South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Jan. 14, 2014

DM&E sale could benefit state

About one year after Canadian Pacific put its Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern rail lines up for sale, the company has announced it was selling its lines to Genesee & Wyoming for about $210 million.

The deal includes 660 miles of track between Tracy, Minn., and Rapid City, north of Rapid City to Colony, Wyo., and south to Dakota Junction, Neb., and a branch line to Crawford, Neb.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he has been trying to get answers from CP about its promises to upgrade rail lines in South Dakota, but so far the company hasn’t responded.

CP bought DM&E in 2008 with the intention of developing rail service to the coal fields in Wyoming. To do that, it would have had to upgrade the rail lines to handle the increase in traffic. The company promised to make at least $300 million in upgrades.

Daugaard said in a release that in response to South Dakota’s inquiries, the federal Surface Transportation Board is requiring Canadian Pacific to answer written questions and document its investment and service levels.

“I am hopeful this sale to a short-line operator is in the best interest of the state,” said Gov. Daugaard. “I am also hopeful that our questions about the Canadian Pacific’s obligations to improve the line will be answered.”

Genesee & Wyoming officials said the New York-based company plans to keep the former DM&E rail lines open. The company is the nation’s largest operator of short line railroads.

We share the governor’s concerns that the rail lines through South Dakota will remain open and that CP has met its obligations to upgrade the DM&E lines.

According to CP, the rail lines in South Dakota ship about 52,000 carloads of grain, bentonite, ethanol, fertilizer and other products each year. In addition, industrial parks in Rapid City and Belle Fourche are dependent on rail access to attract existing and emerging industries.

Building and maintaining good transportation networks are key to improving South Dakota’s economy.

It appears that the Canadian Pacific has been uninterested in maintaining and upgrading the DM&E lines after dropping its plans to expand into Wyoming. Ignoring inquiries from South Dakota’s governor about its investments is a sign of bad faith from the Canadian company.

We are hopeful that Genesee & Wyoming will be a better economic development partner with the state than CP and that the company will improve rail service in South Dakota.

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Capital Journal, Pierre, Jan. 7, 2014

Fundraising tools made in China are a poor way to showcase Native American culture

Anthropologists say it was probably the Ojibwe among Native American peoples who came up with the idea of a “dreamcatcher” — a hoop strung with webbing — to snare the bad dreams so that a sleeper would only have good dreams. Wherever it began, that idea has since been widely embraced by Plains Indian tribes such as the Lakota. But as the Wikipedia entry about dreamcatchers informs us, some Native Americans have come to see dreamcatchers as “over-commercialized, offensively misappropriated and misused by non-Natives.”

With all due respect to the well-meaning people at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, we think that is what has happened in the school’s fundraising effort that includes sending some potential donors an actual dreamcatcher — but made in China.

To our way of thinking, that is over-commercialization in action. It takes something beautiful from Native American tradition and makes it into cheap junk.

We heard about this fundraising gimmick from one of the potential donors who received a Chinese-made dreamcatcher in the mail. He described the tactic as “very sad.”

We suspect he’s not the only one who has let the school know what a disappointment it is to find an Asian-made emblem of Native American culture in the mail. In fact the school has a space on its website dedicated to explaining why it feels compelled to rely on a Chinese manufacturer to make the dreamcatchers it uses in its fundraising efforts. As the school told the Capital Journal, it sends out 3 million to 4 million of these dreamcatchers each year, and personnel say the school can’t find a South Dakota company that can produce that number of dreamcatchers.

Really? The school is spending $14.9 million in fundraising efforts, according to its own numbers, and it sits here among some of the poorest counties in the nation, yet it can’t find a Native American company that would gladly use some of that cash to make some authentic dreamcatchers? Sounds like a cottage industry in the making to us.

If the school honestly can’t find a Native American manufacturer, maybe St. Joseph’s Indian School ought to just stop sending out dreamcatchers — save the money it has been investing in the Chinese economy and spend it another way. And maybe it’s also time to have a visit with the marketing whiz who came up with this dreamcatchers-made-in-China idea. This isn’t marketing — it’s an embarrassment to the school and to Native American culture.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Jan. 8, 2014

Work group needs more pheasant belt representatives

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has announced the people who will serve on his Pheasant Habitat Work Group, and 13 South Dakotans will tackle this hot-button issue beginning in February.

It’s a good first step, and it shows that the process is moving forward following the governor’s habitat summit last month in Huron.

Just one problem: The governor missed the mark when he failed to fully represent the Mitchell region — and south-central South Dakota in general — on the board.

Among the 13 selectees is Steve Halverson, who owns Halverson Hunts in Kennebec. Great choice.

Halverson’s guide service has been doing business since the mid-1980s, and his background speaks for itself. His location is perfect.

Halverson is an entrepreneur and, at least on paper, appears to be a boots-on-the-ground representative.

For the most part, that’s unique on this newly appointed board, which is mostly comprised of people who are currently or have been employed by the state, or are in an elected or appointed state position. And Halverson is the only person who could be considered a resident of the state’s true pheasant belt, which in our opinion runs roughly from Howard to Winner, and from the Nebraska border to Wessington Springs.

This board needs a few bureaucrats and government insiders. Those are people who can get things done. A few elected officials are good, too, for the same reason.

But this board needs more representation from everyday folks who hail from Ground Zero.

Deciding to move forward with this task force was a good idea, and one that we hope will be followed by action.

But it wasn’t a good idea to overload it with government insiders, and it was a terrible idea to exclude more representation from the pheasant belt.

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