balanced budget?"  First off, it's a constitutional requirement, not an act of fiscal statesmanship.  Second off, you know darn well that half of it comes from the federal treasury and that South Dakota gets back from D.C. way more than we ever send in. Without the federal government, which you routinely lambaste, we'd be in awful fiscal shape.  The glib self-adulation over our state's balanced budget is kind of cloying, don't you think?
     Then there's that weird appendage to your accolades about our "healthy economy."  If whoever wrote your puff piece were paying attention, you would have known that South Dakota's soft economy has resulted in just 1.1% sales tax growth this year, way below the expected 2.8% that was projected.  Even worse, it's below the rate of inflation--which means we've had real negative growth in this "healthy economy" you tout. 
     South Dakota has a lot of great things going for it, but having a Congresswoman who's attached to reality isn't one of them.  Noem's Alfred E. Neuman-esque ("What, Me Worry?") recitations--insincere, shallow and uninformed as they are--of South Dakota's wonderfulness makes me question the seriousness of her intentions and abilities to improve conditions in her home state, which by every measure that counts is lagging behind its immediate neighbors, not to mention the country as a whole.