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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

AAUW Candidates Forum in Madison! Live Blogging!

Hey! I'm at the Trojan Center at DSU, live-blogging the AAUW candidates forum. We have a big panel:
  • District 8 Senate: Clark Schmidtke
  • District 8 House: Gerry Lange, Patricia Stricherz, Jason Bjorklund
  • Lake County Commission: Craig Johannsen, Kelli Wollman, Scott Pedersen, Doug Erickson
  • Lake County Auditor: Roberta Janke and Shelli Gust
  • Lake County Sheriff: Roger Hagemann, Dan Wyatt, Jason Lurz
Senator Russell Olson and Representative Mitch Fargen are unable to be with us tonight. Nuts! I wanted to see Clark hammer Russ on TransCanada.

Stay tuned: I'll be adding notes here!

19:00: Clark leads off with biography and darn fine maroon jacket. I have that jacket... about six sizes smaller! Patricia is in red... and we are a red state.

19:06: Gerry Lange is excited to see so many candidates here: "This is a celebration of democracy!" He also notes the food-for-votes controversy in the paper. He mentions that he's been giving away a lot of tomatoes and has also heard some candidates have been handing out lunches to farmers. Oh, the scandal!

Gerry also mentions that he got his education paid for by the GI Bill and has likely paid that investment back several times over in taxes.

19:08: Jason notes he's the only blue-collar worker running for the office of District 8 House, speaks of how losing his trucking business when the economy went into recession got him into politics. He believes "regulation and taxation" caused the recession. He is wrong, of course.

Bjorklund also emphasizes his pro-gun status: "I love guns." He says illegal immigrants violate the rule of law that is fundamental to a republic. He says running for office isn't the easiest thing for him to do, but it's time for people with good principles to stand up and do what's right.

19:11: Shelli Gust takes the mic... and she's wearing a good black interp suit! Props from the interp judge! Gust is also well-prepared, well-spoken... but she is using some upward intonation at the ends of sentences. Speech students, you know how I feel about that.

19:15: Roberta Janke goes for the grey jacket—these two would make a good Lincoln-Douglas debate pairing. Janke also well-prepared, talking experience, experience, experience.

Roberta mentions the 2008 city commission recount; moderator Monica Campbell says, "You just had to bring that up." General laughter. :-)

19:18: Sheriff Roger Hartman looks different without his glasses and mustache. He, too, talks experience and upgrades he's overseen in the sheriff's office: surveillance cameras, $50K fingerprint machine, $30K school safety grant...

Nertz! and sorry Roberta and Roger: my video camera went wonky and I missed your statements!

Scott Parsley seated next to me notes that Monica skipped Jason Lurz in the speaking order, jumped to Dan Wyatt. That may be a bigger controversy than Gerry's tomatoes.

I'm joking around, Dan's telling his life story. Lived in Panama, has worked for the City of Madison for 16+ years. Also goes for the Nike and blue jeans look. Dan says we should open our jail to prisoners from elsewhere, use the money to improve the jail. Dan sees the time card go up, says, "I see the stop sign, so being a cop, I've got to stop." General laughter except from the Noem voters.

Monica apologizes, scandal diffused: Jason gets the mic. He says "the budget should be more than a guesstimate" and requires strategic planning.

19:28: Now county commission candidates: Kelli Wollmann, lifelong Lake County resident... and stay-at-home mom! Mentions volunteer activities, music programs, adult choir at church, member of Prairie Village board.

19:31: Scott Pedersen makes sure he's heard: darn strong voice! Hear hear! Scott lived in Carthage for a while. Scott notes that county taxable value has grown 24%, lake value up 37%, city value less than 20%. County hasn't had budget deficits [but do counties have deficit authority?]. Scott says county gets 23 cents of every tax dollar, 15 cents to cities and townships, 61 cents to school. Scott notes the public access at Lake Madison resulted from listening to the citizens, has enjoyed lots of use. Scott also cites starting the water quality committee (I'm on that!) and notes that's the first county water quality committee in the state.

19:33: Craig Johannsen: another lifelong Lake County resident. he's rented his land out, so he says now he has even more time to serve as commissioner. Heck of a deal! He lists a whole bunch of boards that he's on, plus the food pantry board. Craig says he's open to folks stopping him on the street, coming to his house, or calling him on the phone with county concerns. Let's hear it for openness.

19:35: Hey! Doug Erickson is here! He's a Junius boy, now works landscaping/handyman jobs. He's a Lake County lifer, too. Cites his experience on the Prairie Village board, emphasizes need to run things on a limited budget. "I'd much rather show you what I can do than stand up here and tell you what I can do."

And now questions!

Bill Johnson goes first, says our tax system is getting more regressive, says South Dakota has 4th most regressive tax system in the nation. Very rich here pay 1% of yearly income, low end pay as much as 13% of yearly income in taxes here. "Do you believe this is fair, and if not, what will you do to try to fix it?"

Clark Schmidtke: No, it's not fair. Wal-Mart had great year last year, paid zip in South Dakota. Not for new taxes, but Pierre is broken, and we have to fix it first. We need to cut out waste first, like the giveaway to TransCanada and the governor's planes (Nebraska and North Dakota each have one plane).

Stricherz: Agree that overtaxation is unfair, people need to be able to pay normal expenses, pay employees. Let's lower property taxes, equalize the education fund. Opposed to state income tax; the state's been running very smoothly without it.

Lange: Notes that Bill actually floated an income tax bill in the Legislature that actually made it to the floor! Lange says we have to choose between paying for first-class education or just living with bad system. Lange introduced a bill to eliminate the tax on premiums and on banks; the Republicans voted to keep that income tax last year! Lange also floated bill to tax Wal-Mart similarly, could access $100 million in revenue for state instead of letting that money go to Arkansas. Our system is unfair, screwed up, needs fixing. Go corporate income tax first; a personal income tax is not viable now. Lange suggests referring a corporate income tax bill to the people, which would require a simple majority rather than the 2/3 req'd in Legislature.

Bjorklund: Term "regressive tax" is a little subjective. Income tax would make jobs leave the state. More money taxed means less money available to spend and expand. Don't raise taxes, just cut spending, find cuts in every program without hurting SD.

Question 2 for auditor candidates: what traits make a good auditor?

Gust: able to work with commission, detail-oriented, able to crunch numbers, able to work with Secretary of State's office and election officials and other state agencies, able to form positive working relationships.

Janke: work well and communicate effectively with others; ability to train employees in office; biggest thing is fiscal responsibility, oversees $5.8M county budget, collected $18M in taxes in 2009, must accurately account and remit those funds.

Question 3, for sheriff candidates: Would sheriff's dept. benefit from using Web to inform public?

I am not a technical person, but it's a good idea, should be given some thought. Other counties have their own websites, do put certain things on that site, like arrest warrants [like Noem's?].

Lurz: That's one of the key reasons Lurz thinks a change is needed. using technology is a great way to communicate. Knocking on doors, Lurz sees lots of folks, even old folks on the Web at home. We need to use Web to remind people there's crime in the neighborhood, create opportunities for citizens to interact online with officers.

Wyatt: hard to follow Jason: he explained everything I had! says Dan. He mentions the city PD's Nixle program,, says it works really well. Yes, sheriff's office should be open, publish data on arrests, detainees, etc. To expand, Dan says he'd like to see more neighborhood watches around the county. Nixle ties right into that, helps share info for such programs.

Question 4 from Eve Fisher: specific programs to cut?

cut the jets. Cut state jobs (up from 12K to 14.8K under Rounds) combine departments, cut the phantom FTEs that are used as slush funds for various departments. Reduce 1800 no-bid contracts (Clark mentions that he used to sell cars and would to have had customers who came in and just paid the sticker price à la no-bid).

Stricherz: Phantom FTEs: agreed! Cut them. Also impose hiring freeze [didn't Rounds do that?]. Reserves are much higher now than udner Janklow, list is just ridiculous. Look into the Volunteer Internet Sales Tax Fund, Governor's Aeronautical fund, etc.

Lange: Says he was on the operations and audit committee six years ago, looked very hard at the administration's budget, and a lot of those committee members were defeated in next election. Lange says the power structure gets very upset and even "vindictive" when examined and challenged. Transportation Committee: Gerry says our state motor pool is somewhat bloated, wonders if that's to help some auto dealer in the state. That's why we need a change in administration in Pierre.

Bjorklund: I'd be glad to look at the jets, the bureaucracy; technology means one person can handle more jobs now. Cut the no-bid contracts. We should also look at our acceptance of federal dollars: we keep taking more federal dollars, and our state budget keeps going up because we have to come up with matching funds. We thus need to be very careful about accepting federal money. SB 191, last year's pre-K bill: fed gov't would have picked up only 30% of the bill; we'd have had to increase our state budget, and we can't afford that. Let's see what we can do on a smaller scale.

Question 5: I ask whether the candidates would support repealing the tax refunds for TransCandaa before they build Keystone XL?

Yes! Waste of state money! TransCanada doesn't help us out that much!

Stricherz: I concur! I'll work hard just like Schmidtke to repeal that refund before Keystone XL happens.

Lange: "How dare I argue with those two?" Might be moot question, as economics might stop the pipeline.

Bjorklund: I am not in favor of government giving federal handouts to businesses, let alone individuals. We need to start cutting back on the places where our money is going on the state and the federal level. We need to look at cuts across the board. Eminent domain on TransCanada bothers me. People have an unalienable right to property, should be able to refuse pipeline on their property. As far as the rebate, I don't know that we necessarily have done it; why were the taxes so high in the first place?

Interlude: Gerry holds up the Madison Daily Leader, notes a headline about $4.5 million for the Lewis and Clark Pipeline, asks who would oppose that federal money. Jason Bjorklund raises his hand.

Question 6: Larry Even asks Sheriff candidates about city-county cooperation.

Hartman: We do that now on investigations.

Lurz: We've been working on cross-deputization to clarify liability issues for city officers responding to calls outside city limits. More cooperation would save some overtime by allowing city cops to respond to late-night calls near town. We've never had a joint city-county meeting outside of some training. It's critical that we have more interaction, on street and at administrative level.

Wyatt: "Again, Jason's a tough act to follow. You can tell we've talked about this in our department." Wyatt says the two departments do work well together on investigations. Yes, we should be cross-deputized so we can respond more quickly with whoever is available. Joint meetings are overdue.

Question 7: Can deputies respond and do more in town? And what can we do to ensure enough budget dollars for emergency responders to reach farthest corners of county?

Sheriff's office already has city jurisdiction, so we can help. We also have at least deputy on duty all the time, so we have someone available all the time. We did try cross-deputizing years ago, but it didn't work.

Lurz: Cross-deputization: I'm talking about emergency backup calls. Right now, we don't have the full liability coverage for our city police, and that puts them at risk of lawsuits. Cross-deputizing solves that. Just because there was a problem with it several years ago doesn't mean we can't handle it now.

I disagree with Sheriff Hartman's assessment. There are some nights when a deputy is on call but not on duty. Late night call means a deupty may have to roll out of bed, get dressed... that delays response! And lots of crime happens at night: we need to have the staff available to respond.

Wyatt: We work together well, and the liability concerns are a problem. Wyatt once responded to a situation where a guy had doused himself with gasoline, had a match... how can a city cop think through liability issues in that situation? Wyatt also says we need to progress from our Crown Vics to 4-wheel drive vehicles for winter to improve response capability in winter [hey! there's a new issue!].

Dan also uses the word "conversate". ;-)

Kelli Wollmann: As wife of city cop, I've had worries about that liability. Response time: I agree with the police officers that we have people on duty, ready to respond, need all entities to work together.

Scott Pedersen: Department heads come to us at budget time with requests, we commissioners approve or not. Our first job is to take care of everyone in county; "we are your caretakers." If we need more deputies to meet that need, we will. Ambulance service: when Ron and Tammy met with us at budget time and told us we need a new ambulance and $2500 to cover the increasing cost, we didn't hesitate to allocate that money. Running it through the hospital is good, better than volunteer for ensuring coverage around the clock.

Craig Johannsen: We hired extra deputy in past to cut down on overtime cost. unfortunately, Lake County is big: if you live out at the end of the county like I do, response will take time.

Doug Erickson: I've been out by Winfred, mother-in-law needed ambulance, which took forever to respond. Need to maintain our emergency equipment. Cell phones help. Response time shoud be getting quicker as technology progresses.

Question 8: stance on reform of criminals and becoming proactive vs. reactive?

Hartman: "I don't believe in rehabiliation, I believe in habilitation." You keep a bed in the jail for some folks; they just won't reform.

Lurz: Law enforcement officers have a unique role in society. We serve to enforce laws, but we also serve as counselors and other roles. I sometimes wrestle with my faith in figuring how to deal with criminals. Involvement with citizens, communication can help prevent crime. Officer Wyatt is good at this [compliment from the podium!]. Great way to keep people from coming back to jail is to offer them help outside. Sheriff has great latitude to try to help people, to be the person they will come to.

Wyatt: Law enforcement officers "uphold, protect, and serve." Community Counseling can help folks after. We get in and help people when we can. We do a lot of counseling on the job: couples counseling, drug counseling, etc. Sometimes you get a chance to make a difference. You get to know kids. I can remember a couple of kids on the verge of trouble; I kncoked their heads together, did the scared-straight treatment, told them they were on the road to serious time if they kept going the way they were. Both joined the military, are doing well... and one is running for state legislature! (Bjorklund raises his hand! There's a good story!)
Question 9: Bill Johnson stands, asks for revisit of his question; Monica asks for question in different vein. I thus offer a question about the contradiction between more Opportunity Scholars and more remedial university students.

Maybe charter schools offer a solution. Kids mature and study at their own speed in those schools. We need to push the kids, but I'm not sure what legislation can do about that.

Stricherz: My kids are out of school now, but I'd blame technology [!]. Too much time on the laptop, not enough in the dictionary.

Lange: Perhaps byproduct of our culture: see Aftershock by Robert Reich. Trend in income is going the way it went in the 1920s, when wages were held low, taxes for wealthy cut, folks couldn't buy to keep economy going. Reich sees same thing in current economy. Two-family jobs, 80% of SD women with kids under 5 are working; that impacts family. South Dakota has increased incarceration funding faster than education.

And then Gerry takes a swing at Bill's question! We tax groceries, unlike all of our surrouding states. We should free that money up for needy families to spend in the economy.

Bjorklund: Erosion of governmental public school system. We need to infuse some free-market principles, see money follow the child, let parents make real choices. Open enrollment is a great first start. We need to go further. let's force schools to compete financially and academically. Washington DC has a great example with charter and private schools, voucher system. Charter schools bring in education for half the cost of public schools. People are signing up for lotteries for the private and charter schools. I'm a victim of our public education system. I was always in the advanced classes, but they weren't fast enough for me, I'd get bored, and that boredom led me to trouble. We need to put power back in hands of parents.

And that's the end of the show! Thanks for reading! I'll post video later, perhaps over breakfast. Good night, fellow citizens!

Update: Actually have the videos creeping through the pipeline now. See them as they load on the Madville Times YouTube channel.


  1. Cory, regardless of party, who did you feel won the debate/discussion among the various candidate races?

  2. upward intonation at the ends of sentences. Speech students, you know how I feel about that.

    Cory, my daughter is in oral inturp. Freshman year, first timer, but thinks she know's it all. Explain the upward intonation to me, in laymen's terms, so I can impress my daughter to do better with her performance.

    Nice work on the forum, good folks standing there, miss the ol place.

    Kevin Weiland

  3. Rod, I'm still working on that. Stay tuned!

    Kevin! Upward intonation is a common habit among teenagers and other insecure speakers. You hear it when people end every sentence with the pitch of their voice rising, so it sounds like a question. Every sentence ends as if the speaker is saying, "I'm not sure about what I'm saying?" or "Do you agree with me?"

    Think of it this way: another doctor asks you what's wrong with a patient. You really aren't sure. You venture a guess: "Coreoptic streptothricosis?" You don't say it with conclusive doctoral confidence; you say the diagnosis like a question, signaling your colleague that you are seeking discussion and confirmation. That's upward intonation... and it's a really bad habit for speakers, since it makes them sound unsure. The things Shelli (and some other speakers) were saying weren't questions or sources of uncertainty: they were basic biography and statements of qualifications. When you're making the pitch in front of an audience, you never state facts as questions. If you know it, you say it, confidently, with downward intonation.

    I hope your daughter enjoys the lesson! :-)

  4. niCory :-)


  5. Cory,
    You comment on the four wheel drive pickups being a new issue. I feel it is a none issue. The combined budget of the LCSO has serious problems. There is no real effort at cost control. For 2008 and 2009 budgets had overages of more than $20,000. I think before we worry about spending more money, we need to rein in spending. In the 6 years we have lived in the country I can count on two hands the amount of times I NEEDED a four wheel drive. And most of those times I needed it, I still got stuck. The County Highway Department is always available to have an operator come out and plow a path to those in need, as has been done in the past.

  6. [On upward intonation, see also this Web "classic".]

    Jason: point taken! The issue is new to me, only in that I haven't been paying enough attention.


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