While others served—Jensen wouldn’t wear our country’s uniform

In South Dakota have great pride in those who served their country—volunteering to serve or stepping up when called—and we have a great appreciation of what this nation stands for. We welcome soldiers home. We take aging soldiers on honor flights. We gather to celebrate those who live and to mourn those who have passed. So it catches my attention when someone wants to make the laws of our state, but they refused to wear our country’s uniform when called. Someone like Phil Jensen.

Uncle Jack who died during WWII.

Uncle Jack who died during WWII.

My family’s story is like many in South Dakota: an immigrant family, a fierce sense of patriotic duty, and a strong history of military service. My immigrant grandmother homesteaded in Kadoka and her son, my father, enlisted in the Army during WWI. All of her grandsons old enough to serve during WWII did so, including my cousin Edmund Mizel who delayed his wedding until after the war out concern of leaving behind a widow. On my mother’s side, Uncle Jack, my mother’s only brother gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII. It was my great honor to serve in the military and the tradition has continued. Our family’s military service it is more than a tradition, it is part of us—it is woven through our very being.

So I was staggered when I learned that Phil Jensen replied, “no,” when called upon by his country. During the Vietnam War, while his peers stepped up when drafted doing their duty in combat and non-combat roles, Phil Jensen objected to serving in the military. But Phil didn’t just object to combat—he wouldn’t wear the uniform at all, not even in a non-combat role (that was an option, there was a classification for that). He answered no and was assigned community service in a parking garage safe at home.

Jensen-draft dodger selective service classification form

Well, it’s time we said no to Phil Jensen. It is time that we told him no, we won’t give him our vote. No, he can’t put up a sign. He chose a legal avenue to avoid the draft, and that was his option. It is our option to tell him we don’t want him representing us in Pierre. Let’s tell him no.

Violence as a method to win a nomination?!

When I have compared Trump’s campaign to Adolf Hitler’s ascension to power, almost everyone insists that is a ridiculous association!

Yet Hitler came to power after receiving more votes than the other candidates—not a majority of the votes—and the violence that followed led to his appointment as being appointed Chancellor. We all know the rest.

Today we have this authoritarian from New York who warns that “bad things will happen” if he isn’t automatically chosen as the Republican Party’s candidate.

Having represented South Dakota at conventions—a threat like his goes against the very political process in which we believe.

In 1952 Barbara Bates Gunderson, our then National Committee Woman, convinced the South Dakota delegation to switch to General Eisenhower, and the rest is history!

Yesterday’s New York Times article, “Donald Trump Warns of ‘Riots’ if Party Blocks Him at Convention” quotes Trump as saying:

“I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn’t and if we’re 20 votes short or if we’re 100 short and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, because we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say that we don’t get it automatically,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it would be — I think you’d have riots. I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.”

Where will Trump get the Brown Shirts to do this?

What do you think? Please follow the link above to the read the entire New York Times article and share your thoughts.

Announcing a press conference on education funding


January 5, 2016

Stanford Adelstein to Hold Press Conference
to Announce Method to Fund and Pass the
$75M Needed in New Education Funding

WHO:       Former State Senator Stanford Adelstein

WHAT:     To hold press conference to announce the method to fund the $75 million needed in new and ongoing education funding to increase teacher salaries to competitive levels, including how the legislature can pass the proposed funding source during the upcoming session.

DATE:      Thursday, January 7, 2016

TIME:       11:00 am

WHERE:   Rapid City Public Library, Downtown
Meeting Room B


The fair way to fund the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations

Last week Governor Daugaard delivered his FY 2017 budget address and in it he went into depth about some important issues for our state. One important issue—the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations—was acknowledged, but we will have to wait until the State of the State Address in January to learn our executive branch’s recommendations for how we implement and pay for the task force’s important recommendations to raise South Dakota teachers’ salaries.

There is a fair to fund the needed $75 million in new and ongoing funding needed to increase teacher salaries’—set the agricultural property tax rate at the same rate paid on the owner-occupied properties. This would raise $77,717,862 additional tax dollars, based on 2015 values and the owner occupied tax levy, and is the only reasonable source of increasing funding for education.

(See my previous blog posts which explain in detail how this amount is reached: The benefits of fairness, How our children are being cheated, and What would happen if education were funded fairly?)

In its final report, the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended an increase in state sales and use tax to fund the increase in teacher salaries, but this wouldn’t address the inequities in our current funding formula—it would only increase them.

The agriculture sector doesn’t pay sales tax on many purchases and receives a sales tax exemption benefit greater than any other group. For example, the agriculture sector doesn’t pay sales tax on parts & repairs to farm machinery, agricultural services, seeds, fertilizers & pesticides, livestock, feed, nondomestic animals, fuel, and more. In a 2013 South Dakota Department of Revenue report, Summary of State Sales Tax Exemptions, the 2010 sales tax loss from the agricultural sector was estimated at $221,911,821. That’s a $221,911,821 subsidy to agriculture in sales tax alone, in 2010 alone.

The $221,911,821 was based on the current 4% state sales tax. If the state sales tax were increased by 1% it would mean an additional $55 million subsidy to agriculture interests—yet another state revenue source where agriculture isn’t paying its fair share.

2015-12-17 Agriculture Sector Sales & Use Tax Subsidy

Instead of giving them another subsidy, let’s ask agricultural properties to pay part of their fair share. This property tax rate proposal isn’t for the $221,911,821 in sales tax lost in 2010 (and each year)—by comparison it is modest. By simply taxing agricultural property at the same rate as owner-occupied properties we would not only meet the $75 million need identified by the Blue Ribbon Task Force, we would exceed it by $2.7 million.

If we divided the additional $77,717,862 raised through property taxes by the number of South Dakota students each school district could receive an additional $597.59 per student, based on 2015 numbers. That would mean more than $1 million in additional funding for the Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen, Watertown Brandon Valley, Harrisburg, Brookings, Mitchell, Yankton, Douglas, Pierre, Meade, Huron, Spearfish, and Todd County school districts.

School Dist which would recieve $1M or more increase

Of the school districts with opt-outs, Sioux Falls, Brookings, Mitchell, Harrisburg, Madison Central, Wagner Community, Dakota Valley, Deubrook Area, Parker, Sioux Valley, Scotland, Mobridge – Pollock, Florence, Colome Consolidated, Redfield, Plankinton, Lemmon, and Timber Lake would receive an amount greater than their opt-out.

Opt out school district increase

The time has come for us to make much needed increases in teacher pay, to increase our investment in education—and we can do it. We just need to stop letting one group pay less than its fair share.


The benefits of fairness

The last blog shared some stark realities about the unfair subsidies that agricultural properties receive. One of these subsidies is agricultural properties paying less than owner-occupied properties when they have the same assessed value. Now let’s see what would result if, in fairness, agricultural properties paid the same tax rate for education as owner-occupied properties and our schools received the millions in funding they were deprived of because of greed.

State-wide, South Dakota school districts would have receive nearly $78 million in additional funding this year if agricultural properties had paid the—still reduced—owner-occupied tax levy (click here to read the last blog post for a full exploration of how this number was determined).

Increase in school funding if ag taxed at same rate as OO

Looking close to home, the Rapid City School District would have received nearly $8.3 million more for school funding this year had agricultural properties paid their fair share. That is $2.3 million more than the opt-out would have raised and $4.3 million more than the school board recently diverted from capital outlay to increase teacher salaries!*

* The diverting of funds from capital outlay is something that state law currently allows, but the ability to do so will sunset in 2018. So if we want to keep paying teachers at their current salaries, we will have to find another source of funding by then.

Funding increase per student

Funding increase for Rapid City School District

Had agricultural properties paid the same tax levy as owner-occupied properties for education, every school district could have received an additional $597.59 per student. For the following school districts, that additional $597.59 per student would have meant more than $1 million in additional funding.

School Dist which would recieve $1M or more increase

Many South Dakota school districts have, in desperation for additional funding, chosen to opt-out.  Below is a chart showing how the increase these opt-out school districts would have received had agricultural properties paid the same mill levy as owner-occupied, compared to the amount raised through the opt-out.

Opt out school district increase

For eighteen of the opt-out school districts, the increase in funding from agricultural properties paying a fair tax rate exceeds the amount raised through the current opt-out. An additional thirty opt-out school districts could have funded 50% to 96% of the need currently paid for through an opt-out. The people of all opt-out school districts would have had the opportunity to decide if they wanted to scale back their opt-out—and many may never have had to opt-out in the first place.

As the increased funding each school district would have received this year was calculated by allocating funds per-student, the twenty-eight opt-out school districts which could have funded 50% or less of the need currently paid for through an opt-out are all small districts. Of these school districts, the largest has 314 students and the smallest has just six students.

(Click here to see a full chart with it broken down by school district.)

For Rapid City, an additional $8.3 million for education would mean a big step towards no longer treating the unacceptable as if it were, in fact, acceptable. It would mean a step towards honoring the obligation to educate our youth—the future voters and leaders of our community and our country—in spirit and not just meeting the letter of the law.

It is time to realize that we must make a greater investment in our children’s education. Stay tuned for how the rules of the legislature can make this happen.

How our children are being cheated

In the last blog we explored how the taxing of owner-occupied property compared to that of agricultural property is inequitable in our state. This has led to agricultural property receiving an unfair, discriminatory subsidy and—to put it simply—not paying its fair share. This has caused an injustice to owners of owner-occupied properties and has caused our school districts to be underfunded. This blog will take a look at how this unfair taxing practice caused South Dakota schools to lose out on nearly $78 million in funding last year—funding they should have received.

For taxes payable in 2015, the education tax levy on agricultural properties was $1.782 per $1,000 of assessed value and it was calculated that agricultural properties statewide would pay $56,073,439.08 in property taxes for education state wide.

Had, in fairness, the tax levy on agricultural properties matched the—still reduced—owner-occupied tax levy of $4.252, we would have had an additional $77,719,782 available to fund education statewide.

Table-Increase in school funding with ag paying same as OO

When researching data on education funding, I came across two pieces of information which, when combined, provide an eye-opening view of how our state taxes real estate: The first was an Associated Press article reporting on a survey of leased agricultural property and second were the results of the SDSU survey on farm real estate.

Last month the Associated Press reported on the U. S. Department of Agriculture survey, The Tenure, Ownership and Transition of Agricultural Land, which found that 17.3 million acres of South Dakota farmland are leased. It also reported that only 11,853 of our state’s 40,260 farmland landlords are actually farmers. This makes me wonder how many owners of this leased land fit our image of the “family farmer?” Also, how many of the 28,407 non-farming landlords live out-of-state?

To help us get our minds around the size of 17.3 million acres, it is larger than the combined land mass of five of the original thirteen colonies: Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire1.

New Jersey    New Hampshire    Delaware            Connecticut    Rhode Island

That is a lot of land. And that land is not only taxed at an unfairly low rate, the very value on which it is taxed is undervalued. How do we know that? Let’s turn next to the SDSU report on farm real estate.

The South Dakota Agriculture Land Market Trends 1991-2015: Results from the 2015 SDSU South Dakota Farm Real Estate Survey, reported the average per-acre value2 of South Dakota agricultural property as $2,505.

When take the information about the number aces of leased land and the average per acre value of agriculture land, we see something amazing: the true value of just the 17.3 million acres of leased agricultural property is greater than what the state reports as the total assessed value all agricultural property in the state.

 Table-Calculated value of leased agricultural land in South Dakota

Table-Calculated value of leased agricultural land compared to taxable value

As shown in the table above, the total assessed value of all of agricultural property statewide is 5,370,526,149 less than the true, fair value leased agriculture land alone! There are nearly 43.8 million acres of agricultural property in the South Dakota3. That, taken with the taxable value of agricultural property used by the state, shows that we are taxing agricultural property at an average of $718.43 per acre. That is a very different value than the average value of agricultural property of $2,505 from the SDSU report—$2129.25 after the 0.85 adjustment4.  What does this mean for how our state is calculating the taxable value of agricultural property?

This discrimination, to the advantage of agricultural property, in property tax assessment has caused 68 of our 151 school districts—fast approaching half—to “opt-out.” That is 45% of our school districts which have determined that they cannot support even reasonable education with the current funding level allowed by the state, and decided to “opt-out” of the cap on the maximum tax levy allowed for education. Those opt-out school districts serve 54,584 students, nearly 42% of all the students in the state.

This tax levy for education is only one of the many subsidies given to the agricultural industry. When on the appropriations committee, I remember the total subsidy coming to approximately $200 million. This included such things as no fuel tax on agricultural equipment usage, no sales tax on agricultural equipment parts, subsidy to ethanol, and so forth.

How can South Dakota expect to continue to be a special place when the greed of some has led us to be cheap about how we fund education? How have we allowed greed to cause us to underinvest in our next generation?

We have allowed the inadequate to somehow become acceptable. The level at which we currently fund education is not acceptable and it is time for us to make a change.

We shouldn’t be engaged in a contest to see how little we can pay in taxes—that is greed. We, as responsible South Dakotans, should find the right level of taxes where we honor the duty to invest in our next generation—a duty previous generations honored when investing in us.

Keep tuned to this “station” because we will discuss the meaning of the nearly $78 million and how school districts would benefit.

1 Rhode Island (0.677 million acres), Delaware (1.251 million acres), Connecticut (3.562 million acres), New Jersey (4.492 million acres), and New Hampshire (5.74 million acres). Source: http://www.statemaster.com/graph/geo_lan_acr_tot-geography-land-acreage-total.
2 As of February 2015.
3 Source: http://stuffaboutstates.com/agriculture/farm_by_total_acres.htm.
4 $2,505 (average value/acre from SDSU report) x 0.85 (for adjustment) = $2,129.25.

What would happen if education were funded fairly?

As the teachers, administrators, and staff of the Rapid City School District welcome students back to school and, together, look ahead to the coming school year, it is time for us to also look ahead—to the future of public education in our state.

What is our vision for the future of our public schools? What quality of education do we want for our children, grandchildren, and neighbors? How can we set the school district and those who work for it up for success, thereby setting our children up for success?

As we set our minds to these questions and continue the work of advocating for our schools, consider the following points about how we currently fund education.

  1. Funding for education is based on taxing the value of property owned, that is how we choose to measure wealth.
  2. Owner occupied properties are taxed at a higher rate than agricultural properties. That means that the owner of a piece of owner-occupied property pays more property tax than the owner of a piece of agricultural property of the same value.

    For 2015 the maximum tax levies for school funding were set at, per thousand dollars of valuation, one dollar and seventy-eight and two tenths cents for agricultural properties and four dollars and twenty-five and two tenths cents owner-occupied properties. Owner occupies properties are paying nearly three times the amount of taxes as an agricultural property of the same value—and that unequitable ratio always stays the same if taxes increase or decrease.

    Click here to see the 2014 bill, Senate Bill 37, which set the 2015 maximum education tax levy.
    Click here to see the 2015 bill, Senate Bill 53, which set the 2016 maximum education tax levy.

  1. When we consider the amount that people of school districts with mostly of owner-occupied properties, like Rapid City, pay in taxes compared to those with largely agricultural property, the amount is staggering. We are paying more, not because our property is more valuable, but simply because it is owner-occupied.

    There has to be a way to solve this inequity in tax rates. If agricultural real estate were taxed at the same rate as owner-occupied we would increase the funding available for education statewide.

When we give our children strong education, we give them—and our community—a strong future. What do you think that we should do towards high-quality education in the future? What is your vision for education in South Dakota and how do you think we can get there?

Three Strikes

Strike One: Steve Allender will be better for our community
Steve Allender should be elected mayor of Rapid City because he has the management experience and expertise to make our city run well again. He reminds me very much of Art LaCroix in the way that he will be able to relate to business leaders as well as political leaders in the community. We know that he will seek to work with the county commissioners, superintendent of schools, president of the School of Mines, and many other important, cooperative ventures in our town—just the way that Art LaCroix did. In discussion, he clearly understands the need to establish some kind of a research park, just as Sioux Falls has done with the University of South Dakota. Once we put all of these things together we can move forward, rather than teetering where we are now.

Steve has managed a very effective police force and is accustomed to supervising a large number of individuals. He provided leadership while respecting employees’ choices in how they fulfilled the policy directives that he had established. In that police department turnover was negligible, results were effective, and the values of South Dakota were preserved.

This news story is an example of how Rapid City police officers behaved with weapons drawn, compared to what we read about happening elsewhere in the county.

Here are some specific examples of the experience and skills that Steve will bring to the mayor’s office.

  • Steve has been recognized many times over for his professional accomplishments, including his induction into the South Dakota Municipal League Hall of Fame in 2011—he was nominated by Mayor Kooiker.

    The South Dakota Municipal League website states:
    “Chief Steve Allender began with the Rapid City Police Department in 1985 as a patrol officer and served in various positions with the agency until his appointment to Chief in 2007. Allender has been an incredible asset to the force throughout his tenure and has shown outstanding courage, bravery, and exceptional leadership throughout his 26 years of service and most especially during the tragic officer-involved shootings in Rapid City on August 2, 2011. Rapid City is a better, safer community with such a dedicated and compassionate professional leading this department and guiding the city through times of peace and tragedy.”

    You can view Steve’s biography here, and a partial list of his accomplishments while police chief, here.

  • His past successes in collaboration will serve him well when joining with other elected officials in promoting the desires of the citizens of Rapid City. We need to have someone who will discusses Rapid City with the governor and with our legislators as well as being creative in cooperating with the Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations.
    Allender-Civic Center expansion
  • We will always know where Steve stands as mayor and his positions will be clear. A great example of this is his public endorsement of the opt-out in order to assure education for our children. Unfortunately, Mayor Kooiker has taken no position on that issue.
  • Steve refrained from inserting himself in the question of the Civic Center and left it to the voters to decide. After the election, he highlighted the need for more than just a few citizens to be involved in making those kinds of major decisions.
  • Steve supports our second amendment rights. A vicious and untrue orange postcard has been distributed by a group which is not recognized by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and opposed by this NRA lifetime member. The second amendment is rooted in my life’s values—the first thing that the Nazis did before the murder half the Jews in the world—was to take away each Jewish family’s personal weapons.

The fact that Sam has this group’s endorsement is itself a reason not to vote for him. This type of attack from this group, unfortunately, isn’t new. They have unsuccessfully spread this lie against many strong leaders in South Dakota.

Strike Two: Sam is a poor manager
The present mayor, with little previous supervisory experience, has dismally filled the job of chief executive and senior manager of our city.

  • There is a continual revolving door of department heads at city hall, leaving our fellow citizens—the capable people who are on the staff of the city—in a tenuous position. During his time in office six departments head positions have turned over: the head of the Library, Civic Center Manager, City Attorney, Parks & Recreation Director, Police Chief, and Airport Director.
  • There is an inability to get big things done. We have been waiting for nearly ten years to complete the new parking facility in downtown Rapid City. This is a typical example of Sam’s inability to work with others, particularly on the City Council—and with any mayor when he was a councilman. While he initially supported extensions for the project as a city council member and others were passed under his administration (click here, and here, and here to see for yourself), he turned against the project in a divisive and public manner.

    In November, 2011, Sam publicly called for the parking project to be re-bid—in spite of the fact that a contract was still in palace with the developer and city council members warned of potential legal consequences if they did so. When Sam wasn’t able to force the re-bid through, he pushed for a shorter deadline on the project. Then when he didn’t get the deadline he wanted, he meddled with the project’s private funding, read for yourself here. The mayor didn’t work with the council to build a consensus. Instead, he made demands and when he didn’t get what he wanted, he got on the phone and started making trouble. Sound familiar? This has become the “typical Sam style.”

  • Managing money is beyond our current mayor’s ability. Not only did he waste $706,000 for a Civic Center expansion that few in the community favored, he didn’t seek input from most of Rapid City’s citizens before did it. He just went ahead and spent over $700,000 on a plan that no one asked for, except maybe a few of his friends.
  • There is no apparent coordination with the county commission on anything. Potential expansions opportunities towards the fairgrounds have been discussed between individual commissioners and council members who recognize significant opportunities there, but not the mayor. No one knows exactly how to approach him in a way that would lead to a meaningful, productive conversation.
  • Though the mayor’s job is nonpartisan, Sam chose to encourage two challengers to participate in a Republican primary against very capable office holders—the effective treasurer and one of the most outstanding county auditors in South Dakota. One challenger was a former city council member and one was a current city council member—and both were his buddies. One of these challengers even asked to be named as a co-defendant with Bill Clayton when he made his now infamous remarks to a local reporter—in which he, according to the Rapid City Journal, “…told or implied to KOTA TV reporter Taisha Walker, who is black, that she should go back to Kenya with President Barack Obama.” Read the full article here.
  • Someone who runs for office would typically hope to be reelected based on what he or she had accomplished. This mayor has chosen to do a truly nice thing: to write personal notes to any citizen whose achievement he has noticed. While that will help encourage votes, it has very little to do with managing the assets of the second largest city in the state. His primary effort seems to be to give the appearance of someone who should be reelected. This is not the way to accomplish the needs of the community. As nice as that is, it would be preferable to deal with issues like infrastructure failures, delays of granting construction permits, and appointing three committees for a supposed Civic Center design.
  • A fine young police lieutenant was embarrassed he was appointed by the mayor to a position for which he was not prepared. The council overturned the appointment 8 to 2. Sam should have been in continual contact with council members to know this was the case and that his appointment would not be confirmed.
  • Instead of spending less than $20,000 to survey or even have a “focus” group to determine what the interest of the citizens would be on expanding the Civic Center, Sam spent over $700,000—nearly a three quarters of a million—to develop a “plan” that the citizens rejected by almost 2 to 1. Repeatedly, people talk about the need for infrastructure improvement—that much money would have repaired many of streets that have checkerboard and cracking, nearly invisible lane markings, broken curbs, and intersections that nearly tear out the car’s front wheels.

Strike Three: Sam has become dishonest
This last strike is raised with great sadness. Sam met with me on a number of issues when he became mayor and visited my office at least once every two weeks before I became ill in 2013. While appreciating his willingness to do so, we often did not agree; I did, however, think at that time that he showed integrity in those discussions.

What has saddened me is that his need to hold on to the job of mayor seems to have led him to outright dishonesty. In this country, running for public office is meant as taking on a position where skill and experience are focused on the citizens’ needs. The job of mayor—or any other political office—was not intended to be the person’s lifetime way of earning.

  • Following a debate with St
    eve, he chose to dishonestly distort the actual words used in the debate.
  • In this campaign, to mask his role in Kooiker website on Civic Centerpromoting a greatly unpopular Civic Center expansion, he puts words in Steve’s mouth regarding Steve’s position on the Civic Center. Steve has his own position, which he has clearly shared, that doesn’t include asking for the public’s input only after $700,000+ had already been spent. Also, Sam lauding his “insistence on a public vote” is nice spin to cover poor leadership, there are less expensive ways than a $60,000 special election to engage the public—ones that would be more genuine. A survey, as mentioned above, would have much less expensive.
  • He represented the Civic Center expansion as something which was needed because of an ADA complaint made to the DOJ, when, in fact, it was Sam who reached out to the DOJ. Click here to see for yourself, the comments start 54:50 into the video and at 1:08 the mayor again references his call to the DOJ local Civil Rights Office.
  • There is a big difference between what is contained in the DOJ agreement and the plan that Sam tried to get by us. Look for yourself at the list of what is actually required in “Attachment A” of the DOJ settlement. You will see mention of adequate seating, access to the Barnett Arena, updates restroom facilities, and changes to entry doors. What you won’t see is the requirement to build a facility that’s too large and too expensive for our community. Of course, any of us who have experienced impairment agree completely, that we need to make updates to the Civic Center. The cost to do that, however, is significantly less than the mayor suggested.
  • Do the citizens of Rapid City Lazy P6 understanding of agreement 1feel that they are being dealt with honestly by the current administration? One of the pending lawsuits against the city, which lists the city and the mayor both individually  and in his official capacity, seems to raise that point. The case is still open and this blog will leave it to the courts to determine the validity or lack of validity of the case. Read and make your own decision—all of the documents linked are from the public record. While this blog isn’t about determining guilt or innocence in the case, what is worth pointing out a the theme that has emerged. People seem to meet with Sam and come away with the impression that an agreement had been made, but the agreements aren’t followed through. How many people in our community were under the impression that a promise or agreement was made, only for it to be broken?Kooiker on KOTA 4Kooiker on KOTA part 2-1Request to delay until after election
    Another interesting and important point is that the lawsuit seems to have been conveniently tucked away, by a requested postponement, until after the election.

    (To view the full complaint click here, and here for the full response. Also,click here from documents linked to the February 24, 2014 Public Works meeting agenda.)

Now is the time for a change in the management of our city. This is the time to elect a mayor who has both significant, successful leadership experience and who has integrity and the respect of those who know him.

Please join me in voting for Steve Allender on June 2nd.

The opt-out is the ONLY immediate solution!!

It has been suggested that there is some hesitancy to support the opt-out among some in our community. Please, let me share with you why the opt-out is so vital.

The opt-out will make an additional $6 million available each year for teacher and staff salaries and vital programs. The frustration many have been feeling about the state of our school district is shared. In my days in the State Senate there were too few voices protesting the several ways in which the state aid formula and the property tax valuation system are unfair to Rapid City schools.

It is virtually impossible to expect any relief or assistance in our current crisis from Pierre. There are some interesting possibilities after the 2016 election, but today the opt-out election is the only way to make the desperately needed difference in funding levels in the next few years.

We definitely must fight for changes in Pierre, but there is no immediate hope for that route. One thing that I know for sure from my years in the legislature: if the opt-out fails, that vote will be used against us! The legislative assumption will be, “If they were unwilling to help themselves, the problem must not be all that bad, so why should we do anything?!”

The failure of the opt-out would hurt our schools, our teachers, and the children so badly that it will take many, many years to undo the damage. Without the opt-out we face three serious, perhaps irreversible, damages.

Larger class sizes
First, though we have already made cuts, teaching staff will need to be reduced even more. Those reductions would be unconscionable. If we reduce the staff by 120 teachers, as many knowledgeable friends have told me is a very real prospect, there would be an unmanageable increase in class size, yet without that reduction of 120 teachers the budget would be exceeded by $4 million.

Busing fewer students
On top of that, we’ll have to quit busing for students who live 2.5 to 5 miles from their schools. Imagine what that would do to attendance.

Programs slashed
In addition, there would need to be a $1.5 million slash in such programs as sports, music, fine arts, and debate. Many of you know that some years ago there were serious cuts in the music programs that were so serious and required personal intervention on my part.  We can’t rely on a private individual to save our schools programs.

Many of you have been disgusted with the administration and do not trust it—I feel the same way—but we are turning the corner.  Many of us, working together, will achieve substantial, positive change.  Change is now possible in the district’s leadership. You can count on me to help you assure that outcome.

Sioux Falls, which has had an opt-out in place for many years, has a much broader and effective education system than ours. After the opt-out is approved, I will form a team of manager-leaders who support education and travel to Sioux Falls and find out what they are doing to have a better system and compare the use of tax dollars. The opt-out is just the first step, we need to stay committed and continue the work to ensure that our students have a quality education system and teachers have an environment in which they can succeed.

As one who has been “on the barricades” for more local school funding for decades, I’m asking you to set aside those doubts and past grievances and join with me in supporting the opt-out.  Stop by campaign headquarters, 1309 West Main Street, to find out how you can help.  Even just a couple hours of your time can make a difference.

When we succeed, there is a smart plan, for us to pressure our legislators, our Governor, and the school board to get cracking on even more gains for teachers and students.  If we fail, it will be too late, and everyone in our town loses.

A response to a Time Magazine article

The April 20th edition of Time Magazine contained an article written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar titled, “Nothing Less Than an Assassination.” I was moved by the article and submitted following is a letter to the editor in response to it.

The training and culture that leads to shootings of unarmed individuals can be changed, as suggested by Abdul-Jabbar on page 31 of the April 20th edition. In 1976 the South Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights held a community forum in Rapid City, the second largest city in the state, on the treatment of Native Americans in South Dakota. As a member of the panel conducting the hearings, I received a call from Art LaCroix, the longest serving mayor in Rapid City’s history and its first (and only) Native American mayor. He asked if it was possible that, “My police force could be doing those kinds of things.” My reply, “Sorry, but I think so, my friend.”

Mayor LaCroix fired the chief of police and hired a new chief, Tom Hennies, who established a program to carefully develop a culture and training process to address the issue. The next our three police chiefs, including the current, went through that development process.

On March 5th, two Rapid City officers were checking on an unrelated report when they were approached by a man who seemed to be reach in his pocket for a weapon and crouched in a firing stance. The officers drew their weapons and took cover, they then realized the man’s “weapon” didn’t have a barrel (they later discovered it was a cell phone) and ordered him to the ground. The incident ended without a weapon being fired. I can’t help but wonder if the man would have been instantly shot and killed had the incident happened in South Carolina, instead of South Dakota.

After someone read my letter to the editor they asked me if a majority of Lakota people would agree with my letter. I thought about it and replied that this is something that we need to ask and address. I expressed my hope that we will soon have elected officials with whom we can have a productive conversation around that question.