CNN is in Sioux Falls working on a story. Sioux Falls in the last year or so has garnered a lot of national attention from the likes of National Public Radio, USA Today and others.
But in this case, city officials are freaking out about the fact that the cable giant is here. Although Darrin Smith, the director of community development and parking, has been interviewed, city officials are on lock down about what’s going on, and even leading business leaders in the city have no idea what’s going on. Department directors have been told to let the city’s chief flak know if any local media types call wondering why CNN is here.
That City Hall, the most transparent in history, is a strange place at times.
Last night, the Sioux Falls School District contacted my wife in an automated call to ask her what she thought about the recent uproar over the Pledge of Allegiance in high schools.
It was a simple one-question survey. But first, the message explained what the school board did the week before: It expanded its policy to require that the Pledge be recited daily at the middle school level. It left in place the current policy in which high school students are not required to say the Pledge daily (A group of veterans wants the policy expanded to include high schools).
The message went on to say that the board’s decision had been wrongly reported by local and national new sources (not identified. If you want to know who they were, check out this and this).
Finally, it was time to take the survey. Those who wanted the Pledge extended to high schools were asked to press one; those who thought the current policy is fine were asked to press two.
Frankly, it was the longest one-question survey I’ve ever heard, but given the uproar and the faulty journalism on the issue, the explanation was warranted.
The results will be interesting.
Yesterday’s post on state Democrats calling on Attorney General Marty Jackley to recuse himself from investigating financial improprieties with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development didn’t sit well with some Democrats. Or more specifically, the final line of the post in which I said they would be using the issue to score political points.
OK, let’s address that.
The Democratic Party is, get this, a political party. That political party sent out a press release yesterday asking Jackley to step back from the investigation. They say that because Jackley was appointed to the post by former Gov. Mike Rounds, that he has a conflict in investigating alleged misconduct that occurred during the Rounds administration. The same press release attempted to link both Rounds and Gov. Dennis Daugaard to the ongoing EB-5 investigation.
Now, nobody with a straight face can sit there and tell me the Democrats aren’t trying to score political points.
And get this: They SHOULD be using the issue to score political points.They would be negligent not to exploit this opportunity — just like national Republicans are exploiting — scoring political points — the Obamacare disaster. This is an opportunity for Democrats to tarnish Rounds as he prepares to run for Senate. It’s also a chance to possibly loop Jackley and Daugaard into the scandal as they face re-election next year.
In other words, the Democrats are doing their job right now. They are, as we noted above, a political party. Political parties are in the business of scoring political points.
But apparently, you’re not supposed to point that out.
A top Democratic official on Monday demanded that Attorney General Marty Jackley recuse himself from an ongoing investigation into the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Zach Crago, the party’s executive director, said Jackley has a conflict of interest because he was appointed to the seat by former Gov. Mike Rounds. Jackley has stated that he is investigating activity at GOED that occurred during the Rounds administration, but he said Rounds is not part of the investigation.
Crago said it was wrong for Jackley to publicly say that Rounds wasn’t a subject of the investigation before that investigation had been completed.
“Clearly, Jackley’s ties to his political patron and benefactor present conflicts of interest that preclude Jackley from fairly investigating financial misconduct at the GOED,” Crago said in a release.
It looks Democrats are going to use the EB-5 issue to score political points.
It’s long been a goal of healthy-food advocates to learn more about what people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program buy when they go shopping.
That same question was at the heart of the Argus Leader's pursuit of records from the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP. Turns out that USDA doesn't collect purchase data, although they are working on a pilot study to see if the data could be collected. See a previous post on that here.
But a new retail marketing startup appears to have some of those answers. InfoScout collects the purchasing habits of 125,000 people who voluntarily snap pictures of receipts. InfoScout than analyzes purchases based on the age and income of the people and geography, giving brands crucial data on purchasing data.
Some of the 125,000 include food stamp users. Ad Age has a story about InfoScout’s first roll out of data, and it confirms the worst fears of nutrition experts worried about poor eating habits. Food stamp recipients buy more carbonated soft drinks, snacks and ice cream than those not on the program.
Findings like this will likely stoke the debate between health advocates and hunger advocates. The health advocates want restrictions on what people can buy. The anti-hunger side dismisses those concerns, arguing it’s more important to focus on getting people food than limiting their choices.
Safe to say, it’s an important debate.
The Sioux Falls School Board voted last night to ditch the name Mark Twain from the new elementary school that will be built on the Mark Twain grounds. See this story.
The story includes quotes from Melanie Bliss, who lives in the neighborhood and who was among residents, parents and former Mark Twain students who objected to the name change. Bliss also served two terms on the School Board until 1994.
We spoke yesterday about how the current superintendent and board have handled naming the new school. She does not approve. When she was on the board, she said that name changes were handled publicly. For example, Memorial Middle School was a tribute to the eight people, including Gov. George Mickelson, who perished in a plane crash. Some had suggested naming the school after Mickelson, but public debate finally rested on a name that would recognize all those who lost their lives.
Also during her time on the board, Washington High School in downtown was closed, and the new Washington opened.
"Its name moved with the school," she said.
Other than executive session items, business was conducted in the open, she said. Unlike today, she said. Bliss said she couldn’t even get the names of the people on the board who recommended the Mark Twain-name change.
But there is one notable exception: Sweet potatoes. Board members were told never to reveal that sweet potatoes were used as an ingredient in the pastries served by schools. The reason: Revealing this tidbit might have stopped children from eating the pastries.
James Russell Weddell, who died in a one-vehicle crash near Wagner early Saturday, had a colorful history.
Weddell was among six inmates at the South Dakota Penitentiary who escaped from prison on May 16, 1987 in what was the largest prison break in South Dakota history. At the time, he was serving an 80-year sentence in the manslaughter conviction of Randy Caldwell, who died of head injuries during a fight near a Wagner liquor store.
The six escapees included Rodney Berget, who is current on death row for killing officer Ron Johnson during another escape attempt in 2011. Eric Robert, who was with Berget in the 2011 escape attempt, was put to death last year for Johnson’s murder.
Of the six who escaped in 1987, all but Weddell were apprehended within two months. But Weddell managed to elude authorities for two years.
A retired Army officer and Iraq War veteran plans to challenge Rep. Kristi Noem in the 2014 election.
Corinna Robinson served 25 years in the Army before retiring. She recently resigned as the anti-terrorism and force protection directorate at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency to run for Congress in her native South Dakota.
A formal announcement is forthcoming.
Robinson, a Democrat, said she was prompted in part because of a dysfunctional Congress that has resulted in furloughs, a partially closed government and threats to veterans.
"It’s very discouraging," she said. "It just seems like the parties can’t work together."
Robinson, 48, said she joined the Army at age 17. She spent 11 years in the enlisted ranks before earning a commission through officer candidate school. She retired as a major, spending most of her career in the military police, which included a tour in Iraq.
Bret Hayworth at the Sioux City Journal has the fundraising numbers for our neighbors across the border. For firebrand conservative and tea party favorite Steve King, they aren’t good.
King, a longtime incumbent with a national profile, got out raised by a political newcomer, Democrat Jim Mowrer. King raised less than $110,000 and reported less than $100,000 in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter.
That is not where you want to be sitting with an election a year away. Compare that to Rep. Kristi Noem, who reported more than $700,000 in cash on hand.
King’s district is conservative, but less conservative than it was before redistricting. He won comfortably in the newly drawn district last year.
But King has been one of the faces of the government shutdown, and he is also among Republicans who think that fears of a government default are overblown.
A poll last week shows that King is underwater with his approval rating.
If the government shutdown and haggling over the debt limit are hurting Steve King, imagine how hard those issues will hurt Republicans in more competitive districts.
Word comes today that the mighty United Steelworkers union has endorsed Democrat Rick Weiland in his bid to replace the retiring Sen. Tim Johnson. In a release announcing the endorsement, the USW’s District 11 director Bob Bratulich said Weiland is focused on issues most important to working families.
From the release:
Rick Weiland will fight to end pay-to-play retail politics and reclaim control of our country from the billionaires, corporations and special interests that have hijacked democracy for the benefit of their shareholders,” Bratulich said. “He understands the importance of a clear plan to create family supporting, community sustaining jobs if we hope to improve our struggling economy.
The release claims that USW represents 850,000 members. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicates the union has closer to 614,000 members.
And how many of them are in South Dakota? A whopping 173, according to reports filed with the Department of Labor.
In other words, the only way the USW’s endorsement is going to make much of a dent in South Dakota’s Senate race is if the USW opens up its pocketbook on Weiland’s behalf and drops a bunch of money into the race.