Monday, December 8, 2014

Taking the Side of the Train

Stop this train 
I want to get off and go home again 
I can't take the speed it's moving in 
I know I can't but honestly won't someone stop this train
Those lyrics by John Mayer are probable not exactly what the people of Enderlin in North Dakota were thinking when they felt the need to ban trains from taking breaks longer than 10 minutes in their city limits.  This has caused Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. to sue the town according to a report from Reuters.
Partly thanks to North Dakota's energy boom, twenty-eight of the railroad's trains now traverse the city every day. Each carry hundreds of tank cars filled with oil or grain. Some idle as long as four hours, inconveniencing motorists, stranding pedestrians and posing logistical challenges for ambulances and firefighters. 
Desperate for a solution, Enderlin's city councilors last month banned train breaks longer than 10 minutes. The railroad has, in turn, sued the city of nearly 900 in federal court. Canadian Pacific contends the order violates interstate commerce laws. The railroad's lawyers also asked a judge to grant a temporary injunction. 
It appears that this is a classic battle of business desires trumping human safety.  I would guess that business will win out in the battle.  The claim is simple.  A town can not regulate the rail line that is for interstate commerce.  That is the Feds job.

The only problem is when the train sits and sits in the town, it prevents first responders from getting to an emergency on the other side.  

Fighting back, Enderlin said in its own court filings that human safety should trump any financial harm to the company. It's not clear how much Enderlin is spending to defend itself, and city officials did not have data readily available. But Canadian Pacific has asked for the city to pay the railroad's legal fees should it prevail. 
Still, it's a fight Enderlin seems happy to pursue. 
As Scott DeFehr, who has lived in Enderlin for 14 years, wrote in a letter to the court, the city has residents "whose safety and very lives are threatened by the blocking of rail crossings."
It is time to stop caving into oil's needs when weighed against the rights and safety of people.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Argus Leader Nearly Gets It Right

The Sunday Voices section of today's paper had two articles examining failing funding approaches of this administration.  One was a news article from the soon departed David Montgomery about Daugaard's approach to managing the government.   The second was an editorial calling for more funding for education.

The editorial points to new information about a problem that has been well documented and ignore by Pierre for years.  That we will soon not have people to teach our students.
How bad is teacher pay in South Dakota? 
So bad that they are leaving — as more and more teachers retire, fewer are entering. 
According to a report by the School Administrators of South Dakota, 1,004 teachers are eligible for retirement this year. Meanwhile, there are just 726 seniors among education programs prepared to enter the workforce. 
The main factor? Low teacher pay.
These warnings are not new.  Unfortunately there is no reason why we should expect this to change.  In talking about the proposed summer tax increase to help increase education funding, Daugaard makes his position clear.

There is hope, however. A proposed one-cent sales tax hike during the summer months would raise $40 million to $45 million to increase wages, according to Wade Pogany, executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota. 
But Daugaard probably won’t be on board.
“I don’t see myself supporting something like that,” he said after his budget address.
So what is an educator to do other than leave?  This is where the editorial staff gets it all wrong.  Their solution is to accept the rejected proposal of 2012 and take incentive-based increases.  Basically, make education worse and the climate worse, and the Governor may throw you a few bones.
Daugaard wanted to make a statewide teacher evaluation system mandatory and partially use student performance to impose merit-based bonuses. Voters said no by a 2-to-1 margin. 
If a compromise on the issue is needed to increase teacher pay, the union should strongly consider it. 
Everyone needs to work together to help avoid the teacher shortage, which will get only worse if nothing is done.
The solution is not accepting bad policy that has been shown to create a more hostile work environment (that is not going to encourage people into going into education).  The teacher union has offered many, many different approaches at compromise.  It is not time for giving in.  We have tried that.  I leave you with a selection of Patrick Henry's words from his speech to the Virginia Convention:
Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! 
It is time to fight.  It is time to be vocal to both the legislators and executive office.  Teachers need to start descending on Pierre and show up to coffee talks with our legislators.  Put some pressure on Pierre, and then, maybe then, something can be done.  The solution is not bowing before Daugaard for scraps to make things worse. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why Veterans Are Important to Our Nation's History and Future

Each year I have my speech students participate in the VFW's Voice of Democracy competition.  When I am trying to wrangle up the top speakers in the classes to record their speeches on a CD and get it to the area VFW chapter, I sometimes wonder why I bother.  However, it is the journey that the students take when it comes to writing these speeches that makes it worthwhile.

This years topic, "Why Veterans Are Important to Our Nation's History and Future," proved to be less of a challenge for the students than last year's.  The students dug into the issue with expected ideas.  They explored some of our earliest veterans from the Revolution and talked about the history of wars and the young men and women that fought in them.  One thing that is interesting was that this year's topic only focuses on the past and the future: It seems to ignore the present.

Student's were shocked and a few were very frustrated by the treatment that many veterans receive today.  They explored the problem of homelessness among the veterans.  They discovered statistics like
Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimatesthat 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night.
They also examined the health of our veterans and found that it is believed that 22 veterans commit suicide each day.  They looked into the rates of PTSD and found out
Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
One of the more common conclusions that student drew was simply that we should be very proud of those that served our country.  The work and sacrifice of those veterans of the past are an vital component of what makes this nation wonderful.  They also concluded that if we don't start taking care of the veterans of the present, there may be no veterans of the future.

Today, politicians will go around making speeches about how much the veteran means to them, how they are the veterans friend,  and how they will always be there to honor the veterans sacrifice.  Don't believe their words.  Make them show it not through press releases, but action that says: I respect you and your sacrifice and instead of benefiting the corporation or Wall Street or special interest/lobby group, I will fully fund veteran's health, education, and other benefits first.  

Thank you to our veterans of the past, future and present.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Predictions on the Elections

Cory at Madville Times asks people to go ahead and make their predictions.  I thought I would give it a shot, but for a disclaimer, if you could see my fantasy football team's record, you would know that I am not the best at predicting success and outcomes.

In the Senate race:

Mike Rounds with 42%

Rick Weiland with 38%

Larry Pressler with 19%

Gordan Howie with less than 1%

In the House Race

Kristi Noem with 58%

Corrina Robinson with 42%

In the Governor Race

Daugaard with 65%

Wismer with 28%

Meyers with 7%

Initiated Measure 17

Yes with 52%

No with 48%

Initiated Measure 18

Yes 57%

No 43%

Amendment Q

No 56%

Yes 44%

District 16 House

Herman Otten 70%

Issac Latteral 50%

Rich Schriever 35%

The National Senate Race

Republicans 53 seats

Democrats 44 seats

Independents 3 seats

Change in Washington's climate and culture?

ZERO PERCENT

Chance OBAMA will get blamed for the Republican's inability to lead for the next 2 years-

100 Percent

Monday, November 3, 2014

Using SD Common Sense in Casting Your Vote Tomorrow

Mike Rounds like to tell people that Washington needs some South Dakota common sense.  I think he is absolutely right; a vote for Rick Weiland means using common sense in protecting the people.

The biggest question that Rounds never explored when regurgitating his catch phrase is what is "common sense."  The Cambridge Dictionary online defines common sense as:
 the ability to use good judgment in making decisions and to livein a reasonable and safe way
Unless the South Dakota version of common sense is the opposite of that definition, there is no way Mike Rounds represents South Dakota common sense. 

First is the idea of using "good judgement" in making decisions.  Mike has failed on this in so many ways- 
Trusting Joop Bollen and Richard Benda to run the EB-5 program

Using state goods for personal use

Misusing federal money to hide mistakes:
–Rounds also took $26 million in federal dollars sent to help South Dakota’s children in light of our woefully underfunded educational system in South Dakota. Remember he did this while he was cutting education in the state by 25 percent in his eight years in office. So, what did Rounds do with this federal money that was supposed to be spent on education? He squirreled it away into the state’s general fund to mask his massive debts.

Being Honest about Medicare, Ellsworth, or simply read the editorial from the Mobridge Tribune to cover his many lapses of honesty.

Remember that to have common sense is to live in a reasonable and safe way.  It was under Mike that we experienced a huge budget problem that Dennis Daugaard explained was why he had to gut education and hurt every student and every person connected to the education field in this state.  It was Mike Rounds that used eminent domain to take land from farmers for his Transcanda pipeline.  Let's not forget EB-5.  

If you want a candidate that displays South Dakota common sense, then you need to vote for small business owner, family man, and hard-working Rick Weiland.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mike Rounds Is the Candidate of NO!

Tuesday is nearly here and things will clear up.  The Republicans are starting to do their touchdown dance of taking over the Senate.  There are still a few hurdles to overcome.  One of those hurdles is simply that the GOP seems to offer nothing than other than "NOT OBAMA!"  They live in this mind-set as the party of no.

Mike Rounds clearly epitomizes that mind set.  If you caught his performance on the KELO debate, he was running against Obama and not Weiland or Pressler.  His empty suit and empty promises will seem to fit in well with the GOP in Washington, but is that what we want?  This attitude was a party that brought you government shut down, a costly and extended delay in the Farm bill, and as led to the most ineffective Congress in, well, pretty much the founding of the nation.  No on immigration reform, no on  budget reform, no on EB-5 reform, no, no, no.  

If the Republicans falter to take over the Senate, it will be this lack of vision that could very well take them down.  As Bill Whalen states on the Daily Beast
Because someone has to be a contrarian in what otherwise looks like a bad November for President Obama and his party: what if Republicans manage not to gain control of the Senate in this election?  
You couldn’t blame it on the usual suspects—a lack of money, or an over-abundance of bad candidates, or uphill climbs in hostile Obama-friendly states. 
A more likely culprit: a strategic miscalculation on the part of GOP Senate candidates nationwide and the party elders back on Capitol Hill. While making this year’s races a referendum on Obama and his policies, Republicans ignored a fundamental rule of congressional challenges: to get to Washington, one has to run against Washington’s ways—specifically, the accumulation of job seniority and personal wealth that makes Senate incumbents seem long in the tooth and short on integrity. 
Mike Rounds has failed to earn your vote if you want to stand for anything real when it comes to changing Washington.  If you want to maintain the gridlock that brought you the government shut down, if you want the maintain the gridlock that brought you a delayed farm bill, if you want empty promises of repeal and replace of Obamacare, then vote for Mike Rounds.  If you want to hear no to immigration reform, no to making sure more people have access to health insurance, and no to helping students find ways to finance education, then cast a ballot for Mike Rounds.  

If you would like to see action immigration reform, if you would like to see college students getting a break to avoid crushing debt, if you would like to see someone that will try to advance legislation to avoid a government shutdown, if you would like to see someone that will not just trust foreign companies and instead will make sure to protect you first, then cast your ballot for Rick Weiland.  We simply cannot afford six more years of a party of NO!  We need to start accomplishing something, and you can do your part by voting for Weiland.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Vote for Mike Rounds is a Vote for EB-5

The only thing that Mike Rounds seems to be able to say in tonight's debate on KELO is that a vote for any of my opponents is a vote for Barak Obama; however, when asked if he would support repealing the EB-5 program all he could say was that we should look at it.  That is clear politician speak for I will give a wink and a nod to the program and still use it to line mine and my friend's pockets.  

All of the candidates other than Mike Rounds were clear that this program was failed because of corruption.  Larry Pressler, Rick Weiland, and Gordan Howie say no to EB-5.  Mike Rounds says yes to EB-5.  We should trust Mike Rounds because,... because,... oh shoot, I can't think of a reason.

Here is a man that says that he investigates things like the Keystone pipeline that could destroy the South Dakota's main aquifer by asking the people that want to build Keystone XL for technical advice.  "I mean, why would they lie about something like that," say Round.  I think this statement tells you everything you need to know about Mike Rounds and his ability to lead and to support South Dakotans in the Senate.

So remember, a vote for Mike Rounds is a vote for EB-5 and anything else big business wants because why would they lie?