South dakota editorial roundup

The Associated Press

Rapid City Journal. Sept. 13, 2012

Return of sacred site a good thing

So much is still unknown — and so many questions remain unanswered — about the potential sale of nearly 2,000 acres of Black Hills prairie to the Native American nation that considers it sacred.

According to published reports, Margaret and Leonard Reynolds, the owners of the high meadow grasslands near Deerfield Reservoir deep in the Black Hills, have accepted an earnest deposit and a $9 million bid from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe for land that the Sioux know as Pe' Sla (pronounced pay-shlaw) and other inhabitants call Reynolds Prairie. Newly elected RST President Cyril Scott said recently that a $900,000 deposit has been made and the remaining $8.1 million payment is due in November. That agreement ended a planned auction that would have subdivided the land for sale to private individuals.

Who would own it, how it would be managed and where the remaining purchase funds will come from remain unclear at this point.

But there is one thing that is certain: If the land can be successfully returned to the Lakota nation, which considers it the sacred site of the Lakota creation story, and successfully managed once it is, then the best interests of both the Great Sioux Nation, the land itself and people everywhere will have been served.

We're pleased to see the tribe and other Native organizations work together to make this dream a reality for all Native Americans. About 250 Native Americans recently rallied in Rapid City to support the purchase, while news of the pending auction, its cancellation and the last-minute efforts by tribes to buy the land stirred passions worldwide. Organizers said small donations of $5 and $10 flooded in from as far away as Russia and closer to home, as well, from people who want to see the land preserved for ceremonial and spiritual purposes.

We trust the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and others are sincere in their desire to manage Pe Sla for those purposes.

Additionally, we expect that all Black Hills residents and tourists will benefit from not seeing the Reynolds Prairie acreage subdivided and sold off as individual home sites to private individuals.

Development of that kind would denigrate the beautiful, sweeping vistas of that high meadow country, even for people who have no connection to the Lakota creation story. The benefits of keeping the land undeveloped and in its natural state benefits us all, no matter what your spiritual beliefs.

Watertown Public Opinion. Sept. 11, 2012

Preserving retirement system's viability

The South Dakota Retirement System's board of trustees recently began talks to consider making changes in the state's retirement system. The trustees are considering the changes because the system's benefits are overly generous, especially for early retirees, and the State Investment Council isn't able to produce the earnings necessary to keep the system in financial balance.

One change has already been made. Trustees adopted a lower annual target for rate of return on investments. Effective July 1, 2013, the target will be reduced to 7.25 percent from the current 7.75 percent. The 7.25 percent would be used for the next five years, then move to 7.5 percent in 2018.?What that boils down to is trustees believe earnings expectations will be lower for the next few years and that means benefits and expenses will have to be reduced. Suggestions to accomplish that include raising the normal retirement age to 67, raising the early retirement age to 57 and adding five years to the formula for determining eligibility for special early retirement, so that a person would need a combination equaling 90 years in age and years of service instead of the current 85.

Given the problems nationwide with government pension programs, South Dakota's system is in pretty good shape. Trustees want to make these changes to head off problems in the future, based on overly optimistic return percentages. That gives us comfort knowing the system will continue to be supported by those investing each month instead of coming to the Legislature's general fund and begging for a bailout from all taxpayers.

Looking at the state retirement system two things become obvious. First, increasing the retirement age means people/pensioners drawing on the system are living longer. That, in turn, means more money needs to be pumped into the system, both from those working and from fund investments, to ensure adequate funding so the pension system can meet its obligations.

South Dakota's public pension system has more than 74,000 members and their families. To make sure their future needs are met, the system has to take steps periodically to make sure it will have the money on hand to meet those obligations. The goal of the system is to be self-sustaining and that's the way it should be. The last thing anyone wants to see is the taxpayers having to pitch in to the keep the system afloat, as what's happening in numerous states across the country.

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