Saturday, October 20, 2018

Sutton, Sutton, He's My Man. If He Can't Do It, Nobody Can.

     I guess you could say I'm a bit enthused by Billie Sutton, the Democrat who has a real shot at becoming South Dakota's next governor.   With a life story as compelling as any I've seen (he's 
The real deal, plain and simple
paralyzed from the waist down because of a rodeo accident during his youth) and a reputation as a solid, thoughtful state rep and investment advisor from the small South Dakota town of Burke, there really isn't much downside to his background.  I met him once, briefly, during a visit to the state capitol in Pierre and found him to be polite and self-contained, without the usual Type A-personality style that's so common among politicians.  Having heard much good about him prior to the meeting, I was taken aback by his reserved demeanor.
     It never occurred to me that this quiet cowboy would ever develop the charisma that it takes to win a statewide election, but he's defied my misgivings and preconceptions and now looks to be on the verge of being our next governor.  I sure hope he makes it.  His opponent, retiring Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem, is a plastic product of South Dakota's GOP establishment, utterly predictable in her recitation of her party's persistent themes.  In its endorsement of Sutton, the Rapid City Journal  defined Noem's pitch as "stay the course . . . don't raise taxes, limit federal intrusion, and hold the reins on spending."  In other words, standard Republican boilerplate, which even the RCJ notes "we've heard before."  That staying-the-course approach hasn't done much for South Dakota, as our state's economy has stagnated during this decade, underperforming the rest of the country by a mile.
     We need to change course, not stay on the same-o same-o.  I don't think Noem can do that, mired as she is in GOP orthodoxy.  Sutton can.  He's not married to an entrenched political establishment that prospers while South Dakota stagnates.  "Culture war"-oriented Republicans can generally feel comfortable voting for Sutton, whose well-known positions against abortion and for gun rights make him more South Dakotan than Democrat.  And business/economy-minded types can feel reasonably confident that Sutton, the investment advisor, along with running mate Michelle Lavallee, the Northwestern University MBA who has brought her education back to her home state, know plenty about economics and finance.  These two understand something about growth and will put their  money-oriented expertise to work for South Dakota's languishing economy.
     South Dakota can use a breath of fresh political air.  Billie Sutton will usher it in.  Join me in making him our next governor.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I'll Take Tim. Bjorkman's The Kind Of U.S. Rep We Need In Congress. Trump Already Has Enough Lapdogs.

     Tim Bjorkman is festooned with a liability that he can't shake.  He's a Democrat running for Congress in South Dakota, a state that went 63% for Donald Trump.  We're also a state where 47% of
I'll Take Him
voters are registered as Republicans, 29% are Democrats and 23% are Independents.  The outgoing Republican U.S. Rep, Kristi Noem, beat a strong Democrat three elections ago and cake-walked through the next two challenges, which makes Bjorkman's task seem all the more daunting, considering the strength of the Republican stranglehold on South Dakota in recent years.
     To Tim's credit and our benefit, Bjorkman is not intimidated by these numbers and is running an energetic campaign, which not only sticks to the issues but sticks it to the campaign of his Republican opponent Dusty Johnson.  For one thing, Bjorkman has refused to take money from PACs or special interest groups. About a third of Johnson's top twenty contributors are PACs, complemented by an array of special interests, including Koch Industries.  On that score alone I think it's fair to say that a Congressman Bjorkman will never have to juggle allegiances between his South Dakota constituents and what the Koch Brothers would like to achieve.  Forsaking that kind of money puts Bjorkman at a financial disadvantage, but he's committed to his principles and I think he's getting his point across.  I attended a gathering in Rapid City a couple of weeks ago and was impressed by the size and enthusiasm of his crowd.
     Having met Bjorkman a couple of times and having read his eye-opening study on the effects of a dysfunctional childhood on crime and imprisonment, which he wrote for the University of South Dakota Law Review last year, I'm impressed, in equal measures, by his intellect and his passion.  Ten years as a circuit court judge have given this legal scholar a most valuable perspective on bread and butter issues that affect our communities, and I have no doubt that he'll bring that background to his job of representing us in the U.S. House of Representatives.
     You know, we've had our fill of Republicans claiming to have the best interests of our state at heart when they're in Washington.  These are the Trump-enablers who stood aside and watched our farmers get plundered by Trump's ill-advised trade war, ruining our best overseas markets for South Dakota's crops, principally soybeans. These are the Trump-enablers who've been railing for years about "unsustainable" federal deficits and vowing to do something about them, then putting their phoniness on display by supporting Trump's tax cuts, way disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, which have caused such a dramatic drop in government revenues that projected federal debt is reaching undreamed of heights.  And now these Trump-enablers are blaming the poor and the elderly for the debt explosion, as if they couldn't see it coming.  I've got news for these neo-Pavlovian subjects calling themselves Congressional Republicans:  try paying into Social Security for your entire lives then living month-to-month on that check you get after you've retired.
     My take?  Bjorkman won't buy into this baloney because he hasn't sold his soul to the wealthy bidders who've created a society where the economy is growing but wages aren't.   In 2017, South Dakota ranked in the lowest quintile in the country for personal income growth. That's consistent with our abysmal per capita GDP growth rate, which has been virtually flat for the past several years, compared to a 6% jump in the rest of the country.  What we don't need is another Trump lap dog in Congress.  We need an independent voice sustained by a great intellect and a passion for serving his constituents, not the special interests and PACs that fund so many other campaigns.  Tim Bjorkman fits the bill.  I hope you'll join me in voting for him.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

South Dakotans Can Grasp Complicated Proposals And They Should Reject Amendment Z Next Month.

     There's an engaging simplicity to Amendment Z, which will be on the South Dakota ballot
No On This Amendment
It's a can of worms
next month. 
The Amendment wants to limit all future constitutional amendments to a single subject, which seems okay at first.  It's kind of a "keep it simple, stupid" approach to ballot questions, and who doesn't like simplicity when considering new laws and their consequences?  But like just about everything else that strikes you as a neat, clean, easy-as-pie solution to a complicated problem, Amendment Z has some self-created pitfalls.
     First off, would somebody supporting this please define "single subject?"  I can't imagine a constitutional amendment being that easy to create when it comes to operations and enforcement. Heck, even the single-subject list of the Ten Commandments isn't all that easy to interpret, much less enforce.  "Thou shalt not kill" has so many levels of exceptional circumstances that it's practically useless as a realistic guide for moral action.  This is why constitutional amendments have to contain operational clauses and subchapters in order to define just exactly what they'll accomplish if passed.  The current Amendment W is a good example.  Its "single subject" is government and campaign reform.  How it sets out to accomplish that goal consists of a series of measures that cover many subjects. 
     Single-subject advocates probably want to see measures as sweeping as Amendment W split up into numerous parts.  Each part would become a separate ballot item, requiring separate petition-gathering and campaign efforts, making it practically impossible to put together an extensive reform package with numerous components.  The definition of a "subject" is malleable and likely to create much confusion when it comes to satisfying ballot access rules.  I could see a lot of litigation hamstringing the process as the sides line up when measures are proposed.   Amendment Z looks like a can of worms just waiting to be opened.  Voters should reject it. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It Finally Dawns On Kristi Noem That Trump Might Not Be So Good For South Dakota After All

    After a two-year nonstop barrage of political ingratiation with the Trump administration,
Noem Yesterday
She Finally Gets It
our Congresswoman, Republican Kristi Noem, has finally had to concede that President Trump has been a problem for South Dakota. 
Campaigning in Huron yesterday, Noem all but acknowledged that her run for Governor is up against some headwinds created by Trump's awful handling of trade issues affecting this state.  Exhorting her supporters with the words "we've got an uphill battle . . . I'm going to need your help," Noem basically conceded that her campaign visuals of the lady on horseback cantering about the South Dakota prairie haven't ignited much enthusiasm for her race against Democrat Billie Sutton.
     Noem's reasons for her campaign's somnolence?  Laughable, kind of. Whining that "usually at this time the Republican candidate maybe would be up by 10 or 15 points," Kristi complains that "we're in a totally different environment.  We've got trade wars going on.  We've got a national environment that's definitely impacting us here in South Dakota."  Specifying the problem, Noem went on to say that Trump "decided to go to war to get us more fair agreements; the problem is that he did it after four years of depressed prices already.  So we already had farm income cut in half because of low commodity prices and then to go into this trade war at this time is pretty devastating."
     Wow.  This kind of finger-pointing at the President as the reason for her gubernatorial campaign's uphill challenge is quite the reversal of her tone when Trump was here a month ago,  helping her campaign with a stop in Sioux Falls.  Then Noem said she is "eternally grateful that God gave us a President that puts America first," adding that our state can partner with the President to "make South Dakota and America even greater."  I suppose this kind of blatant obsequiousness is de riguer at events like these, but it sure contrasts with her outburst yesterday about Trump's trade policy being "devastating" to South Dakota.
      Given the financial hit that South Dakota's soybean industry is taking thanks to Trump and his incompetent trade policies, our state hasn't become "even greater."  It has become even lesser--to the tune of about $500 million less.  The only thing that's gotten "even greater" since Trump went on his trade war rampage is our country's balance-of-trade deficit, which is on track to make ten-year highsKiplinger last month just flat out said that Trump's "policies are more likely to grow the deficit than to cut it."  And in the meantime, we have millions of tons of soybeans, which historically have been a bonanza for balance-of-trade calculations, looking for a market because China, Trump's principal trade antagonist, has said "no thanks."
     What amazes me is that so many people could see this coming while Noem didn't even acknowledge the risk.  With many others, this blog (in '16, months before the election) was full of concerns and warnings about just such a scenario.  But did Noem pay attention to the apprehensiveness that was so pervasive at the time?  Not really.  I can't find a peep about the gathering storm coming from her office during the last couple of years, so this Kristi-come-lately outburst in Huron yesterday smacks of inattentiveness or lack of understanding.  I think it's both, which make for two reasons to dismiss her from public office next month.

Constitutional Amendment X? Another Attempt At Trashing South Dakota's Motto, "Under God, The People Rule."

     What is it with some of these people that go to Pierre and run the government of South
NO On This Turkey
I happen to like majority rule
Are they under the impression that majorities of our state's voters aren't capable of making substantive decisions at the ballot box?  After the last election they trashed an initiated measure (IM-22) that would have radically reformed the way government conducts business in this state after a majority of the voters approved it.  So discombobulated were government officials by the wholesale revision of their status quo that they found a way to legislatively negate the measure even before its constitutionality was determined by the South Dakota Supreme Court.
     But as I noted a couple of blog posts ago, that stubbornly reformist "cat" came back, this time  with a replacement amendment (Amendment W) that will again test the nerves of elected officials who are married to business-as-usual in Pierre.  They'll be stuck with the results of Amendment W if it carries, at least until the courts can give it a constitutional go-ahead.  That notwithstanding, some of these public servants have taken their own pro-active steps to make it much tougher for simple majorities to make constitutional decisions in South Dakota.  They have trashed the long-honored principle that majorities rule in South Dakota and in the process have trampled on the state's motto "Under God, The People Rule."
     This cavalier and condescending endeavor goes by the name of Amendment X on the coming ballot.  Amendment X essentially says the heck with a majority of South Dakotans, what we now require to amend our state's constitution is a supermajority of voters, namely 55%, to change our constitution at the ballot box.  Why is it cynical?  Because it lets our political class pick the size of the majority that knows what's best for South Dakotans.  Why is it condescending?  Because its arbitrary cutoff point of 55% tells 54% of South Dakotans that their voice doesn't matter.  In other words, if you were part of a 54% majority of voters who wanted something that was rejected by 46% of the voters,  Amendment X tells you to get lost.  That is completely. freakin' bonkers.
     I get that people are fed up with out-of-state interests paying signature gatherers to manage the tough job of getting issues placed on our ballot.  By raising the ballot approval threshhold beyond a simple majority, Amendment X will supposedly make the job of obtaining enough petition signatures for constitutional amendments to make the ballot in the first place much tougher, thereby reducing the number of such measures that turn up in South Dakota.  I think that's an iffy assumption, but I don't think it's the most relevant consideration anyway.  We should be most concerned by the fact that if signature gathering will be made more difficult by Amendment X, the stiffer challenge also applies to in-state activists seeking constitutional changes.  That's where my 54-to-46 scenario gets meaningful, because it essentially makes a minority of voters the ones who determine the fate of proposed changes to our constitution.
     That doesn't work for me, and it shouldn't work for anybody who believes in the tenet that "the majority rules."  Join me in voting no on Amendment X.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

You'll Get Some Seriously Serious Government Reform In South Dakota If Enough Of Us Vote Yes On Constitutional Amendment W.

     For starters, a lot of us, me included, are still plenty burned up about the cavalier
Sick Of This?
A Dose Of Amendment W Might Help
treatment that Initiated Measure 22 received from both the legislative and executive branches in Pierre a couple of years ago. 
IM-22 was a broadly inclusive set of reforms that dealt with campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics oversight.  It also contained a public-financing-of-elections component.  That last aspect turned me off so completely that I opposed passage of the measure here in my blog, in the column I was writing at the time for the Rapid City Journal, and as a panelist during a public forum in Rapid City.  My opposition was animated and unequivocal.
     The measure carried just the same, capturing about 52% of the vote.  Disappointed though I was, losing at the ballot box isn't a particularly new phenomenon (goes way back to '68 when Tricky Dick beat The Hube) for me and I was somewhat resigned to my fate. I say somewhat because it seemed clear to me (and my lawyer friends) that there were elements in IM-22 that would render it unconstitutional, and sure enough, its first hearing in court seemed to affirm that, so it was effectively put on hold pending a hearing at the state Supreme Court. It was going through a process that would probably nullify it altogether, and it really didn't seem like the entrenched political class in Pierre would have to confront it.
    Or so it seemed.  Unwilling to exercise some collective patience and let the process play itself out in the courts, our state's Republican Governor Daugaard and the overwhelmingly GOP-dominated legislature set themselves the task of doing away with it via the legislative process. They essentially did so by passing a bill (HB 1069) that pretty much wiped out the elements of IM-22 that were most threatening to the status quo.    The voice of the people was canceled out and, despite my opposition to the measure in the first place, I and a lot of other folks have neither forgiven nor forgotten this breach of the public's call for change.
     The upshot?  A motivated group of reformers called Represent Us were able to write and place a measure, Amendment W, that creates a series of reforms similar to its predecessor, IM-22, but without the public-financing-of-campaigns component.  Shrewdly packaging it as a constitutional amendment, proponents are making sure that it can't be amended or repealed without voter approval.  In other words, Amendment W is off limits to the legislative and executive branches.  No doubt this measure will undergo a constitutional challenge, but it'll be the courts, not a body of self-interested elected officials, who will make the determination about its status.  I hope you'll take the time to go to the link I provided and at least get an outline of what Amendment W will accomplish.  In a state that's perennially ranked as one of the most corrupt in the nation, I think it will do some good.
    Hope you'll join me in voting Yes on Amendment W.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

South Dakota's Initiated Measure 25 Wants A Few Of Us To Pay For Something That Benefits All Of Us. 'Tain't Fair.

     There's something obnoxious about singling out a group of people and taxing them to
Not Fair
support a civic function that benefits all of us. 
Initiated Measure 25 on South Dakota's ballot next month wants to do just that by jacking up the tax on tobacco products to the cumulative tune of $35 million, according to estimates by both Republicans and Democrats, whose respective parties have each come out against this measure at their conventions last Summer.
     I can see where supporters are coming from.  Republican Speaker of the South Dakota House Mark Mickelson, who proposed the initiative, last June told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that many South Dakotans in search of technical educations are migrating out of state to better educational opportunities elsewhere:  "You talk to anyone in Yankton or out in western South Dakota and those folks end up going to Norfolk, Nebraska, or Gillette, Wyoming.  We can't compete.  Workforce development is a critical issue and I think we have a responsibility to act."  Indeed we do, and the aims of IM 25 are worthy and straightforward, with the dual approach of lowering tuition and providing money for the schools.  As an employer in this state, I'm acutely aware of our labor shortage and the need for developing a workforce from within.  Losing young people to better educational opportunities elsewhere is something that needs to be addressed, and pronto.
     Im-25 just doesn't happen to be the right way to do it.  South Dakota has been imposing a tobacco excise tax above the standard sales taxes since 1923, a system that now dings tobacco users in all 50 states.  I haven't researched the philosophical bases for these taxes, but they have been in place for so long that they're now an embedded part of state budgets here and probably in every other state.  I suppose there were so many smokers way back when that squeezing a few cents a pack out of them and putting the money into the general revenue fund seemed like a fair way to tax a broad pool of residents for widespread government operations.  As recently as 1965, 43% of Americans were smokersNow that number is 17%.  Back then the burden was distributed much more broadly. Now it targets fewer than 1 in 5 of us.  It isn't right to squeeze that small minority for money to support a program that benefits everybody in the state, either directly by providing good technical educations or indirectly by the improvement that a good labor force brings to the economy. We need to unify and address workforce development, not hand the burden to a small minority of our residents.
     This initiative is for the birds.  IM-25 needs to be rejected.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Wieczorek Is Out There, But I Think He Makes A Point. Posting This As Information.

September 29, 2018
Independent Candidate Wieczorek Being Held out of TV Debate
On Friday, Oct. 19, KELOLAND-TV is sponsoring a public debate in their Sioux Falls studio for qualified candidates seeking to represent South Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives. 
As of today, I am being held out of that debate, on the grounds that I have not met all the criteria set by Nexstar Media Group, which owns KELOLAND. Criteria No. 5 states that the candidate must have raised $50,000.
Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Nexstar owns, operates, programs or provides sales and other services to 170 TV stations, reaching 100 markets (38.7%) of all U.S. TV households. KELO-TV (a CBS Affiliate) in Sioux Falls, is one of those stations.
In my mind, and I hope in yours, it is the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office which is the sole determiner of who is placed on the ballot and who isn’t. On April 24, I submitted nearly 4,000 signatures on my petition for ballot status, almost twice the number required, and was duly certified by the Secretary of State for my Independent candidacy. My position on the Nov. 6 ballot is #3, ahead of the Democratic Party’s candidate.
In my mind, and I hope in yours, no out-of-state money-making operation such as Nexstar Media Group has any business determining who South Dakotans are permitted to witness in civil debate on the burning issues facing our State and our Nation.
In my mind, and I hope in yours, Nexstar has no right to limit my freedom of speech by excluding me from this debate. 
I am therefore, calling on you to make your thoughts known to Nexstar. Support my right to be admitted to this public platform to present my views and policies, so that the voters of South Dakota can exercise their sovereign judgment as to who they think will best represent them in Washington in the House of Representatives this November 6.

Thank you!

Nexstar Media Group 972-373-8800 KELOLAND-TV 605-336-1100