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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

February 8, 2018

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Feb. 2

Forward-moving Washington Pavilion has value

In hindsight, the evolution of Sioux Falls over the past quarter-century appears to have been inevitable: Our economic engine shifting from meatpacking to banking to health care. Population numbers swelling. The city core rejuvenated. A new events center finally emerging. Numerous accolades as a “best place to live.”

Also inevitable were questions about whether South Dakota’s largest city could embrace the arts enough to justify a publicly supported cultural center. The Washington Pavilion provides an answer.

The massive pink quartzite gem sparkles in the setting of a downtown to be proud of. It’s been 25 years since Sioux Falls voters chose — narrowly — to transform the aged former Washington High School into something remarkable. It was anything but a sure bet, tagged as elitist and unnecessary by critics.

Budget-busting construction costs nearly stalled the Pavilion project at the starting line. A succession of directors over its first decade struggled to keep all four wheels down as the cultural center hemorrhaged funds. Pitchforks and torches seemed just over the horizon.

The smart double-team stewardship of interim director Larry Toll and (a few years later) Scott Peterson steered things back to the center and into the black. In its second decade, the Pavilion has been coming into its own.

And it’s worth Sioux Falls’ continued public investment. We don’t need it to pay for itself wholly through ticket sales and private donations, although it does need to continue to hold up its end of the budgetary bargain. It also needs to reflect our diverse community with an array of open-door offerings.

The Pavilion has become an integral part of the fabric of our growing city, a fusion of culture, entertainment and education that continues to broaden its appeal to the many tastes of the people who help pay for it.

It is a valuable city asset akin to our parks system, one that enriches those of us who already call Sioux Falls home. It’s also part of the entire package with which we hope to entice new neighbors, including those who may be accustomed to the wide array of arts amenities available in larger metro areas.

Nearly two years into his directorship, former Sioux Falls city councilor and community development director Darrin Smith is taking care not to simply coast on the momentum of his predecessors’ turnaround.

The Husby Performing Arts Center continues to be the Pavilion workhorse, raking in ticket sales for Performance Series winners such as “The Book of Mormon.” The number of season subscribers has tripled since 2009. Demand for the Performance Series has led to this season’s expanded three-show night minimum.

The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra under Delta David Gier weaves traditional classical fare throughout its season with pop-culture delights like the recent sold-out “Video Games Live” and next month’s superhero-themed “Guardians of the Symphony.”

It will be important for Smith to listen closely to Pavilion members and other citizens to best determine what people want from this institution and increase its accessibility.

Daily scheduled programming with themes that change from week to week. Cooperative relationships with corporate sponsors Avera and Sanford Health to help revamp the science center. More interactive elements and family appeal to boost attendance at the Visual Arts Center.

Future progress of the Washington Pavilion — and of Sioux Falls — is anything but inevitable. But by blending “high-brow” cultural offerings with mainstream fare and keeping its offerings fresh, the symbol of our city’s cultural core is worthy of our pride and support.


Capital Journal, Pierre, Feb. 2

Pierre’s new City Hall may turn out great, but city leaders need to make up for the loss to downtown

Pierre’s new City Hall may turn out great, but city leaders need to make up for the loss to downtown.

In about six months, the new Pierre City Hall will be open for business.

This is a pretty big deal. The bids for renovation of the first floor of the building, originally built for Eagle Creek Software Services, came in even lower than originally expected. Also, we’re pretty sure that city employees will appreciate the new space and the city will benefit at least for a little while from Eagle Creek’s lease payments.

Pierre certainly needed a new city hall. Still, while we aren’t questioning the need for a new city hall, we have some concerns about where it is located and how it came to be.

Readers may remember when, early last year, in the span of about three weeks Mayor Steve Harding broached the subject of a new city hall, proposed buying the Eagle Creek building and the city commission approved the purchase. That all happened just way too fast.

The process was flawed, to be sure, but there’s also the philosophic question about moving city government out of the heart of the city. A vibrant downtown area is a hallmark of any strong community. One of the keys to a vibrant downtown is the support of city government. It’s hard for city leaders to say they fully support downtown if they jump at the first chance to take all of the city’s employees out of the area.

Hopefully, our city’s leadership will launch a new effort or two aimed at drawing more people downtown and encouraging new development in the area to make up for the loss of city hall.


Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, Feb. 6

South Dakota should toughen its texting law

South Dakota’s motor safety laws are some of the worst in the country, according to a recent report from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS). In fact, they’re THE worst in the country. This conclusion is based on where each state stands according to 16 optimal laws. South Dakota has only two of those 16 on the books.

But our lawmakers can do something this winter to begin addressing the matter, at least a little bit: They should make texting while driving a primary traffic offense, rather than a secondary offense.

The state’s texting law, passed in 2014, currently declares that a motorist can be ticketed for texting while driving — which falls under the broader plague of distracted driving — only if the motorist is pulled over for another offense, such as speeding. The fine for a texting offense is $100.

Thus, it’s possible that motorists might ignore the law simply because they don’t see it as a threat to be taken seriously.

By making the texting law a primary offense, motorists can be ticketed for texting while driving, without other circumstances needing to invite it.

Currently, South Dakota is one of just six states in the country that doesn’t having a texting law as a primary offense.

We refer to distracted driving as a plague because that’s exactly what it is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving accounted for 9 percent of all highway fatalities in 2016. More specifically, nine people are killed nationwide each day in an accident involving distracted driving.

South Dakota is not immune from this effect, even though, ironically, it had one of the lowest rates of highway fatalities in the country in 2016. In this state, the number of accidents involving distracted drives rose 9 percent between 2014 and 2015. Also, a report issued last year indicated that South Dakota ranked No. 2 in the country in distracted driving accidents for motorists ages 19 and under.

Most of us know people or have seen people who engage in this behavior. Perhaps some of you do it, too. And perhaps you even know someone who has been injured — or killed — in an accident involving distracted driving.

The fatality statistic in the preceding paragraph could make changing the status of the texting law a tough sell in Pierre. But that would be a shortsighted argument.

Smartphones are becoming far more sophisticated and essential to communication in our digitized society. As such, their use is only going to expand. This will further tempt drivers to turn their attentions away from operating their vehicles.

Changing the law now would put South Dakota in step with confronting this reckless trend. It might also start reversing the state’s overall low rating with its traffic laws.

Upgrading the texting law would send a clear message: that this is something that needs to be taken seriously by everyone.


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