South dakota editorial roundup

The Associated Press

 The Argus Leader. Aug. 4, 2012

Stand up and fight drugs in Yankton Sioux tribe

The death of a 2-year-old girl has brought attention to a real problem on tribal lands — drug use and the lack of adequate enforcement.

Without RieLee Lovell's death in July while in the care of two people charged with meth and marijuana possession, it might not have come to light that the Yankton Sioux Tribe never got around to using a federal grant to hire a methamphetamine detective.

Now, that failure to use a 2010 C.O.P.S. grant has triggered outrage among people in the tribe who have complained about the meth problem in Charles Mix County and people across the state who are sickened by what happened to RieLee Lovell. The child lived in a tribal housing unit in rural Wagner, and her death went unreported for almost two days because the adults who were supposed to care for her were partying, according to prosecutors.

Other events since her death show that the circumstances surrounding her life are just one example of how people who are entrusted with upholding laws sometimes look the other way instead. Most recently, the Wagner police chief was arrested on charges of failing to report his girlfriend's meth use. Then we hear that the tribal leaders let politics and whatever else gets in the way of using the $157,252 federal grant to hire someone to investigate drug crimes.

Charles Mix County State's Attorney Pam Hein wants more cooperation between law enforcement agencies, including the BIA, local officers and federal agents. That would be a good start, but that already should be happening because there is a program in place called Safe Trails Task Force to do that very thing. Except, no Yankton Sioux Tribal officer is a member. In addition, Charles Mix County Sheriff's deputies and Wagner Police are not cross-deputized to enforce tribal law or respond to an emergency call on tribal land.

Excuses and exceptions don't matter anymore. What matters is that grown adults empowered to make life safer for 2-year-olds and others get on top of the drug problem and set aside any jurisdictional anomalies.

It's time for leadership that is no longer a word but action. Someone needs to call the community together to sit down and work out among themselves how to move forward and crack down on an insidious problem that is destroying lives and killing innocent people.

Drugs have been a problem on reservations longer than RieLee Lovell was alive. Ineffective or corrupt leadership has been around longer too. The collective "system" that failed her has failed others.It's time to end the apathy and take to heart the job of enforcing laws and protecting people. It's time for those safeguarding our communities to take action and use the resources available to back the fight against meth and other drug use.


The Associated Press

Watertown Public Opinion. Aug. 8, 2012

When will Washington get it?

English novelist Charles Dickens is one of the greatest authors of all time. His classic "A Tale of Two Cities" begins with one of the most famous opening lines in history. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," serves as an instant hook that pulls readers in and keeps them turning pages.

That opening line can be applied to South Dakota politics these days, especially when it comes to voter registration. As usual, these continue to be good times for Republicans as the number of registered voters in their party — 236,906 — stands far ahead of the Democrats who listed 186,041 registered voters as of Aug. 1. Republicans have dominated voting rolls for years but recently the gap between the two parties has been expanding. But are these the best of times for Republicans? Yes and no.

True, Republicans hold two of the three offices in the state's congressional delegation. The governor is Republican — as is usually the case — and every elected state constitutional officer is Republican. The Republicans also hold sizeable majorities in both houses of the Legislature so it's pretty obvious they've got a good grip on South Dakota politics.

But even with all that, the number of registered voters who list Republican as their party affiliation has declined in the last four years. In 2008 there were 241,528 registered Republicans which was 4,500 more than the Aug. 1 total. Democrats, however, are in even worse shape during that span, going from 204,413 registered voters in 2008 to 186,041 — a loss of more than 18,000 voters as of Aug. 1 this year.

The long-standing disparity between Republicans and Democrats isn't really surprising because South Dakota has been a Republican state for much of its history. But why are the numbers of registered voters for both parties declining while the number of independent voters increases, going from 84,473 in 2008 to 88,726 now?

We're guessing there's a message somewhere in all those numbers and we're guessing it has more to do with national politics than state politics. South Dakotans have been fairly satisfied with the way their state has been run for many years and we can't think of too many issues over the past few decades that have really polarized people regardless of who has been in charge. That's part of the "best of times."

"The worst of times" we can lay squarely at the feet of Congress which is so polarized politically that getting anything of substance accomplished is incredibly difficult because regardless of what one party proposes, the other generally opposes it. All you need do is look at the Thomas Voting Reports published in a recent edition of Public Opinion to see that.

Could it be that voters are so sick of partisan politics that both parties are losing their appeal and registering as an independent has become an attractive option? If so, what does that mean for the major political parties in South Dakota and, perhaps, the nation? Maybe a substantial drop in party numbers for both sides, not just in South Dakota but across the country, will serve as a wake-up call. Something needs to because what we're getting out of Congress now isn't worth the money we're paying to keep its members employed.

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