It wasn’t that hot last weekend in Pierre, but Josie Slaathuag’s March for Science speech boosted the temp a little. The Pierre Riggs junior and aspiring marine biologist would like the Trump regime to get real and fight climate change so she still has some marine biology to study when she graduates. She made this speech at last week’s March for Science in Pierre—video courtesy of her mom Missy, via Facebook:
South Dakota’s senior state government reporter, Bob Mercer, came to Aberdeen Friday to receive the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Distinguished Service Award. Mercer took time after the lunchtime ceremony to give this blog an extensive interview about journalism, Janklow, and the health scare that knocked him off the front page for a few weeks last winter. Here’s Part 1 (downloadable to your favorite device for listening later!), in which Mercer talks about the first half of his career: his path from Mrs. Pfau’s high school classroom in Wisconsin to papers in Wyoming and South Dakota. He talks about the people he worked with and the sequence of events that led him to be one of the few remaining reporters dedicated to covering state government in Pierre.
Stay tuned for Part 2, in which Mercer talks about his four years as Governor Bill Janklow’s press secretary.
Among the do-nothing puffery from the White House this week is Donald Trump’s executive order telling Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to review education policies and get rid of anything that doesn’t comply with federal law.
Hmm… groundbreaking, or simply restating the status quo?
In an executive order, Trump granted DeVos authority to get rid of K-12 education regulations that don’t comport with federal law. A top U.S. Education Department official admitted, however, that DeVos already has this authority.
…[DeVos advisor Rob] Goad said Wednesday’s executive order “puts an end to this overreach,” giving DeVos the power “to modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law,” though he admitted that she is already empowered to do that [Greg Toppo, “Trump Orders DeVos to Get Rid of ‘Overreaching Mandates’ in Schools,” USA Today, 2017.04.26].
Trump’s order that the Department of Education follow federal law suggests another Trumpian governing philosophy: the rule of law is subordinate to the rule of man, so Trump’s people should follow the law only when Trump tells them to.
Michael (Mike) Joseph Myers was a fighter, a rabble rouser, and provocateur, an endless font of restless, creative energy, a force of nature, a husband, and our dad. He had a hard knock life early on but those experiences forged a steely will to succeed, thrive, and prove to the world that he was a man to be reckoned with.
Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1936, our dad, Mike, started out young making a name for himself. He was an altar boy, a golden gloves boxing champion, and a sailor in the Navy, all before the age of 17. Mike spent the end of his teenage years peeling potatoes aboard a battleship all around Asia as the Korean War came to a close.
He attended South Dakota State on the GI bill for his first couple of years, transferring to the Business School and graduating from the University of South Dakota (USD) and began his first career as a photojournalist for the Argus Leader and then the Sioux City Journal. He married the beautiful Mary Ellen Schaefer (of Montrose, South Dakota) on July 14, 1962.
After starting a family, three children by 1965 (Mary Beth, Helen, and Matthew), the family moved to Vermillion, South Dakota, in order to pursue Mike’s law degree at USD. He was working full-time as a journalist, attending grad classes at night, and was basically living out of his red Datsun 240z. Graduating with Honors, Mike became a professor at USD, loving every minute of it, and adding Nicholas and Anne to the growing family.
Mike began his biggest career journey as Legal Counsel for St. Joseph’s
Place of Birth: Sioux Falls, SD Death: April 26, 2017
Place of Death: Minneapolis, MN
Hospital in Sioux City, eventually becoming CEO and overseeing the merger of St. Joseph and St. Vincent hospitals into Marian Health Center (now Mercy Sioux City). During this time, our family were proud members of Blessed Sacrament parish, who supported our family so lovingly when we had a house fire in 1975. While we flourished in Sioux City, we added Michael and Connor to the family, to round out the crew of seven children.
Mike was a high-flier throughout his never-ending career: CEO of Mayo-St. Mary’s Hospital and a Mayo Trustee, Rochester, Minnesota; CEO of Fairview Riverside Medical Center, Minneapolis, and COO, Mercy Medical Center, Sioux City, Iowa, and Board Director of Minnesota Blue Cross/Blue Shield. He authored The Mayo Clinic and Blue Eyes, and Railroaded: Mayo, Imminent Domain and the Unclean Politics of Clean Coal, talk-radio host for The Elder Law Forum, and was a 2015 Candidate for Governor/Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota. As things often do, Mike rounded back to USD as a professor at the USD School of Law teaching Elder Law and Health Law & Policy, his favorite job by far.
Most recently, our dad moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul and was enjoying life to the fullest. He lived in a hipster neighborhood with walking paths and views of Lake Calhoun, he attended weekly spinning classes, ate at great restaurants, practiced yoga and visited local Zen centers, and most importantly, our family spent time with each other.
Mike was the husband to Mary Ellen (Schaefer) Myers, father to Mary Beth Myers, Helen Myers, Matthew Myers, Nicholas Myers, Anne (Myers) Shankula, Michael S. Myers and Connor Myers, grandfather to four beautiful grandchildren, and brother to four sisters: Barbara (Myers) Stich, Patty (Myers) Wuebben, Sally Myers, and Connie (Myers) Marr-Presley.
Our dad was a hard worker, a provider, a friend, a husband, a teacher, an entertainer, a fighter, and the perfect example of living life fully without boundaries. He died peacefully from natural causes, in own his modern apartment, in his sleep. He was 80 years young. R.I.P. dad.
Lastly, Mike’s most current radio show, Adventures in Aging, is airing four more episodes and can be heard on twincitieswellnessradio.com/content/all/adventuresofaging.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that you please make a donation to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or a charity of your choice.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at The Cathedral of Saint Joseph (523 N. Duluth Ave, Sioux Falls, SD, 57104) on Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 10:00AM. Reception will follow in the lower level of the Cathedral. Interment will be 1:45PM Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery in Montrose, South Dakota. Rude’s Funeral Home, Brookings, SD is assisting the family with the arrangements.
Trump’s “plan” to bring back coal jobs by rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations is woefully misguided:
If you’ve not been paying attention, coal has been taking a tumble recently. In America, its use fell by 30 percent between 2011 and 2016. The new analysis of what accounts for that slump makes for interesting reading: the Columbia team attributes around half of coal’s decline to the affordability of natural gas, 26 percent to reduced electricity demand, and 18 percent to surging renewables.
The Trump administration has strenuously argued that President Obama introduced rules that placed unnecessary burdens on the burning of coal. The study does indeed identify 10 regulations introduced under the Obama administration—from the notorious Clean Power Plan to more obscure Effluent Guidelines—that will have dampened the sector. But it also finds that they would account for just a 3.5 percent decline in coal. And that’s an upper estimate that assumes all 10 rules had an additive effect on the industry [Jamie Condliffe, “Here’s Why Trump’s Plan to Save the Coal Industry is Doomed,” MIT Technology Review, 2017.04.27].
Meanwhile, local wind company Prevailing Winds board member Erik Johnson says his industry is on the upswing:
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are now 374,000 American jobs in solar energy and 102,000 jobs in wind energy across the country. For comparison, 160,000 Americans currently work in coal, 360,000 in natural gas and 515,000 in oil.
If you look at employment on a per capita basis, North Dakota and South Dakota surprisingly come out on top for jobs in wind. In North Dakota, 4.3 out of every 1,000 jobs are in wind energy and South Dakota has 3.6 out of every 1,000 jobs in wind energy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine service technician is the fastest growing job in the U.S., with median pay of $51,000 per year, so we could push our jobs number much higher in the next few years, with just the projects that are currently proposed [Erik Johnson, “Wind Benefits Are Real and Growing,” letter to the editor, that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.04.27].
The U.S. economy grew by just 0.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report from the Commerce Department. That’s below market expectations, and indicates the economy grew at the slowest pace in three years.
Weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling. Employment costs rose 0.8 percent in the first quarter.
This “advance” estimate showed the U.S. economy with its slowest growth since the first quarter of 2014. The GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2016 was 2.1 percent [Laurel Wamsley, “GDP Grew Just 0.7 Percent in First Quarter of 2017,” NPR: The Two-Way, 2017.04.28].
Donald Trump is also making inflation worse than Barack Obama did:
The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures the prices paid for goods and services purchased by consumers, increased 2.6 percent in the first quarter. That’s compared with an increase of 2.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 [Wamsley, 2017.04.28].
Picking a new executive director requires no constitutional changes.
Hawks has already submitted her résumé for the job by running a statewide Congressional campaign that was at least as respectable as any campaigning done by the state party in 2016.
Everyone on the Central Committee and in the South Dakota Democratic Party places the common good of the party and South Dakota above any personal consideration of minor issues like who gets to have which title.
I’m sure readers can add to that list of dangers, Trump-inspired or otherwise. Electing a South Dakota Democrat to Congress to help retake the House and stop the blindly destructive Trump agenda, as well as electing Democrats as Governor, Attorney General, and legislators to use all the tools available to our state government to resist Trump’s predations on the common wealth, should be the guiding theme of every decision South Dakota Democrats make at their Central Committee meeting tomorrow and every decision our party chair, staff, and volunteers make in the coming eighteen months.
My sponsors at the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum have landed an interesting speaker for Friday’s luncheon. Addressing all interested listeners at noon at the Sioux Falls VFW will be Judge Tim Bjorkman, who will offer “A Judicial Perspective on Mass Imprisonment: Its Profound Impact on South Dakota’s Social, Cultural, and Economic Well Being.”
Judge Bjorkman serves the First Judicial Circuit, which runs along the Missouri from Buffalo County to Union County and reaches up to Hanson and McCook counties. He comes highly recommended by a First Circuit native and Governor’s chief of staff Tony Venhuizen, who clerked for Judge Bjorkman:
…any replacement for Bjorkman will be stepping into the shoes of a very thoughtful judge, said Venhuizen, who served as Bjorkman’s law clerk in 2008 and 2009.
“He’s the type of guy you’d want as a judge,” Venhuizen said. “He’s very thoughtful and very interested in doing the right thing” [Jake Shama, “Mitchell, Yankton Judges to Retire,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2017.03.21].
Venhuizen was responding to Judge Bjorkman’s announcement in March that he will retire from the bench come July.
To Steven Youmans, a 21-year-old man who admitted to consuming alcohol and testing positive for marijuana while on probation: “When I look at the pre-sentence report, I see that you lied to me when you stood before me about your marijuana abuse. I don’t take offense myself as a person, but for the system of justice that governs … you offended that system when you lied.”
…To Patricia Erler, a 61-year-old woman who admitted to receiving approximately $2,000 in fraudulent unemployment funds: “I’m torn, Ms. Erler, because of the insidious nature of fraud. It’s hard to detect. It’s a blight on our society, frankly, and there seems to be an increasing disrespect for money that comes from the government. There needs to be a clear message, in my view, that it won’t be treated lightly.”
To Loren Mead, a 19-year-old man who admitted to drinking alcohol while on probation: “Every time that you appear in front of the court, any sympathy that your own personal history might generate is less and less. He didn’t set any beer in front of you or make you drink or cause you to skip out on your treatment program. Those were all choices you made, weren’t they? That’s really what life is all about. Sometimes to be an adult man or woman is about accepting the moral responsibility for our own actions and not looking for someone else to blame” [“Quotes from the Courtroom,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2010.12.28].
Bjorkman said he didn’t initially plan to attach words of wisdom to his sentences. It just happened naturally as a byproduct of his analysis of pre-sentence reports, which contain information on the criminal’s family, education and substance-abuse history. Bjorkman said the reports indicate a “disintegration” of the family structure.
“The breakdown of the family is the most powerful component,” he said. “Probably 85 percent of the people who stand in front of me on a felony sentencing grew up without a father in the home or grew up with an alcoholic, drug-addicted or abusive father. Usually, two of those three exist.”
Heather Halverson, chair of the Minnehaha County Democratic Party, said she felt the efforts to elect a new chair nearly half way through Tornberg’s term seemed “sudden.” Despite that, she said she would listen to arguments on both sides and decide how to vote on Saturday.
“If it seems like something that might help the party move forward, then I might vote to support it,” Halverson said. “But if it’s too much of an upheaval, I’m not sure I can vote for that.”
Jeff Barth, who challenged Tornberg for her position in 2014, said he wouldn’t be in attendance at the meetings Saturday but felt the effort to oust the party head was being brought in poor taste.
Commissioner Barth usually chooses words sharply, but “last second” doesn’t quite capture what’s happening here. A “last-second” change in this case might be right before the 2018 election, or before the 2018 convention, with all the candidates, strategy, and messaging in place. The snap election that Rachelle Norberg and other Democrats are calling for at Saturday’s meeting in Sioux Falls is about as early and sensibly timed as such a move can be. We’re a year out from the primary, before any Democrats have declared for major offices. We have a vacancy in the party executive director position, an opportunity for the chair, current or new, to put a key person in place to help define the direction and tone of the 2018 campaign. The move for a snap election is happening in conjunction with McGovern Day, the party’s flagship statewide fundraiser and a speech by DNC vice-chair Rep. Keith Ellison, which should draw greater attendance than a typical Central Committee meeting. That party event also includes caucuses of the College, High School, and Young Democrats and a panel discussion with leaders from numerous blossoming activist groups, making it a prime event for the chair, current or new, to have meaningful conversations with key groups that can bring new energy and play an integral role in planning an executing a Democratic recovery.
Chair Halvorson’s concern about “suddenness” also seems misplaced. Prominent Democrats Paula Hawks and Frank Kloucek called for a party shake-up last November; Democrats have spent five months mulling this possibility. I’d argue that, as a party that should have been implementing a vigorous and visible multi-pronged recovery and resistance plan since November 9, the South Dakota Democratic Party doesn’t have time for much more deliberation. If we need upheaval (and heading toward an election in which we will be calling for wresting power from the Trump/Daugaard/Lederman regime, we need to use upheaval as a good word!), we need it right away. Think of “sudden” as an acronym for “Should’ve Undertaken Democratic Doings Earlier than Now!” (Yeah, I had to stretch for that.)
Planning a snap election for new Democratic Party leadership on McGovern Day is not sudden, last-second upheaval. It does not show “bad taste.” It shows courage, inclusiveness, and good timing… all of which are good characteristics for a Democratic Party leader.