South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 25, 2013

Deadwood should revive history

Is Deadwood’s Old West history being overwhelmed by the gaming industry?

When voters approved Deadwood gambling in a 1988 referendum, it was with the belief that it would be good for Northern Hills economy, the gaming revenue would be used for historic preservation and, with a bet limit of only $5, it could never become like Las Vegas.

Almost 25 years later, Deadwood is different, and so is the Deadwood gaming industry.

The restricted bet limit is no more. In 2000, voters narrowly approved increasing the bet limit for Deadwood gaming to $100, and the Legislature OK’d topping the bet limit at $1,000 as of July 1.

Now there are five Main Street casinos up for sale, and a sixth casino, the Gold Dust, is closed. Meanwhile, large resorts, like Cadillac Jacks, The Lodge at Deadwood and Deadwood Mountain Grand, are drawing crowds looking for Las Vegas-style entertainment.

Former Deadwood mayor Tom Blair told the Journal in an April 14 front-page story that the town needs to do more promotion of its history.

“I’m a true believer that Deadwood, of course, is founded on gold mining, but also a major portion of its history was its Old West,” he said. “We kept the history and heritage of the mining, but not as much the West.”

Blair suggested that Deadwood look to Old West tourism towns like Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Tombstone, Ariz., for how to capitalize on exploiting its frontier history and increase visitors.

Deadwood still tries to evoke its wild west heritage with mock gunfights, the trial of Jack McCall (hint: he shot Wild Bill Hickok), and the Days of ‘76 rodeo and parades for the tourists in summer.

But Deadwood doesn’t look the part of the wild west frontier town that it once was and which tourists and history buffs might travel to see.

After gambling was approved and the casinos began transforming Deadwood into a gaming and entertainment center, many long-time Black Hills residents lamented the town’s change in identity.

We believe Blair is on the right track with emphasizing Deadwood’s frontier heritage as a way to lure visitors and keeping the town’s historic Main Street from possibly becoming a ghost town of empty former casinos.

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Capital Journal, Pierre, April 26, 2013

Lawmakers should not ask state to pay for their memberships in conservative group

Heard any really bad ideas lately from the South Dakota Legislature? We have.

The Legislature’s Executive Board, dominated by Republicans, decided this week that the state treasury should pay the $100 memberships for all 105 South Dakota legislators in an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council, and also foot the bill for unlimited out-of-state trips to ALEC events by state lawmakers who serve on ALEC committees.

That’s an issue because ALEC – described on its own Web site as “a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers” – is not nonpartisan in the sense that an organization such as the National Conference of State Legislatures is.

There is widespread criticism of ALEC from watchdog groups and Democratic-leaning groups who say the organization gets much of its funding from corporations that stand to benefit from the model legislation that ALEC presents to state lawmakers.

It may be that ALEC truly tries to be nonpartisan, but part of what people are objecting to is that this group might allow the unseen hand of the corporations to influence what goes on in our states.

Only imagine how incensed Republicans would be if we had a Democratic-dominated Legislature and those lawmakers decided to pay memberships to a left-leaning group and travel to conferences where lawmakers could get research help and discuss model legislation on, say, labor and the environment and business regulation. What if that group called itself “a nonpartisan membership association for liberal state lawmakers,” would that raise concerns? Would we pay for our lawmakers’ memberships in that organization and fund committee members’ travel to its events?

Well, we have exactly that situation on the other side of the aisle.

If corporations want to whisper sweet nothings in the ears of South Dakota legislators, let them come to Pierre and follow the process our Legislature has set in place for lobbying. Or at the very least, let’s conserve some state funds and let the so-called conservative lawmakers pay their own membership bills. Don’t ask the state to pay for it, because that makes a mockery of conservative ideology.

South Dakotans should not foot the bill so that our lawmakers can go off and flirt with ALEC.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, April 29, 2013

Confederate flags should have no place in SD

South Dakota has become the focal point of a racial controversy that could become newsworthy on the national scene.

The Veterans Administration Medical Center in Hot Springs removed two Confederate flags last week after receiving complaints that the flags smacked of racism. Now this week, the flags have been restored to their previous place in a Medical Center rotunda display of historic flags, after the release of the patients who complained.

The veterans who filed the complaint are black.

The Confederate flag — or traditional rebel battle flags — are offensive to many people who feel the flags represent a history of slavery and servitude. Others find the flags offensive because they represent the rebellious cause that eventually claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans during the Civil War.

After last week’s complaint, officials at the VA center removed the flags, saying “we realize that there are people who have strong opinions on both sides of the issue.”

When the patients were released from the hospital, the flags apparently were re-hung.

If the reports about this incident are true, we are ashamed for the VA Center. What a disingenuous act. The flags should simply be removed, forever.

We consider Confederate flags offensive. We have heard others dismiss them as just harmless symbols of a bygone era, but the only era we can associate these flags with is one of bondage, slavery and white supremacy. Even if the flags aren’t racist — which they are — they represent a rebellious, enemy nation that started a costly and bloody war with the United States.

It’s time for America to grow up. And that time has especially come for a government-run medical center in Hot Springs that caters to men and women who fought to preserve the same freedoms that were gained with the United States’ victory in 1865.

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Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, April 23, 2013

The Senate fails on the gun issue

We now know what our lawmakers in Washington are going to do in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut last December, in which a gunman slaughtered 27 people, including 20 kids.

That answer was affirmed to us last week by the U.S. Senate, which has been considered — historically and arguably — the more reasonable of the two congressional chambers.

When faced with a watered-down measure that would require background checks on weapons sales made at gun shows and on the Internet, a majority of the senators voted yes. But, thanks to filibuster rules and the Republican threat to use the procedure, the minority wagged the dog and the measure failed.

And that’s what our lawmakers are doing about gun legislation these days: failing.

Mind you, they weren’t looking the other way on this issue in the face of tragedies like Newtown or Aurora, Colo., or Tucson, Ariz., or … well, you get the idea.

Instead, they met with the grieving families of victims — aching souls pleading and begging for something to be done to address the proliferation of firearms in this nation. The lawmakers faced them, heard their stories, saw their tears and chose to do nothing. They chose to fail.

The lawmakers failed the nation with last week’s vote.

They failed the victims and their families.

They failed a large segment of their constituencies, as more than 90 percent of Americans favor background checks on these types of gun transactions. One can also assume that at least a respectable portion of that 90 percent are gun owners, too.

The lawmakers failed to lead on every level. In response to the Senate vote, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the action “a failure in moral leadership to protect and defend the public good.”

Instead, many lawmakers succeeded in showing themselves to be impotent lapdogs for the National Rifle Association, which has gone on a hysterical rampage equating any attempt to introduce some form of legislation to address gun violence as an all-out assault on the U.S. Constitution. These senators seem more devoted to ideology than the idea of making America a safer country.

This failure is a disgrace.

We understand the logic that guns do not kill people, that people kill people. In fact, it’s people who shouldn’t have guns that often kill people. And our lawmakers seem powerless — or unwilling — to do anything about it.

We also acknowledge that background checks would not prevent all gun massacres. No one piece of legislation can. But using that argument to do nothing other than to preserve the perceived freedoms of the Second Amendment says a lot.

The op-ed pages across the nation have been saying a lot, too, using withering terms such as “shameful,” cowardly,” ‘‘nauseating,” ‘‘contemptible,” ‘‘irresponsible,” ‘‘craven” … the list is long and condemning.

The response from the families of the victims, among others, has also been damning. For instance, Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the Newtown principal who was among those gunned down at Newtown, said she was “honestly disgusted” by the Senate’s inaction. Lafferty added: “My mom was not scared in the halls of Sandy Hook. (The senators) should not be scared to cast a vote to protect millions of innocent people.”

We can only add to this chorus of anger what we feel is the saddest observation of all: These lawmakers have merely shown themselves to be what we always feared they were. These are their true colors, ladies and gentlemen. In the wake of the Connecticut massacre and amid the pleas of grieving families, after so many funerals and so many tears, this is who these lawmakers are.

And since we put them there, we’re getting precisely what we deserve.

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