Argus Leader letters to the editor for July 5
The pandemic isn’t over yet
Dear South Dakota, it’s your son abroad again. Are you drinking enough water? Getting enough exercise? Are you remembering to wear a mask when you go out in public?
Yes, South Dakota has a pretty low population density, so it hasn’t been hit as hard by Covid as the more populous states. But when I log on I see 66 new cases. And that’s just confirmed new cases. Certainly better than Arizona or Texas with multiple thousands of new cases, but it’s not good either.
Meanwhile my adopted home is worried about a second wave starting up again. Yesterday there were 24 new cases in this country of 51 million people. Granted, Korea uses very heavy contact tracing and has made it as painless as possible to get tested. Now I am not suggesting that all the measures that are being used here would make sense in South Dakota. I just want to implore you to not take the situation lightly. The pandemic isn’t over yet.
— John Shrader, Sioux Falls (currently in South Korea)
Masks need to be worn by everyone
The June 25th front page cover story of Alex Jensen’s win is troubling. Jensen, Theresa Stehly, and others are in a confined space, and no one, most notably Jensen, is wearing a mask. Joe Sneve quotes Jensen as saying, “Now we’re ready to govern.” Really? Just about every virologist in the nation is begging, pleading and imploring Americans to wear masks: if not for yourself, then for others, all in the effort of what should be a municipal, state, and national effort to get the numbers down. Leadership often starts with doing things we may not like doing but need and should do for the greater good.
— Kevin Cole, Sioux Falls
Dan Ahlers will work for people on both sides
It’s not very often you find an elected official’s cell phone number on his or her Facebook page. It is also rare that you find a representative who is happy to meet in person to listen and talk about the issues that matter most to you, but I think I have found our guy.
Dan Ahlers has impressed me with his kindness, attentiveness and determination to hear from each and every community member. He is ready to take these qualities to Washington in November to serve as our next United States Senator. Dan’s record in the South Dakota Legislature speaks for itself: Dan knows how to get things done for the people of our state on issues of agriculture, education and everything in between. Perhaps you haven’t heard of him or had the pleasure of meeting him just yet, but you should. Regardless of where you stand, you’ve gotta meet the guy who will work for people on both sides of the aisle, Dan Ahlers.
— Jillian Stamp, Sioux Falls
Unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story
I am writing to shine a light on a reality of our alleged improving economy, as touted by lower unemployment in South Dakota. Unemployment can be a very reliable sign of economic strength or recovery. Our governor and our mayor have both used lower unemployment numbers as signs that South Dakota is recovering. However, these unemployment numbers do not, in this case, tell the full story.
In March 2020, hundreds of educational employees became eligible for unemployment, due to school closures from COVID-19. These included substitute teachers, classroom assistants, hourly employees and others who would be on a traditional nine-month contract. Unemployment benefits for these individuals stopped on June 15 — when the school year would normally end. This would be reasonable in any other circumstance. You shouldn’t receive benefits for something where you wouldn’t normally get paid.
2020, however, is different. Many of these individuals would normally have summer jobs, with community summer programs, parks and recreation, summer schools, etc. These jobs, however, never materialized for 2020. In addition, other jobs face a more competitive marketplace. So, hundreds of individuals who were receiving unemployment benefits, and normally have summer jobs, now have nothing. Even those who had planned to work for the census this summer are still without employment, with no real idea of when that work will return.
I am not writing to say that unemployment benefits should be extended to these individuals. However, numbers are meaningless without explanation. To simply look at a number and say, “Hooray! 1,700 people went off unemployment last week!” is to ignore the question, “How many people were actually hired last week?” And worse, how many people were no longer eligible for unemployment, through no fault of their own? These educators and educational employees are victims of 2020 just like everyone else.
Before we get excited about numbers, let’s make sure that we know what the numbers mean.
— Jason Crus, Sioux Falls
There are things we can do to make things right with Native Americans
Reflecting on the stated aims of, and purported rationale for, Rep. Dusty Johnson’s Mt. Rushmore Protection Act (MRPA) called to mind a quote from an interview the late Governor Mickelson gave in early September 1990. The article focused on Governor Mickelson’s Year (and eventually Century) of Reconciliation, of which nearly three decades have now elapsed.
Governor Mickelson spent a portion of the article clarifying the objectives of his Council for Reconciliation stating “I can’t help what happened in 1868 [regarding the Ft. Laramie Treaty] or 1890 [regarding the Wounded Knee Massacre]. I’m just a contemporary leader sitting here trying to deal with a set of facts and trying to leave things better than I found them.” Rep. Johnson seems to believe Mt. Rushmore’s footing is more precarious than scores of Native Americans living in poverty with limited housing, economic, and educational opportunities within our state’s boundaries. At least that what his legislative priorities suggest.
What might Rep. Johnson have done instead to help make the next 70 years of our Century of Reconciliation more generative?
Programs such as tribally-managed Black Hills conservation easements could serve dual goals to preserve the Hills’ beauty while honoring the treaty obligations Johnson mentioned in his Feb. 15, 2019 “Righting Wrongs” weekly column. Options like forest carbon credits purchased by individuals and entities ranging from corporations to the government could further incentivize this process. Similarly, legislation implementing development fees and surcharges within designated outlying areas in the Hills could combat sprawl, thereby reducing risk of property loss due to fire and flooding in areas less hospitable to first responders. Finally, Johnson could support enhanced environmental review for extractive activities, such as mining, within the Hills that have historically been opposed by tribes, with a portion of penalties paid by industry violators earmarked for tribal relief.
Rep. Johnson’s media release regarding the MRPA asserted that removal of four presidents’ likenesses would be “undermining the contributions these leaders made in pursuit of a more perfect union” and that “Removal would do nothing to move our country forward.” However, let’s set aside the debate about whether the “great faces” should be removed and focus on the vital work we all still must do to make our shared “great places” more equitable, more just, and eventually, more perfect. We should expect nothing less from a man rumored to have his sights set on Governor Mickelson’s former office.
— Jake Cummings, Sioux Falls
Death of birds by windmills much smaller than other causes
Mr. Trump claims that a lot of birds are killed each year by electricity generating windmills. I didn’t know what a lot was so I investigated. I found an estimate that indicated between 150,000 and 300,000 birds. So I looked further to see how many birds are killed by guns each year and the estimate there is over 2,200,000. I investigated further and found that the estimated number killed by autos and trucks exceeds 20,000,000. Birds estimated to be killed by cats makes all those numbers combined look tiny. Windmills help the environment and don’t kill a lot of people each year. Guns and autos do.
Perhaps we should get excited about changes to systems that help destroy peoples lives and the environment instead of those that are there to help.
— Louis Rensch, Sioux Falls
Noem’s comment about no ‘social distancing’ at Rushmore is hypocritical
Gov. Noem (mini-potus by her behavior) said that the 7,500 people that will gather at Mount Rushmore will not be social distancing and that face masks are not mandatory because she believes “to focus on personal responsibility…”
This is a politician that spent thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to put in a TV studio at the Capital building so she could be a semi-regular on Fox News (where this information was released). She ignores what is going on in the state and the country when it comes to social responsibility.
So, with her attitude on personal responsibility, why was the South Dakota State Fair cancelled? Gov. Noem is doing nothing to stop the Sturgis Rally. Numerous other events through the state (county fairs, art fairs, music festivals, etc…) have been cancelled for the safety of the citizens. So, maybe all of these entities need to go back and re-schedule their events, because Gov. Noem believes in personal responsibility and not social responsibility?
Everyone is hurting right now due to COVID 19, but some are ignoring scientific fact(s) and results. Look at Florida, Georgia, Nevada, California, and Texas, who has the greatest number, increases. Military is not allowing travel to some states because of the numbers. Look at the USA numbers. Compare the numbers of USA and Europe — we are way above them. Hundreds of thousands more USA citizens are going to die because we are selfish. Many do not care if others die and claim it is just nature. But, the real question is, do that many have to die or are they being exposed because of selfishness?
We live with speed limits. We live with “no shoes, no shirt, no service.” We live with seat belts. We live with car seats for the defenseless children. Can you tell me where it says that in the Constitution of the USA or any state that you have the right to ignore wearing a mask? If you quote, “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” how does that apply to wearing a mask?
Mini-potus is a political animal. She will bail on South Dakota the first chance she gets, and meanwhile, be personally responsible.
I believe in social responsibility. If you can do something good for the society, you should do it. If you do something that is bad for society, you should not do it.
— Paul Harens, Yankton
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