The Human Rights Campaign has released its 2015 Municipal Equality Index, a measure of how well city policies and ordinances respect the LGBT residents. Since I last reported on the MEI in 2013, Brookings has made significant progress, raising its score from 34 out of 100 to 52. Brookings keeps its spot as the leader in South Dakota for LGBT-tolerant policy… but that’s not saying a lot:
The average score for cities in South Dakota is 23 out of 100 points, which falls below the national average of 56. Aberdeen: 18, Brookings: 52, Pierre: 12, Rapid City: 22, Sioux Falls: 28, Vermillion: 15, Watertown: 18.
…“The MEI shows that overall South Dakota is not an inviting place for LGBTQ+ to live except for Brookings which has been proactive in creating a welcoming environment,” said Lawrence Novotny, board chair of Equality South Dakota. “Equality South Dakota is attempting to improve the situation in South Dakota” [Human Rights Campaign, press release, 2015.12.17].
Sioux Falls and Brookings leaders then need to take a roadtrip to the Twin Cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the 47 cities out of 408 surveyed that got perfect scores. Only three other cities in adjoining states made that perfect list: Davenport, Iowa City, and Missoula.
The Human Rights Campaign groups the 41 criteria for its MEI into five categories:
Municipality’s employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting nondiscrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees;
The sad thing is, we’re talking about Brookings, a county that is better positioned than most in South Dakota to grow. Meyer has long recognized this potential in Brookings, but even he and his wife can’t find the job opportunities to keep them here. Even Brookings loses good talent… and this time, we really, truly can blame the Legislature.
Petitioners collecting signatures for the fake 18% rate cap at SDSU yesterday appeared unable to give signers accurate information about the proposed constitutional amendment they are circulating.
SDSU student Cully Williams found at least three circulators working the fake 18% rate cap and Marsy’s Law petitions (again, that shady association reported by Matt Hildreth Tuesday) outside the SDSU Student Union yesterday. He stopped at their table to ask some questions. As this video shows, he got some wildly misleading answers:
Here’s my transcript of the relevant dialogue:
[Circulator 1, seated, in the “Proud to Be an American” shirt]: The second one is regarding payday loans. It’s to make the companies more transparent with their interest rates. They can’t just charge whatever they feel like it. After it gets up to 18%, they have to notify the customers. Every time they raise the interest rate, they have to notify the customers [petition circulator, recorded by Cully Williams, Brookings, SD, 2015.09.17].
No lender may charge interest for the loan or use of money in excess of eighteen per cent per annum unless the borrower agrees to another rate in writing. No law fixing an annual percentage rate of interest for the loan or use of money is valid unless the law provides borrowers the right to contract at inteerst rates as may be agreed to by the parties.
No law fixing a rate of interest or return for the loan or use of money, or fixing the service or any other charge that may be made or imposed for the loan or use of money, for any particular group or class engaged in lending money is valid. Any rate of interest or charge fixed by law shall apply generally and to all lenders without regard to the type or classification of the lender’s business [decoy amendment, submitted by Lisa Furlong, South Dakotans for Fair Lending, first published on Dakota Free Press, 2015.07.13].
Nothing in that text says what the circulator just said about notifying customers of increases in interest rates.
Now, does the 18% amendment really cap interest rates at 18%?
[Williams]: So they can’t put the interest rate over 18%?
[C1]: Right. Well, they can do it over 18%, but the customer has to be notified that that’s happening.
[W]: So… I think I’m missing something here. So this doesn’t cap the rate?
[W]: So what’s it do then, if it doesn’t cap the rate?
So this doesn’t cap the rate? No.Boom—there you have it, one of petition sponsor Lisa Furlong’s own circulators telling you what I’ve reported consistently since Furlong’s proposal went public: it is a fake rate cap.
[W]: Does it also ban the one that actually does cap the rate at 36%?
[C1]: No, these two are not exclusive. You can vote for both of them.
[W]: O.K., but this one doesn’t have text that would explicitly ban a statutory cap of 36%?
[C1]: No, there’s two of them out now.
[W]: I know, but… if I read this one here, it says… “This amendment eliminates the ability to set statutory interest rates that are inconsistent with this amendment” which would not allow a 36% interest rate, since the 18% only applies to verbal, so that would actually ban a cap on that, is what this would do, unless I’m reading that wrong.
Williams reads Attorney General Marty Jackley’s explanation of the fake 18% rate cap pretty accurately. Confronted with the text in her own hand, this circulator has to eject. So bring on the help—a pregnant lady! She wouldn’t try to mislead us, would she?
[Circulator 2, standing, in yellow t-shirt]: It’s basically so that when your interest rate goes up above 18%, the lenders contact you and make sure that you know that your interest rate is increasing, so they have to like let you know, because it goes up to like 300% interest and things like that really fast, based virtually without people even noticing…. It’s about like having more disclosure [Williams video, 2015.09.17].
Oh, she would! Her response is a strange mix of fantasy—again, the proposed amendment says nothing about notifications or disclosure or increasing rates—and ugly fact. I’m surprised she’s allowed to even mention the triple-digit interest rates that payday lenders charge.
Back to the next big question: does this amendment really cap interest rates?
Fascinating! We now have a second circulator confirming that the 18% petition is a fake rate cap! As a bonus, this fake 18-percenter acknowledges that “the other one,” the 36% rate cap petition brought to us by Steve Hildebrand and Steve Hickey, is the real one. She even says she wishes she had that one. (Ma’am, click here to contact the real 36-percenters… and save your mortal soul!)
Now the big legal question: is the fake 18% rate cap really just a trick to abolish the real 36% rate cap?
[W]: Does this one ban capping interest rates by statutory law, because there’s a clause in there that does say that, so this would actually ban an actual cap, because it’s a constitutional amendment.
[C2]: I don’t know. I know there’s like a few of them out there. That’s a great question. I don’t know.
[W]: Because it kinda does, so I was just seeing if I’m misreading that.
[C2]: There was a plebiscite that was out there before that I believe is the one that you are talking about, and then they came out with a new one. But I… I don’t know, I’m going to be honest with you [Williams video, 2015.09.17].
I’m going to be honest with you—I don’t know where anyone on the street in South Dakota comes up with the phrase “There was a plebiscite.” (As a weekend diversion, I invite readers to find any instance of the word plebiscite being used in the South Dakota press and blogosphere.)
[W]: I mean like when I read it, with signatures on it, it actually said that it would ban statutory caps—
[C2]: Oh really?
[C2]: O.K., good to know.
[W]: I just didn’t know if I’m misreading it or—
[C2]: Um, no, I don’t know. That’s good to know. I should go over it, too. Have a good day.
So instead of explaining the amendment, as the first circulator said she could, the second circulator ends up admitting she hasn’t really gone over the petition she’s urging people to sign. Sigh.
Williams figures he’s had enough, but on his way (to her credit! Always Be Closing!), the first circulator takes another shot for his signature. Williams learns that this gal has been watching the news:
[Circulator 1]: Did you… sign it?
[Williams]: Let me read that one more time. Maybe I’m just off base here…. “This amendment eliminates the ability to set statutory interest rates that are inconsistent with this amendment.” Hey, are the guys that were on KELOLand?
[W]: You were?
[W]: Are you from South Dakota?
[C1]: Yes, I am. I can show you my ID—
[W]: No, I’ll take your word for it.
[C1]: Yeah, they… I think they even took a picture of him [pointing to other circulator on sidewalk] but his person was with him and they just left the person out… they didn’t take a picture of the person. So it really messed us up [Williams video, 2015.09.17].
This circulator and her partners may not have to run from Angela Kennecke’s blue dress for breaking petition law, but they prove that the petitioners carrying the fake 18% rate cap are either unable or unwilling to tell signers the truth about this decoy petition.
I was just approached by this guy outside the post office in Brookings. He has a bait and switch strategy to get people to sign the decoy pay day lending petition.
He’s asking for signatures on two petitions . The first one is for victims of abuse to be notified when their assailant is released from prison but he quickly pivots to the decoy petition for caping payday loads at 18%.
These pay day lenders are shady! Unethical business practices like this are why they need to get out town.
Seriously, who uses victims of abuse to con people for monetary gain? [Matt Hildreth, Facebook post, 2015.09.15]
One commenter under Hildreth’s post says he saw this same circulator in Sioux Falls last night. The same source says this circulator said he is from Los Angeles. If that is true, and if the circulator has not established formal residency in South Dakota, any petition sheets he circulates are invalid under SDCL 12-1-3, which requires that petition circulators be residents of South Dakota.
Other commenters indicate the Marsy/fake-18-percenters may have been circulating on the SDSU campus, outside the Brookings Hy-Vee, and at Sam’s Club in Rapid City, all places where petitioners must obtain permission to circulate.
Other sources have spoken with Marsy/fake-18-percenters and heard the names of three different out-of-state petition companies carrying this deceptive tandem of petitions. Companies I’ve heard named include National Ballot Access of Georgia, which circulated the shady and doomed South Dakota Clean and Open Government Act for the 2008 ballot, circulated some of Ward Connerly’s deceptive anti-affirmative action petitions, and caught heck for shoddy signature gathering.
Drivers/Petitioners to Help Cap Payday Loans Needed (10 positions) (Rapid City)
compensation: $15/hr + production bonus incentives
employment type: employee’s choice
Encore Political Services, LLC is looking for 10 motivated workers to help get signatures for two ballot initiatives from South Dakota voters.
One initiative is to cap Payday Lending loans at 18% maximum.
The other is Marsy’s law, which requires victims to be notified when offenders of those same victims are released from prison.
Pay starts at $15/hr, and bonus incentives are provided.
Interviews start Weds, 9/2/15, at 10:00am. This is a time sensitive job, as our deadline for signatures is November 9th. Work same day as interview is available.
Experience preferred, but not necessary.
A check of Craigslist this evening finds six ads posted today seeking petitioners in Pierre and the surrounding area. None refer to specific petitions, but all direct calls to Ron at 262-883-5075, a New Berlin, Wisconsin, number. Another pair of ads appeared last week seeking circulators in the Sioux Falls area and directing callers to 310-483-2750, a Torrance, California, number.
The association of the Marsy’s Law petition with the fake 18% rate cap petition calls into question the intent and integrity of the Marsy’s Law petition, its circulators, and its sponsor, SDGOP operative Jason Glodt. A circulator like the purple-shirter in Brookings who tries to establish false ethos with a plea for “victims’ rights” only to trick people into signing a fake 18% rate cap deserves neither our trust nor our signatures. A ballot question committee that allows its measure to be intermingled with something as nefarious as the fake 18% rate cap should be viewed with suspicion, if not denied a place on the ballot.
If you see anyone circulating a petition, you should ask right away, “Are you carrying the 18% rate cap petition?” If the answer is yes, you should refuse to sign any document that petitioner is carrying.
But before walking away, do get a name and take pictures. We should all know what deceitful circulators are in our midst so we can avoid them and prevent them from tricking others into abusing our ballot with their lies.
CAFOs and biochar headline two educational social events near Brookings this weekend.
First up, Dakota Rural Action is hosting “Beyond the Barn,” a combination potluck and lecture program featuring two speakers on confined animal feeding operations—i.e., the giant feedlots that imperil our water, air, and property values. John Ikerd, professor emeritus of ag economics at University of Missouri–Columbia, will discuss his research on and experience with the harms CAFOs do to rural communities. (For a preview, check out Professor Ikerd’s 2007 manifesto on factory farms.) Then local lawyer Mitch Peterson will talk about laws surrounding CAFOs and the ways citizens may challenge CAFO permits and operations. “Beyond the Barn takes place at Twila Eggers’s barn, 21609 469 Ave., southwest of Brookings.
If you aren’t too stuffed with potato salad and CAFO knowledge, you can head up Medary to Bill and Julie Ross’s Good Roots Farm and Gardens, 40 acres of unfactory-like farm north of Brookings at 3712 Medary Ave., at 8 p.m. to see your public university research dollars at work and learn about how biochar can boost your garden soil quality:
The free event includes a fireside explanation of how to make biochar, including indicators of its quality, and how to apply it. Free biochar (mixed with compost) will be given away to those who bring containers (suggested size: gallon ice cream bucket.)
Biochar is a special kind of charcoal; it’s ideal for enhancing the soil ecosystem. Biochar provides a perfect physical matrix for soil microbiota to thrive – it’s like a party house for the soil! Dr. Trish Jackson of SDSU has led the South Dakota Board of Regent’s funded research project, “Farming with Biochar: Quantifying Gains in Natural and Financial Capital”….
…At the biochar party, Dr. Jackson and her team will demonstrate how to make biochar in a burn pit using wood from the farm. This process requires no prior know-how and no special equipment. It’s a simple, straightforward method developed by Pacific Biochar’s Josiah Hunt, to make large or small quantities of biochar in a just a few hours. The biochar can then be mixed with soil for the garden, for potting mix; it can be directly applied as a top dressing to established plants or placed in a manure spreader for larger scale applications [press release, South Dakota State University, 2015.07.13].
Keep CAFOs from fouling your soil, then make you dirt better with biochar—how much more education could you ask for on a summer Saturday?
There’s just Mayor Reed showing us the nice things around Brookings while the videographers do their best to make Brookings look good before amidst bare pre-spring trees. The video could have used more Brookingsians (the SDSU students cheering “Hobo Days!” were a nice break from what Pat Powers at any moment should be deriding as his mayor’s Huetheresque vanity and self-promotion). But blessedly, Koch & Reed avoid the kamikaze marketing of Lawrence & Schiller. Unlike the state’s high-priced marketers, they believe their town’s assets—industry, education, recreation, Nick’s Hamburgers, and beer—are good enough to sell Brookings without desperate attempts to fabricate Internet memes.
And Team Brookings put together this positive video without a three-year, three-million-dollar contract from the Governor’s slush fund. Imagine the videos we could get if that Future Fund money were diverted from the slick advertisers in Sioux Falls to local boosters who simply love their towns. Videos like Koch & Reed’s may not get the President to come for a photo opp, but they can do more to educate and recruit potential residents and entrepreneurs than Lawrence & Schiller’s marketing ploys.
P.S.: Mayor Reed refers to Nick’s hamburgers as “sliders.” I’m wondering: when did the term “slider” enter the local culinary vernacular? And does anyone walk into Nick’s and order a “slider“?
Yesterday’s local elections put a little extra spring in my step.
I told folks in Brookings that they should vote for my friend Scott Meyer, and they did it! Meyer came in with 1,417 votes, a commanding first-place vote. I also respect Patty Bacon’s brains and organizational skills, and Brookings may have picked her, too! May have—Bacon got 1,134 votes, Lyle Bowes got 1,127, and John Kubal got 1,115. The second-third-fourth margins are well within the two-percent-total-vote threshold set by SDCL 9-13-27.3 for recounts; Bowes and Kubal thus have five days to call for a recount.
But if those numbers stand, Pat Powers’s hometown will be governed by two more people I like. Hee hee hee!
Down I-29, Sioux Falls voters warmed my heart by choosing to start school after Labor Day. The vote was close—52% to 48%. My friend and Sioux Falls School Board member Kent Alberty is disappointed, but I am thrilled to see our largest city vote for the sanctity of summer. (AP students, you’ll be fine: fire up your summer reading lists!)
And up in Roscoe, folks in the Edmunds Central School District voted 73% to 21% to approve an $8.95 million bond issue to build a new classroom building… and a bigger gym. I still twinge to see education can’t win without the sports vote, but I can express some pleasure to see that a small community can rally strong support to keep its school district alive.
Readers, did you notice any other happy votes in yesterday’s city and school elections around South Dakota? Post your favorites (or your least favorites) below!
Brookings friends! Are you looking for a chance to sign the petitions to refer SB 69 and SB 177 to a public vote? Tuesday—tomorrow!—is your day! Circulators will have petitions near the three polling places for tomorrow’s Brookings city election.
Now notice: those circulators won’t be too near the polling places. As we all know, SDCL 12-18-3 says any petitioners or other politically communicative individuals need to stand at least 100 feet from the door to any polling place. Our Brookings circulators are keenly aware and respectful of state law and the sanctity of the vote… which is why they are circulating and you are signing these petitions in the first place.
In other referendum news, KELO’s Ben Dunsmoor finally gets his head around one of the two referendum drives, the effort to put SB 177, the youth minimum wage, to a public vote. He gets SB 177 prime sponsor Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) to repeat the absurdity that, in South Dakota, giving kids more opportunity means giving them less money for their work. He gets SD Dems interim exec Zach Nistler to remind us that voters knew what they were doing when they voted last November to set the minimum wage at $8.50 an hour for every worker, young people included, and that Senator Novstrup’s legislation is really “a slap in the face to South Dakotans.”
But Dunsmoor commits one language error:
And that’s why circulators will be stopping voters once again for the next two months [Ben Dunsmoor, “A Petition Effort for Equal Pay,” KELOLand.com, 2015.04.12].
Ben, Ben, Ben—”stopping” voters? Your limited literalism misses the bigger point. On both SB 177 and SB 69 (and hey, we’re still waiting for your detailed report on that second petition drive, Ben!), legislators are trying to stop voters from exercising their will. With SB 177, legislators like Senator Novstrup are trying to discourage voters from conducting ballot initiatives. With SB 69, legislators are raising barriers to running for office and thus trying to prevent voters from having more choices of candidates on their ballots. We petitioners in Brookings, Sioux Falls, and across the state aren’t stopping voters; we’re helping them go to the polls and enjoy more choice and more voice.
Hey, Dems! Are you going to Brookings this weekend?
An Irish meal with beer and wine (isn’t that redundant?); Democratic legislators Hawley, Parsley, and Peterson; party chair Tornberg; and SD Progress organizer Wilke—what fun! Join the redoubtable Brookings County Democrats at the Legion Hall Saturday, March 14, at 5:30 p.m. For tickets, contact Lawrence Novotny or Mary Perpich at the numbers on the poster above.
My friend Scott D. Meyer is running for Brookings City Council. His ideas about community development offer a welcome challenge to the conventional South Dakota wisdom about how to make communities grow.
People don’t move for jobs, jobs move for people. A community with skilled citizens attracts businesses. Businesses that move for people are more likely to stay and invest in the community. After all, a vibrant community retains talent, so it is in the business’ interest to make the community great. Chasing corporate headquarters with tax breaks is no longer the best way to develop an economy. Instead, the future is grassroots development focused on people and entrepreneurs [Scott Meyer, “Why I’m Running for Brookings City Council,” 2015.03.05].
Meyer isn’t knocking the big corporations like 3M and Bel Brands that have helped Brookings grow. He’s saying that we can more reliably draw big and small employers with a vibrant, well-educated populace, not tax favors.
Jobs increasingly require creativity. Everything from manufacturing to finance now demands innovative ideas. Over 1/3rd of Americans are now a part of this “creative class,” and the number is rising dramatically, especially in college towns like Brookings. What’s more, many jobs can be done from any location, so people can choose the community that best fuels their most important skill: creativity [Meyer, 2015.03.05].
As an online entrepreneur, Meyer understands that an increasing number of us workers don’t need to be in a particular place to do our work. We can thus choose to be in places that offer more of what we want outside of work.
Diverse communities are creative communities. New ideas and perspectives speed innovation and improve work. Communities that embrace diversity will thrive and will be more interesting places to live [Meyer, 2015.03.05].
Expect some critique from the retrograde conservatives of Brookings who can’t accept that South Dakota belongs to everybody, and “everybody” is increasingly different from the mental billboards we painted in the 1950s. South Dakotans of the 21st century not only are not all German-Norwegian-Lutheran settlers; they are also not all farmers and welders.
People choose a community based on social offerings, openness and aesthetic. People expect basic services wherever they go, but they move to a community based on its “soul.” Uniqueness, history and wide-ranging amenities will retain and attract creative, diverse talent [Meyer, 2015.03.05].
John Tsitrian and I might level the same critique of Meyer’s community-making manifesto as we have offered of South Dakota’s workforce development initiatives: they don’t mention the drag South Dakota’s low wages put on efforts to recruit workers. But Meyer is thinking bigger picture, about the creativity, diversity, and amenities that incubate a vibrant community where entrepreneurs come up with good ideas that generate well-paying jobs. It will be enlightening to hear Meyer discuss these ideas with his fellow candidates in the Brookings City Council race.