Archive for the ‘NEWS & POLITICS’ Category

VCDC Offers Flood Relocation Funds…to the Wealthy

Dang it, Steve.  The thing is, I really like you, and I think you’ve done good things for the community.

But it kind of sticks in my craw when I read in the Plain Talk that the Vermillion Area Chamber and Economic Development Company is offering relocation funding up to $5000 for victims of the Missouri River flood–that is, if they buy at least 100K worth of house or build a new one [Travis Gulbrandson, “VCDC offers flood relocation program,” 24 June 2011].

What this says to me is that the VCDC wants people who could afford nice homes on the river to bring their wealth to  Vermillion (a truly shocking revelation).  If you had a modest place that flooded out or you lost everything, well, don’t expect a helping hand. The VCDC isn’t offering relocation incentives to young people starting out or families trying to regain their footing in tough circumstances.

I think I have a better idea.  Sure, it won’t make the realtors quite as much cash, but what if the VCDC looked at their priority job development areas–say, food business or light industry or the non-profit sector–and then considered the more modest salaries those people might expect?  And then what if the VCDC decided to incentivize on an inverse scale?

Instead of offering more money as the price of the house goes up, why not offer more incentive as the price goes down?  People who can afford a $100K house probably don’t need a $3K grant, but I’ll bet a young (or not-so-young) person or couple looking in the $75-80K range could be enticed by that figure.  How about a slightly larger grant for people looking in the very modest range–an incentive to help fix up some of the not-so-lovingly-cared-for dwellings?

Now, that would be a strategy that wouldn’t make me choke so much on that final story quote from VCDC Executive Director, Steve Howe–that “…we’re taking care of our own.”

A Correction on the SD Home-Processed Foods Law Tweaking

More information about HB1240’s hoghoused strangeness, that I wrote about rather scathingly in a recent post:

Apparently, the new piece of legislation does not change the previous Home-Processed Foods Law for shelf-stable baked goods and third-party processing authority-certified acid or acidified canned goods sold at farmers markets, roadside stands, and similar venues.

Here’s what it does do: it sets a $5000 yearly gross sales limit for homemade shelf-stable (non-temperature controlled) baked goods from the home itself.

The bill was crafted in response to a request from a constituent who has a cottage bakery business. The sales limit was reportedly set by the Dept. of Health in consultation with commercially licensed bakeries–the sales limit at which those commercial bakeries felt they were not threatened.

The limit was not set due to health or safety concerns.  The limit basically tells a home baker that they have to walk out their door if they want to sell more than $5000 worth of bread or cookies or cakes a year.

The new law is all about point of sale (where the money changes hands), and sales of baked goods at farmers markets, roadside stands, and similar venues do not count toward the $5000 gross sales limit for in-home sales.

I apologize for any confusion my initial post on this law has caused, though I have to admit that clarification on the content and intent has only increased my own confusion about the point of this thing.

SD Home-Processed Foods Law Gets Unnoticed Updates

I no longer live in South Dakota, but when I saw this legislative–>hoghouse maneuver, it really ticked me off.

Without consulting or notifying those who are affected, or those who actually worked on this legislation in the last session, SD legislators made some changes to the Home-Processed Foods Law and got them through committee and passed without anyone noticing–until now, that is.

First off, on initial introduction, HB1240 would have required a yearly $40 license from the Health Department to operate a “cottage food industry.”  Then the bill was hoghoused (SD speak for “stripped of its language and pretty much completely changed but still under the same bill #”) and changed to one that sets a $5000 yearly income limit on sales of homemade baked goods (pdf!).

I know the history of the SD Home-Processed Foods Law, so I know whereof I speak.  When our producer group worked with the SD Dept. of Health to draft this law, we asked for our own version of the MN Pickle Law, which does have a $5K income limit per year on home-processed baked goods and acid or acidified canned goods, but does not require testing of those canned goods.

What we ended up with was a version that allowed home-processed shelf-stable baked goods and acid and acidified canned goods to be sold at farmers markets, farm stands, and “similar venues”–but those acid and acidified foods needed to be tested by a “third party processing authority.”  And, there was no yearly income limit on sales of these goods.  At that time, the Health Department deemed income limitations unrelated to preserving the public health.

The recent legislation does not set a yearly income limit for the canned goods (cutbacks to the Cooperative Extension–the main processing authority–should pretty much see to that), but it does set a yearly income limit on baked goods.

So, why exactly did South Dakota’s legislators suddenly decide a fee limit was needed?  And why weren’t there any discussions about this new legislation with the people who are affected by it?

Representatives Greenfield and Sly? Senator Nygaard?  South Dakota’s small producers are on the line, and they have some questions…


Come on Over!

I’m still writing here every once in awhile, but my main posting is now over at Big Stone Bounty.

If you’re a South Dakotan, never fear–it’s just a tippy-toe over the border into Western Minnesota. In fact, I can see South Dakota from my kitchen table.

If you’re from Minnesota, or anywhere else in the States or the wide world, I welcome you to join me there, too!

Oh, Eldon

How could you?

News out of Pierre reports that Eldon Nygaard, District 17 Senator-Elect, has defected to the Republican Party.

See commentary here, here, and here.

I want to add to that discussion the fact that Nygaard was elected to represent one of the bluest districts in the state.  Had he been running on the other side of the aisle, he would have lost. Period.

That seat was BJ’s (Ben Nesselhuf’s), and the fact that Nygaard won had as much (if not more) to do with Ben leaving the Dem’s District 17 Senate seat open to run for Secretary of State (and giving Eldon his support) as it did with Nygaard’s own virtues as a candidate. The idea that Nygaard can “best represent” his district by switching parties after securing those good-faith Democratic votes is ludicrous and wrong-headed in the extreme.

But Eldon has made wrong-headed decisions before–like supporting HCR 1009 while serving in the House–you know the one that said science instructors ought to engage in “balanced teaching of global warming”?  The embarrassment that earned our state “dumbest in the nation” acclaim?

I attended the cracker barrel after that one, as did a number of parents, science teachers and USD professors, to let Eldon know just exactly how far he’d strayed from representing the home district of the University of South Dakota.  Nygaard vacillated between saying he’d “pulled the wrong lever” to admitting he traded that vote for one on some anti-texting-while-driving legislation he introduced.

Either way, the crowd wasn’t satisfied with the lack of apology or real acknowledgment of the grievousness of the error, and Eldon ought to have figured that out by how few signed his Senate-run petition as they left.

You can’t even claim Nygaard made the party switch out of personal interest.  How many democratic fund-raising efforts, meetings, and GOTV efforts brought business to his Buffalo Run winery?  Dems on all levels of state government (and some on the federal level as well) considered that place their home turf for a reason, and those reasons are gone now.

This switch is far more maddeningly clueless and faithless than Nygaard’s support for HCR 1009.  District 17 Dems need to make their outrage known AND start recruiting candidates to replace those who can’t figure out on which side of the aisle their bread gets its butter.

[Wanna contend my Nesselhuf/Nygaard popularity assertion?  Let’s do.

In the 2010 election, BJ won for Secretary of State in both counties in his old Senate seat district: 62.67% of the vote in Clay County and 47.48% in Turner County as a whole (not all of which is in District 17).  By comparison, Eldon won the Clay County vote with 59.52% and lost his area of Turner County with 44.05% of votes.  Eldon won his seat with 53.42% of the overall District 17 vote.  BJ won that same seat in 2006 with 69% of the vote.

I think you could comfortably say that even though Nesselhuf is the “truer blue” of the candidates, he was, and remains, more popular than our turncoat Nygaard, even in the majority Republican part (Turner County) of District 17. Now tell us again, Eldon, about the wisdom of your strategy?]

Out on a Limb: South Dakota’s Medical Marijuana Vote Means More than California’s Recreational Vote

Call me crazy, but in my admittedly amateur socio-political analysis, the outcome of South Dakota’s vote next Tuesday on medical marijuana means more in terms of the country’s overall commitment to a saner drug policy than California’s recreational marijuana measure.

How is it possible that what happens in a state that falls into the “other” category (population barely worth mentioning) on Wikipedia’s 2009 census estimate chart is more important than what happens in a state with 37 million people?

It’s possible because, if the measure passes, it shows that the least (populous) and most (conservative) among us is ready for change.

I remember being flabbergasted at the slimness of the margin by which this measure failed back in 2006, and did some anecdotal asking-about as to who all these radical pro-pot voters were.

The responses typically fell into two categories: Farmers, who might be interested in a new cash crop (even if just for the future hope of hemp); and Seniors, which South Dakota has an awful lot of, who might like to have access to a cheaper way to ease their pain (no Field of Dreams pun intended).

So, not really the radical lot of hippies I was expecting (though I had no idea where they might be hiding out–except perhaps in my lonely blue precinct).

As you may know, South Dakota has the distinction of being the only state in which a medical marijuana bill has gone down to defeat, and the polls show that might happen again (though I am skeptical of the KELO/Argus instrument).

In my book, that would be a shame.  While I’m not a dope-smoker, I won’t claim that I’ve never inhaled, and I think most of us are past that kind of silly obfuscation.  The point of the legislation is not to make ourselves seem “pot-friendly,” but to give the seriously ill among us a real alternative for relief–from pain and (hopefully, eventually) from the greed of Big Pharma.

And maybe to show the country that, even out in the “Great American Desert,” we’re ready to invest in progressive and proactive policy changes to stop the never-ending violence, criminalization of our youth, and financial drain of this nation’s War on Drugs.

Holy Crow! The Independent Local!

Holly at Dakota Rural Action posted a link to this site this morning, which had completely escaped my radar.

The Independent Local

The point of this site is to provide news and commentary by South Dakotans, for South Dakotans.  An independent voice that is actually owned and operated by people of this state, rather than giant media conglorporations from the coasts.

Of course, we already do have some wonderful news and opinion sites that fit this bill, but a brief perusal has me impressed with this relative newcomer.

Check it out!