South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

Rapid City Journal, March 26, 2013

Whiteclay beer sales drop

Alcohol is not allowed on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Yet, only a few miles away from Pine Ridge, millions of cans of beer are sold each year in Whiteclay, NE – most of which are illegally smuggled into the reservation.

Regular protests have been held in Whiteclay because of the amount of beer sold in its liquor stores and the unsolved deaths of two Native Americans in Whiteclay in 1999. Whiteclay has a population of 14 people and sold about 4.9 million cans of beer in 2010.

Activists say that the beer sales in Whiteclay are contributing to the high rate of alcoholism on the poverty-stricken reservation and have called for closing the liquor stores in the tiny Nebraska town that lies just outside the reservation boundaries.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe last year filed a federal lawsuit that sought $500 million in damages from the Whiteclay stores, their distributors and big-name beer manufacturers. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the tribe didn’t have a legal case.

Efforts to curtail beer sales through the Nebraska legislature likewise have gone nowhere. A bill introduced this year that would have increased the state’s beer excise tax by 5 cents a gallon to help law enforcement, including better policing in Whiteclay, was killed in committee earlier this month.

Despite these defeats, there is some signs of progress. A report by the Nebraska liquor control commission showed that Whiteclay beer sales continued to fall last year, with 3.9 million cans of beer sold. That’s at drop of about 1 million cans of beer since 2010.

Activists have attributed the decline in beer sales to increased awareness of Whiteclay and the efforts of Pine Ridge residents to discourage drinking.

It isn’t enough to make alcohol illegal on the reservation, attitudes toward drinking have to change if progress is to be made to reduce or eliminate the damaging effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the reservation, where one in four children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Nearly 4 million cans of beer sold in one year in one tiny Nebraska town is still a lot of beer. But the trend toward less beer smuggled into the Pine Ridge Reservation from Whiteclay is heading in the right direction.


The Daily Republic, March 27, 2013

SD DOC needs to move social media investigations out of ‘infancy’

South Dakota Secretary of Corrections Dennis Kaemingk told The Daily Republic for a story published Saturday that the DOC’s use of social media to locate walkaway inmates and parole absconders is “in its infancy.”

It’s time to make the effort grow up.

In October, Kent Davidson, 36, left a DOC facility where he was serving his parole. He never came back. The DOC issued the usual alerts to law enforcement in an effort to locate him, to no avail.

Then, earlier this month, Davidson’s name popped up in the news when the state Attorney General’s Office sought the public’s help in locating him for questioning regarding a homicide in rural Chamberlain. In short order, Davidson turned up in Sioux Falls and surrendered to authorities after a standoff.

After being told Davidson’s name, staffers in The Daily Republic newsroom began researching him on the Internet. They found that his Facebook page was public and contained all manner of details about his life and whereabouts over the previous five months, including his engagement to Mitchell resident Crystal Schulz, whose body was found earlier this month and sparked the manhunt for Davidson.

We should point out that although authorities have called Schulz’s death a homicide and have questioned Davidson about it, the crime remains under investigation and he has not been charged with playing any role in the death. Authorities have repeatedly said charges of some kind are anticipated.

We also should mention that we do not blame Kaemingk or the DOC for Davidson’s actions, whatever those actions were. Davidson was the one who chose to violate his parole.

We do blame the DOC, though, for not being more advanced in its use of social media to locate walkaways and absconders. If anybody with a computer and a Facebook account could learn so much about Davidson in so little time, there’s no reason the DOC shouldn’t be doing the same.

There should be some kind of program within the department to track down at least those walkaways and absconders who are so brazenly making their whereabouts and activities known on social media websites.

Argus Leader, March 26, 2013

Thank you, Sen. Tim Johnson

These days, we would say he’s “got our back.”

For 28 years, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has had the back of South Dakotans in Congress.

He has helped secure money for the Lewis & Clark water development project, fought for country-of-origin labeling for meat and voted in favor of Social Security and other programs for seniors. He favored the farm bill and conservation efforts and was an ally of the state Indian tribes. He also worked in conjunction with the state delegation to secure money for the downtown railroad relocation in Sioux Falls and to save Ellsworth Air Force Base from budget cuts. A moderate Democrat, he’s worked on thousands of smaller things for individual constituents and the state as a whole.

In between the work in Washington, where he was named Senate banking chairman, he has kept in contact with South Dakotans and continued to feel like he was “one of us.” He’s a South Dakotan who traces his roots back for generations, a University of South Dakota graduate and a hard, often behind-the-scenes, worker.

Although his speech changed and he uses a scooter for mobility after a brain hemorrhage in 2006, he — along with a well-chosen, experienced staff — worked as hard as he could for South Dakota. And people re-elected him, just like they had time and time again. He never lost a statewide election.

Most politicians have detractors, and granted some don’t always appreciate Johnson. In recent years, he has been less visible in the state, for example.

On Tuesday, our senior senator said he will retire after serving out his term until 2015. He’s 66, and it’s time to plan for a slower pace with his wife, Barbara, and their grandchildren. He’ll come home to South Dakota to live but might spend some winter months in Virginia as well, he said.

Before he goes, Johnson has some work he’d like to finish and he has a laundry list of priorities with a promise that he will continue to work hard to make the people of South Dakota proud. We encourage those efforts. His announcement is the beginning of a long campaign to fill his seat, and we need a senator who will remain attentive and engaged for the people of South Dakota.

While there still will be almost two years before Johnson leaves his Senate post, today it’s appropriate to thank him for his generosity of time, knowledge, commitment and grace to a state that benefited from his work.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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