Letters Openness welcomed

To the editor:

We would like to congratulate Mayor Dan Christopherson and the city council for conducting an excellent first city council session. If this is a sign of things to come, we commend you all.

For those who watched or attended this meeting, it was evident that there was a sense of openness and respect that has been absent at these meetings for too many years.

Our community is faced with important issues that will affect the quality of life and economic well-being of our citizens for generations. There are tough choices to make, choices that shouldn't be made behind closed doors.

We applaud Dan's commitment to open, honest communication with citizens and his efforts to seek input from the community by establishing open office hours for himself and the city manager.

Dan has also done away with noon city council meetings that were called "work sessions." In Mr. Lias' editorial of Oct. 12, 2001 titled "City Council's Work Sessions Should End" (available online), he strongly criticized these noon meetings. Mr. Lias has stated to us that he didn't attend these meetings because he didn't want to "validate them."

That was a courageous stance for Mr. Lias to take. At some point, however, he began editorializing against citizens who had the courage to criticize these same meetings. Mr. Lias has not explained his flip-flop on this issue to the public.

With no noon meetings, the result will be longer, less scripted and orchestrated council meetings, and that is a good thing. Citizens want to be heard; some are better communicators than others. Heated debate should not be stifled unless it is slanderous.

City government is not meant to be pretty. Debate is both necessary and proper for good government.

Our community has had some pretty severe growing pains the past few years. When people are passionate about issues, emotions run high. City officials must respect the right of citizens to hold and vocalize opposing opinions.

Hopefully never again in our community will citizens be denied their constitutional right to vote on local issues and will never again have to go into a court of law against the city to reaffirm their rights.

Chestnut Street was a difficult issue for the community, and former Mayor Kozak has personally apologized to us for his actions during our struggle for voting and landowners' rights. We thank and respect him for that.

Was that struggle of value? Yes. Those who went to the polls, for instance, to vote on whether or not the city should purchase the bank building for a new city hall, were able to do that largely because of the legal battles waged over Chestnut Street.

After disallowing votes on the new fire station and on Chestnut Street, city administrators finally learned that they can no longer dismiss the rights of citizens.

Our community still faces many passionate issues. We have renewed hope that with Dan as mayor, citizens will be heard and respected, even when their opinions are contrary to those of city hall. That can be invaluable in solving conflict.

We wish Dan and our city council the best as they face the difficult challenges ahead of them.

Neil and Lynette Melby


Regeneration needed

To the editor:

The headlines read Wal-Mart coming to Vermillion � but are we so simple minded to think that the city council will let something like this happen for Vermillion?

After all, years ago when 3M wanted to come to Vermillion, the city fathers would not let this happen, because it would bring too much rif-raf to Vermillion. Now be realistic and take a look at what they have done for Brookings.

Brookings has grown by leaps and bounds and is one of the prettiest cities in eastern South Dakota and just to think they used to be smaller than Vermillion.

Rif-raf is something that we don't pick and choose. You see this with any town and what would make us any better than

others? Do we not see this with the bars we have in town? If it was another bar that wanted to open in town we would see that happen.

Vermillion has actually shrunk. Have you noticed all the empty buildings on Main Street even though certain people have tried hard to fill them?

As a child I remember Vermillion had the following stores � IGA, Council Oak, Tom & Buds and Piggly Wiggly for grocery stores. There was also Dean Pack Packing company. We had Willson Florist, and Sletwold Florist, Yeado Jewelry and Dallas Jewelry, Coast to Coast, Gambles, and Sims hardware stores. There were Cash Drugstore and Davis Drugstore, Fashion Shoe Store, Chaney Boat Supplies, six restaurants, two drive in restaurants, a hotel, two motels, three or four beauty shops and three or four barbers, a theater, three furniture stores, a bakery (the best one there ever was), Modern Electric, Hays TV Repair, Johnson Shoe Repair, Sears, Montgomery Wards, Ben Franklin, JC Penney's, Newberry's, Ben Franklin, The Looking Glass, JoEllen's, Gentlemen's Quarters, a yard goods store, three lumber companies, two cleaners, two eye doctors, eight bars and taverns, several gas stations, two laundromats, a feed store, a creamery, an alfalfa plant, two elevators, the chemical plant, a stock yards, a bowling alley, telephone company, John Deere Implement, three auto dealers and the Civic Council.

Of course we had the university and school system. If you look at it, Vermillion was a booming little town with the city filled up on Thursday nights because the stores were open.

Now it is hard to get the stores to stay open for Crazy Day night. Most of them were closed by 6:30 p.m. last year. Instead of growing we have actually shrunk as far as businesses go or should I say variety of business.

Oh sure, we have businesses � bars and gas stations and places to stick a quarter in to push a button and hope you win your fortune, but nine times out to 10 you are helping the state instead of the city.

Now Vermillion people, are we going to be so narrow minded that we cannot see some of the advantages to Wal-Mart coming to Vermillion?

The biggest one is we will keep Vermillion tax dollars here instead of going to Yankton, Sioux City, or Sioux Falls. It will draw people who would rather shop here than in the bigger towns; this way they wouldn't have to fight the traffic. Will this not generate tax money for the city?

We hear Wal-Mart will hurt the stores we already have. What do we have that it will hurt, the bars, and restaurants? I think not. As far as the specialty stores like Doo-Wop, One Stop CD Shop, Hallmark, Dallas Jewelry, Nook 'n Cranny, Once Upon a Time, Much A Do, and Mount Monument, Wal-Mart might help a lot, because Wal-Mart will draw people to town and then they will hear about the stores downtown. Wal-Mart does not have the

things these stores have. Oh yes, it might hurt Pamida, but Pamida hurt the rest of the stores when they came to town, did they not? This is called competition, is it not?

This is the American way. As far as the grocery stores, drug stores, and hardware stores, yes it might hurt them, but it will also bring a reality to these stores about the prices they charge. So they won't be the only game in town, that is the American way, is it not? Or are we going to let a few people decide how well this will work for Vermillion?

There were people who were against the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge in the beginning, saying that it would do nothing for the town of Vermillion. I was one of these skeptics, but guess what? I have had to eat my words.

Why can't we see this with Wal-Mart? Just think of the number of elderly they would hire � although a lot of their employees would be part time, what is the difference, because Vermillion has other stores that hire part time so they don't have to pay benefits and there are those that don't pay benefits no matter what.

At least people would be working.

Be realistic. We need some regeneration in this town. It is like a horse that is galloping in slow motion and never gets anywhere.

As far as the city selling that land, why not? It is crazy for the city not to. If the city is going to have to cut back on their budget, could they not use the money in their coffers? Just think councilmen, here is the money for new TV equipment or that new building you want.


Roxan Brown


Some observations

To the editor:

Having lived and shopped in five towns over the past 24 years where Wal-Mart either came in or had just opened (preachers move around), I would observe the following:

1. Wal-Mart will keep here in Vermillion 75 percent of those who now drive to Sioux Falls, Sioux City and Yankton for their real shopping; thus saving time and gasoline, and also providing convenience for the elderly, especially in winter.

2. Wal-Mart will bring an additional number of shoppers to Vermillion, who now bypass us. Having a Wal-Mart has helped other businesses in neighboring towns to prosper (check out Yankton and Sioux Center, IA, are they on the rocks?).

3. Wal-Mart will easily double the sales tax collection in our city and county.

4. Wal-Mart will provide entry-level, mid-level and management jobs for Vermillion (including handicapped folks and senior citizens).

5. Wal-Mart will pay thousands of dollars in real estate taxes to our county (think schools).

Actually the "bad stuff" like stagnant business and low-paying jobs, I read about from negative folks, happens in towns around that do not welcome Wal-Mart.

Robert Grossman,


Time to get competitive

To the editor:

I am writing in response to last week's letters to the editor on the subject of Wal-Mart coming to Vermillion. I was quite disappointed and surprised to see that no one had written anything about how they were glad that Wal-Mart is coming to Vermillion.�

I know that I, along with many other citizens of Vermillion, am glad to see Wal-Mart coming.�It will make all of our lives much more convenient now that we will not have to drive 30 miles just to find a decent present for someone's birthday.

Vermillion is a nice town with a few historical aspects to it and it would be disappointing to see that change, but the world is changing and most of us are not retired with all the time of day just to run out and grab five different items while having to make five different stops in doing so, and most likely, having to pay more money than if we were to make our "one stop" at Wal-Mart.� Perhaps it will close down a couple of the "Mom and Pop" stores, if that is what they are considered, but, there is an economic theory that states "nothing can be made better without hurting someone else." For the theory to hold true, and make an economy stronger, the good must outweigh the bad.�

Now I believe that the 5,000 college students and countless busy families would have to take the majority on making this theory true, but that is just my opinion.�

I was also very disappointed to see all the concern for the "Mom and Pop" shops, because when Cargill, a huge grain franchise, moved to agriculturally based Vermillion, nobody cared about the locally owned Vermillion Fertilizer. Or how about when Burger King came to town, did anybody say anything about Bimbo's? No.

However, Bimbo's was open until it closed because of the owners' retirement and Vermillion Fertilizer now owns both elevators in town.�They weathered the storm and now it's everybody else's turn to get competitive.�

They did this by offering local service at a fair price and people still patronized them.

Well, Vermillion, at least now I won't have to run into all of you at the Sioux Falls Wal-Mart.�As Bob Dylan would say, "The times they are a changin'."

Ray O'Connor


Not a sign of progress

To the editor:

I see that Vermillion is looking towards progress and building a Wal-Mart. I do not think Wal-Mart will automatically spell progress for Vermillion. Many small businesses, some already struggling, will go under. The downtown area, with its ups and downs, and moving Davis Drug out to the highway, would not fare well at all with the competitive prices at Wal-Mart. The small town ambiance of the Vermillion I grew up in will be sadly compromised.

I was born and raised in Vermillion, graduated from USD, and my family still has roots there. I now live part time in Minnesota, and part time in Houston, TX. Having seen and shopped at many Wal-Marts in many states, I can't honestly shop there anymore in good conscience. Wal-Mart has a very poor record in hiring practices, employee relations, and has been taken to court in many cases, for forced overtime, taking advantage of Mexican immigrants (legal and illegal), and the newest one is discrimination of women, with regard to pay and promotional opportunity.

I would hope the city fathers do some investigating into the Wal-Mart Corporation policies and unethical practices.

Wal-Mart will help keep your areas wages low, take advantage of the student population, offer a variety of low prices, but often poor quality merchandise, and run out other businesses, probably ones that have been there a long time.

If the citizens of Vermillion want a good deal now and then, why not go over to Yankton? Sioux Falls must have at least two already. I do not see progress coming to Vermillion with a new Wal-Mart.

Karen Lawton Mesrobian

St. Peter, MN

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