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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

Posted May 10

American News, Aberdeen, May 9

Law enforcement and a job well done

Bad news is rarely convenient. Crime doesn't always happen during bankers' hours, and fires don't wait until the sun comes up.

Today, we applaud law enforcement responders to last week's 14-hour chase and standoff and officer-involved shooting in McCook County.

Authorities worked an intense, lengthy shift under extreme circumstances. They were a model of good police work.

The incident started at about 1:30 a.m. May 3. A McCook County deputy — whose name was not released — tried to pull over a Ford Mustang for a traffic-related offense. The suspect drove off, initiating a pursuit. Gunfire was exchanged and the deputy was shot in the arm.

A manhunt began in the wee hours of the morning, leading to a standoff with the suspect, Matthew Rumbolz, 37, of Montrose. More than 12 hours later, Rumbolz was taken into custody about 3:30 p.m. without incident.

This all could have been much, much worse, but for law enforcement's handling of the event.

Officials had to mobilize quickly, likely with not a lot of information. They had to stay focused on the task at hand knowing that one of their brothers was injured. They had to get word out fast to the media, to schools, to other law agencies, to keep folks on high alert.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader spoke with neighbor Karen Smith, who lives in the area of the incident. She said a county sheriff came to her door at 3 a.m. to apprise her of the situation, and give her options to stay in with the doors locked or leave for safety.

All this while a shooting suspect was on the loose; officials had to stay focused and diligent.

A standoff with an armed suspect can be a tedious, stressful event. From all reports, local and state authorities managed the incident properly, leading to a peaceful resolution — impressive, given that the man in custody is accused of shooting one of their own.

During the event, authorities set up a command center and offered near-hourly briefings to media with updated information. In a situation like this, there might not be a whole heck of a lot to report. But creating a planned, regular media availability keeps police from being bogged down in questions, and puts the community's well-being and security above all else.

We must also applaud the media — the Argus Leader and Sioux Falls broadcast stations — who kept citizens in Madison and around the state up to date beginning in the early-morning hours. By using all available resources, including social media, South Dakota was kept well-informed.

We have been there, at those late-night police incidents, and know that covering them is not an easy task. Even local journalists are sometimes in harm's way, but that is part of the risk in keeping our citizens up to date.

One citizen certainly noticed; we saw media outlets tweeting to a good Samaritan who brought Diet Coke for journalists covering the standoff.

Not every event will end this way: the deputy who was shot is recovering; the suspect is taken into custody; with only minor inconveniences, citizens were able to safely go about their days. Everyone went back home to their families.

But in this case, good work led to good results.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, May 7

It doesn't have to be us vs. them

"I resent putting my money on a road to service city folks. Let the city go ahead and fix it for their people."

George Ferebee

Pennington County Commissioner

While the statement above likely won't be etched into any marble monuments, it nonetheless reveals a state of mind as well as a lack of knowledge about the nature of property-tax collections that should alarm all county residents — even those who are not "city folks."

Ferebee, a retired rural Hill City resident, made his divisive comments Tuesday while the Pennington County Commission considered a proposal to spend $98,000 to resurface a section of road on South Valley Drive that happens to take travelers to and from Rapid City.

Thomas Wilsey, the county highway superintendent, said at the meeting the road is in need of repairs and "we can save money by doing it now."

Ferebee, known for his combative nature, said he would rather see the asphalt removed than fix a road that benefits "city folks," a clear reference to Rapid City. He and Mark DiSanto, a longtime Rapid City resident who thinks he knows better than Wilsey about what roads need to be repaired next, voted against what many would consider a routine matter. Nonetheless, it passed on a 3-2 vote.

Ferebee's "my money" and "their people" references are troubling on a couple of counts.

First, the obvious one: Rapid City's approximately 70,000 residents do live in Pennington County, which has a population of around 100,000. In addition, property owners in Rapid City send about 30 percent of the property tax they pay to the county, which makes the city a significant contributor to its budget.

But more important than his apparent lack of knowledge about tax collections is Ferebee's attitude toward those he calls "city folks," a reference that oozes with disdain for the very people whose taxes also pave the streets he drives on and are now being used to pay off millions of dollars in bonds the county used to finance its numerous building projects.

Ferebee's comments give voice to the destructive us-versus-them mentality so prevalent in politics today. While this is difficult enough to stomach on the national level, it has the potential to be quite harmful locally as it deters progress by undermining thoughtful growth that, among other things, can increase property values and thus property-tax collections that South Dakota is so dependent upon.

Instead of advocating tearing up a road that links the county and city, local elected officials need to build bridges through the process of collaboration and cooperation with the goal of improving our local economy and maximizing the public investment fueled by taxpayers.

This can only be done, however, if a commitment is made by the Rapid City Council and the Pennington County Commission to meet regularly to discuss and plan for a future that benefits rural and urban residents, which is a fine line in an area that has far more in common than Ferebee apparently recognizes.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, May 4

Lake manager is worth a second look

Perhaps the only flaw in a recently proposed lake manager position in Mitchell was its name.

On Monday, the Mitchell City Council narrowly defeated a proposal to create a lake manager job at a salary of approximately $53,000. Before the 5-3 vote against the plan, Councilman Mel Olson suggested the public opposed the proposal, citing a belief that "none" of the many lakes in Minnesota have lake managers.

Maybe those sites don't have "lake managers," but any lake on public land surely has someone or a group managing it in some capacity. But what's most important to consider here is what's done in Minnesota isn't necessarily right for Mitchell, South Dakota.

Consider this: the lake manager post would add nothing to the city budget. Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell told the City Council the new post would be funded by not filling a vacant $39,000 park specialist position, supporting the difference with available funds within the Lake Mitchell Campground budget.

Not sold yet? Now consider that the department has been thrust into serving as support staff for two huge projects approved by the City Council: the $8 million indoor aquatic center and a $73,000 preliminary restoration study for Lake Mitchell.

Regarding the former, the department intends to add no full-time staff to support the aquatic center. As far as the latter, we suspect the folks on the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee who have volunteered the last two years carefully analyzing the need for a lake restoration plan would argue a person to help facilitate and oversee that project from the city's perspective would be of great value.

Not to mention the "lake manager" would also help manage the Lake Mitchell Campground, work on acquiring grants to improve bike and hiking trails and improve other recreation opportunities that improve our quality of life.

If Mitchell wants to improve one of its greatest assets — one that has become a growing problem due to an abundance of algae each summer — we will need all hands on deck. Call it whatever you want, but a lake manager post would help achieve the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee's dream of a better lake while helping ease the burden placed on other Parks and Recreation Department employees who continue to take on task after task.

We're hoping the council sees this proposal one more time, because with the dedication to grant writing a lake manager could provide, the city could find itself spending a dime on the position in order to save a buck.

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