Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials
Posted March 15
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, March 9
No need for guns at state Capitol
In 1873, Dakota Territory Treasurer Edwin Stanton McCook was shot to death during a meeting at the territorial capitol in Yankton. McCook, described as an imposing figure, likely knew how to handle a gun. He was a Union general during the Civil War before moving west where nearly everyone was armed.
But during a heated debate about corruption and politics in a packed meeting room no one could stop a banker named Peter Wintermute from firing his handgun three times and killing one of the territory's most prominent men.
Now 143 years later, a majority of South Dakota lawmakers believe they can do what McCook and others at the meeting couldn't do that day — shoot someone to save a life.
After the Senate voted 19-15 this week to approve a bill that allows lawmakers and others to bring handguns into the state Capitol building, Neal Tapio, a Republican from Watertown, said the legislation is needed in this "dangerous, dangerous world" and that lawmakers "need to have some level of protection."
House Bill 1156 now awaits Gov. Daugaard's signature. It allows those with an enhanced gun permit, which can be obtained after two days of training, to bring concealed weapons to the floor of the Legislature and presumably to the gallery where spectators sit and look down on the lawmaking process.
This comes in the wake of complaints about Capitol security even though we can't think of any incidents in recent history where it was reported that a lawmaker felt his or her life was threatened. However, that could change if dozens of people are armed in a chamber where passions can run hot as they did on the day when a fight between McCook and Wintermute turned into a deadly affair.
Is a place packed with armed lawmakers and spectators any less dangerous than whatever inspires fear in Sen. Tapio? Can any of these lawmakers promise their gun won't accidentally discharge and wound or kill a student, a child, a mother, a father or another innocent bystander? Can they even promise they will hit their intended target?
Fortunately, Gov. Daugaard has already stated his intention to veto the bill and it looks like it will be difficult for lawmakers to override it, which no doubt will cause some consternation for legislators who apparently fear for their life while in Pierre.
If that is the case and lawmakers like Tapio remain sincerely concerned about their personal safety while working in the state Capitol building, we suggest they follow a well-established system that works well at courthouses across the state and nation — appropriate funds to purchase metal detectors that are placed at entrances to the Capitol and are manned by law enforcement.
If they choose to not pursue a security system that history has shown works well, it will become apparent that HB 1156 is about politics rather than public safety.
American News, Aberdeen, March 15
Sisseton station unites community around radio
KXSW is the very definition of a "community radio" station: noncommercial, volunteer-powered and freeform.
But the designation is literal for the Roberts County frequency — and the people behind it. Broadcasting from the Sisseton Wahpeton College campus, KXSW helps bring a community together, on both sides of the microphone.
Station manager Tom Wilson has been on air since KXSW switched on in 2011. Under his guidance, the station has delivered an eclectic mix of rock, oldies, country, current hits and Native American music to the region.
More importantly, Wilson has given a platform to people who might not have another outlet.
In a story last week in the American News, reporter Shannon Marvel told of Sisseton High School junior Sam Williams, who has been volunteering at KXSW for four years.
"It's really affected my life in a positive way," Williams said. "It's kept me out of trouble, it's kept me busy and it's something I love to do."
Wilson points to the show "Getting Real With Life on the Rez" as a particularly meaningful place for audiences to stop by — on the dial and in person.
Sure online streaming, satellite services and personalized playlists have taken over from the transistor radio days, but they still don't compare to the immediacy and reach a radio tower has over a community. KXSW, serving the Lake Traverse Reservation area, can give young people a sense of purpose and belonging, and teach them critical skills they can use through life.
The power of conversation and communication. Technical know-how. Problem-solving and trouble-shooting. Creating on the fly. Developing an appreciation for music, language and storytelling.
Radio can be an outlet for kids' creativity and angst, fears and desire — and fuel their desire to rock out with their friends.
Wilson said he would like more young people to volunteer at the station, but says, "it's like the community is scared to be on the radio."
We can understand that fear.
But community radio, unlike commercial radio, is meant to be personal; the deejay isn't talking to the microphone, but talking to friends, families and neighbors. The informal nature is part of the charm; waiting to hear what the deejay does or says next can be thrilling or surprising or entertaining. And if someone makes a mistake, it can be easily laughed off, and is forgotten as quickly as the next record starts.
Wilson invites anyone — yes, anyone — to get involved with KXSW community radio. Give him a call at 605-698-3778.
And he invites anyone to listen to KXSW 89.9 FM. If you can't quite get it on your radio dial, listen anytime online from kxswreznet.com.
The Daily Republic, Mitchell, March 13
Transparency will be driving force behind Lake Mitchell restoration
It's Sunshine Week across the nation, a time to shine a light on government openness, and an even brighter light on the absence of transparency. And Sunshine Week couldn't have come at a better time for Mitchell.
Last week marked the kickoff of the Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC) and Technical Advisory Team (TAT) meetings as part of a $73,725 preliminary study to improve the water quality at algae-ridden Lake Mitchell. But the meetings were held behind closed doors.
When The Daily Republic asked about the meetings, we were told the initial meetings would be held privately and a recap would be given during Tuesday's Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee meeting. What's concerning, however, is that the taxpayer-funded project cannot be properly accessed by those same taxpayers.
According to an email provided by Fyra Engineering to the city of Mitchell that was handed out at a November Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee meeting, the WAC is meant to "Help educate and update the community about the project." But when no agenda is made public and the meeting is held behind closed doors, how can the public be educated about the project they themselves paid for?
The Lake Mitchell restoration project will have trouble being successful if the public isn't given every opportunity to be involved, particularly since the second and third phases of the restoration haven't been approved by the City Council. If the public isn't allowed to participate in meetings, it could be challenging to convince already skeptical Mitchell residents to commit city funds to a large-scale restoration effort.
We believe the city is taking a long-awaited step in the right direction regarding the cleanup of Lake Mitchell, and we hope the project moves forward with great success. But that success won't come without the city's support.
We hope the rest of the WAC and TAT meetings are public moving forward, and we encourage Fyra Engineering to share as many relevant details as possible throughout the initial phase of the restoration process. The more transparency there is on the project, the more likely it is that better days are yet to come for Lake Mitchell.