Tuesday, July 10, 2018

In South Dakota, We're All Soybean Farmers

     The South Dakota Farm Bureau doesn't have much in the way of moxie these days.  Its president, Scott VanderWal was on KELO-radio last Friday acknowledging the devastating potential of President Trump's tariffs on our state's corn and soybean farmers.  He sounded the appropriate call for alarm by noting that "if we disrupt trade like we are now with the farm economy in poor shape . . . it's going to be economically devastating."  The prospect of farmers selling this year's crop at prices a good fifteen to twenty percent lower than what markets were expecting last Spring, just before Trump's trade war-fixation turned into policy has walloped South Dakota's farmers.
     "Devastating" was certainly the right word to describe the situation, but that's where the
SD Farmers Talk Soybeans To China
August, 2017
strong language ended. 
The logical follow-up to VanderWal's alarming prognosis would seem to have been a call to action but what we got instead was a call to timidity.  He said South Dakota's farmers need to make their voices heard in Washington, "but we have to be careful how we do that because he (Trump) doesn't respond to attacks very well, or perceived attacks." That squeamishness is probably the reason our politically wimpish congressional delegation hasn't been more forceful in criticizing, if not altogether condemning, Trump's tariff gambit.   Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a much more muscular response to the president's threat of financial devastation to South Dakota's farmers is in order.  With Trump, vapidity won't get it.  If the Farm Bureau's approach to the financial armageddon predicted by VanderWal were limited to its members, there wouldn't be much reason for the rest of us South Dakotans to stick our noses into their business.  But as we've heard relentlessly for the past few years, persistent softness in farm income has hurt the state's overall economy.  To a real extent, all of us in South Dakota are farmers, dependent as we are on the condition of our crops and the money they bring in to the state.
     South Dakota's current soybean crop has experienced a $500 million paper loss since last Spring's market peak.  That's a lot of pain for a small state like ours to absorb.  We all have a stake in this.  What's more, the need for getting through to Trump about the "devastating" potential of his trade policies isn't just a short-term thing. There are long-term urgencies to contend with.  Agricultural media have been bursting with news about how China, the world's largest soybean importer, is making it a national policy to build domestic supplies by subsidizing its farmers heavily and seeking new suppliers, including Russia, to replace an American source that has suddenly turned toxic in a geo-political sense.  Considering that about half of the U.S.A.'s annual soybean harvest of 4 billion bushels is exported and that two-thirds of those exports go to China, we're talking about a serious game-changer here.  Even if China's rapacious demand for soybeans forces the country to take a while before it weans itself away from American supplies altogether, we run the risk of this game of tariff-chicken becoming a catalyst for changes in Chinese buying behavior that in turn creates a new network of suppliers for Americans to compete against. In that scenario, the downward pressure on prices will be persistent and painful.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

From The Z To Belle Fourche, An Old Warrior Remembers

     On the Fourth of July I'll be marching proudly with a contingent of Marines in the Belle
Immigrant Milking Cows
Turner County, SD
Fourche parade
.  So many pungent ironies will be running through my mind.  Fifty one years ago on the Fourth I was a radioman near the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam, about to get airlifted into a desperate fight nearby, the scuttlebutt being that I was replacing one of the many  radiomen in the field that were dead.  I cursed the war.  I cursed Lyndon Johnson.  I cursed the Halls of Montezuma.  Not yet twenty, I knew I was going to die.
     But it wasn't meant to be.  Enough air cover came in to drive the enemy back to their sanctuary in the Z (short for DMZ, aka the Demilitarized Zone), where we couldn't chase them, allowing the hostilities to come to a pause.  I got reprieved.  Though there were plenty of fights before and after (OMG, you should've seen September 3, 1967, at Dong Ha.  OMG.), that particular engagement, where I never even came within shooting range of the action, scared me the most.
     It was a tough way to become a citizen of the United States, but become a bona-fide, card-carrying American, I did.  Having come over from the shambles of post-war Europe in 1950 with my parents and baby sister, I probably was naturalized along with them a few years later.  Just to make sure, though, I enlisted in the Marines to pick up an automatic naturalization via that route.  For all these many years since then I never gave the fact of my naturalized status a second thought.  Then along came Trump.  I just about couldn't believe it when he made a point last February about  wanting an immigration policy that favored educated and skilled emigres.  If that were the policy back when I checked in at Ellis Island, my barely educated family of eastern Mediterranean (Greek and Armenian) "po' folk" would have been locked out.  And that would have been a shame, because, all modesty abandoned, I doubt that a more proudly American family could have been nurtured by this country, native born or not.
     More specifically, I doubt that the state of South Dakota could have turned out a more productive and contributing family.  I often wonder if most South Dakotans know how many immigrants are a part of the modern fabric of this state.  According to the American Immigration Council, twelve percent of our state's manufacturing workers are immigrants.  Ten percent of our state's building maintenance workers are immigrants.  Turkey processors in Huron now employ several hundred ethnic-Karen refugees from Myanmar.  Given the nature of the work, I'm sure many of these people don't have education and skills levels that would conform to an immigration policy that shuns the untutored.  According to the AIC, nearly 60% of South Dakota's immigrant population has a high-school diploma or less, the "or less" faction making up about 35% of the new arrivals.  Keeping these people out of South Dakota's labor pool would make a tight situation even worse for employers who chronically struggle to deal with our labor shortage.
     And, writing as the son of those in the "or less" category, the children of these families stream into the general population with educations and ambitions that have made this country what it is. Sorting out the good from the bad is one thing, a mandatory thing,  but to deny the U.S.A. its historic source of energy by being overly restrictive about who gets to enter this country is a rejection of a success story that is the American experience. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds Plays Word Games While His State's Farmers Get Bashed

     As if the pummeling that South Dakota's row-crop farmers have been taking from
Why Is This Man Laughing?
Farm Prices Are Plunging, Senator Rounds
President Trump's calamitous trade policy isn't bad enough, our state's junior senator, Republican Mike Rounds, makes the future of this debacle look even murkier with his namby-pamby reaction to the catastrophes that are the corn and soybean markets. 
Rounds was on Bloomberg Television last week splitting rhetorical hairs over whether the trade tensions started by Trump are a "war" or a "dispute."  Rounds said that "right now it's a dispute," but acknowledged that "it's impacting our markets."  Despite the negative impact, though, Rounds went on to say that "we'll allow the administration the time to put together their plan."  Could he have made an utterance that is more feeble, more naively presumptive?
     Why feeble?  Because our state's soybean crop is in the ground and maturing into a market that this week that has traded in the $8 per bushel range (Chicago prices), which is where soybeans were priced when I was brokering and trading commodity markets during the 1990s.  The corn trade is in much the same shape.  Rounds understands that time is of the essence when it comes to raising and marketing crops but is content to wait and see where the tariff imbroglio takes us.  How tough is it for our trade-dependent soybean industry?  It's brutal.  Soybean prices have come down by $2 per bushel since last Spring and a good $3 per bushel since 2016, when Trump was elected.  Given the 250 million bushels of soybeans that South Dakota's farmers produce every year, current price levels will see the disappearance of more than a half billion dollars from South Dakota's economy.  Meantime, Senator Rounds expects us to wait for the  Trump administration to put together a "plan."
     And that gets us to the "presumptive" part of Rounds' politically measured reaction to the collapse in the soybean market.  Our junior senator's attempt at acknowledging the damage being done to South Dakota's farmers without overtly annoying President Trump actually assumes that Trump has a "plan" to move this game of tariff-chicken forward. That's absurd on the face of it.  Last Monday's news that because of new tariffs Harley-Davidson is moving a substantial amount of its production overseas got a surprised reaction from the White House.  Trump apparently doesn't get that this trade war of his actually impacts American manufacturers in ways that are unforeseen and unintended.  The president was caught off guard by his make-it-up-as-you-go-along "policy," which doesn't look like much of the "plan" that Senator Rounds patiently awaits.
     As to our senior senator, Republican John Thune, there hasn't been much from his office about the collapse in corn and soybean prices.  He did, however, post an op-ed last week with  a homily about the nobility of farming.  Lovely as the epistle was, Thune was essentially replacing a hard-headed examination of the pricing crisis with a sentimental wave of condescension.  Both Thune and Rounds are coming up short in their responsibilities to be powerful voices for South Dakota's interests in Washington.  As we so often heard from Pierre during the past few years when state tax receipts were hurt by low crop prices, South Dakota's economy is too dependent on our ag sector to let a commodity price crisis go unaddressed.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

South Dakota's Democratic Gubernatorial Ticket Just Got Interesting

     Michelle Lavallee is South Dakota Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Billie Sutton's
 She's Good
choice to run as his Lieutenant Governor in November. 
She seems like a great pick from every angle I can think of.  No doubt a lot our state's Dems are muttering a bit about the fact that Lavallee has up until recently been a registered Republican, but having ditched my GOP registration last Fall to register as an Independent because I couldn't identify with the party of Trump anymore, I find common cause with any former Republican who in recent months did the same thing.  I hope the brilliant and highly accomplished Lavallee ends up sending the same message to our erstwhile party-mates as I did:  You Pubs have gone off the deep end.
     No doubt my former Republican comrades have brushed me off as blithely as they would a few loose threads on their clothing, but losing a star-quality player like Lavallee should make GOPers wonder if their No-Longer-So-Grand Old Party isn't turning away many of its best and brightest.  Lavallee's creds are right up there with the best of 'em.  I can especially relate to the Northwestern University-Kellogg School MBA that Lavallee, a 4th-generation South Dakotan, sports.  I frolicked (if you can use that verb to describe the cutthroat business of trading stock options) among many of those folks during my dozen years as a market maker at the Chicago Board Options Exchange.  Some of the sharpest minds on that trading floor were honed at Chicago's Kellogg School.  South Dakotans are lucky that this favorite daughter of theirs has chosen to put that top-drawer education to work right back here at home.  
     As to the political value of pairing with Sutton on the Gubernatorial ticket, it's significant.  There's plenty of tactical shrewdness in Sutton's country-boy demeanor.  He understands that Lavallee is urbane, financially sophisticated and has a private sector track record through her consulting firm that puts her in league with some of the biggest enterprises in South Dakota. Lavallee's grasp of finance and economics  will appeal to many in our state's business community, who probably scan the track record of recent Republican administrations with some serious dismay.  GOP stewardship of South Dakota's economy has kept us so far behind the national and regional curves for so many years that voters must be pondering whether it's time to change.
      As a solid professional combo blending agricultural smarts with business finesse, the Sutton-Lavallee team will likely prevail over the usual skepticism aimed by culture warriors at a Democratic campaign in South Dakota.  Why?  Because this isn't your "usual" South Dakota Democratic ticket.  Sutton himself is avowedly anti-abortionSouth Dakota Right To Life gave him an "A" in 2016.  And his 80% rating on South Dakota Citizens For Liberty's gun rights scorecard in 2017 is probably sufficient enough to cast him as an ally on the Second Amendment front.  I know a lot of Democrats will chafe at his values, but Sutton is who he is.   I believe the few Dems who abandon him will be more than offset by a large body of Republicans who can feel comfortable and maybe even enthusiastic about the prospect of modifying, if not altogether replacing, the political culture in Pierre with a ticket that any mainstream South Dakotan, regardless of party, can abide and support.  

Monday, June 11, 2018

South Dakota Congressional Reps? Yoo-hoo, Where Are You?

     I wonder why South Dakota's congressional delegation hasn't been more vocal
It's A War
And Farmers Got Drafted
about tariffs these days.
Our soybean farmers have been whipsawed by trade war news for months now, with no let-up in sight.  It's tough to make planting and marketing decisions when one day the trade war is on and soybean sales to China will suffer, then the next day tempers cool off and soybeans look to have their markets intact.  Soybean farmer Lindsay Greiner, the incoming president of the Iowa Soybean Association was no doubt speaking for many of his counterparts here in South Dakota when he talked last weekend  about China's threats to reduce purchases of American soybeans.  "One week you get good news and the next week you get bad, and that makes markets go up and down.  That makes farmers anxious."
     Fluctuating commodity markets create more than enough anxiety for farmers, but this new dose of uncertainty over trade has to be especially unsettling in a state that went for Donald Trump with more than 60% of its vote.  Soybean prices have given up nearly all the gains they made after Donald Trump was elected, falling below the psychological benchmark of $10 a bushel (per the Chicago Board of Trade) at the end of last week, when China said that "all trade promises are off if the U.S. imposes tariffs." That news took nearly a dollar off of soybean prices in a matter of days.  Considering that last year South Dakota farmers harvested about 250 million bushels of soybeans, the effect of a price move like that doesn't just affect the farmers.  This entire state will feel the economic aftereffects of a quarter billion dollars disappearing from our economy.
     Not to be ignored, hog farmers are similarly affected by the Trump administration's tariff-provoking rhetoric.  Last week Mexico added 10 percent to its tariff on American pork, which only adds to the uncertainty among hog producers, who in South Dakota produced 1.2 million pigs last yearIowa Farm Bureau Director of Research Dave Miller told NBC last week that since the trade war talk "heated up,"  hog prices went from being "slightly profitable to the point where most producers are losing money."
     Meantime, there doesn't seem to be much concern, let alone anger and outrage, over the looming trade war among our Trump-enabling Congressional delegates.  Their collective wimpiness on this belies their concern for South Dakota's number one industry, agriculture.  If you google "agriculture groups that support free trade," you'll find every mainstream ag organization in the country opposes Trump's tariff-spree.  That opposition spills over to other industry groups as well.  Reuters reports that 45 trade groups "representing some of the largest companies in the country" have urged Trump "not to impose tariffs on China."  The supposedly pro-business Republicans representing our state in Congress seem helpless, if not altogether indifferent, when it comes to vigorously defending the interests of the private sector they profess to adore. Lame duck Congresswoman Noem is out of the picture and irrelevant, but it would be nice to see Senators Thune and Rounds make a forceful case against tariffs.  In the process of finding their voices, they might actually end up doing their constituents some good.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Election Day Glitches In Rapid City Concern Janette McIntyre


The recent Primary election held on June 5th saw some unusually frustrating moments.

As a candidate for the District 34 House race I want to say congratulations to both Jessica Olson and Michael Diedrich for their win.  This isn’t about contesting the race in any way shape or form.
What I would like to address is the concern others and I have in the integrity of the system that we have in place.
No one watches the campaigns, filing deadlines, opponents’ yard signs and ultimately the vote tally on election night more than a candidate.  That’s pretty understandable.  
So when I received a call early Tuesday morning from a friend who was turned away from Southwest Middle School saying she was unable to vote I was concerned.  How could this happen?  She was told there was an internet problem and that a technician had been called but everyone would have to come back later to vote.  What if they can’t?
A few minutes later KOTA confirmed that indeed they now had heard about SW Middle school and the Calvary Lutheran polling place having trouble as well.  I got a call from a 2nd friend who received the same instruction.  He said he would “try” to go back on his lunch hour to vote.  What if the lines are too long and he runs out of time?
I ask my friend if she had been offered the opportunity to “give her name and show ID and vote with the poll worker taking her name.”   She said, “No.”   At SW Middle School it was also noted that there were no ballots actually there until after 8:30am.  How were people supposed to vote from 7:00am-8:30am with no ballots in the first place regardless of the registration internet glitch?
It was also reported that with the approximately one hour and forty five minute delay the solution to the problem was to use the books and keep the polling places open for an additional period of time.  I called the Auditor’s office and asked how late they were going to be open.  I was told 8:45pm.   SW Middle School did not stay open until 8:45 but closed at approximately 7:30.
Now we wait for results.    I’m anxious as usual and watched the Secretary of State website at my desk at home.  I’m not much of a partygoer so chose to pick up signs and watch the results at home.   Others who went to the gathering called and when talking to them the SOS posted that in District 34 8 of 8 precincts had reported and indeed I had won coming in 2nd with 29% of the vote.  The congratulations and cheers could be heard over the phone!  Wow I had won.
I looked at my computer and sure enough I had the bold face print on my name with the checkmark declaring me the winner!  Amazing.
But still on the phone with my friend I said, “This just doesn’t look right.  There are not enough votes.”   She agreed.  We decided to be cautiously optimistic.   I went about picking up my yard signs until about 11:30 and came home to the computer to find that now only 2 of 8 precincts have reported and although I’m still ahead it was a slim margin.
I waited and watched refreshing my computer every few minutes as the SOS website says they will update with results every 5 minutes.   I was up by a few percent, then I was behind by a few percent as 3 of 8 then 5 of 8 precincts reported.   Then it got to 6 of 8 precincts reporting and I was at the total 1488 and 2nd place was at 1730.   My optimism was draining away and I saw a loss coming.  I waited.  It was a quite some time, well after midnight, but I thought 2 precincts might make a difference.  Maybe I could still pull off a win. 
All of a sudden the website flashed 8 of 8 precincts reported.  I looked and to my surprise, and frankly dismay, the vote totals didn’t change.  The vote tallies were exactly the same!  How can that be?   If the totals were 1488 and 1730 at 6 of 8 precincts how could they be the same at 8 of 8 precincts?    That would mean that no one voted in 2 precincts because the numbers didn’t change.  Not sure who, but it would seem someone has some “splaining” to do.
Technology is a wonderful thing.  The thought of handwriting poll books as my mother used to do or counting ballots by hand is not an option but can we be assured that all of the signals are reaching the right place at the right time?  Did a lightening bolt suddenly hit the cloud?  Numbers reported on the KOTA and KELO websites were both different at times from the SOS website!
Integrity in our voting system is vital.  It’s not enough to have free and fair elections, they have to be accurate and we have to have faith in them.
The SOS office and the local auditors that dealt with this latest nightmare have to be wondering if the voter’s faith can be restored.  Here in Pennington County there has been ongoing criticism of the office. 
I don’t write this with malicious intent to the SOS office or auditors but solely to bring to the attention of anyone reading it that if there are problems with the office or with the hardware/software they need to be addressed yesterday and any fixes need to be in sooner rather than later.  November will be here before you know it.
Short of that I plan to pet my dog, walk in the woods, write a book and blame my loss on the Russians!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Is South Dakota Tourism Experiencing A "Trump Slump?"

     Tourism is my biz, so I'm naturally sensitive to trends as they develop in the industry.  Lately I've noticed that the phrase "Trump slump" has become part of the trade's shop-talk. Given that the industry, both locally and nationally, had a so-so 2017,  there's some reason for it. The tourism numbers are soft.  What does that mean for South Dakota generally and here in the Black Hills/Badlands region specifically?  Something definitely noticeable. We all have a piece of this action, given the size of our visitation market in western South Dakota.  Statewide, tourists spent about $4 billion here in 2017, generating more than $6 billion in overall business sales.  That supports 9% of the jobs in South Dakota.  More locally-focused numbers are just as impressive, considering that the $140 million spent by the three million tourists who visited Mount Rushmore in 2016 support two thousand jobs in the region.  Total spending by visitors to the Badlands, Jewel Cave and and Wind Cave accounts for another $150 million in spending in the immediate vicinity of those parks. The numbers pile on when you add the impact of our state-operated facilities,  including Custer State Park here in the Black Hills.
We Have Built It
Will They Continue To Come?

     But nice as these numbers are, the trend since last year hasn't been so positive. Visitation numbers were largely static during 2017, at least in terms of our national park data, which nationally were down by a fraction of a percent.  Locally, national park visitations last year were up a bit, with Mt. Rushmore accounting for a gain of less than one percent.  On the spending front, South Dakota's tourists accounted for an annual increase of 1.2% in 2017.  A gain is a gain, of course, but in context of overall consumer spending growth in the United States of 2.7%, our local tourism industry's take lagged far behind the national rate.
     Is there an actual "Trump slump" going on?  Travel Weekly Magazine thinks so, blaming President Trump and his bellicose "America first" rhetoric and policies for a drop of 7.4 million foreign tourists annually, which the U.S Travel Association translates into a loss of about 100,000 American jobs.  
    So far in 2018, the softness in national park visitation has continued.  The downtrend has accelerated, actually, with national visitation numbers down 8% for the year, a number matched almost exactly through the end of last May at Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands. Considering that just about all other elements of the U.S. economy are showing gains, these contra-indicators are cause for some concern throughout the travel industry.  No doubt the strengthening U.S. Dollar has probably had some effect on foreign visitors, making an American visit more expensive than it has been in recent years.  Then there's the recent uptick in gasoline prices, along with interest rates.  The reasons are myriad and the effect is measurable.  Are Trump and his policies to blame?  In my view, not entirely, but the leading experts in my field aren't quite so hesitant.  They're the ones that have unabashedly labelled it a "Trump slump." Considering how softly 2018 has started in the National Park system, they might be on to something.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Brad "Murdoc" Jurgensen says "Yes" to the new arena

The decision to vote yes or no on the Civic Center vote is clear and obvious. I ask citizens of Rapid City to do more than just read some social media headlines and comments from the crowd. Please take some time and educate yourself on both sides. I ask you all to ignore the antics of the extremes and really take 5 minutes to dig in. Ignore the smear tactics, negativity, ignorance, and instant hatred that comes with not doing some research. It’s easy to be against things. It’s harder to look at a nuanced and complicated issue and form your own opinion from the hard work of smart people. Take a second and realize that smart people have been putting in a lot of hard work. The lack of vision of the opposition and the scare tactics being used are nearly shameful, in my opinion. You'll find that this vote comes down to the following: Larger economic impact into the community, a better quality of life, no tax increase, and less dependence on other revenues. To the hordes of "I don't even attend" and "It was good enough for Elvis" commenters - you simply don't have the experience in this industry to weigh in on that opinion. That  doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to hold your own opinion - but anybody who has 10 minutes of event and concert experience knows this is an easy yes. Don’t just assume a comment on Facebook has any merit or actual experience. Talk with people who have been involved in this subject for years. Mayor Allender has given nearly 60 presentations on this subject. There are videos online, and miles of data on a few websites. With all due respect to the “Plan C” direction – it’s not a viable option. Decisions like Tuesday’s vote are the decisions that truly shape the future of communities like Rapid City. I urge you to take some time to reflect on the future you want to leave to future generations of this wonderful place to live. We owe a huge thanks to everybody who has been donating time, money, sweat, and effort to help be a part of the positive solution. I ask you to be a part of the future and vote Yes on Tuesday, June 5.

Note to readers:  I invite guest posters to weigh in on the new arena for Rapid City, which comes to a vote Tuesday. 500 words max, I'll edit for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Easiest way is to e-mail the copy to tsitrian@gmail.com The only parameters are good taste. My standard is that if I wouldn't want my old-fashioned God-fearing Greek grandma to see it, it ain't gonna get posted.  Thanks, John Tsitrian

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

John Wrede says "No" to the new arena

   “In for a Penny, in for a Pound is a 17th century English idiom that seems to describe the new Rapid City Arena ballot proposition delivered to city residents by a task force appointed by the Mayor and ratified by the Rapid City council.  It is an either/or proposition that affords no middle ground and no compromise.   It’s just the same old political strong- arm, special interest game of “my way or the highway” that has brought us to where we are.  There is a significant absence of long term perspective and failure to recognize the obvious.  People don’t complain about utility and public service deficiencies just to hear themselves talk.   Our problem is not sequestered in business economics in Rapid City sufficient to justify construction of a new arena to keep up with the Jones.    Our problem is tethered to homogenized business enterprise, over-dependence on public assets to include tax revenues, short term thinking, situational awareness and a paucity of long term planning. 
      There has been no discussion or evidence presented to show that a scaled down or even modest remodeling of the Barnett Arena will not accomplish the same thing as proponents of the grandeur/opulence desire.  Abstract speculation has been the only contradictory response to what is being labeled “Plan B.”  Allegedly the infrastructure of the roof and interior arrangement of the Barnett discourages renowned performers from appearing in Rapid City, yet Country Music Superstars  Sugarland and Luke Bryan  will appear in the  Ice Arena complex in June and  September respectively.  If we can field those acts in a smaller venue than the Barnett, we don’t need to build a bigger facility.  We have two annual events that come close to filling the venue each day of the events;  yet more space is needed based soley upon speculation and ill-described preliminary discussions.   We’re confusing “want” with “need”.  Now the Rush is beginning to fade like the Rapid City Thrillers, the Rapid City Red Dogs, and the Rapid City Flying Aces.  More dependence on municipal gratuity to keep an activity in business.  Newness wears off over time but the associated expenses grow with time, inflation, wages, costs of utilities and materials etc.   None of that is factored into this proposal.    
      In December 2016, at the end of the last 5 year Vision Fund Cycle, the City Council approved $6.5 million dollars for 10 Vision Fund Projects.  Alderman Jerry Wright argued vigorously that the council should wait for two weeks before making a decision saying: “My concern is, we’re not addressing a single one of our infrastructure needs.”  Alderman Scott said; “there is not enough of a cushion for contingencies if a project goes over budget.”  Those arguments are, perhaps more valid today than they were two years ago.  
     The Vision Fund has never held enough money to fund all the worthwhile, civic minded projects proposed.  The Fund is intended to be used for the good of the greatest number of our city residents, not economic development to serve the Visitor Service industry.       

Note to readers:  I invite guest posters to weigh in on the new arena for Rapid City, which comes to a vote Tuesday. 500 words max, I'll edit for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Easiest way is to e-mail the copy to tsitrian@gmail.com The only parameters are good taste. My standard is that if I wouldn't want my old-fashioned God-fearing Greek grandma to see it, it ain't gonna get posted.  Thanks, John Tsitrian

Adam McLean says "Yes" to the new arena

Sue Cook’s cattle argument is completely baseless.

All over the country, bigger facilities require overflow parking locations further from the arena than the closest parking. And it should come to no one’s surprise that most every facility like ours offers VIP parking for people who want to pay for premium spots. Not just here in Rapid City, but [if you can imagine it] even in Denver.

Sound arguments have been made that a bigger facility would allow the most popular performers (who draw the biggest crowds) a legitimate business opportunity if they stopped here, instead of passing through our town in the middle of their tour. So, Sue’s complaint about the current facility being empty too often completely misses the mark.

There are no ‘country roads’ (as Sue says) between the Civic Center and the interstate. So, I can’t give her words any weight, at all, on that.

A bigger city needs bigger entertainment facilities. Now is the time for Rapid City.

People like Sue Cook confuse gaslighting with rational conversation.

Note to readers:  I invite guest posters to weigh in on the new arena for Rapid City, which comes to a vote Tuesday. 500 words max, I'll edit for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Easiest way is to e-mail the copy to tsitrian@gmail.com The only parameters are good taste. My standard is that if I wouldn't want my old-fashioned God-fearing Greek grandma to see it, it ain't gonna get posted.  Thanks, John Tsitrian

Sue Cook Says "No" To The New Arena In Rapid City

How are we such cattle?  Just let someone really want something, perhaps on which to put his name, (Like a headstone.) And a big percentage of us say ok.  Do people ever notice that parking now is bad because the city allowed a hotel to build in the parking lot, and now shares limited parking with the civic center (CC);  the CC schedules multiple events for the same times, days, perhaps not every event but enough;  don't forget new building at the high school that has impacted parking;  not providing sufficient parking in new plans; suggesting that parkers should walk, pay for shuttles, pay extra to park closer,  and show no plans for better traffic access to a bigger facility. 
  Somehow it makes no difference that in statements made by the mayor the old facility sits empty too often but doesn't  compare how often this will change. This was one of the reasons to not build more parking for the existing CC.  
  One of my biggest objections is that the city's  voters have been lied to about the hockey team and the fact that it can't fill the stadium, needs to be bailed out financially taking monies from who really knows where and the whole condition of the city structure needs to be repaired.  No more bandaids for repairs.  How about fire the city managers that cover up and lie to support their own agenda.
  Looking at concert/shows/event demographics,  this area of the country doesn't support the numbers of people to attend en masse and make a new arena feasible.  
  Then transportation into and out of the city.  Essentially east or west.  North and south are pretty much li'l country roads, making an amazing impression on performers who never communicate with each other.
   I think one reason people don't attend events now is the backwards reasoning to profit by charging more rather than charge less and provide the service/program for more individuals.  Fill the seats.  Adapt the existing structure to code and prove that this structure can be filled with consistency.  Build parking.  Support the community now, rather than some maybe group that might come.  This tack might gain community support.--Sue Cook.

 Note to readers:  I invite guest posters to weigh in on the new arena for Rapid City, which comes to a vote Tuesday. 500 words max, I'll edit for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Easiest way is to e-mail the copy to tsitrian@gmail.com Only parameters are good taste. My standard is that if I wouldn't want my old-fashioned God-fearing Greek grandma to see it, it ain't gonna get posted.  Thanks, John Tsitrian

I'm soliciting guest posts, pro and con, about the new arena in Rapid City, coming to a vote on Tuesday

 I invite guest posters to weigh in on the new arena for Rapid City, which comes to a vote Tuesday. 500 words max, I'll edit for grammar, spelling and punctuation. Easiest way is to e-mail the copy to tsitrian@gmail.com Only parameters are good taste. My standard is that if I wouldn't want my old-fashioned God-fearing Greek grandma to see it, it ain't gonna get posted.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Jackley Won The KELO-TV Debate Against Noem Last Night

     South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley debated Congresswoman Kristi Noem on
Jackley Won
KELO-TV last night. 
The contenders for the GOP nomination for Governor in June's primary were prepared and articulate, but in the end Jackley successfully drew a contrast between his state experience versus Noem's Washington, D.C.-centered years in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she's been since 2011.
     Understandably enough, Noem claims that her years in Congress were fruitful to South Dakotans, but I doubt that most of us who live here are buying it.  She acknowledged that our state's GDP growth has been among the worst in the nation, yet continues to insist that she delivered for South Dakotans.  For reasons that I can't fathom, Noem thinks being part of the team that passed the 2014 Farm Bill has been the centerpiece of her representation, yet farm income across the country since 2011 has fallen by 26% according to USDA dataSouth Dakota's farmers fared much, much worse, watching their incomes fall a staggering 76% from 2011 through 2016.  The decline in SD's farm earnings continued through last yearMost relevant to our western South Dakota producers, calf prices since last Fall's marketing season have fallen by 20%, mirroring the downtrend in finished cattle prices.
     Going by prices and income, farmers in South Dakota have every reason to wonder why Kristi Noem touts her association with the 2014 Farm Bill as having had some positive effects on the ag economy, both nationally and here in her home state.  More pointedly during the debate, she touted her allegiance to all things Donald Trump, which is even more of a headscratcher.  The common experience of farmers having to deal with the whipsaws of Trump's trade policies has become a daily fixture in ag commodity markets, which wonder from one White House news release to the next if American farm products will have reliable overseas markets after they're harvested this year.
     Marty Jackley effectively tied the D.C. albatross around Noem's neck.  Then, to make sure that Noem's disconnect from day-to-day life in South Dakota during her congressional years is a potentially fatal political liability, Jackley called attention to the fact that Kristi Noem wants nothing to do with direct citizen input should she become Governor.  It's actually kind of mind-blowing, but Noem continues to insist that voluntary citizen panels composed of private-sector South Dakotans giving advice and insight about matters that affect their personal and professional lives represents growth in government.  This is more than a disconnect.  This is walling off the very people Noem wants to serve.  Jackley has and probably will continue to call attention to this cavalier approach to governing.  Noem's aloofness compounded by years of a lackluster tenure in Congress should make Republicans think twice about who they send up against Billie Sutton, probably the most formidable Democrat to run for Governor in many, many years.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Markle Sparkle?

Guest Poster Janette McIntyre of Rapid City Has Some Thoughts On Resplendence And Royalty In This Day And Age:

     Every little girl dreams of a beautiful wedding and Cinderella was our first story
that cements this image of Prince Charming.
We all hope this will someday be the end to our own fairy tale.
     The media have touted the latest Royal wedding as just that.   Fairy tales come true for so many reasons and on so many levels.  There’s the American British angle.  There’s the racial angle and the barrier that appears to have been broken.  And last but not least there’s the love conquers all angle no matter what the issue.
     Two factions emerge in the latest Royal spectacle.  There are those who love a good love story complete with multimillion-dollar pageantry and those that wouldn’t spend a nano second watching such a ridiculous waste of time and money.  They tout the idea that we won that war and don’t have to look back. 
      The bride most definitely had the wedding of a lifetime.  Not many weddings will reach the 100 million dollar mark, streets filled with well-wishers as you are driven by in a white horse drawn carriage, one of many from the stable of the queen.  And don't forget wearing a borrowed tiara worth hundreds of thousands of dollars too.
      Gone are the days of leaving the crown for true love as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson did.   No, what the Royals have done is prove that all of our freedoms, so hard fought for, have been tossed aside and the Royal chains have been put on.  And put on an American under the guise of being progressive!  Wow!
      Think about a different angle.  Where are the pink hat feminist American women who value their independence and are still working toward equal pay for equal work?  Here is an example of a woman sacrificing a career that she aspired to, independence of thought/actions and freedoms that she will never see again.  And she willingly agreed to it!
      Maybe he’s worth it.  Does she feel that she has made a giant stride for African American women with the British’s most eligible bachelor prize?   She may have purposely left out the term “obey” in her vows but you can be assured she will follow the agreed upon rules. 
       If history is any indication, the tabloids are salivating.  I’m sure there will be ample opportunities for salacious pictures and stories to come.
      All of the multimillion-dollar pomp and circumstance plus the title of Duchess of Sussex will never equal American freedom.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dusty Johnson Begs To Differ

       Johnson, running in the coming primary for the Republican nomination to U.S. Congress,
Not Exactly Stopping Traffic
got a bit defensive with me in last Friday's Rapid City Journal. 
His op-ed piece claims that I didn't have all the facts about his devotion to farmers when I called attention to his rhetorical genuflection towards President Trump. On his facebook page, Johnson says he "looks forward to working with Trump" who "has proven to be an effective chief executive."  I'm not sure what facts he's calling into question, but a direct quote like that makes it pretty clear that Johnson will be an unquestioning loyalist to Trump.  My piece chided Johnson for his fealty to a chief exec who's tax bill just added $2 trillion to the national debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Interest rates are already pushing higher as the government borrows, borrows, and keeps borrowing, to the tune of 84% more money this year than lastJohnson seems oblivious. The compelling question is, how can this "passionate" advocate for farmers believe that rising farm interest rates make Trump the "effective" chief exec that Johnson looks forward to working with?  More hypocritically, Johnson in his recent tv ads decries the huge amount of debt that will be passed on to his kids, yet continues to fawn over the president who touched off the latest government borrowing binge.  Consistency has yielded to expediency in the Johnson campaign.                                                                                                             Then there's the matter of trade.  Johnson has made some pro forma utterances about not using farmers as pawns, but they don't sound like much resistance to Trump's potentially harmful trade policies.  He offers a couple of duh-inspiring quotes  that are supposed to show his independence from Trump on trade issues.  First he says "Market access is incredibly important to the South Dakota . . . agricultural economy."  Next he says "I would ask the president to make sure we keep those markets open."  Come again?  He would "ask" the president?  Would there be a "pretty please" attached to the request by this self-styled "passionate" advocate for South Dakota's farmers?
     These rhetorical flourishes notwithstanding, some specifics need to be addressed.  Soybean prices last week fell below $10/bushel, nearly 10% below their peak last March, when all the Trump trade-war rhetoric started heating up. Analysts at the  Farm Futures site yesterday called that "a fresh reminder of China's diminished soybean purchases over the past several weeks."  So where's candidate Johnson's pushback?  Tell it to the soybean farmers. So far I don't see much of a fighter for South Dakota's ag interests.
     And forgetting about soybeans for a minute, there's the matter of Trump administration policy on the ethanol mandate, aka the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a major matter for corn producers.  Trump's EPA chief Scott Pruit has been "chipping away" at RFS, which has irked Iowa GOP Senator Chuck Grassley, who bluntly told Pruitt last week that if the EPA chief didn't reverse course, he, Grassley, would "be calling for Pruitt to resign."  Trump's front man at EPA has been a dud as far as many corn producers are concerned, and Grassley is rightly outraged.
     So now we've got farmers facing major new national debt, rising interest rates, price-crippling trade disputes and an ethanol-resistant EPA.   If all  this makes Trump the "effective chief executive" that Johnson venerates, Dusty can have him.   

Sunday, May 13, 2018

South Dakota Senator John Thune, Brought To You By AT&T, Comcast, And Verizon

   One of the telecom industry's lavishly sponsored policy protagonists, our South Dakota Senator John Thune, weighed in on internet neutrality a few days ago.  Thune, according to the Center
Thune Telling It To Comcast
Preaching To The Choir
For Responsive Politics ranked second
among Senate recipients of telecom industry donations (just over $150 thousand)  during his re-election bid in the 2015-16 cycle.  Ergo, in keeping with the hostility that the industry has  held toward net neutrality, Thune has long been against the policy of leaving internet service in the regulatory realm of the Federal Communications Commission.  The FCC imposes time-consuming and burdensome requirements on internet service providers (ISPs) who seek to change the terms and mechanics of their internet delivery systems.  Some, like me, see this as a protective mechanism for consumers who would otherwise be at the mercy of their ISPs, which, unfettered by FCC oversight, would find it easier to make changes in delivery and prices for content and speed. Some, like Thune and the ISPs themselves, see it as a restriction on their abilities to innovate and invest in better equipment and service.   In 2015 Thune was incensed by an FCC decision that essentially let the FCC continue its internet oversight.  Thune called that decision "partisan," a "power grab" and "regulatory overreach," a reflexive response that dovetailed with the telecom industry's reaction,  promising to do all it could to reverse the FCC decision.  For background, Thune's 2016 haul from the telecom industry was a small part of the $900,000 he received from the likes of internet service providers AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast through 2017.  He's supported well by these folks.
     But even as Thune and his significant others in the telecom industry claim otherwise, industry behavior hasn't shown much reluctance to innovate and invest.  Last December Investopedia released a report that shows that investment has been stronger than ever since the 2015 FCC decision upholding net neutrality.  Investopedia cites an Internet Association study using publicly accessible data that refutes the claim that ISP investments have been hampered by the net neutrality decision. In fact, Investopedia concludes that  "their spending has increased since net neutrality."
     Of course, all of this is moot now that the Trump administration has named an ISP-friendly commisioner, Ajit Pai, to chair the FCC.  Pai has already announced that net neutrality is dead and will end by next month. It's no surprise that 21 states are suing the FCC to overturn Pai's decision.  What's intriguing is that Senator Thune has suddenly become a fan of net neutrality--now that it will no longer be enforcedIn the piece I cited earlier, Thune claims he "supports rules that prevent blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of internet traffic."  I hope the Senator will provide us with a list of rules that he will propose in hopes of maintaining our present and unfettered internet lines of communication and speed.  More specifically, what will the Senator do to make sure that ISPs won't favor content they own by impeding accessibility to competitive content?  And just who will enforce those rules, anyway?  Meanwhile, spokespeople from AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon cross their hearts and hope to die that they'll never mess with internet traffic once net neutrality is terminated next month.  Comforting words, I suppose, but like residents of 21 states (many of them "red"), I'm dubious.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Um, Okay, But What Does All Of This Have To Do With The Price Of Soybeans?

Um, okay, but what does all of this have to do with the price of soybeans?  That should probably be one of the most pertinent questions that come to mind as we South Dakotans head into the final stretch of primary season, but our main Republican candidates don't seem interested in prosaic questions about crop prices.  Unlike their Democratic counterparts during this election cycle, GOP aspirants have to fight each other to get on the November ballot, and their contests seem to have turned into a scramble to see who gets top honors in the Trump Admiration Society.   Attorney General Marty Jackley, running for Governor, even recently adopted Trump's signature code phrase--"fake news"-- because he's miffed at the "fake news" that he doesn't support Trump. Fake or real, the application of a Trump catchphrase to his campaign literature will probably do Jackley some good.  As to Jackley's major opponent Congresswoman Kristi Noem, her recent tv spots have touted her commitment to a balanced budget, a laughably disingenuous claim, considering she supported Trump's tax bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says will add $1.9 trillion to our country's debt during the next decade.  Some balance.  Meantime, our Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, running for South Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been outspokenly supportive of Trump since announcing last year.  South Dakotans "should not have to bear the financial burden of a reckless government" says Krebs on her website, as if the creation of a nearly $2 trillion deficit is neither reckless nor financially burdensome. Krebs' competitor for the House seat, Dusty Johnson, says on his Facebook page that he "looks forward to working" with Trump, who "has proven to be an effective chief executive." With that deficit in sight, Trump looks to be more the chief executioner than the chief exec.
      While the candidates pile on the political ingratiation, the question at the start of this piece looms large, if essentially ignored.  In the process of attaching themselves to Trump, are these hopefuls disregarding the perils created by their leader?  If you say "enough" with the deficit, already, consider the damage that could easily be done to South Dakota's ag economy by his trade war initiatives, spurring a serious tariff threat by China.  Short term, things won't be so bad.  There are other buyers.  But long term issues are serious.  A study completed last March at Purdue University concludes that the tariffs threatened by China would create global adjustments that will eventually reduce  American soybean output by 17% and bring prices down by 5%.  Last year's 250 million bushel soybean crop in South Dakota would take a $100 million hit. As markets move in tandem, corn would also suffer, as would, most likely, wheat.  Little wonder that Grant Kimberly of the Iowa Soybean Association last month called the Chinese tariffs "devastating."  It would be nice if South Dakota's Republican aspirants could take a breather from their non-stop adulation of Donald Trump and address the consequences of the policies they so enthusiastically embrace. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

"Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world," said The Kinks. "Baloney!" says Janette McIntyre in her guest post

     I don’t pretend to speak for all women so won’t try to go there but I also don’t
want some women to assume they can speak for me either.  
 I’ve never been a bra burner, pink hat lady or agreed with quotas for quotas sake. Whoever thinks that girls should be members of the Boys Scouts and who have forced this issue does not represent me.

     The Girl Scouts organization already exists!  Why isn’t it good enough for them to join the Girl Scouts?    If they think it needs to be more like the boy’s organization why not make changes and leave it at that?  No, that would not be sensational.  It’s not that the opportunity doesn’t exist, as was the case when girls weren’t able to play school sports.   We now have equal opportunities such as boys and girl’s soccer, basketball, track, and baseball/softball.   I agree with this.  If we take the argument that has been thrust upon the Boy Scouts for inclusion one step further, why not make all High School and club sports co-ed.  Wouldn’t the same argument used on the Boy Scouts apply?  Do we really want girls on boys’ basketball teams or vice versa?
      In an age where budget cuts to South Dakota schools are appearing to be the norm maybe this would be an option to save schools money!  It would eliminate one team of every sport.  There would be no need for the Girl Scouts and they could merge as one organization?  I’m, maybe may be not, being facetious but where would it end? This would surely get sports parents up in arms.  How dare you suggest such a thing?

     People are being slowly played with the old “frog in the frying pan” tactic and as designed they don’t even realize what’s happening to them.   The further down the slippery slope we go toward castrating men and trying to make women the same the harder it will be to bring ourselves back.  We’ll be cooked/dead/croaked!
      Many obstetricians will no longer be able to announce, “It’s a girl, and it’s a boy!”  Imagine their malpractice insurance if they get it wrong. It will solve one potential problem though; everyone will be eligible if they ever reinstate the draft.  Everyone will know how to shoot by acquiring the Boy Scout’s “Rifle Shooting Merit Badge.”  That is of course if they are still allowed to award it and we still have our guns!
      Oh the times they are changing.  Some would say for the better.  Others would disagree.  There is the divide that we are witnessing.  Its been made political but it’s really ideological.   When you consider that those holding more conservative positions are the idealists the whole world seems upside down doesn't it?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

When It Comes To Citizen Input, Jackley Gets It, Noem Doesn't.

     Since when is the creation of volunteer citizen advisory boards an indicator of bigger
Jackley, Noem
Some People Get It, Some Don't
government in South Dakota?  
  As adjuncts, they aren't even part of government, so how could they be making it bigger? This is one of the crazier notions that I've seen in a long while, but it's a core belief of our U.S. Representative  Kristi Noem, who is running for the Republication nomination for Governor.  Her campaign manager Justin Brasell  pooh-poohed the idea of citizen input last weekend in an RCJ piece (written by Bob Mercer) when he said, "she does not believe bigger government is the type of reforms South Dakotans want."  Brasell inexplicably thinks creating advisory commissions will enlarge state government. 
   Noem herself extends the notion.  In the same RCJ piece she says, "under my administration there would be no new boards, no new commissions, and no new blue ribbon task forces."  Wow.  Talk about a cavalier approach to government.  This is a candidate who has no interest in developing and getting input from groupings of interested and knowledgeable private citizens when it comes to decisions made by politicians in Pierre.  The arrogance inherent to this attitude is unseemly and compares unfavorably to the approach taken by her rival for the GOP nomination, Attorney General Marty Jackley.
     Jackley's approach is the exact opposite of Noem's.  When it comes to willingness to reach out and seek some counsel from beyond the perimeters of state government, Marty Jackley isn't so convinced of his own decision-making prowess as to ignore the value of private sector expertise.  He puts it succinctly:  "Government doesn't have all the answers.  That's why as governor, I would make it a priority to work with citizens across South Dakota. . . we will not hesitate to use volunteer commissions or task forces." What Jackley will do, Noem won't.  A contrast can't get much starker.
     As a registered Independent I won't be voting in the Republican primary.  Readers of my blog and column know that I have strong reservations about both candidates. For example, I'm still waiting for Attorney General Jackley to provide us with a timeline and flow chart explaining how all that EB-5 money went poof a few years ago.  As to Noem, I want an explanation of how she went to D.C. as a "Tea Party"-admiring deficit hawk and then entered her last year in Congress by voting for a tax bill that will add $1.9 trillion to the national debt, a figure computed by the Congressional Budget Office. Chances being that I'll have to settle for nothing by way of explanation on either score, those matters might as well be put aside--for now, anyway. Meantime, Republicans pondering their choices in the primary just got a picture window-sized view into the political souls of their two gubernatorial candidates.  I wonder how the many South Dakotans who over the years have served voluntarily on "boards, commissions and blue ribbon task forces" feel about Noem's disdain for their value should she become governor.  Her insularity doesn't suit a state where "Under God, The People Rule."  Jackley's got it right.  The more citizen involvement and input, the better.