Tag Archives: Mark Remily

Video of the Aberdeen City Council Candidate Forum

Aberdeen City Council Forum

*** Updated on May 9, 2017. The original post had the wrong version of this video. I have replaced it with a video that has the proper audio embedded. I apologize for the bad audio included in the original post.

Yesterday, May 7th, the League of Women Voters of Aberdeen, SD, and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum in Aberdeen. There were two parts to the forum. The first part was the City Council Candidate Forum and will be highlighted in this post. The second forum was for the Aberdeen School Board and will be posted next.

Channel 7 will be broadcasting the event until election day. But for those of us who don’t have Cable TV I recorded the event and have it posted below. Alternatively you can click here to directly view the forum on YouTube.

The ten candidates running for city council are:

NW District five-year term candidates:
The incumbent Todd Campbell is not running for reelection.

SE District three-year term candidates:

  • Tim Prater – Facebook
  • Dennis “Mike” Olson – Facebook – Olson is the incumbent appointee. He has to be elected to serve the rest of his term.

NE District five-year term candidates:

SE District five-year term candidates:

Here is the video. It is about an hour an a half long.

I don’t have much to say about this race. I will say however that as a resident of Aberdeen I think the city looking into building an event center is a horrible idea for many reasons….

A look at Constitutional Amendment T, legislative redistricting

The next proposed South Dakota constitutional amendment to look at for the ballot questions in the 2016 South Dakota election is Constitutional Amendment T. Amendment T would change the state constitution to have state legislative redistricting done by a commission outside of the legislature. Currently the legislature sets the legislative districts.

This post will look at some of the basics of Amendment T. There may be more posts about Amendment T coming in the future; but this post should be a good starting point for anyone trying to research T.

Amendment T was started by the Farmers Union

#SDRtThing2Do Coalition Campaign Coordinator Mark Remily (left) circulating petition with fellow Democrat at the 2015 Hobo Day parade. Photo by Ken Santema 10/24/15.
#SDRtThing2Do Coalition Campaign Coordinator Mark Remily (left) circulating petition with fellow Democrat at the 2015 Hobo Day parade. Photo by Ken Santema 10/24/15.

Amendment T was started by as a project from the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU). After successfully completing the petition drive last November the SDFU had a news release which included the following:

 “This was truly a grassroots effort,” says Doug Sombke, President of South Dakota Farmers Union. “Collecting signatures in order to give voters an opportunity to end gerrymandering wasn’t easy – but there was buy-in from South Dakotans, regardless of party, because it is the right thing to do.”

This is not the first time gerrymandering has been a focus for South Dakota Farmers Union, Sombke added. “Gerrymandering is something the membership and County Counselors have wanted to solve for as long as I’ve been involved in Farmers Union. We have tried addressing it numerous ways, but each time we thought we had a solution, it was defeated by legislators. As a Constitutional Amendment, we’ll finally be able to let voters have their say and put an end to gerrymandering.”

The Ballot Question Committee to fund the effort to pass Amendment T also has direct ties with the SDFU. To push for this amendment there was a Ballot Question Committee named #SDRTTHING2DO created. The  #SDRTTHING2DO Committee Chair is Doug Sombke, who is the SDFU President, and the #SDRTTHING2DO Committee Treasurer is Karla Hofhenke, who happens to be the SDFU Secretary/Treasurer. Finally, the contact on the YesOnT website is created by #SDRTTHING2DO is Matt Sibley, who is also the Legislative Specialist for SDFU.

Text of Amendment T

Due to the size of the proposed amendment I will not place its text in this post.  Instead I will direct readers to a December 2015 post I did looking briefly at Amendment T making the ballot, which includes the text of the proposed amendment. The Secretary of State (SOS) website also has the proposed text included on the petition that was circulated for what became Amendment T.

Here are the main takeaways from the text of proposed Amendment T:

  • Article III, section 5 of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota would be replaced with new text.
  • A new independent redistricting commission would be established to create the new legislative districts.
  • The first redistricting done by this commission would be in 2017, in time for the 2018 election.
  • After that, the next redistricting would be done in 2021 (after the census is completed) and be redone every ten years after that.
  • The board would be composed of nine individuals. None of those individuals can hold a state public office or a political party office.
  • No more than three members of the commission can be members of the same political party. This is an important part of the amendment to take note of. I have seen proponents of the amendment say the committee will be composed of 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and 3 Independents. That is NOT what this amendment says. Technically it could be any combination, as long as no more than three are from one political party. It could also be something like 3 Republicans, 2 Democrat, and 4 Independents. The Libertarian and Constitution Party would not qualify for 2017 because the amendment includes text stating a political party must have received 2/12% of the votes in the last governors race.
  • The members must not have changed party registrations in the last three years.
  • There is a three-year window both ways for the members of the commission to have no elected or appointed positions for any state public office of political party office.
  •  The legislative districts shall use a mapping process by “creating districts of equal population in a grid-like pattern across the state”. Within that the districts have to be as equal in population as possible, shall be geographically contiguous if possible, shall keep “communities of interest” together if possible, and use visible geographic features or current boundaries such as county boundaries if possible.
  • Party registration and voting history is not data that is allowed to be used during redistricting.
  • The residence of any current legislator shall not be allowed to take into consideration.

There is a bit more to Amendment T. But I think the above summary gives an idea of the key areas of Amendment T.

AG’s Explanation

The Attorney General’s office has provided this explanation for Amendment T:

Title An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution to provide for state legislative redistricting by a commission

Explanation:
State senators and representatives are elected from within legislative districts.  The South Dakota Constitution currently requires the Legislature to establish these legislative districts every ten years.  This measure removes that authority from the Legislature and grants it to a redistricting commission.

The commission is made up of nine registered voters selected each redistricting year by the State Board of Elections from a pool of up to 30 applicants.  This pool consists of applicants registered with South Dakota’s two largest political parties (ten from each), and ten not registered with either of those parties.  A commission member must have the same party registration, or be registered as unaffiliated with a party, for three continuous years immediately prior to appointment.

No more than three commission members may belong to the same political party.  For three years immediately prior to and three years immediately after appointment, commission members may not hold office in certain state or local public offices, or a political party organization.

The commission will redistrict in 2017, in 2021, and every ten years thereafter.  The commission must produce a draft map and allow for public comment.  The districts must be drawn in compliance with state and federal law.

Pros of Amendment T

As mentioned above, the SDFU has created the #SDRTTHING2DO Ballot Question Committee to fund the pro side of Amendment T. The group has established the YesOnT website, Facebook page, and twitter account.  According to the pre-primary financial disclosure filed by #SDRTTHING2DO back in May, the group had $2,127.50 on hand at that time. Since SDFU had already given $22,000 this year (most of which was spent on consulting and surveys) I would expect SDFU will continue to pour thousands of dollars into this campaign.

Here are the main bullet points on the YesOnT website promoting Amendment T:

  • Creates A Balanced 9 Member Committee To Draw The Voting Maps In South Dakota
  • Prohibits Any Member On The Committee From Serving In Public Office 3 Years Before Or After Being Appointed To The Committee
  • Eliminates Potential Bias And Corruption By Banning The Use of Political Party Identification And Incumbency To Manipulate Voter Maps.
  • Establishes Constitutional Guidelines Requiring That Counties And Neighborhoods Be Kept Whole In Voting Districts Whenever Possible
  • Gives Voters Like YOU A 30 Day Public Comment Period To Express Comments And Concerns Regarding Potential Voting Maps

The YesOnT website also includes the following video about gerrymandering:

I think the above video does a good job explaining what gerrymandering is and why it is bad.

Cons of Amendment T

There is a group out there opposing Amendment T as well. The NO T Ballot Question Committee was formed just last week to battle against Amendment T. Since the committee has just formed there isn’t any financial disclosures to look at. But I think the Primary Interest portion of the NO T’s Statement of Organization is interesting. Here is the Primary Interest listed:

Oppose the unelected Gerrymandering commission

The NO T Ballot Question Committee appears to be focusing upon the fact this will be an unelected commission. I often look at the boards and commissions in this state. There are a LOT of unelected commission appointees running many areas of the state. In this particular case the members of this new redistricting commission would be selected by the seven members of the State Board of Elections. Six of these members are appointed on partisan lines, usually 3 Reps and 3 Dems. The seventh member is the Secretary of State, which for decades has been a Rep. That means the Board of Elections is usually by design of the legislature a partisan body. It is this partisan body that will select the member of the redistricting commission set out in Amendment T. There is a valid question as to whether another unelected commission would truly do any better than the current system, especially since even with Amendment T the legislature would have indirect power over those appointed to this commission.

I’m not seeing a lot of activity from the NO T Ballot Question Committee. But the South Dakota GOP did pass a resolution against Amendment T (resolution #5) during their convention this year (and against Constitutional Amendment V and Initiated Measure 22). Here is what I feel are the relevant portions of that resolution:

Whereas, The South Dakota Republican Party supports a legislative redistricting that adheres to the principle of “one man, one vote,” that respects geographical and political boundaries and protects communities of interest in compact and contiguous districts, and that protects the voting rights of minorities; and,

Now, Therefore, be it resolved, the South Dakota Republican Party strongly opposes Constitutional Amendment V, Constitutional Amendment T, and Initiated Measure 22 and urges voters to reject those measures on the 2016 ballot.

If I read this correctly, the Republican resolution is basically opposing Amendment T because the current redistricting method already reaches the goal of Amendment T.  The current system technically should provide a similar result to the proposed system; at least according to the SD GOP.

My initial thoughts of how to vote

This is one of the few ballot questions I am leaning towards a yes on. I do believe there were some district boundaries created in 2011 that are more than a little suspect (Dist 1, 2, and 3, are local examples for me). Plus, I just find it to be bad open government policy for an elected body to choose its own boundaries. There is a lot of potential for corruption in the current redistricting method. I don’t think the new system will fix all potential corruption issues, but it should make it a little hard to blatantly redistrict in a manner that purposely gives one party an unfair advantage over other party’s.

Notes and video from the Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall

Crowd at the Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Crowd at the Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Last evening there was a Town Hall meeting held at NSU’s Krikac Auditorium to discuss the Library Bond that will be decided by the election on December 15. Previously I’ve posted a few of the reasons I oppose the Library Bond and also posted my chat with a supporter of the Library Bond. Since early voting is already going on I expect this will be the last time I blog about the subject until the results are known.

The town hall was moderated by JJ Perry, Executive Editor of Aberdeen American News. The five panelist were:

Duane Riedel – Concerned citizen that started the petition process so the voters could decide whether to go ahead with the bond.
Todd Campbell – City Councilman that has been opposed to the bond.
Rob Ronayne – City Councilman that has been supportive of the bond.
Peter Ramey – library board of trustees member
Maeve King – library board of trustees president

The audience was allowed to submit questions for the host to ask or step up to the microphone and ask in person.

Here is the video I shot of the event. Aberdeen News will have what is likely to be a much better quality video of the event posted on AberdeenNews.com later this morning.

This post will be done in a similar style to how i handle legislative cracker barrels. I’ll have a section for each question and call out anything said that I find interesting or important. Then I will add my thoughts and observations. I italicized my thoughts and observations to avoid confusion when reading this post.

Perry did clarify at the beginning that this was a discussion, and not a debate.

Opening Remarks

Perry began with the question of why a new or remodeled library is necessary. It was mostly used as opening remarks for the five panelists.

Peter Ramey speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Peter Ramey speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Ramey noted he had moved to Aberdeen about three and half years ago from a community that had a larger and newer library. He feels the Aberdeen Library just doesn’t have enough space for family and children. He also highlighted other space constraint areas. I agree that there isn’t a lot of space, but feel that has more to do with the basement not being fully utilized.

King noted that the library is not “conducive” for studying or implementing new technology. She said there are no places for tutors to have a private place for studying. When talking about the basement she says some patrons of the library are not able to use the library because of allergy issues. More about the allergy issues later, but this is something that should have already been fixed.

Ronayne said the current basement has been rendered unusable due to water issues. He says that leaves Aberdeen with half the space needed to serve the residents. He noted a variety of areas the new library will have expanded room for.

Campbell agrees something needs to be done, and believes everyone would agree. He also acknowledged the current library has issues. He feels it would be excessive to build a new library with the current plan. The current library can be renovated and give the functionality that is wanted. To add to his point, I have yet to find someone who opposes the library bond that wants to get rid of the library. 

Riedel spent most of his intro going through a brief history of his life. He said he has been following the library project since 2009. In the last six years he noted the price of the new library went from 4.8 million in 2009 to much more in 2015. He also noted he was not allowed to go into the current library basement. He was later able to tour it with the City Engineer, Robin Bobzien.  Bobzien assured Riedel that there was no problem in the basement; there were air quality issues, but those could be fixed.  Riedel noted there were issues with the original bids. He also points out the new plan includes architectural features, such as glass, that will increase the heat/air cost of the building. I’ve heard some people ask about Riedel and questioned why he should be trusted as opposition to the library bond. That kind of annoyed me. Riedel is a concerned citizen in Aberdeen and was able to get the petition circulated. His personal history really shouldn’t be relevant (although his history does include relevant experience). 

Is there a price point you are comfortable with?

Campbell said he was more comfortable with the $6.8 million dollar figure, with the foundation supplying about $2 million of it. He noted the new design is beautiful, but it is also very expensive for what the city is getting. He just doesn’t see the numbers adding up for such an undertaking. He noted the City Hall renovation, a 100-year-old building, for about $3 million. That was a three-story building with an elevator. He wonders now why the city isn’t even considering renovating the library. He also noted the foundation had renovating the current library as one of its top three choices of what to do some years back (the current plan wasn’t). Campbell noted the library would structurally be easier (cheaper) to remodel than the City Hall building. I think Campbell did a good job summarizing the fiscal questions many opponents of the bond have.

Ronayne replied that in 2014 the City Council adopted a resolution to build a new library on the Bethlehem site for $7.1 million dollars. Then the foundation came in and said they would raise $2.1 million if they could add some wants to the new library. He noted that now with the foundation donations the city cost of the library will be $5.9 million, a lower cost than what had been resolved by the City Council before. Ronayne also noted that taxes will not go up and or down no matter what happens with this project. Ronayne spent a while talking about how basements are no longer used, especially in retail life downtown Aberdeen. Later in this Town Hall there is a perfect response to the basement talking point. 

What happens if library foundation doesn’t raise the money it promised?

Ronayne said the City will know how successful the fund-raising is going before any shovels are put in the ground. But he did say that the bond is set up so whole amount of the library is borrowed, and the foundation will pay the city their share when they get it. The foundation pledged $600,000 up front, and will pay the rest as it is gotten. Ronayne didn’t answer this. He did a lot of talking, but failed to mention that if the foundation does not raise its $2.1 million that the taxpayers are on the hook for that money.

Campbell noted the bonding agent from Sioux Falls called this particular bond unprecedented (in that part of the bond is backed by a promise with no guarantee from a foundation). The bonding agent has not seen this done anywhere, including Sioux Falls. It puts trust in the foundation to quickly raise $2.1 million. Since the crash of 2008 it has been hard for large sums of money to be raised. Two current examples are the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Harbor, both of which are struggling to raise the money needed to build new facilities. I think Campbell made some good points. All I will add is that both the Boys & Girls Club and Safe Harbor are worthy of donating money to (click the links on their names to donate money).

Riedel did note that if the foundation does not come up with their money that the taxpayers will be on the hook for the interest that will become due on the foundations part of the bond.

Maeve King speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Maeve King speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

King noted the foundation has started putting together a steering committee. She says it has been difficult because of the pending vote, so it makes it hard for them to raise money. She noted the foundation does have a million dollars ready, but some of that will need to be kept back for fundraising. She realizes it won’t be easy, but thinks the goal is attainable.

King was asked about what happens Dec 16 if the bond passes. Will things immediately kick in, or will fundraising be ongoing. She admitted the fundraising would be ongoing with donation likely to happen over five years. She isn’t sure about a timeline. King’s answer should make taxpayers very nervous. If the foundation is not able to keep up its fundraising (something I find quite likely) it will mean the taxpayers on the hook for that money and interest.

Usage of the library

Ramey noted all kinds of people use the library. He said programming a huge area for library use. Programming includes kids activities, workshops, cooking classes, etc… He noted the current library simply doesn’t have the space for programming. Hearing him talk, it would appear programming is the reason a new library is needed. Ramey also said it is obvious to him that a new library is needed, and perhaps isn’t so obvious to those that have lived here a long time. He noted there are almost 9000 library card holders, and the new library should expand that number by 25% to 50%. He also said the opposite of building a new library is doing nothing. Where do I start… My first thought when I hear about all the programming expansions he wants: isn’t that what the ARCC is for? Are we looking at building something to compete with an existing public building? I also would say that the opposite of approving this bond is not doing nothing. Rather it would mean the City Council going back to the drawing board and coming up with a more conservative plan.

King brought up opponents mentioning people no longer needing libraries because of internet access and technology advances making libraries unneeded.  So far in 2015 she noted current checkouts at the library: 220,000 books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. She noted over 600 people attend 80 different classes. King also went into other events. She said more events would be possible with a new facility. Finally, King tried to also say that nobody uses basements anymore. At this time I think the Library should have been looking at how to work with the ARCC to host events instead of building a new library to compete with the ARCC. Another basement remark, the reply to that comes up later in the event. 

Campbell said there is room on the west side of the building. That is possibly up to 3,500 square feet, but most likely 2,500 square feet. That would create more upstairs space without taking away from the parking lot.

Ronayne said it is not possible to expand as far as Campbell thinks. An engineer told him only about 1,200 square feet could be added.

How many times has the library flooded?

Rob Ronayne speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Rob Ronayne speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Ronayne noted this happened twice when he was on the library board. That was back when the basement was used for children programs. He noted some work has been done, and mid-wall flooding occurred after being fixed.

Riedel reminded Ronayne that he had gone down there with the city engineer. He said in 2011 drain tile was put in, but was never hooked up. Then in 2012 more money was spent to hook the drain tile into the sewer. According the engineer it is dry in the basement now. It could be fixed up and made usable again. Riedel was able to see the old insulation hanging down that was never fixed. That is because the library repairs have only been for what is necessary. I have to agree with Riedel that it appears the library hasn’t been doing as much maintenance as it should to fix the problems from water damage in the past. 

An engineer from the back of crowd then shouted out that basements in Aberdeen are not a good thing.

Why mess with the Civic Arena parking?

This is the million dollar question!

Campbell noted that when the property was originally purchased the library was supposed to be a two-story building on the east side of the lot. That would leave a nice big multi-use parking lot. This new plan removed the extra parking that could be shared with the Civic Arena and Theater. The current parking lot is used by a lot of people in the area. It offers parking for Basketball tournaments coming to town and for the Circus. He noted the federal building uses some of these spots. The federal courthouse that the city is trying to sell will also want to use the lot. Downtown parking is already an issue, and this library is making a bad situation worse. He said that at this point it appears the city might have to build a parking ramp in the future. I don’t doubt there will be talk of a parking ramp. I’m guessing the city will want to use a bond for that...

A word from City Councilman Mark Remily

Mark Remily stepped up to the mic for a minute. He said his main job as a city council-member is to listen to the people of Aberdeen. He said he would love to have a new library if he could find support for it. Recently he has been circulating a petition unrelated to the library; and while doing so he had a lot of people ask if this was the library petition. He doesn’t see enough support for the library from the people to support the bond. The petition Remily is referring to is the anti-gerrymandering initiated amendment he was spearheading for Farmers Union. I haven’t blogged about that amendment yet, but at a quick glance it appears to be good.

Ramey piped in to note there are a lot of signs up around town showing support. All I will say here is that I’ve followed politics long enough to realize those little signs in yards to little, if anything, to show how much a candidate or ballot question is supported. 

A question comparing the library to the YMCA and Aquatics Center.

King noted the library is free for all to use. The Aquatics Center and YMCA were not referred to the voters, and you must pay to utilize those facilities.

When was such a vote put to the people? How much will a delay cost in the future?

Ronayne isn’t sure when a decision of the City Council was referred to the voters. He also isn’t sure what to do if the library bond is turned down. That may mean going back to the drawing board.

Todd Campbell talking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Todd Campbell talking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Campbell noted he doesn’t know when a decision of the City Council was referred to the voters. But he also noted previous bonded items didn’t have opposition speaking in public forums. He then backed up a point he made earlier, that those were in the days before financial hardships in 2008. Campbell also noted some of the great renovations projects that have been done in the downtown area of Aberdeen.  I tend to agree with Campbell, there are some great things that can be done with the current library building. 

King noted the basement of City Hall was abandoned during its renovation. If the library does the same they have only half the space. She also notes the current building has other technology and ADA issues. I was under the impression that the City Hall basement was designated as unused, and not abandoned; perhaps I am wrong. But yes, renovations do mean updating for current technology and ADA standards. 

Ramey took a moment to talk about the visual aspects of the library. I have really tried to not talk about this. I’ve said before that proponents of the library are stuck on the vanity aspect of the project. That what is wanted is a large shiny object that will look beautiful and make the city proud. This came up all evening, and I tried to ignore it… but it was hard.

Kline Street Project

Duane Riedel speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Duane Riedel speaking about the Library Bond. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Riedel took a couple of minutes to make some points. One of those points was to talk about the Kline Street project stopping so the city can have the money to build a library. He questions why the sewer in Kline isn’t the top priority it was said to be.

Ronayne noted the Kline Street project is on hold for a year. But he says that has nothing to do with the library. Instead he says more money is being put towards other street projects and that is why the Kline Street is being put off for a year. I really don’t like Ronaynes answer here (big surprise right?). I guess my question would be, instead of spending money on a big new library, why not dedicate the money that became “available” from the YMCA bond and use it directly for projects such as Kline Street? From a pure fiscal standpoint it does appear that the new library will take money from street projects such as Kline. 

Accreditation question

King responded to recent letters to the editor that mentioned the library is not accredited. She says this is really not relevant to the current topic. Accreditation is really a matter of answering surveys. I fully agree with King. This is a topic that is irrelevant to the library bond. 

Daily Library Users

Ronayne said there are 400 daily patrons of the library in a quick round question. I really question that number, especially for the lack of vehicles in the parking lot to support it ( I live on North Kline and drive by the library often).

A few words from Architect Tom Hurlbert

Tom Hurlbert speaking at the Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Tom Hurlbert speaking at the Library Bond Town Hall. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Architect Tom Hurlbert is part of the firm that helped with the current plans. He notes the project was started with a fixed amount of money. The price of the project has not changed in designing this building during the project. He does say the current library and the City Hall building are architecturally different, so they can’t really be compared. He also says he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the parking issue. But he says there are plans to expand parking both in the short-term and in the long-term. Hurlbert believes putting the library downtown will actually create a greater synergy that will allow for greater use of shared parking in the future. I feel Hurlbert really underestimated the parking problems. But I do agree he has helped design a great building. I just don’t agree it is the right building for Aberdeen.

Spitzer lets Ramey have it

A local concerned citizen let Ramey have it for a couple of minutes. He made some good points I thought. One of those is that Ramey had compared the library to one in St Paul. Spitzer noted SD doesn’t want the taxes that Minnesota has.

The Basement

One last comment was allowed from the audience. This particular lady is a mother of twin eight-year olds. She said:

I think the adults are the ones making this more challenging. My kids didn’t have a problem in the basement. They don’t have a problem up on the floor in the middle.  They love checking out everything they can. They love doing everything they can.

I really love that she brought this up. I’ve heard “the children” invoked many times when talking about the current library. Personally I think it would be much better towards future Aberdeen generations to be more conservative and renovate the library. That way more money can be put towards road improvements that will leave a better infrastructure for our children to use in the future.

Wrap-up

Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall panel. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.
Aberdeen Library Bond Town Hall panel. Photo by Ken Santema 12/2/15.

Riedel said all he has asked for is to let the people vote. He hopes there will be some changes in the structure that will take into account how the glass of the new building will handle the increased power prices that are forthcoming.

Campbell said he will support whatever happens after the election. But he thinks as a representative of the community he has to balance what is fair and what he feels is excessive. He is not against a new building, but this building is excessive. Campbell noted that ten years ago there was only one bond on the budget. Now there are five bonds. If there is another downturn in the economy those bonds will cause other areas of the budget to be cut; bond payments cannot be reduced. He noted that this project will impact the budget, no matter what happens.

Ronayne noted that if the bond passes the foundation will have to start its hard work. He is optimistic the foundations goal can be met. He said if the bond fails the city will have to decide what to do. The city council will work cautiously to do what the voters want. Ronayne feels there is support for the project.

Ramey is optimistic the bond will pass.

King will happily move forward with fundraising if the bond passes. If the bond doesn’t pass and then it goes back on the city to decide what to do. King then noted that a lot of money doesn’t get poured into a building when it is known the building will be replaced. She basically admitted the City hasn’t put as much maintenance into the building as should have been.

My Wrap

Overall I don’t think this Town Hall changed my mind. I am still opposed to the bond. I feel too may proponents are stuck on how nice and shiny the new building will be. As a fiscal conservative I believe a good renovation of the current building will meet the needs of the City and allow more taxpayer dollars to go towards street maintenance.

Aberdeen Candidate Forum part I: District 3 legislative candidates

On Saturday, September 27, the League of Women Voters Aberdeen Area and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum at the Hub Area Multi District Vocational Center. The first part of this candidate forum included all of the legislative candidates running for office in SD District 3. Running for the Senate seat are David Novstrup (R) and Mark Remily (D). Trying for the two House seats are Dan Kaiser (R), David Novstrup (R), Burt Elliott (D) and Pat Hale (D). The rules for this forum were simple, each candidate was given a three-minute opening statement and each candidate would have a minute to answer each question.

As usual for posts of this type, I will pass on the parts of what candidates said that I find interesting. I will also add my own thoughts.

Al Novstrup, Dan Kaiser, Pat Hale, Mark Remily, David Novstrup and Burt Elliot at a Candidate Forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.
Al Novstrup, Dan Kaiser, Pat Hale, Mark Remily, David Novstrup and Burt Elliott at a Candidate Forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Opening Remarks – Each candidate was given three minutes to give some opening remarks. Most of their opening remarks was filled with biographical stuff, I generally avoid that and will only point out anything I find interesting.

David Novstrup – David says he is running so he can “continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives” for those living in South Dakota. Novstrup noted there are several important issues coming up in the 2015 session. Some examples he listed were: recruit and retain workers in SD, keeping taxes low, provide quality education, keeping government small, holding state government accountable for how it spends money, promoting economic development, keep regulations to a level that is only necessary, and energy independence. David actually had a lot in there. Many of the talking points are important to both parties, he is definitely going into the State Senate race looking to get all votes.

Mark Remily – Mark says the main reason for him running in this race is “the need for accountability in state government”. He said this includes the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Currently Mark says the balance of power in Pierre is one-sided and a “healthy minority” is needed. This is the talking point I think Democrats such as Remily are smart running on. Republicans in SD do enjoy a super-majority in Pierre. Remily then went on to mention the issues he finds important: Medicaid expansion, funding education at a “responsible level”, defending civil rights, EB-5, infrastructure, XL pipeline, low wages, and human trafficking. Excluding Medicaid expansion, I think Remily came up with a good list of issues.

Burt Elliott – Burt came out saying he is running for “re-election” in District 3 because that is the seat he held “two gerrymanderings ago”. He noted he has two residences. One in District 2, and now a basement apartment in District 3 due to “family issues”. He said the basement apartment was necessary because a one level house “without so many steps” was needed. I would like to point out he has taken some heat from Republicans over the issue. His voter and occupancy records show he lives in District 2, but he is being accused of using an address in District 3 so he can get elected. Burt knew this was going to be an issue, so he brought it up right away hoping to head off any controversy. This does come up more than once in the rest of the forum. Burt said he is running because he is tired of being retired and believes in a participatory citizenship. I like Burt, but I have to give him a fail on his opening remarks, since he didn’t talk about one issue it means the focus of his opening remarks was on his residency. That might backfire on him since that will be what people remember him for when voting.

Pat Hale – Pat focused on his three-part platform of leadership, balance, and integrity. For leadership he listed relevant parts of his resume. On balance he said the current political system was based on a two-party system, and that state government has gone too far right. Pat says the current legislators are focused on things such as texting and dog breed bans instead of working on government transparency. I wish Hale had expanded more upon transparency. It is an issue I think works particularly well in District 3 after the beef plant debacle.

Dan Kaiser – There is one part of Dan’s bio I think is relevant to the issues. He noted his wife used to work for DCI focused on Medicaid fraud. This is notable because there is so much fraud relating to Medicaid that the State of SD has to have a DCI agent dedicated to such cases. In a year where Democrats are running on Medicaid expansion I think his wife’s insights have given him more reason to run against Medicaid expansion. Going on, to show he is sincere about transparency, Dan noted he has used social media at the end of each legislative day to inform constituents about how he voted on every floor vote (just like US Congressman Justin Amash). Kaiser believes in true transparency at all levels, especially at the level of elected officials. Dan pointed out he had success in his first term by supporting legislation passed so that platonic relationships would not be treated as domestic in abuse cases (2014: SB7). Finally Kaiser noted he is running because he does not want the cost of government to be placed on his sons generation.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he has worked and passed legislation “that forces government officials to produce documents requested by citizens” (2011: SB101). Before SB101, Al says there was no penalty for secrecy in government. For passing that bill, Al was awarded the 2012 Eagle Award by the South Dakota Newspaper Association. I think Al knows transparency is a winning issues in District 3 and is showing he has tried to work towards open government. Novstrup noted he has gotten 27 bills pass during his tenure in Pierre. He says these bills cover a wide variety of topics. These topics include: open, transparency, and honest government; fair taxes; helping local governments prevent fraud; helping law enforcement catch drug dealers; and helping small businesses. Al has worked on a wide variety of bills, most I think are good (transparency, local control), and a few not so good (drug war). But then he brought up Burt Elliott’s record. He noted Elliott worked to get a bill passed that would allow trust funds to be setup for domestic animals (2005: HB1138 failed, 2006: HB1178 passed).  Al says the bill passed by Elliott would allow wealthy people to set up a trust fund for their dog or cat and avoid taxes. Novstrup brought this up to run on his record against Elliott’s record. It is definitely clear Al is trying to make sure District 3 has reasons to vote for him over Elliott.

Education and teacher vacancies – A question was asked about whether there is adequate state support for education and what should be done to fill teacher vacancies.

Mark Remily – Remily feels the current support for education in SD in inadequate. He says there is plenty of money out there and says money should be taken from reserves to give education (that talking point will come up later). He also noted there are other revenue streams available to the state such as legalizing industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Remily found a talking point on which I can agree with him. Legalizing industrial hemp would be a huge boom to the SD economy and bring in a lot of tax revenue. On medical marijuana it would do a lot to ease the suffering of certain patients suffering from chronic ailments. Remily said there are plenty of sources of revenue to pay teachers a respectable salary.

Burt Elliott – Elliott said that since SD is 51st in the nation for teacher pay he would think the answer is NO to South Dakota supporting education. On teacher vacancies he said “money is always nice”, but there is more to the issue than that. Burt said things such as authority and respect are also important. While talking about this Burt brought up the fact teachers in SD do not have tenure, and instead have what is called continuing contract. I understand why Burt mentioned this. Republicans often invoke tenure when talking about teacher issues, I think Elliott was just trying to point out the topic of tenure is irrelevant in SD. Due to lack of time I’m not sure he made that clear.

Pat Hale – Hale noted teachers are being lost at an alarming rate in SD. He noted teachers can go to some other states and start ten thousand dollars higher. Pat said education seems to be a “bad word in Pierre” because bills are not passed supporting education. Along those lines, Pat also noted the Governor didn’t want any new taxes passed before the election. It should be noted that during the re-election, Governor Daugaard is NOT promising no new taxes…

Dan Kaiser – Kaiser noted that his record over the last two years shows he supports bills pertaining to K-12 funding. But he went on to mention that many factors are taken into account with teacher pay. He pointed out that the state legislature does not set teacher pay. He also noted that studies looking at teacher pay does not look at taxes in other states; such as property, sales, and income taxes. Also, Kaiser noted there are many benefits within SD that keep people here which have nothing to do with pay. Finally, Kaiser noted teacher pay is a local control issue that the state legislature should not be involved with. I agree with Dan on that last talking point. If the SD legislature would decide to try imposing teacher pay amounts on School Districts I believe many local control advocates (such as myself) would fight against such legislation. Personally I think anyone worried about teacher pay should be pressuring the legislature to give more money to education and to their school board to better utilize that money.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he is on the appropriations committee, so he comes at this from a perspective of balance. Novstrup agreed education needs more money; but he also noted areas such as infrastructure, counties, Aspire, etc… But he said wanting more money for areas has to come from somewhere because the State budget needs to balance. Novstrup also mentioned going into reserves to pay education (brought up by Remily at the beginning of this round). Al would rather not take money away from future generations for use now. He said the voters of SD had the opportunity to vote on this and overwhelmingly chose not to touch that money. I think most people agree with Al on the issue of leaving the reserves alone. Novstrup also noted he would be opposed to legalizing marijuana. That might not be a winning topic for him long-term. There is a lot more support for medical marijuana in particular. Finally, Al did say there are other sources of revenue the state has potential access to. He said allowing two pipelines through South Dakota would raise another $40 million in tax revenue that could be used for education.

David Novstrup – David noted that 46% of the budget in SD goes to education (including higher education), and that no other State agency receives as much money. Novstrup says legislatures need to talk with teachers and superintendents and see what can be done. He said a proposal a couple of years ago had some good solutions. This is in reference to HB1234 of the 2012 session, which was sent to voters as Referred Law 16 on the 2012 ballot (I blogged against it here). As David notes, that law maybe tried to do too much and was rejected by the voters. David said he will continue to work on solutions such as the ones contained within Referred Law 16. I would have preferred it if David had included a couple of pieces of Referred Law 16 that he thinks are good. That would have been good for voters to know.

EB-5 – What should be done to verify the status of the economic development EB-5 money. Ya know there had to be an EB-5 question in Aberdeen!

Burt Elliott – Elliott noted that South Dakota has been rated by many sources as one of the most corrupt states in the US. Burt says “executive and legislative accountability has to be established”.  Further, he says there needs to be more open information and ethics enforcement ability. Instead of going down the route of a special prosecutor, Burt says there should be more action and “moral responsibility on the part of people who are supposed to be looking into this.” I think the implication here is that the legislature has not done enough in its oversight duties. I would agree! It does appear the legislature as a whole is not very interested in really finding out what happened or holding anyone accountable.

Pat Hale – Pat thinks some restrictions need to be placed upon the economic development money in which the Governor has total control. I would agree with that as well. He should have expanded upon that thought. Right now there isn’t just an imbalance of power in Pierre between the two parties. There is actually an imbalance between the legislative and executive branches. Too much power currently resides within the executive branch with little oversight from the legislative branch. I think all legislative candidates (both parties) should be bringing that up.

Dan Kaiser – Dan mentioned HB1224 during the 2014 session that a Democrat tried to pass in order to look into the issue more. Kaiser noted he was one of the Republicans to sign onto that bill. He noted the best way to solve anything related to EB-5 is to look into it more. Kaiser also noted the US Attorneys Office (Brenden Johnson) should be looking into this and will not comment on it. Kaiser finds it suspicious that Johnson’s office won’t at least say there is an ongoing investigation, if there is one. Finally, he mentioned that EB-5 programs are crony capitalism (corporate welfare). He says these programs where the government and private industry get in bed with each other is a way to tax the poor and give wealthy people more money. Instead Kaiser supports free-market principles.

Al Novstrup – Al noted there have been seven or eight audits done already, but that hasn’t been enough. Novstrup would actually assign a special prosecutor and give them tools to get to the bottom of what happened. In particular he would recommend a Democrat prosecutor such as Brenden Johnson to make sure it gets done. Al has an interesting idea there, if Brenden comes up with nothing it cannot be blamed on Republicans trying to hide anything.

David Novstrup – David also feels there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered. He also noted there have been, and will continue to be a lot of meetings about the topic. But he also noted EB-5 is a federal program, and that the US Attorney should enforce federal law. Novstrup is interesting in finding out what the US Attorney has found out.

Mark Remily – Remily went through many of the numbers involved with Aberdeen Beef Plant and how much money was sunk into the plant. Mark noted Aberdeen lost $1,481,361 (Remily is an Aberdeen City Council member). Remily says the corruption of EB-5 goes all the way top; and there needs to be more accountability in state government. Remily highlighted a lot numbers, which I think is good. But if they had bothered, anyone promoting EB-5 could refute those numbers because some of them have nothing to do directly with EB-5; they were part of the Aberdeen Beef Plant debacle. That is why this topic hasn’t been as big of a winner as Democrats had hoped in this election cycle. The topic is simply too big and too many involved areas for easy campaign messages.

Infrastructure – Would you support user fees, higher gas taxes, or license fees to finance South Dakota highways.

Pat Hale – Hale basically said he would support anything that would get more money for roads.

Dan Kaiser – Dan noted that increased gas taxes would negatively impact the poor more than the rich. Poor people tend to have older vehicles which are not as fuel-efficient. They would carry a heavier burden in increased gas taxes. Kaiser noted that he and David Novstrup both supported efforts for road districts. I like Dan’s answer here. He is focusing on local control solutions.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he would be supportive of making sure the infrastructure is high quality. He said that if that means new taxes then he is ready for that debate. I will note that Al never really said if he would support any of the proposed tax increased; just that he would support having the debate about it.

David Novstrup – David focused more upon how high each tax increase was, to make sure it wasn’t too high. He also noted counties and townships are struggling to maintain their infrastructure. Finally, Novstrup said he would probably be supportive of the proposed revenue increases, but would have to see the details first.

Mark Remily – Remily noted the roads need help. He says he doesn’t know the answer, but user taxes are maybe the way to go. I really thought a current Aberdeen City Council member would come prepared with a better answer to an infrastructure question.

Burt Elliott – “The answer obviously is yes”. He noted there is currently a legislative summer study on the issue (here is my post on the hearing in Aberdeen). He said “user fees have to be part of the equation”. This is an area I’m going to have to disagree with Elliott on. He seems to be of the same mindset as Senator Vehle during the transportation portion of the SD Ag Summit: that it is right to push for new taxes before the study is done. User fees may be an answer out of that study, but Elliott seems to be in the mindset that user fees will be an answer no matter what the study says. I just can’t understand that viewpoint.

Medicaid Expansion – Do you support Medicaid expansion, why or why not.

Dan Kaiser – No. First, Dan says more money coming from the federal government devalues the monetary supply. In order to give that money to the states, more money is printed. Kaiser noted that when the value of people’s money is lowered, the poorest among us suffer the most. Dan would rather help the poor by leveling the playing field so poor can have a chance to do better for themselves. Finally, Dan noted the fraud, waste, and abuse of the Medicaid system. He noted that the state only goes after Medicaid fraud to a certain extent, because the state is on the hook for a portion of that. It is an odd situation, I may have to speak with Kaiser’s wife to learn more about it.

Al Novstrup – Al says the real question is whether taxpayers should be asked to pick up the tab for other people’s healthcare at a time when most are struggling to pay their own. So he says the answer is no. He also wonders where the federal government will get the money. Novstrup said the two ways to do that is for the federal government to print more money or ask the taxpayers for more money; both of which he says are harmful. Overall I think Dan and Al rocked at answering this one.

David Novstrup – David pointed out that Medicaid expansion is not free to the State of SD. It would cost the state $100 million in administrative costs over the next decade. That money would either have to be taken from existing programs such as education or infrastructure, or that money would have to come from higher taxes. He also noted SD had asked the federal government for a waiver to focus on a SD solution. Personally I didn’t like the waiver Governor Daugaard was asking for, but it did show the federal government is not willing to work with states on localized solutions.

Mark Remily – Remily would support full Medicaid expansion. Mark mentioned that Arizona (a similar political state to SD) implemented Medicaid expansion with few problems. Remily also pointed out Governor Daugaard knew the waiver wouldn’t work.

Burt Elliott – Elliott would support Medicaid expansion. He noted that as a Brown County Commissioner that he was able to see first hand that we are already paying healthcare for the uninsured. He said Medicaid expansion would expand out the burden of helping those without insurance. Burt contends the only reason Medicaid expansion didn’t pass in SD is because a Democrat President was behind it. I think there is some truth behind Elliott mentioning partisan reasons for some Republicans not wanting to expand Medicaid.

Pat Hale – Hale supports Medicaid expansion. He highlighted SD giving up $280 million for Medicaid expansion, but at the same time SD accepted $1.7 billion dollars in other federal dollars. Actually Hale has a point, SD does get a lot of federal dollars.

Residency – One last question directed at Burt Elliott about his residence.

Burt Elliott – First Elliott mentioned a similar situation with a Republican legislator from Spearfish while Elliott served before. But if this is the legislator I believe he is talking about (Christopher Madsen), that was a case of someone moving after they got elected because of a new job in Sioux Falls. It isn’t really analogous. Burt says he doesn’t know what the big deal is. He said election cycles don’t always fit with family timelines. So he got a basement apartment in town. He also noted if it weren’t for gerrymandering he would still be in District 3. I would stop mixing the gerrymandering answer with the family reasons answer. I think that confuses his answers.

Closing Remarks – Mostly fluff again. If they said anything worthy I’ll post it. If not these are my final thoughts on the candidates.

Al Novstrup – Al did ask about Elliott needing a house with one level (to reduce stairs). Al noted his basement isn’t on one level, its down a level. So he thinks Elliott should expand on that. Al also noted Elaine Elliott appears to still live in District 2. Overall I think Al did a good job of highlighting himself during this forum. He also made sure everyone understood there are potential issues with Elliott’s address.

David Novstrup – David focused on early voting. Actually this is a year I would urge people to refrain from early voting. There are too many potential questions with at least one statewide office. I think voters should wait until the last possible day to vote, that way any potential scandals don’t blow up and cause people to regret their votes. Overall David did fair in this forum. I don’t think he stood out at all. But I also don’t think he pushed anyone away.

Mark Remily – Remily focused on people registering to vote. I think that was a good area for a Democrat to highlight, since they have dramatically falling registration numbers. I question how good Remily would be as a legislator, mostly due to the infrastructure questions. I really felt a current Aberdeen City Council member should have been able to come better prepared with road solutions.

Burt Elliott – Burt invoked glass houses. I believe that was directed at Al, because Novstrup spends part of the year in Sioux Falls. Again, I think Burt is using a Republican situation that is not quite analogous. Overall I think Burt did good interacting with the audience, he always does. Burt is a great guy that people love to hear stories from. However he seemed to have the least to actually say about issues, and instead focused on his stories. That combined with his residency issues may hurt him getting votes from constituents that research the candidates.

Pat Hale – Hale mentioned his support for the minimum wage ballot issue. He urged everyone to vote for that on the ballot. Overall I would say Hale was overshadowed by the experience of everyone else participating in the forum. All of the other candidates either currently do or have served public office. That gave him a huge disadvantage when talking about certain issues. His main hope this election cycle is if the Democrats have a great GOTV effort going into Election Day.

Dan Kaiser – Dan did take a moment to speak about Elliott’s residency issue. He noted that when someone runs for office, that person signs a document under threat of perjury that they plan to stay at that residence for the foreseeable future. I looked on a nominating petition and here is part of what a candidate declares under oath: “I reside in the district from which I am a candidate.” Kaiser would recommend Elliott plead the fifth after signing that document and coming here and saying he is looking for a new residence. Moving on, I think Dan did great in this event. Kaiser had a great mixture of stances that happen to align with my political beliefs.

Notes and thoughts from the Brown County Democrats fundraiser last week

Last week the Brown County Democrats hosted a fundraiser at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen. Overall it was a pretty good event. There were a little over 40 in attendance (including the candidates); which is about double the size I expected. The Brown County Dem Chair Jennifer Slaight-Hansen did a good job setting the event up and trying to get people there.

Before going into the event I would like to make one side observation: I felt very young at this event. Being in my forties I would expect to see at least part of the crowd being younger than me. Yet that was not the case. This is not a Democrat problem either. I have also noticed it at Republican events (although to a lesser degree). But, if the Democrat Party really wants to make headway in this state they need to find a way to reach out to younger crowds and get them involved. I’m not sure what the answer is to the problem. I can only pass on the observation that young single people and young families were noticeably absent at this event (and many others I’ve attended). Without that bloc of voters becoming involved it may be near impossible for the Democrat Party to gain relevance in South Dakota again.

Each candidate was given a few minutes to speak. Here are my brief thoughts about each race represented and about each candidates speech. I apologize ahead of time for the fact this is a very long post.

Brown County Auditor – This is an office currently held by Democrat Maxine Fischer. The office is being challenged by Republican Tom Wanttie. I’ve spoken with Tom previously, and am not sure yet if he is an improvement over Fischer.

Maxine Fischer speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Maxine Fischer speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Maxine Fischer – Maxine kept her remarks very brief. She basically just wanted to thank everyone.

On a side-note, there were a lot of reports of confusion during the primary election this year about the new polling centers deployed in Brown County. I’ve heard from many senior citizens who simply didn’t vote because they weren’t sure where to go. I place most of the blame on this lack of educating the voters squarely upon Fischer’s shoulders. The actual new voting process worked great, but getting the news out about the changes didn’t seem to work well (if at all). Hopefully Fischer will fix this before the general election.

Brown County Commissioner – Full Disclosure. One of the Commissioners seeking re-election, Nancy Hansen, happens to be my mother-in-law. I typically try to avoid County level posts for that reason. But since this is such an interesting race I’ll have to change my personal policy.

Currently four of the five commissioners are Republican. Three of the five commissioners are up for re-election: Nancy Hansen (R), Mike Wiese (R), and Tom Fischbach (D). Both parties have three candidates in the race. This is a race I think the Democrats will likely pick up a seat. I’m not sure yet if they will take Hansen’s or Wiese’s seat.

Lois Liebig speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Lois Liebig speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Louis Liebig – Liebig is a retired postal worker and generally a nice guy. The slogan of his campaign is ‘no agenda’ and from talking with him I believe it. He does not seem to be running to fulfill a political agenda or to advance party politics. Instead he seems to want to serve as a commissioner in order to serve Brown County residents. Liebig did pick up on a general Democrat theme however in mentioning that his kids both live out-of-state because there is more money there.

Paul Dennert speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Paul Dennert speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Paul Dennert – Dennert is well-known in Brown County, having been an elected official here for many years. His name recognition will likely cause him to knock Hansen or Wiese out this fall. During his speech Dennert focused upon the fact he understands state and county funding from his previous experience. He also highlighted the fact he understands Brown County.

The main problem I have with his candidacy is that I feel he is running just to keep his political career going. This is especially highlighted by this statement Dennert said he “can’t give up the old habit of running for election”. I really wish he would give up that habit and let new faces step forward….

Tom Fischbach speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Tom Fischbach speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Tom Fischbach – Tom has been on the Commission for 24 years. He even noted that there were five Democrats on the Commission when he started, and now he is the only one left from his party. Fischbach kept his remarks very brief, mostly he just wanted to say he was trying to do a good job for everyone. His re-election should be easy. There is a small possibility that Dennert could knock Fischbach out of this race, but I find that an unlikely outcome.

District 2 State Representative –  This is a race to watch because one of the current District 2 Representatives, Brock Greenfield, has decided to switch over to the State Senate in order to knock the Democrat incumbent Chuck Welke out of office. Greenfield’s mom, Lana, is running as a Republican in his place. The other incumbent, Republican Burt Tulson, is also seeking re-election. It will be interesting to see if the voters of District 2 decide to stick with the Greenfield name, or go with a new Democrat Representative.

Natasha Noethlich speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Natasha Noethlich speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Natasha Noethlich – Noetlich is a newcomer to this race, but not to local politics. She has been on the Doland School Board and Township Board. She has also been very involved in 4-H. Most interesting about Noethlich though is that her and her husband started a first generation farm; something that is pretty rare nowadays. She highlighted the need for improved roads. But she was also the first speaker of the night to really highlight current SD Democrat talking points: Medicaid expansion and teacher pay. That would be a recurring theme most of the night. Noethlich seems willing to work hard for District 2, I’m not sure though if she will overcome the Greenfield name.

John Graham speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
John Graham speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

John Graham – Graham had very little to say. He opened by saying he came from the Village of Mansfield. He said the workers of this state have a lot of problems and that is why he wants to serve in Pierre. I don’t seen Graham gaining much traction in this race. If either of the Dems will defeat Lana Greenfield it will likely be Noethlich.

District 2 State Senate – This race is interesting because of Rep Greenfield’s decision to switch houses in order to take out incumbent Democrat Senator Chuck Welke. I know both candidates, and I feel it should be an interesting race; as long as both candidates actually give the race their full attention. So far I’ve heard a lot more campaign movement from Welke than from Greenfield.

Chuck Welke speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Chuck Welke speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Chuck Welke – Welke started out by saying that his 2012 win for the State Senate seat made the SDGOP unhappy (which I would agree with him). Chuck says there is “such an imbalance in Pierre” there needs to be a “competition of ideas”. Chuck’s line regarding competition of ideas would be picked up by most of the other candidates to speak. I think that is a smart move for all Democrat candidates.

Welke spoke about how proud he was of the work during the 2013 Education Summer Study. He noted all of the proposed legislation and resolutions from that Summer Study failed to pass during the 2014 legislative session. I wouldn’t say that is completely true. HCR 1001 did pass, but that only encouraged school districts to work with each other. But it was really HCR 1002 that I believe Welke was upset about. HCR 1002 passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. I wrote briefly about this resolution back in January. The main problem with this resolution is it seemed to be a way to shove more money at education. I know Welke disagrees with that assessment. But no matter who is right or wrong, I believe that is why the Senate failed to pass the resolution.

Chuck then went on about the future. For this summer Welke mentioned he is part of the Transportation Summer Study (a subgroup has some hearings everyone should attend). He took a moment to mention that SD should have expanded Medicaid. On education he stated the “State government hasn’t lived up to its obligation with education”. That line brought applause from the audience. He also noted that because of Pierre under-funding education it placed further burden upon the local taxpayers. He also called out Novstrup for taking the lead on raising property taxes on agriculture. I found that surprising since he is not in a race against Novstrup.

Finally Welke took a few moments to speak about the South Dakota legislature hoghousing bills to pass spending bills outside of the normal appropriations process. He noted this practice is unconstitutional and seemed to be a way for GOP leadership to pass pork barrel bills that didn’t make the normal appropriations process. I agree with him on both charges. It will be interesting to see if voters of District 2 care about the issue and agree with him.

This race is too close to call. Ideologically I agree more with Greenfield than with Welke. I just don’t know yet if it was smart for Greenfield to go after Welke. Welke is not an extreme liberal, in fact I would say he is quite moderate. It should be fun to watch this race.

District 3 State Representative – This is another race to watch. Since Al and David Novstrup decided to switch houses (David was term limited, Al wasn’t) it has left District 3 open to attack from Democrats. On Republican side Al Novstrup will join incumbent Dan Kaiser; and on the Democrat side Pat Hale and Burt Elliott are seeking to represent District 3.

Burt Elliot speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Burt Elliott speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Burt Elliott – Burt’s entry into this race mean’s Al Novstrup and Dan Kaiser have to work hard this year to get (re-)elected. Burt has a great amount of name recognition from his prior years of public service. He is also one of the nicest guys a person could ever meet. This previous summer I noted the Democrat booth at the Brown County Fair had very few candidates in attendance. But, even though he was not running for office Burt Elliott was there speaking with people and continuing to make friends. Personally I think he has had too long of a tenure as a public servant, but his name recognition and likability will be hard to overcome. Elliott did mention he wants to get back to Pierre and misses politics…

Elliott took a few shots at Al Novstrup. The most notable shot he took at Al was for HB 1168; a bill Al pushed through the legislature to increase regulation on Novstrup’s traveling competitors in the amusement ride industry. I agree with Elliott on this bill. It was pure crony protectionism from Novstrup to push this bill through. The bill in question put extra regulatory burden upon certain amusement ride vendors; yet at the same time it actually protected unscrupulous amusement ride vendors by creating a regulatory protective shield. This was a bad law and Elliott was right to call Al out on it.

I think this will be a close race between Elliott, Novstrup (Al), and Kaiser. At this time it is too hard to tell which of the two will be able to pick up a seat. The second Democrat candidate, Pat Hale, was unable to attend this event due for personal reasons having to do with his mother. Right now I don’t see Hale as a factor in this race.

District 3 State Senate – The other interesting race created by Al and David Novstrup swapping seats. David going after the Senate seat caused the Democrats a lot of excitement, he is a much easier candidate to take out of office than Al. Democrat Mark Remily beat out Angelia Schultz in the Primary to take on David this fall. I believe this race will be the true test of how red or blue Aberdeen really is.

Mark Remily speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Mark Remily speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Mark Remily – Mark is an interesting one to run for State Senate. In the primary election I thought he was too liberal to win. But his local name recognition helped him with the win. David Novstrup better take this race seriously. If the Democrats work hard enough they could win this seat.

Remily noted David is “not an incubment, but he is”. This noting the fact that David and his dad Al are switching seats, both with the name of Novstrup. That gives David an almost incubment-like status going into this race. Remily also said the swap by the Novstrups show there really isn’t term limits in South Dakota. To complete his talk on this topic he noted that District 3 needs to make a statement and get rid of both Novstrups. There was a cheer to this statement. He also noted Daugaard needs to be gotten rid of and urged people to support Wismer.

Remily didn’t spend much time speaking. Afterwards I spoke with him for a few minutes. He doesn’t really see himself as too liberal. He pointed out he was one of only two city council members that voted to keep the liquor license for a local Aberdeen laundromat. (I wish I had time to blog about that situation, it was a bad move by the city council to deny the liquor license renewal).

I personally still don’t like Remily in this race. But what matters is what the average District 3 voter thinks. Right now I would say David Novstrup has a slight advantage in this race. But if Remily works hard it could be a tough election for David.

Secretary of State – This is the race Democrats should put resources behind in winning. Before the party conventions I wrote about the state of the SOS race, and stand by what I wrote then. Fortunately Angelia Schultz decided to enter the SOS race for the Democrats (she had officially announced earlier the day of this event). I’ve noticed other political bloggers in the state are starting to take notice of her. That’s good. She will need as much attention as possible if she hopes to take on Krebs. She will also need financial backing from the SDDP; which unfortunately won’t likely be there. If Schultz can overcome the fundraising hurdle I believe she at least has a chance this fall. If not, Krebs will win by a landslide.

Angelia Schultz speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Angelia Schultz speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Angelia Schultz – Schultz said her primary race against Remily strengthened her as a candidate. I’ve heard that from a lot of people who run for office the first time (whether they won or not). Political campaigns are a lot more work than people think they are; and it can be truly overwhelming the amount of this things that have to be done and topics candidates have to suddenly understand.

Schultz feels her skill sets align well with the SOS office. In particular her program management experience will be of great use. In her past she worked in the Pentagon and with the White House. Schultz also mentioned her potential entry into the State Auditor’s race against Barnett. She feels such a move would have divided Aberdeen and instead looked for the race that better suited her experience. I believe that is partly true. But I also feel she understood that Barnett would be hard to beat in Aberdeen. If a candidate can’t even win in their own district it would be a bad start.

Schultz listed the many problems with the current SOS administration. I won’t list them here. They are well documented by many newspapers and blogs. She went on to say that a vote for Krebs would be voting for the continuation of the current SOS administration. Personally I think Krebs is a huge improvement over Gant. But I do believe it probably is time for the SOS office to be removed from the ruling party. Krebs is not Gant, but Krebs is definitely part of the establishment Republicans. Schultz right now seems to be the best way to change how the actual SOS office runs. She also says she can pull upon her experience to fix integrity issues in the SOS office.

At the core of her campaign Schultz said she will concentrate on impartiality, integrity, and voter access. I think those are winning issues. She also admits she is more of a moderate Democrat. It should be fun to watch this race. Hopefully Shultz will surprise everyone and make this one heckuva race.

South Dakota Governor – This is a race I just can’t get excited about. I still think Lowe would have been a better Democrat candidate to actually take Daugaard on. So, I will continue to support independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers.

Susan Wismer speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen
Susan Wismer speaking at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen

Susan Wismer – Before starting I will say one thing: Wismer did a pretty darn good job speaking at this event. In the past I felt she was meek and almost afraid to assert herself. During this event she seemed more outgoing and was actually able to connect with the audience. If she can keep that up I’ll maybe give her at least a slight chance in this race.

Wismer opened the event by saying “Aberdeen can do better than the Novstrups”. That was met with a very loud cheer. She may be not be in a legislative race, but it is obvious she wants the Novstrups to be gone from Pierre.

Wismer said her number one theme for her campaign will revolve around a ‘competition of ideas’. She contends that district gerrymandering made it very hard for Democrats in the legislature. But she said wins for Democrats are possible in the executive branch. Going on, she says twenty years serving to the right has been very damaging to South Dakota. Specifically she called out the 2010 budget that caused massive damage to South Dakota in an unnecessary fashion. I partly agree with her on this issue. During 2011 the Daugaard administration was able to have free-reign over ‘surpluss’ money that was caused by the massive budget cut. A good conservative governor would have maybe used that opportunity to cut taxes, instead of using it to feed favorite pork belly projects….

Wismer also hit on transparency. I feel this is an area she has been weak on, and was the night of this event as well. She seems to be focused more upon the transparency of Republicans; as opposed to general openness in government. I don’t feel she would be a true advocate of government transparency if elected.

Then she went on the usual talking points about Medicaid expansion and teacher pay being low. She basically implied the governor’s office likes to ignore any ideas coming from Democrats. Further, she noted that Daugaard has already been declining debates. Wismer brought up some things she doesn’t like about the Daugaard administration. But I don’t feel she went full-press like Lowe would have done. She may have been more outgoing at this event, but she will need to work on some true offense if she hopes to move forward in the race (and I’m not saying she needs to attack, just play some good offense).

Wismer mentioned the minimum wage initiative that will be on the ballot this fall. She says the Democrat voters need to reach out to those making minimum wage and swing the election with them. That might be hard to do. As I noted at the beginning of this post, most of those in attendance were far from young.. and also far from working minimum wage.

Finally Wismer mentioned she has been spoiled being an elected official in District 1. Dist 1 really only elects Democrats. She admitted that running for office there has involved little or no actual campaigning. Is a governor’s race the right time to see if she has true campaigning skills? I’m not so sure. For the Democrats sake they better hope she does have those skills.

PS. Yes, this was a long post. I probably should have split it into multiple parts. But after spending a week on vacation I’m simply too far behind on work and blogging to worry about that at this point.

District 3 will be one to watch this election season

district3
South Dakota Legislative District 3

District 3 is one of the legislative districts in South Dakota that has at least moderately competitive race in 2014. The state Senate seat not only has both major parties involved, there is a primary on the Democrat side. In the State House race there are two candidates from each of the two big parties going after both House seats. As the summer goes on I’ll likely focus more on this race (because I actually live in this district). Here is a brief summary of the candidates in this race. My opinions on these candidates may change as the season continues, this is just my thoughts on them now.

District 3 State Senator (1 Seat)

David Novstrup – Republican – David was term limited in this House this session. He decided to swap houses with his dad Al in order to keep serving in Pierre. I’ve spoken with a few local Democrats that were excited about David going after this seat. They feel this soft-spoken legislator will be much easier to take in an election this fall. The key for David may be to take stances on issues, something I’m not sure he will do. But I do know he plans to work hard and knock on doors; that move may counter the over-confidence of Democrats and give David a win in the state Senate.

Mark Remily – Democrat – This is the only candidate in both races that I really don’t want in Pierre. I would say Remily is too liberal for District 3. Yes, Aberdeen is somewhat of a “blue” area of the state; but that doesn’t mean this district is as far left liberal as Remily appears to be. His time on the Aberdeen City Council has not given confidence that he would make a good legislator. And the fact he was going to ‘phone in’ his city council meetings if elected to Pierre makes me question his commitment to the City Council. I say the voters make it simple for him to decide which office he wants, and reject him for the state Senate seat.

Angelia Schultz – Democrat – This is an interesting entry into the race. So far all I really know about her is that she is a mother, teacher, veteran, and published author. Looking through her social media posts she appears to be less partisan than Remily and willing to work with all party’s in Pierre to get things done. She may be the candidate for Democrats to focus on to represent them this fall. If I am able to see Schultz at an even before June 3 I’ll be sure to do a post on her.

Early Thoughts – Even though David is not truly an incumbent I will give him a slight incumbency advantage in this race because of his time in the House and his dad having this seat before. But he will have to work hard to keep that advantage. In the Democrat primary I hope the voters look at Remily and decide he is just a little too far left with his rhetoric for District 3. What little I’ve seen of Schultz makes her look more likely to tackle problems; as opposed to Remily who appears to tout partisan rhetoric. But either Democrat could be trouble for David if they work hard after the June 3 primary.

District 3 State Representative (2 Seats)

Daniel Kaiser – Republican – Dan is the only actual incumbent in this race. He is also my candidate of choice due to his small government voting record. He is also worthy of noting because he lets constituents know every vote he makes and why on his Facebook page. I think other legislatures should look at his transparency and take similar steps. Finally he does something many (most) legislatures seem not to do: he reads the bills he is voting on and researches areas he is unsure of. Dan was the only to discover the SD Legislature was voting on TPP and speak against it (unfortunately the legislature passed the resolution anyways).

Al Novstrup – Republican – Al just swapped over from the Senate so his son David could continue his public service in Pierre. Al will be a tough one to beat in this race. He is well-liked and respected in this area. Attacks on Al will be hard for the Democrats; he has the ability to take an attack and turn it around in a way that makes the attackers look foolish. Plus, he shares an almost incumbent-like advantage with David just because of his last name and the fact this father/son duo have been on the ballot so many years.

Burt Elliott – Democrat – Burt is an interesting entry into the race. On the Democrat side I would give him the best chances of unseating one of the Republicans. Burt is well-liked in this area and has a record of public service to lean on. Dan and Al are going to have to work hard to keep Burt from gaining one of the two state House seats. He has stated he is entering this race to take back the House seat he held from 2001-2009.

Pat Hale – Democrat – Pat has a resume that includes years of business experience, participating in various boards, and an economics degree. This retired accounting supervisor has stated he wants to work for the people of District 3, and not for any personal agenda. I don’t know much about Hale beyond that.

Early Thoughts – I think this will be an interesting race. Novstrup and Elliott have slight name recognition advantages in this race. But I think this race will be competitive enough that none of the candidates are a “guaranteed win”. All four candidates are going to have to work hard and reach out to every voter. It is too early for me to even speculate as to who I think will win at this time.

Was Mark Remily’s attack on Dan Kaiser due to lack of research, or just another attack on liberty-loving Representatives

deelight_Magnifying_GlassLast week the Aberdeen American News published the following public opinion from Aberdeen City Councilman Mark Remily:

Public Voice: Kaiser’s position on gays is hateful

2013-06-20 23:07 -0500

“Today, we still have legal discrimination against homosexuals, with many states forbidding legal civil marriage. But progress continues and we have come a long way toward ensuring the equal rights for ‘all’ people.”

Very gracious words, authored by well-respected associate professor of education at NSU Alan Neville and published in the Aberdeen American News on June 18. With that said, I am taking notes on District 3 South Dakota Rep. Dan Kaiser.

In the American News on June 15 (“Legislature split over protection orders for same sex abuses”), columnist Bob Mercer refers to Senate Bill 147, which defines family members covered by domestic abuse protection orders. Its original Senate version was fair. Then it went to the House. There, Kaiser offered his amendment to change the wording to cover only those in domestic abuse be of the opposite sex.

I cannot find the words to describe how angry I am at this hateful position by a person supposedly representing the people of District 3. Kaiser is saying that if you’re gay or lesbian you have no right to be protected by law enforcement. And this despicable legislator is an Aberdeen Police officer. How hypocritical is that?

In my opinion, Dan Kaiser as an elected official is a crime. Someone in District 3 needs to step up and run against this discriminating individual and get him gone from South Dakota politics forever.

Mark Remily

Aberdeen City Council

As an Aberdeen resident I find it disheartening that Mr Remily relies upon one sentence in a newspaper to determine that Representative Kaiser is a “Despicable legislator”. The article Mr Remily refers to can be read here.

Mr Remily apparently skimmed the original article too quickly. He did not notice it was mentioned the Senate version was changed when it hit the House Judiciary Committee where the major word changes had happened. The passed Senate version of SB147 had the following language:

(2)(c)    Persons who are or have been in a dating relationship with each other;

(5)    “Dating relationship,” any social relationship between the persons of a romantic or sexual nature. The term does not include any platonic, casual relationship in a business or social context.

After Rep. Anne Hajek amended the bill in the House Judiciary Committee the bill removed section 5 defining “dating relationship” changed (2)(c) to as follows:

(c)    Persons who are or have been living in the same household;

This amendment in the House Judiciary Committee seems to have completely undone the very intent of SB147. According to testimony provided by Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargel it is important to pass SB147 so the definition of domestic violence can be narrowed and simplified for use by police officers. Mr Vargel goes on to say that domestic violence cases have mandatory arrests and potential protection orders issues. However as the law currently stands anyone that lives together can be charged with “domestic violence”. This could mean an officer would have to make an arrest when college roommates fight.

Representative Kaiser provided testimony before the whole house that mirrored what Mr Vargel had said. Basically it was important to narrow the scope of domestic violence so police officers were not forced by law to make an arrest when they knew it wasn’t really ‘domestic’. The amendment offered by Rep Hajek and passed in committee actually changed the language in the bill to “Persons who are or have been living in the same household”. Now the bill was in a state that essentially undid what was done before.

So far I have added very little information to Mr Mercers original article. However here is where Aberdeen City Councilman Mark Remily should have done more research.

An amendment was placed before the house to change the bills original language back to that which Dan Kaiser (and many others) had co-sponsored. It turns out the Senate did not in fact introduce the bill that was planned. That amendment to return the originally indented language did not pass. Rep Kaiser then added language to an amendment he knew would stop the bill during the House/Senate bill reconciliation process. Rep Kaiser did not add “of the opposite sex” because he is anti-gay; he did so because he knew such language would cause problems.

Representative Kaiser then spoke against the “of the opposite sex” amendment before the conference committee because it was unfair. The committee agreed and removed the amendment. However the committee would not accept Kaisers proposal to return the bill to its originally intended state. The bill died when an agreement could not be reached.

I believe Representative Kaiser should be commended for taking the necessary steps to stop a bill that was not going to work as advertised. Had Councilman Remily done even a little research on the LRC website he would have known that Mr Kaiser did not take any actions that were ‘anti-gay’ or discriminatory. Instead Rep Kaiser was trying to return the bill to a state that would actually help law enforcement by narrowing the definition of domestic violence. I only hope that Councilman Remily researches Aberdeen City Council matters better than he does legislation in Pierre.

PS. I need to check Facebook every day. Representative Kaiser actually released a statement on Remily’s letter. It would have saved me a lot of research (time spend listening to legislative audio files) had I seen his statement before writing this post. Here is Rep Kaisers statement from Facebook:

What a morning, if you have not read the Aberdeen American News Public voice, I would encourage you to do so. Mark Remily Aberdeen city council (as identified in the paper) makes some wild accusations about me, below are the facts

We must all understand how domestic violence may affect you and your family. The way the law is writing currently if you have ever lived with someone (college roommate, basic training room mate) it qualifies as a domestic. So if you lived with someone ten years ago and you get into an argument and you push your roommate, now as the law is, Law Enforcement MUST (they cannot use discretion,, if they did they would be breaking the law) arrest you. So you go to jail (career may be over, you lose your gun rights etc.)

After reading the article I’m disappointed in Mark Remily’s mistaken idea of how the legislative process works. First of all, Mark states (Senate bill 147) “its original senate version was fair”. But Mark never cites I was a Co-Sponsor of the bill! I sponsored this bill because in its original fair state it removed the wording of people who have lived together and replaced it with people in a intimate relationship. Now when the bill went to the Senate, the Senate removed the new wording and put in the old wording where law enforcement must arrest college roommates back into the bill.

When the bill came to the House, I tried to pass an amendment to restore the bill to its original Fair state. My amendment failed. I knew if I did pass an amendment the bill would have to go to conference committee and be voted on again, so in order to protect college roommates and people who went to basic training from arrest, I added the amendment to change the wording to opposite sex. It passed.

I testified in conference committee about how the opposite sex bill was unfair and based on my testimony the amendment was taken out. I attempted one last time to amend the bill to its original “fair” state. It did not pass and because the committee could not come to an agreement the bill died.

Anyone who knows me knows I want all people to have protection under the law. I also do not want people wrongfully arrested because the state legislature cannot agree on terminology of a simple bill. I’m happy to go into further detail of domestic law and (in my opinion) a somewhat vague assault law, if you would like more information please email me at kaiser4house@yahoo.com or shot me a Facebook email.

Thank you
Dan Kaiser

I think this response from a local Aberdeen area resident on Facebook is also worthy of mention:

MR. Remily I was greatly disappointed and frankly very offended by your letter to the editor in yesterday’s American News where you said “I cannot find the words to describe how angry I am at this hateful position by a person supposedly representing the people of district 3”. Rep Kaiser’s position is not in the least bit hateful to ANYONE. Yesterday you managed to take Rep. Kaiser’s amendment WAY out of context, as well as hurting your ability to do your job as a city councilman, by damaging your working relations with Rep. Kaiser and his ally’s. I respectfully demand that you publicly apologize to Rep. Kaiser and the citizens of Aberdeen for greatly misrepresenting the truth.

Drew Dennert

I think Mr Dennert will be disappointed. It is unlikely Remily will apologize. That would mean he would have to admit either:

  1. He is not good at researching (making him look like a bad city councilman)
  2. He was looking for an opportunity to attack an outspoken friend of liberty (and also someone looking to take Kaisers job next eleciton)