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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Consolidation Kumbaya: Resolution Would Pare SD Counties to 43

Is consolidation the word Republicans use to make big government go down easy?

So we have bills to consolidate K-12 schools and close a university campus; now Representative Brian Dreyer (R-32/Rapid City) comes through with a bill to consolidate counties. As he promised in a quick interview on SDPB yesterday, Rep. Dreyer has filed House Joint Resolution 1002, which would place on our ballot a Constitutional amendment to do the following:
  1. Give the legislature total authority to set county boundaries.
  2. Eliminate the requirement that citizens of any county facing a boundary change approve said change by majority vote.
  3. Establish a County Consolidation Commission.
  4. Require said commission to produce a plan draws a new map so that "no county shall consist of fewer than twenty-five thousand population, as determined by the 2010 Federal Decennial Census, or five thousand square miles of surface area, whichever is less." [Um, 5,000 is always less than 25,000, isn't it? Rewrite!]
  5. Give the Legislature until July 1, 2015, to enact a plan providing for no more than 43 counties.
  6. Make the commission's plan law as is if the Legislature fails to act.
By my calculations (county areas plus linear projection of 2010 population based on 1980–2007 trend), six counties are populous enough to any change under HJR 1002: Minnehaha, Pennington, Lincoln, Brown, Brookings, and Codington. Meade County might make it, if folks there speed up their baby-making.

The remaining 60 counties in the state would face expansions of their boundaries.

If I understand #3 correctly, the intent is to say that the plan's goal is counties of at least 25,000 people, but that requirement may be waived if there is no practical boundary that can be drawn that keeps the new county under 5,000 square miles. That provision protects no current county from consolidation: Our biggest county, Meade, is only 3,471 square miles. The average county size is 1150 square miles. Get out your carving knives!

So what might the new South Dakota look like under HJR 1002? I'm glad you asked!

This map assumes the six counties with population over 25,000 are left intact. That makes for some tricky geometry in the northeastern part of the state. Your lines may vary.

Note that mathematically, 43 counties may be impossible under the requirements of this law. 800,000 people divided by 25,000 is 32. Even if we managed an average county size of 2300 square miles, twice the current average, we get about 30 counties.

Have fun with that map!


  1. Actually this might be a good idea in these days when most things can be done on line anyway. But leave it to the legislature to make it so confusing and ridiculous. Just pick an area, square more or less would be good, and say these counties are now one. Gerrymandering to meet the requiremetns of this bill is ridiculous. Actually this is a wonderful idea. So is consolidating administrative duties among school districts and looking at unnecessary state gov't jobs. But don't look for these ideas to go anywhere as they would lead to more loss of jobs and thus this idea will go nowhere.

  2. Totally off topic Cory, but have you ever heard of the "Four Color Theorem"? Your map made me think of my days as a Mathematics major.

  3. Think of the crazy courthouse struggles! If you think that school districts combining are a contentious issues, try combining and consolidating counties!

    It will never happen. There are still stories of 'boxing up and stealing' the courthouse in many counties--

  4. chuck ritter2/04/2009 8:47 AM

    Wow, Cory slept through Daschle's resignation!
    But then Tom Daschle hasn't been part of South Dakota for about 25 years. So maybe he didn't include it for that reason, being all 'hometown' and all.
    Tom Daschle's ethics 'Palin' comparison to most Americans!

  5. Does anyone miss Washington, Armstrong or Washabaugh counties?

    Of course not. It's long past time to add more to the heap. Our government service structure has to change with changes in the population it serves. The state judicial system and clerks of court consolidated 34 years ago - driving down costs, increasing efficiency and service. It's long past time for counties and school districts to consolidate.

  6. Dennis Wagner of SD2/04/2009 10:42 AM

    Have you noticed that it is always the representatives of those who will NOT be adversely affected that come forward with plans to consolidate counties? Why not just go all the way and elimnate the counties and the county offices altogether in all the counties? After all, Pierre was chosen as the state capital because of its central location- have Pierre consolidate all county functions and staff, including and especially in Minnehaha and Pennington counties. Maybe if the good representatives in Pennington and Minnehaha had to listen to complaints from their constituents about being inconvenienced to go all the way to Pierre for their license plates or to pay their taxes, maybe they would get down to real business at the Capitol, instead of wasting time on yet another county-consolidation folly...

  7. Nick! The Four-Color Theorem I did think about that as I colored... I started from the Hills and tried to stick with red, orange, and yellow, but I had to resort to the fourth color, pink, before I even made it out of West River!

  8. Cory - off topic, but any news or updates on the future of Mundt as this years version is just around the corner??

  9. KiLaMiMo county has a ring to it. Sounds like an exotic Hawaiian getaway. Tourism dollars coming our way.

  10. KiLaMiMo -- quick, reserve the domain name! Officer thinking, Anon. Pop Gene Hexom into a grass skirt, and let's shoot some hula ads!

    [pwt -- boy, nobody can stay on topic today, can they? ;-) Mundt -- nothing new, but stay tuned!]

  11. Why do we need county or township government at all?

    The state could do a much better job of managing it all.

  12. I'm wondering too why no post on the sainted Daschle? You are free to talk about anything, it's your blog, but this has been the NEWS of the last two days and is glaringly absent here.

  13. Yeah, I want to hear Cory's thoughts on Daschle.

  14. I don't know if Union County would have us. All us liberal elitist eco-crazies in Clay County wouldn't let Hyperion have its way in OUR county. He he he. Ok, I'm in.


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