News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel What is local control?
It's that time of year again.�Remember the old clich�, "No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session"?
I don't believe that saying is true in South Dakota, as long as we remember the constitutional guarantee of a republican form of government.�That has nothing to do with a political party.�It just means I get to vote for people who act on my behalf within their area of responsibility.
Defining the areas of responsibility is the hard part.�I recently read a story about the issue "looming large" before the next legislative session in Minnesota.�It is no different than our big issue.�Who is going to control agricultural development (especially livestock feeding)?�
There is much debate about which level of government should decide things like feedlot setback requirements, and other regulations on agriculture.�Some favor local districts, some favor counties, and some favor state level.� Others prefer total control at the federal level.�
Areas of control and responsibility are not as clear cut as they once were.�Take local schools as an example.�We have believed that local school boards should control their schools since the founding of our nation.�However, reality is different.�Government officials intrude on this area all the way from the county level to the Congress of the United States.�So does "local control" of our schools really exist?�Not a chance.
The same is true of many other areas.� The lines that once clearly marked off areas of responsibility for local, state, and federal governments are blurred and overlapping.
Fire suppression in South Dakota was primarily a township responsibility.�In the absence of an organized township, responsibility passed up to the county level.�Now both the state and federal governments dump tons of money and control into rural fire protection.
There was a time when the people had to rely upon the good stewardship of the local farmer, his conservation district, or the county for protection of the environment.�Today, Congress has almost entirely consumed control of that subject area.
These examples could go on and on.�The point is, we need to understand that "local control" (as "good and safe" as it sounds) no longer means anything close to what it once did.
Local control never did mean direct rule by the majority of persons present, except in early stages of settlement, such as in mining towns where the majority voice was the only law.
Some people call direct majority rule, nothing but "mob rule." If you think it's a good idea, ask a racial minority how they like it.
Fortunately for us, when Congress gave us permission to form a state government, it guaranteed a republican form of government to the residents of Dakota Territory.
Possibly we will end up with all three levels having some control of livestock feeding. That's alright, as long as we get to vote for or against the regulators.