The Oscar (and maybe my gubernatorial vote, if he wants to change his mind throw his Packers helmet in the 2018 ring) goes to Lt. Gov. Michels for playing along with a thrilled, “I get to go, too!”, then responding to his wife Karen’s admonition to “Stay with Dennis—don’t go off on your own” with a wonderful politically pregnant pause (o.k., maybe just waiting for Karen to finish her line, but please, allow me my theatro-political readings).
Oh! And then Governor Daugaard contradicts all the fanatic economic developmentism of the SDGOP and waxes environmental!
I hope we don’t become too developed. I think many states, they’ve become so densely populated, they’ve become one big urban landscape, and nature has been overtaken by managed lawns and trees and concrete pavement [Gov. Dennis Daugaard, interview with Larry Rohrer, SDPB Facebook video, 2017.10.11].
Tsitrian says his immigrant family benefited from learning English quickly through immersion 70 years ago, but that ideal (and I agree that swiftly adopting the native language of one’s new country is an ideal) isn’t practical today:
…we have to grapple with the fact that English immersion for immigrants will probably never be a fact of our state’s economic and cultural life again.Nostalgia for our historic character as a “melting pot” doesn’t get the job of building our economy done, as a lot of South Dakota enterprises are finding out. In Sioux Falls, the head of the local chapter of the Associated General Contractors tells the Argus Leader that immigrant labor is “hugely important” to the construction trade, a fact that anybody in the Black Hills who’s had a roof installed in recent years knows first hand. I’ve put up three roofs, two commercial and one residential, in the past four years and I’m pretty sure that each crew was close to 100% Spanish-speaking, with only the lead installer capable of communicating in a halting version of English on each job [John Tsitrian, “We Need a Multi-Lingual Workforce in South Dakota,” The Constant Commoner, 2017.09.05].
Ideally, every immigrant family would immerse itself in learning the language of its new homeland. Learning to speak English in America provides immigrants with more opportunity to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of the community. But practically, even if many immigrants aren’t hitting the books and the language tapes, we still need them to lay our shingles, milk our cows, and drive our trucks.
The situation is akin to what public education faces. Ideally, parents would take care of breakfast. But practically, not all parents do. When kids show up at school hungry in the morning, we can gripe about how parents ought to do their job, and we may complain that school breakfast programs may accommodate further lazy parenting, but practically, we need to feed those kids so they can learn.
In a small way, providing driving exams in Spanish or other foreign languages takes the pressure off immigrants to study English. But as Tsitrian says, our immediate economic needs outweigh that concern.
One of the advantages of living in town over living in the country is that folks should be able to walk to the grocery store. But with SpartanNash closing three grocery stores in Rapid City, that advantage is fading for a lot of Rapid City residents, particularly lower-income residents with limited transportation downtown and on the north side.
SDPB’s Lee Strubinger gets this cool map from Rapid City Collective Impact and Feeding South Dakota to show the gaps that will be left in walkable access to grocery stores by the closing of Prairie Market at 11 New York Street, Family Thrift Center at 855 Omaha St., and Family Thrift Express at 3464 Sturgis Road. I add those three stores and the walkable half-mile radii around them.
Note that none of these three closing stores overlap with the half-mile radius of any other major grocery store on the map. I’d be curious to learn what market forces dictated these closures… and whether any other operators could do better amidst those market forces.
Rapid City should encourage other grocers to give it a try. As expressed in a July 30 editorial in the Rapid City Journal, economic development means developing the whole city. Grocery stores are one of the most basic components of a whole city. The ability to walk to the grocery store is good not just for low-income folks but for anyone who lives and works downtown. Rapid City leaders recruit new grocers to fill these empty stores and the looming gaps in walkable shopping for basic provisions in the center of the city.
Back to SoDak, a new initiate launched by the Foundation, aims to tout the recent changes to the area in addition to a business and family friendly economic environment to lure young professionals back to the area, beginning with JazzFest this July. “For them to get a good look at how Sioux Falls has changed in the last 2-5 years, we just may get some of them to decide to relocate,” said Lon Clemensen with the Development Foundation….
Those attending JazzFest as part of the Back To SoDak program will have access to special food vendors and samples of local beers from Fernson. A brunch will also be held at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center on Saturday, July 15, with special gift bags for attendees featuring “Explore Sioux Falls” coupon books, t-shirts and surprise gifts [Mike Leischner, “Sioux Falls Development Wants Former Residents Back,” KELO Radio, 2017.06.28].
Snaford Health, Lemonly, Avera Health, Fernson Brewing Company, and Gunderson Jewelers are sponsoring the Back to SoDak event. The Eventbrite ticket registration does not appear to perform a background check asking ex-pats to prove their past Sioux Falls or South Dakota residence… but hey! I’m sure Sioux Falls Development won’t mind if some totally new faces come for beer and hear the pitch to homestead in our prairie metropolis.
Agreeing with me that cutting USDA Rural Development is bad for South Dakota and all of rural America are the Center for Rural Affairs, the National Rural Housing Coalition, and 576 other organizations that sent a letter this week to key Senators urging them to protect Rural Development. They ask the Senators to at least maintain last year’s funding levels and resist the Administration’s call to eliminate the office of Under Secretary for Rural Development. The say that the Administration’s budget is a “wholesale retreat” from real problems facing rural America:
According an analysis of socio-economic well-being prepared by the Wall Street Journal, rural counties in America are in worse condition than big cities, suburbs and small or medium metro areas. Rural communities, and the people who live in them, have higher poverty and unemployment rates as well as a higher incidence of substandard housing and rent overburden when compared to metropolitan areas.
Virtually every community in the country with inadequate drinking water has a population of 3,300 or less. Although much of the country has seen recovery from the financial crisis, rural America still lags behind. The decade’s long trend of community bank closure and consolidation has hit rural areas particularly hard. The number of community banks in the United States has declined by an average of 300 per year over the past 30 years, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and a collapse in the price of agricultural commodities has added stress on many small towns and farming communities [National Rural Housing Coalition + 577 organizations, letter to Senators Cochran, Leahy, Hoeven, and Merkley, 2017.06.12].
The following South Dakota groups signed the letter:
The White House’s “Major Savings and Reforms” budget document says Trump would eliminate funding for the USDA’s Rural Business and Cooperative Service, Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account, and Single Family Housing Direct Loans.
Rural Business and Cooperative Services, says the White House, “lack program evaluation” and “have not been able to demonstrate that they meet the broader goals of reducing rural poverty, out-migration, or unemployment.” The White House says its “tax, regulatory, and infrastructure policies are expected” [passive voice—by whom? witch doctors?] “to be more effective at improving rural economies and job growth.
The Trump budget says USDA’s Rural Water and Waste Disposal program can go because it duplicates the EPA’s state revolving funds. Trump thus cuts $498 million from USDA and hopes an agency he’s cutting by 31% can fill the gap.
The Trump budget eliminates USDA’s direct loans to single-family homebuyers because, says the White House, private lenders can float all the loans rural homebuyers need. The White House also says that “rural areas once isolated from easy access to credit have shrunk as broadband internet access and correspondent lending have grown.” Of course, six million rural Americans got broadband thanks to USDA Rural Development programs.
$423 million in federal investment in South Dakota via USDA in 2016, part of $3.12 billion total during the Obama Administration. That’s not even farm subsidies, disaster payments or crop insurance; that’s just Rural Development.
If we thought that these Rural Development investments were good for South Dakota but Trump took them away, we could try to fund them ourselves. But $87 million a year would wipe out the sales tax dollars we struggled to raise for teacher pay last year. We’d have to come up with a significant new stream of revenue for a budget already groaning against sluggish economic activity, or we’d have to do without. Either way, the Trump budget would deny us a significant chunk of external, federal economic stimulus.
So, Billie Sutton, Kristi Noem, Marty Jackley, and fellow candidates—if the Republican Congress does adopt the Republican President’s anti-rural budget priorities, what will you do to protect South Dakota homebuyers, business owners, and communities from losing tens of millions of dollars in federal rural development funding?
Pierre mayoral candidate Steve Robinson said several silly things in a public forum with fellow candidate Steve Harding last Thursday. Among the silliest was that quality of life is a magical feeling that has nothing to do with city amenities:
“I don’t think we need to be spending big on ball fields and water parks and swimming holes and, what do you call that? Quality of life?” he asked, turning to Harding, who affirmed.
But as past chair of the Pierre Park and Recreation Citizen Advisory Board Anne Lewis notes, such philosophizing is not how cities make the sale:
…[Q]uality of life as strictly a function of what’s in your heart as Mr Robinson believes is a nice warm fuzzy idea, but it’s hard to showcase to potential investors and business developers and has very little impact on property values.
Our parks, on the other hand, along with solid infrastructure, good schools, and strong community organizations are assets which make Pierre a desirable place to live, both for those of us here and those we want to attract [Anne Lewis, public Facebook post, 2017.05.26].
But hey, Robinson told Thursday’s forum that “I don’t even want this job.” So oblige him, Pierre: let Robinson stay home and thrill to the beat of his heart, while Harding works as mayor to maintain the parks, streets, and other practical amenities that make people want to live and work in Pierre.
State sales tax revenues have fallen below the previous fiscal year’s revenues for eight of the nine last months. And remember, we’re charging an extra half-cent sales tax on every dollar sale than we did in FY2016, so that 2.16% drop in tax revenues in March represents a 13.03% drop in taxable sales. [Correction! 2017.04.21 16:08 CDT: Notice that term “base sales tax” in the charts? LRC calculated these revenues based on the old 4% rate, to compare apples to apples. They did not include the extra half-penny tax for teacher pay, so the 2.16% drop in sales tax revenues does indeed present a straight 2.16% drop in taxable sales, not the even worse 13.03% drop that I feared. I apologize for the error.]
With rural populations on the decline, this is something no small town or rural community can afford. The population of rural America declined by 116,000 from 2010-14, the first period of rural population decline on record for rural America as a whole, with rural population dropping to even lower levels than during the farm crises of the 1980s. Modest upticks occurred in 2015 in counties with economies based on recreation, mining and government, but counties supported by farming, manufacturing or non-specialized industries continued to lose ground.
We need to do everything we can to keep life in rural America.
…When we pigeonhole our people — new and existing — into the “who’s who,” the “us versus them,” and the “not from here,” we narrow our opportunities as well. Just because they’re not prominent or we don’t know them doesn’t mean they don’t have a toolbox chock full of great ideas and the know-how to bring those ideas to life [Annette Tait and Katy Kassian, “Rural Communities Need to Welcome New People, New Ideas,” Prairie Business, 2017.04.10].
Tait and Kassian aren’t writing specifically about immigrants or the ugly surge of xenophobic groups that’s making our rural communities look bad. But their text applies quite nicely to welcoming any new people to the community: shutting our doors to newcomers shuts our doors to economic and cultural opportunities that our dwindling rural populations cannot replace.
Expanding gambling options in South Dakota is NOT the answer. The irony is that they would only be pulling gamblers from Fort Randall and Nebraska Indian Casinos, they would not be creating any new clientele.
In FY 2015, South Dakotans spent $200 per person on gambling, mostly on video lottery. Someone must have spent $400, because I spent nothing. I have never plunked money into a video lottery machine, poker game, or scratch ticket. On the few occasions when I’ve visited a South Dakota casino, either out of curiosity or for a cheap motel room, I’ve felt I’m looking at some pale imitation of excitement and ecstasy that may exist solely in our imaginations and our movies. They feel no more real than the billboards, whose posed imagery never overcome my nagging mathematical knowledge that the casino exists to take our money.
Hunhoff told the audience that, for a number of years, there had been pressure in Pierre to begin focusing on quality-of-life issues.
“For all the 14 years I was in Pierre, we’ve been pushing the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and our economic developers statewide to start focusing on quality of life,” Hunhoff said. “It’s always about job creation, job creation, job creation — and there was a time for that. But at some point, we went over the edge. We had plenty of jobs, we needed better jobs and we needed workers to do those jobs. On the state level, they were slow to come to that realization. When YAPG came and said, ‘Let’s do something that really affects quality of life in Yankton,’ how could you say no?” [Rob Nielsen, “Port Yankton,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2017.03.09]
Hunhoff makes a good point about the narrowness of the Janklow/Rounds/Daugaard approach to economic development. The Hagen/Benda/Costello GOEDs figured that if we just talk to corporate cronies, hand out some tax breaks and subsidies, and get them to hire more people, quality of life would take care of itself. Evidently, the state’s economic deve
However, that casinos enhance the quality of life is a dubious proposition for sociologists and theologians. If casinos guaranteed improvements in the quality of life, a lot more of our Lakota neighbors would have nice houses, schools, parks, and maybe shiny new Escalades (if that’s how you define “quality of life”).
If Yankton can turn a casino into something bigger, a destination that gives gamblers and non-gamblers alike reasons to come recreate on the waterfront, then hoo-rah! But Port Yankton needs to offer more than just another dreary place where lonely older folks push buttons like rats in cages.