Monthly Archives: February 2016

What’s It Gonna Be, Governor?

Dear Governor Daugaard,

Since moving back to South Dakota in 2007, I have heard you, your predecessors and many legislators speak passionately about your love for South Dakota, your love for the state’s young people,  your plea to have the State’s best and brightest go to college in South Dakota, and continue to live, work and raise their families in the State.  I’ve heard you time and again invite the rest of the world to come visit our state as tourists.  I’ve heard you time and again invite businesses, researchers, doctors, and many other high-demand professionals to come and stay in SD to enjoy the “good life” here.

Every commencement speech, every campaign commercial and stump speech, every town hall meeting is filled with epic rhetoric on why South Dakota is the BEST.

Republicans/conservatives have more or less been in power in South Dakota for at least the last 50 years.  It’s during those 50 years that we became 50th in the nation in far too many categories.  It’s during those 50 years we became the Brain Drain State.  As the leaders, you and your colleagues are never shy of taking credit for our successes.  As the leader, you need to start taking credit for the failures, too.

This latest travesty regarding transgender kids and school bathrooms and locker rooms is the worst example yet of the ignorance, bigotry, and disregard for the rule of law at our Statehouse.  Please.  Read the letter below.  Re-read it.  Please have your wife and family read it.  Have your grandkids read it.  It’s not written by someone seeking office, or seeking a government contract or grant or concession.  It’s written by someone who is exactly the kind of person you want coming home to SD.  It’s someone who is dying to come home but can’t because of the ignorance and hate present on the floors of the House and Senate.

If the ignorant are playing politics and are willing to gut the much-needed K-12 education spending bill unless you sign this travesty, veto the bill and let them.  All of us in South Dakota are at a crossroads.  You need to be a champion for fairness, for good for what’s right.  You are the only one who can avoid this tragic mistake.

There’s Fair, and Then There’s Unfair

Here are two things I’d thought I’d never do:  1) Watch an entire Hollywood Awards show from beginning to end, and 2) Hear something in an acceptance speech that’s stayed with me weeks later.  The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards aired on January 30.  I sat through the whole thing, partially because the winners were so predictable I was amazing the household with a string of picking winners despite not having seen any of the nominated performances.  In fact, in the three hours of the telecast there were only two surprises.  The first was that the telecast FINISHED ON TIME (amazing).  The second was at the end of the acceptance speeches by members of the cast of “Spotlight” winners of the Best Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture.  “Spotlight” is the powerful dramatization of sexual abuse of children by Boston Diocese priests, and the work of Boston Globe reporters uncovering the cover-up.  Actor Michael Keaton spoke last, and in 36 seconds spoke volumes:

Keaton:  “It comes down to two things: There’s fair and then there’s unfair.  I’m always gonna vote for the fair, I’m always gonna pull for the good guys.”

The classic South Dakota ethos is big on fairness. Prince or pauper, town or country, governor or hard-scrabble farmer, no one is better than the other.  We stand tall, talk plain, take action when necessary and do the right thing. If history holds steady, the coming TV election commercials will be full of candidates of all stripes and genders sporting flannel shirts and well-worn boots and jeans stressing their “ordinariness” and embodiment of South Dakota fairness.

I probably romanticize the past, but back in the day, though we differed greatly on the solutions, we seemed to be in more agreement on the problems.  Better said, regardless of our politics we shared the same goals.  Today?  For generations there was no goal more important than the education of our kids, and we sacrificed if need be to make sure quality stayed high.  Now?  Even after watching schools struggle, graduation rates fall teachers first going into their own pockets to provide the basics for their students then leaving the state they love just to feed their families, we’ve watched in utter disbelief as huge majorities in Pierre say, “Problem?  I don’t see a problem”.  Only now is the problem being recognized, and forgive me for my hesitance but I’ll believe it when I see the bills passed and signed into law.

Have nearly 150 years of reservations brought us any closer to fairness for Indian Country? As the nation, including the US Supreme Court, moves proactively toward fairer treatment for GLBT citizens, is SD honoring our tradition of fairness by bringing back Jim Crow to our bathrooms, and allowing discrimination against same-sex couples, unmarried pregnant women and the transgendered while still enjoying state contracts?

Everyone in Pierre from the Governor on down say they want our best and brightest to stay in South Dakota.  They also are trying to recruit the same researchers, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs and capital that most other states are also courting, and tout our natural resources and traditional values.  I’m just an unemployed song and dance man, but I’m pretty sure the celebration of ignorance, discrimination and bigotry may not be our best recruitment strategy.  There’s fair and there’s unfair.  Let’s be the ones who vote for the fair and always pull for the good guys.

There’s Snow Business Like Snow Business


Sioux Falls K-12 closing schools the day before a weather event is as rare as a coherent “Victory Speech” following an Iowa caucus.  Days like today bring back specific memories of Snow Days gone by.  I can say with concrete certainly that during my K-12 days I was the very first kid in the entire district to know school was cancelled that day.  My Dad was the Superintendent of Schools at Plainview, MN for 20 years. On days like today, my Dad was up very early (4am?) and on the kitchen phone calling his bus drivers for driving conditions in the country.  After deciding to close he’d start making calls to the area radio stations, giving each their special “code word” (so renegade students wouldn’t call in false reports) and details on closing.  The kitchen phone was one of two in the house.  It also happened to be right next to my bedroom. I didn’t even have to get out of my nice, warm bed.  This was long before TV scrolls, or texts, or web pages or weather radar.  I wouldn’t have needed them anyway. My info came straight from the top.

Our house in Plainview was on a corner.  That meant we only had one next door neighbor, the Sparks family.  Lowell “Red” Sparks just happened to be the John Deere dealer in town.  When the blizzard snow and winds were at their worst, Red would find his way down to Sparks Implement and return at the wheel of a state-of-the-art JD with a loader on the front.  Before long the streets of the entire neighborhood were cleared. Since he used a loader there were BIG piles of snow strategically placed like mountain ranges on both our western and northern borders.  Snow forts, caves and tunnels of epic scale were quickly built and manned, guaranteeing the neighborhood’s safety from attack.

Randy Breuer


Randy Breuer, Noted big person

My last memory today was from my junior year in high school.  It was March and the Minnesota State Boys Basketball tournaments were underway at the long departed St. Paul Civic Center.  Lake City, the perennial powerhouse from our conference and district led by 7’2” Randy Breuer, was playing.  Breuer was the first round pick (18th overall) of the Milwaukee Buck.  He played 10 NBA seasons.  I had to play against him for 6 years.  Guess who won?  Anyway we knew many of the Lake City players and they were our rooting interest.  Normally the first round games would happen when we were at school, but we had a blizzard and went home early.  Two of my friends (Brent Wohlers and Dave Arnett) worked after school at Kings Grocery downtown. Without incriminating anyone, the boys had “liberal access” to all the Mountain Dew, chips and whole cooked chickens they could carry. Doug Marcotte’s parents were working, so we holed up at his house watching basketball and gorging the way only 16-17 year old boys can do. Lake City won that game and the entire tournament.  That afternoon might not sound like much, but it was grand…grand enough to remember 38 years later.


What’s your favorite Snow Day memory?  Consider sharing it here, and consider sharing this post with your friends.  You can also guarantee perfect attendance by having these posts automatically delivered by clicking on “follow” below.  Happy snow removal!