Monthly Archives: August 2009

Misreading public sentiment on health care ‘reform’

I have no doubt that in the end the Democratic majorities in Congress will pass some sort of health care legislation, because failure would be too much to accept for Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill. What’s intriguing however is how badly President Barack Obama and many Democrats in Congress seem to have misread the mood of many citizens.

People don’t want things to get worse.

It’s why Obama won election. It’s why Democrats won more seats in Congress.

It’s why much of the public accepted the bailouts for banks and automakers General Motors and Chrysler.

It’s why the stimulus spending was accepted.

It’s why people remain split on Afghanistan — they don’t know which is worse, losing to the Taliban or suffering more and more deaths of U.S. troops — both of which certainly meet the definition of things getting worse.

And it’s why many people don’t want to run the risk of Congress and the White House making a bigger mess of health care.

In fact, on health care, the American public already understands the federal government and Congress can’t or won’t adequately pay for the programs we already have: Medicaid, VA, IHS, Social Security disability (heck, Social Security in general)) and Medicare.

Blog wars in governor’s race

Pat Powers of Brookings runs the generally conservative, generally Repulblican, unabashedly anti-Democrat blog known as Dakota War College. It’s one of the favorite spots for campaign and government insiders to visit regarding South Dakota’s politics. This year, he’s also unabashedly working in favor of Scott Munsterman, the Brookings mayor who is one of four candidates running for the Republican governor nomination in 2010. Sooner or later, the situation was bound to pose a dilemma. Well, it didn’t take long. Another blogger, Cory Heidelberger over at Madville Times, is calling Powers and his candidate Munsterman on the carpet. Here’s what happened…

Powers sent an email on Sunday morning addressed to other South Dakota bloggers including Heidelberg. The email was an invitation to interview Munsterman. It took Heidelberger all of 21 minutes to fire back in an email reply to everyone on Powers’ original invitation list. Here’s the exchange.

First, the original message from Powers:

Greetings Fellow SD Political Blogger:

In response to a question that Cory Heidelberger had of SDGOP Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Munsterman a short time ago, the campaign extended an offer of making Scott available to Cory for some Q&A time. I’m terribly remiss in not extending the same offer to all South Dakota Bloggers for a similar opportunity.

As I related to Cory, If you have a number of questions for Scott, PLEASE feel free to call the campaign at (605) 695.3926 and arrange an interview with him. He’s on the road quite a bit, so he’s got plenty of time to talk. All I’d ask is that you have more than one question. In fact, several questions would be great.

I can assure you that Scott is extremely accessible, and as you might guess from his book which you can download for free at ( ) he’s not afraid to talk about his ideas for making South Dakota a better place. The book is about starting a conversation with South Dakota – and everyone is invited to ask questions, and join in the discussion.

If you’re not comfortable making the call directly, any of you are welcome to drop me a note at, and I’d be glad to facilitate it.

As always, if I can answer any questions, or assist you with any information on behalf of the campaign, please do not hesitate to ask.


Pat Powers
Munsterman for Govenror

Here’s the reply from Heidelberger:

“Dear Mr. Powers and Fellow South Dakota Bloggers:

Thank you for the kind invitation and contact information for Candidate Munsterman. When I care to fulfill the condition you set that callers come with a prepared list of several questions for the candidate, I will avail myself of the opportunity.

In the meantime, Candidate Munsterman has my question about what practical steps he would take to back up his lofty rhetoric about the budget self-sufficiency he wishes to achieve for South Dakota. Where would he have found the $71 million dollars to plug this year’s state budget shortfall without accepting federal stimulus dollars? How does he suggest we reduce the state budget so we can send our share of spirit-sapping federal stimulus dollars back in FY2011? And what actions does Candidate Munsterman propose to fill the fiscal chasm that will yawn open again during the first year of the next gubernatorial administration when the stimulus runs out?

There, 3 is more than 1, right? If not, fellow bloggers, feel free to append my questions to your own lists when you call the Munsterman campaign.

Candidate Munsterman has had my original question available online on my blog and his blog since Monday, August 24. His campaign has been aware of said question since then as well, as evidence by his campaign manager’s comment on my blog on that same day. This is why I prefer written communication, since it is obviously taking Candidate Munsterman a heck of a long time to come up with an answer… and I hate to put people on the spot on the phone.

I look forward to hearing practical responses on the campaign trail from the “extremely accessible” Candidate Munsterman.


Cory Allen Heidelberger — Madville Times

And here’s the response from Powers:

Cory –

I’ll respond privately to confirm the best number to call you at.


EXCEPT…they didn’t take it off-line. The debate is still running over at Madville Times. This kind of publicity probably wasn’t what the Munsterman campaign had in mind….

What’s in a highway name?

No better example comes to mind of the push and pull between government regulations and human relations. The state Transportation Commission decided to allow a 15-mile stretch of S.D. 44 in Turner County to be designated in memory of slain deputy sheriff Chad Mechels. State DOT officials reviewed the request and concluded that the situation didn’t rise to the level of statewide historical significance. As a fallback they asked that the signs at least be brought into conformance with standards for such signs. The commissioners’ comments indicated they too were split somewhat; in roundabout ways, several raised the question of where the line should be drawn? Ultimately they decided to allow the designation.

The matter carried another subcurrent: Coverage of state government. On that Thursday morning, three meetings of state boards and commissions were occurring simultaneously: the Transportation Commission, the Lottery Commission and the Board of Water and Natural Resources. I made the decision to attend the transportation meeting, to see whether any big changes were made by the commission for the 2010-2014 highway construction plan. There weren’t, but two other stories surfaced: the deputy sheriff recognition and a discussion of the unusually long construction zones on Interstate 90 between Mitchell and Chamberlain. The other two meetings evidently went uncovered by any news reporter. I sent the transportation stories to the five papers I serve: Aberdeen, Watertown, Mitchell, Spearfish and Pierre. When other news organizations spotted the deputy-recognitions story, the Associated Press followed up and wrote its own version for statewide distribution.

Too often, people assume reporters know about things. Too often, we don’t know. Keep us in mind.

Long to Jackley handoff

From Sara Rabern this afternoon at the South Dakota Office of Attorney General:


“PIERRE, S.D.- Marty J. Jackley, will be sworn in as the 30th Attorney General for the State of South Dakota, on Friday September 4th, 2009 at 12:00 p.m. The ceremony will be held at the Old Courthouse Museum, 200 W. Sixth Street, 2nd Floor Courtroom, Sioux Falls. The ceremony is open to the public.

“Jackley resigned his position as the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota effective September 3, 2009 midnight, after being appointed to Attorney General by Governor Mike Rounds on August 19th.”

Jackley succeeds Attorney General Larry Long, who is resigning effective Sept. 4 in order to accept an appointment as a circuit judge. Jackley will fill the remainder of Long’s current term through the end of 2010.

My rant today: What happened to nice libraries?

The latest news about someone allegedly fondling himself at the Rawlins public library in Pierre brings to mind a broader thought. Why have some of our public libraries turned into places a bookhound like me no longer likes to visit?

This isn’t a slap at the good people who work at and manage Rawlins library in Pierre or the Rapid City downtown library or the Sioux Falls downtown library or even the State Library in Pierre. But those are four places I use a lot, personally and professionally, and something has changed for the worse at all four in the past 20 years.

It’s the Internet.

More and more, city libraries seem dominated by Internet users, rather than by book readers. At certain hours of the afternoon, the State Library too had more Internet users than library users.

The libraries have only so much space, so the space for the Internet terminals has come at the expense of space for libraries’ traditonal offerings of printed material. But that’s a small thing.

The big thing is that city public libraries now often feel like some combination of a middle school/high school study hall and a public restroom and a homeless shelter and a street corner in a bad part of town, all centered around the Internet area.

I don’t get the same feeling when I go to a state university library. Or a bookstore.

I wonder if there is another way to offer public Internet service. There’s certainly no shortage of space in many of the older buildings in our downtowns. Our high schools and middle schools are already wired and equipped. Most of our public libraries were designed as libraries, in a different era before cyber-cafes.

Maybe time is passing me by. I truly understand and value the Internet as a resource and research tool. But I have always loved a good public library, and I hate to see them slowly ruined.

Government Courtesy 101

The Rounds administration is ending driver-licensing services in 17 communities. How do we know? Marshall County officials received a letter from the state Department of Public Safety notifying them that service would be ending Oct. 1 in Britton. The Marshall County Journal reported the news about Britton. Someone contacted the Aberdeen American News. AAN reporter Scott Waltman obtained the full list of 17 cities and published his story in today’s issue. His story also notes that Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said she wasn’t informed about the closing. Wismer is a member of the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee, which oversees state government’s budget.

When I heard about this, I checked the committee’s official minutes from the Department of Public Safety budget hearing in January. There is zero mention of possible closures of driver licensing offices.

According to Scott Waltman’s story, other communities losing driver’s exam stations are Howard, Tyndall, Parkston, Salem, Freeman, Canton, Flandreau, Clark, Clear Lake, De Smet, Deadwood, Platte, Philip, Beresford, Mission and Wagner.

How much service is being lost? Here’s what I found by prowling through the state department’s web site today:

Deadwood and Mission were open four days a month.

Tyndall and Wagner have been open two days a month.

Platte, Beresford, Flandreau, Freeman, Philip, Canton, Salem, Parkston, DeSmet, Clark and Clear Lake have been open one day a month.

Howard was open a total of two days in the past three months.

Many other counties have already lost regularly scheduled service. Motorists in those counties contact their courthouse personnel for dates and times when examinations are available.

False alarm

Nope, there’s NOT something afoot in the governor’s press office. A news release from Gov. Mike Rounds was distributed Thursday from the e-mail address of Michael Winder, the long-time public information officer at the state Department of Corrections. Naturally inquiring minds wanted to know what’s up.

Michael said press secretary Joe Kafka is on a week of scheduled leave (wedding bells for Joe and Gina’s son, Joey) while deputy press secretary Roxy Everson was out of the office for a family funeral. So Michael (aka All-Around Good Guy) helped out in the pinch.

Speaking of population change…

The state Transportation Commission voted this morning to allow DOT staff to dispose of the state property in Campbell County where DOT’s old Mound City shop was located. DOT says the property is no longer needed. The county lost 24 percent of its residents from 2000 to 2008, falling to 1,352 population, according to the most recent census estimate. Sully County was at 1,356. Harding County was still smaller yet at 1,145.

Super-sizing South Dakota: 804,194

Either I forgot. Or I missed the headline. Or this is really news. I learned today that the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of South Dakota was 804,194 in 2008. That is the first time South Dakota exceeded 800,000, assuming the estimate was reasonably accurate.

That would have been a 6.5 percent increase from the estimated population of 754,837 on April 1, 2000.

Recommended reading: September issue of The Atlantic

It has a photo of President Obama on the cover below the feature headline “What Washington Doesn’t Get About Health Care.” The article by David Goldhill will pop your mind with the staggering numbers. Two other good pieces are on Warren Buffett — is his value investing approach outdated by circumstances? — and on the Bernanke-Paulson hardball in the Bank of America merger with Merrill Lynch (and the later hardball by Obama in the auto company deals).