EcoDevo in Kadoka, Part II

Yesterday I wrote about my father’s realization that there might be a business opportunity doing road work construction in western SD.

Know-how he had.  Cash and credit were needed. He went to a banker from Belvidere by the name of L.A. Pierre.  Some folks questioned Mr. Pierre about doing business with a Jew, but that didn’t bother L.A.  He and my father did business on a handshake for 23 years.  L.A. supplied the finances, dad provided the know-how.   They trusted each other and, as nearly as I know, never had a disagreement.

When the time came that L.A.’s family was no longer going to be in the business, one or the other of them suggested a price at which dad would buy out L.A.  I never knew which one suggested the price but do know that it seemed fair all around, and the deal was done.

The one who provided the know-how was the one who kept the business, to the satisfaction of both.

Economic Development in Kadoka

I’m going to have a few words to say about the direction of South Dakota’s economic development policy in the next few days, and I thought I’d begin by rewinding the clock back to my family’s early days in Kadoka.

You’ll recall from earlier posts that my mother ran a store there.  A Kadokan who was a power in the GOP helped my father get started in business.  His name was Chester Leedom.

Chester helped my dad get elected as county engineer in four counties, which gave him the huge salary of $100 per month and the opportunity to learn a lot about Jackson, Stanley, Haakon, and Jones Counties.

Dad did surveys and supervised construction. He began keeping records and realized that most of the contractors were not very mathematically inclined.  They did not seem to know how much money they were making (or losing).  It seemed like a good opportunity.

Dad had the know-how but needed credit and cash.  And in that one sentence you have the seeds of a company and the seeds of an economic development program that might work better than the one we’ve got — at least in the long run.  Think about the “know-how” part in particular.

SDSM&T goes to World Finals

This week I plan to introduce a commemoration to recognize a substantial accomplishment at SDSM&T that few know about.

Once again, the SDSM&T Computer Programming Team is heading to the World Finals of the ACM Intercollegiate Programming Contest.  This year’s contest will be on July 3 in St. Petersburg, Russia and will include 120 teams from around the world, 17 from the United States. The SDSM&T team is among that elite 17.

This is the fifth time since 1998 that the Mines team has reached the finals, an impressive feat for any school, especially so for a small school from South Dakota.  The other universities from the U.S. competing at the World Finals are mostly either large universities like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia, or expensive schools like MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia.

No other team from South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, or Colorado qualified for the 2013 World Finals.

The SDSM&T team consists of three students from this region of the country:  Colton Manville of Rapid City, Trevor Mahoney of Scottsbluff, Neb., and Dean Laganiere of Racine, Minn., and is coached by Dr. Toni Logar, Dr. Larry Pyeatt, and Prof. Roger Schrader.

Toni tells me that Trevor Mahoney’s parents came to visit a couple of years ago and asked how Trevor was doing.  Toni told them that Trevor was one of the top students in the department, a valuable member of the programming team even as a sophomore, and that Trevor was going to qualify for the World Finals as a senior.  Two years later, he did exactly that.

The students are looking forward to the trip to Russia.  Dean is applying for a passport, never having been outside of the U.S., Trevor has only stepped outside the U.S. to see Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, and Colton has only made one trip outside the U.S.  Of course, Colton’s one trip outside the U.S. was to India and Nepal on a trip with his Senior Design team working with Rockwell Collins and also led by Toni.

The Computer Programing Team qualified for the World Finals by placing highly in the North Central Regional Programming Contest.  During the contest, teams of three students are given a collection of ten or so problems to be solved using a computer program.  The team solving the most problems in the least time is the winner.

This is yet another reason to believe that investing in SD’s higher education system will pay enormous dividends.  We are lucky to have a resource like that and rather than asking how we can scrape together enough funding to prevent it from deteriorating, we should be asking how we can make it even stronger.

The 24th Amendment becomes reality

We flew to Sioux Falls and I met with Nils Boe in his office.  He understood the seriousness of the problem.  He said he had no axe to grind against ratification of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would provide the right to vote for millions of Americans who had been systematically denied that privilege by racist laws like the poll tax.

Mr. Boe was, however, concerned that suspension of the rules was a rare thing.  Indeed it is a complicated, rare thing, but that’s perhaps a story for another day.  Boe asked me, “Where will the Young Republicans be in the primary for Governor next June?”   A bitter battle had been shaping up between Mr. Boe and former Governor Sigurd Anderson.

As it happens, I was Statewide Chairman of the Young Republicans, so I ventured to say that we were a powerful group and that as Young Republicans we would probably favor the younger candidate, which just happened to be Mr. Boe.   I told him that we also felt that Mr. Anderson had already had two terms in the Governor’s office and it seemed that Anderson was overly concerned with having public power.

With that, Nils pulled out his calendar and said that he would agree to a suspension of the rules at 4 p.m. on the following Thursday, very near the end of the Legislative Session.

I called my friend on the American Jewish Committee and told him that the Constitution of the United States would have a 24th Amendment on 4 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, 1964.   And it did.

Nonpartisan bill coming up!

Perhaps you have followed in the press my efforts to make certain that the integrity of our election process is absolutely, positively, 100% above reproach.

I have introduced two bills on this subject.  One requires that the Secretary of State be elected on a nonpartisan basis, and the other prohibits anyone in that office from taking part in partisan political activity.

A hearing on these bills has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in the Senate State Affairs Committee on 4th floor of the Capitol.  Please if at all possible be there to show your support, and pass the word to others.  Many thanks!

The 24th Amendment—part 3

My State Senator, Ping Murray, was Chairman of the Taxation Committee, and he was sitting on (meaning, not doing anything to advance) a tax bill of great interest to the Homestake Mine, the principal employer in Senator Dunmire’s district.  It seems that several senators were trying to teach their colleagues from the Northern Hills about Homestake being too big for its britches in the hallways of the Capitol.

I trudged back to Ping’s apartment and urged him to let the Homestake tax bill out of committee in exchange for moving the ratification of the 24th Amendment forward.  He agreed.

Then I trudged back to Dunmire’s apartment to confirm the deal.

“Okay, we are on our way,” he said.  But there was a problem.  The date for getting committee bills to the floor had passed.  To get ratification onto the floor would require a suspension of the rules, and that in turn would require the Lieutenant Governor’s approval as presiding officer of the Senate.   The LG was Nils Boe, a Sioux Falls lawyer who’d gone home for the weekend.   I called him.  He agreed to meet the next morning if I could get to his office in Sioux Falls.

I had flown to Pierre in my private airplane for this mission, so I called my pilot, Bob Higgins, to see whether we could possibly get there.  We planned to be “wheels up” out of the Pierre airport by 8 a.m. the following morning.

I’m told I have to keep my blog posts short or fewer people will read them, so stay tuned tomorrow for the conclusion of the story!  (And thanks for your patience so far).

The 24th Amendment—continued

Yesterday I wrote that in January of 1964 I encouraged the Governor of South Dakota, Archie Gubbrud, to approve ratification of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — the amendment outlawing poll taxes that kept African-Americans from being able to vote in many Southern states.

After riding around Pierre with the Governor in his new Lincoln, he dropped me at the St. Charles Hotel, where I met with Ping Murray, my state senator from Rapid City.   While many legislators had gone home for the weekend, many from western SD were still in Pierre because of bitterly cold weather and a lot of snow.

Ping urged me to meet with Joe Dunmire, the Senator from Lead who chaired the State Affairs Committee, which had been blocking the bill.

I trudged a few blocks through the snow to Dunmire’s apartment.

Dunmire was happy to talk with me but said he had no intention of letting the bill get out of committee.  “We need to teach that son of a bitch a lesson in Constitutional Law,” he told me.  The SOB to whom he was referring was Lyndon Baines Johnson, the President of the United States at that time.

Dunmire said it was not the President’s place to interfere with the rights of individual states.  We went back and forth for a long time.

Finally, he agreed that he would let the bill out of committee if I would help him solve a problem he was having with Ping Murray.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you how that worked out.

Reflections on MLK Day, 2013

On January 18, 1964 I received a call form Morris Abram, president of the American Jewish Committee.   He told me that final ratification of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was dependent upon one more state’s legislature approval of the amendment.

The 24th Amendment was one of the great accomplishments of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.   It outlawed the use of poll taxes—taxes upon the right of voting.  They had been widely used in the South to prevent African Americans from voting.

Morris told me that three states remained possibilities for ratification, and that since the other two were in the South, the best hope was South Dakota.

I agreed to help and the next day met with the Governor, Archie Gubbrud, whose campaign I helped.  It was my first major effort in politics.

Governor Gubbrud drove me around Pierre in the brand new Lincoln that the Ford Motor Company had just given to each Governor.  As we admired the fancy new automobile, the Governor told me that the legislation approving the 24th Amendment was being blocked by a committee chairman who had no intention of bringing the bill forward.

I told the Governor that South Dakota’s failure to approve the amendment would be seen by the nation as an indication that ours was a racist state and that I felt very strongly that SD should be the state that ended discrimination in voting rights.   The Governor told me that he would sign the measure if the Legislature approved it but that he was unwilling to invest his own political capital in the process.  He said it was up to me to convince the committee chairman, Joe Dunmire of Lead, to move the bill.

I’ll continue the story tomorrow.

Some not-so-recent Rapid City health care history

In the 1960s, the sisters of Saint Martins, who operated Saint John’s Hospital in Rapid City, asked laymen to be on their advisory board.  In time that board became their corporate board of directors.

I was asked to serve on the advisory board and later on the corporate board that operated the hospital.

As the operation of hospitals became more complex, Mother Magdalene asked if I would serve as the chairman of the Board of Directors.  It was a wonderful experience being the Jewish chairman of a Catholic hospital.

Doing that job, nearly thirty-percent of my waking hours were spent at the hospital—sometimes at 11 p.m. at night—or in Board meetings other conferences relating to health care.

It became readily apparent that Saint John’s hospital practiced a much higher standard of medical care than did the folks “competing” Bennett-Clarkson Hospital.  Frankly, the competing hospital’s origin arose out of antipathy towards the Catholic Church and the idea of a major medical facility being run by nuns.

In order to promote more congeniality, as chairman, I established a “Joint Liaison Committee.”  It was made up of three or four members of our board to work with three or four members of the Bennett-Clarkson board.

It seemed to the Saint John’s board and to its brilliant administrator, Sister Sarto Rogers, that the hospitals should merge to save duplication of equipment, effort, and to ensure a higher standard of medical care.  When the question was raised at a Joint Liaison Committee, the Bennett-Clarkson members suggested that it would be impossible to come up with a way to merge.  When asked if there could be a committee of citizens who were involved with neither hospital that could negotiate a merger, the answer was that there was no way to choose such a committee.

We handed the leader of the Bennett-Clarkson group a sheet of paper and asked that he write down seven names that he would like to see on a committee, and that we would do the same thing.  When they came back in fifteen minutes, we would compare names on both lists and those that we had in common would immediately become members of the Merger Committee.  The number needed to increase the committee to seven would be selected by each board by selecting from the other’s board’s list, and we gave Bennett-Clarkson the first choice.

From that meeting emerged a Hospital Action Committee (HAC) that negotiated the merger.  They became members of the new Rapid City Regional Hospital Board of Directors and built the present hospital—though the size of the building and its complexity have increased many times during the years.

At a meeting sometime during the late sixties, Sister Sarto announced that she learned that there was a bill in the legislature which would require every licensed hospital in the state to perform abortions.  She said, “Saint John’s will not do so, and I will go to jail.”

Also on the board was my friend Harvey Fraser, who was then the president of the School of Mines.  Harvey had been an Army General and a professor at West Point.  He was a straight-forward person.  He asked, “What are you going to do, Stan?”  I replied, “I will go to jail, too.”

He said, “Why? You don’t even agree with her.”  My reply was, “I knew what the values of this organization were, and I committed myself to them, whether I totally agreed or not.  If a few leaders in Europe would have been willing to go to jail for principle, six-million people that are just like me would have not have been murdered.”

It’s amazing what you can get done if you stand by your principles and respect others when they do.

Things you can learn in Kadoka…more

Kadoka is a place where if you get broken down even in the coldest weather, there will be a place for you to sleep and someone to help you. Someone will give you a meal if you need one.  There are many towns like that in South Dakota, and many—I’d like to say most—of the people in our largest cities are the same way.   That is the one most precious thing, among many special things, that makes this state such a wonderful place.   If we ever lose that spirit we will have lost our birthright as Dakotans.

At an exhibit in Rapid City honoring Pope John Paul II some years ago, a couple from Kadoka asked me if I knew how my very religious grandmother was able to run a business and keep Sabbath.  They told me that she would not do any work from sundown on Friday night until sundown on Saturday—what we call Shabbat.   Turns out, Christian women from the community would come to the store at sundown Friday to take care of the store, rent the rooms above the store to travelers, and run things until my grandmother returned Saturday night. I am thankful for those women who helped my grandmother

So often I wish that we were better at expressing that same spirit with each other these days, that appreciating and respecting differences could bring people together rather than drive them apart. It looks possible that this kind of better spirit will prevail during this Legislative Session.