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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

July 5, 2018

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 5

Online sales tax legislation becomes critical

It’s safe to assume not everyone was pleased when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a South Dakota law requiring big retailers to collect sales tax on purchases made by state residents.

For them, it was simply another tax even if it did level the playing field for stores that are essential to a healthy local economy and community while collecting revenue for a state that lacks an income tax.

That narrative, however, should be re-evaluated after the Journal reported last week that court documents show the Rushmore Mall is defaulting on $100 million in loans on property valued at between $36 and $42 million.

The digital revolution had claimed another victim.

The Rushmore Mall — like communities and malls across America — has lost some of its biggest clients in the past year. Anchor tenants like Sears and Herberger’s have closed their doors, costing Rapid City jobs and sales tax revenue. The corporation that owns the mall, SM Rushmore Mall, also has adjacent property that was home to Toys ‘R’ Us, which closed 181 stores earlier this year, including the one in Rapid City.

The loss of these large retail chain stores certainly contributed to the startling debt. The property now will be managed by Wells Fargo until a new buyer is found. But new ownership won’t pump new life into retail stores that have been so important to local economies but are now either going out of business or going strictly online.

It’s a trend that if left unaddressed will have a big impact on essential services and public safety. Half of Rapid City’s 2 percent municipal general sales tax accounts for 47 percent of its general fund, which provides revenue for police, firefighters, parks, street maintenance and repair, economic development and the administration of the city. The other 1 percent goes to capital projects and the Vision Fund.

How soon could the loss of these big-box retailers be felt? Actually, it may already be occurring. April’s sales tax collections in Rapid City were down 5.2 percent compared to a year ago.

Fortunately, the Legislature passed the online sales tax legislation, and Attorney General Marty Jackley successfully made a case for it before the Supreme Court. While it initially appeared the city and state would see their cash flow grow, it now looks like the additional sales tax revenue will be needed to maintain a status quo that seems to be ever-changing.

It is not only fair that shoppers pay sales tax for all items they purchase, it is essential they do so or our community will suffer the consequences. That’s the bottom line.


American News, Aberdeen, July 5

USD, South Dakota were lucky to have a Coyote like Abbott

When choosing a leader, organizations usually have two hiring choices.

Insider or outsider.

Jim Abbott was an insider who turned out to be a great choice for the University of South Dakota, education and the state.

He recently retired as USD president. Abbott, 70, started the job 21 years ago on July 1, 1997.

That is a lifetime for college presidents.

In that same time period, Northern State has had seven presidents (including three interims, one who stayed on).

The good news with insiders: They know faces; don’t have to ask where the bathrooms are; and come equipped with historical perspective.

Even though they have to ask where the bathrooms are, outsiders come equipped with a fresh perspective. Plus, they are easier to fire than insiders if things don’t work out.

The bad news with insiders is they may have established favorites; they may favor keeping the bathrooms where they are even if it doesn’t make sense; and they sometimes come equipped with historical baggage.

Abbott, a 1970 USD graduate who grew up near Vermillion in Yankton, often seemed to be able to display the best traits of an insider and outsider during his time as Head Coyote.

Yes, the South Dakota Board of Regents were his bosses, but the USD president was around long enough that he helped train some of them. He knew their tendencies, how the system worked and how to make it work.

In 1997, a visitor could get an almost full view of the USD campus on a trip down Cherry Street in Vermillion.

Under Abbott, that campus has now expanded, excelled and eclipsed expectations. Millions of dollars are being poured into the university and its students each year.

The old is now new.

Abbott and the rest of the state has seen USD’s numbers grow wildly. He has helped take the school from enrollments of less than 7,500 to more than 10,000, from endowments of less than $50 million to more than $250 million, and from a 156-year-old school that showed its age to a campus prepared for the decades ahead.

Abbott the non-athlete also helped oversee the school’s transition to Division I athletics. And he did it as many people of tradition were screaming against it, dragging their feet and digging in their heels.

Meanwhile, Abbott has spent his life fighting for and digging in for USD. He pulled others along into his vision of what he saw the place could become.

At his core, Abbott was a guy whose actions showed that he always cared about his students. He spent his last months as president living in a USD dorm, for goodness sakes.

Abbott’s love for them made it easy for them to love him. They often showed him rock-star treatment when he was greeted at USD functions.

Many of his staff felt that love as well. Abbott donated one of his kidneys to an employee, for goodness sake.

Abbott spent a lifetime showing his love not only to USD, but to education and South Dakota.

We were lucky to have him as one of our leaders.


The Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 2

Week in review: the best, worst

HISSES are certainly in order after Thursday’s shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Every mass shooting is tragic but it hits particularly home for those in the journalism and newspaper business. By all accounts, the Capital Gazette values what so many local newspapers in this country are about, writing about important matters to its readers and keeping them informed. It is a critical part of the community in which they live and serve and their hard work and commitment has only been bolstered by this heartbreaking tragedy. The commitment of our fellow journalists in Annapolis and in communities across the country makes us proud.

CHEERS to the efforts in Redfield, where Spink County law enforcement did a great job of spearheading the apprehension of a man in a hostage situation at the local hospital. Considering a high speed car chase and hostage situation with a 10-year-old boy were involved, we’re thankful there were no serious injuries. The incident sparked a large law enforcement response but the local law enforcement did a great job in a scenario they likely train for but don’t often see in a small town. The response is likely easier said than done and they did a great job.

HISSES to the news of anthrax making an appearance in the state’s cattle herds, including in Bon Homme County. Anthrax can survive in contaminated alkaline soils and all parts of South Dakota have the potential to experience an outbreak if the climate is right, which can include quick changes. Many livestock producers are already a number of precautions to limit the onset or spread of the disease, including vaccinations and moving animal carcasses, so let’s hope this is as an isolated set of outbreaks.

CHEERS regarding the proposed format for the NAIA basketball national tournaments starting in 2020-21. We know that Dakota Wesleyan and the local conference’s contingent of schools opposed making the changes to the two-division format, as NAIA moves to one division starting in the aforementioned season. But the same amount of teams will qualify in 2021 — 64 teams — as the 32 teams in each division now. And from a local standpoint, DWU could take advantage of a definite home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the national tournament by hosting games at the Corn Palace before the national finals. If the Tiger programs continue to play well, that’s a real possibility.

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