- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at apsiouxfalls@ap.org.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 5, 2014

Paying for sidewalk repair a civic duty

Living in a city brings both benefits, and at times, burdens.

Residents in a municipality typically get faster police and fire service; they have easy access to parks, playgrounds and pools; their streets get maintained (mostly), and their garbage gets picked up.

But on the flip side, they pay more in taxes for those services; they have to follow ordinances on parking, noise, and various codes; they can’t fire weapons or shoot off fireworks; and they can’t let their properties become unsafe.

City dwellers also have to take care of the sidewalks in front of their properties, even though the walkways are typically owned by the city and reside on municipal land. That means shoveling when it snows, but it also means repairing cracks or replacing walks that have crumbled away to near nothing.

One can debate whether it’s fair that property owners must pay for those repairs when needed. We think is it fair, since providing safe passage on sidewalks is simply part of the bargain one makes for living in a city.

Rapid City, rightfully so, has targeted numerous local properties for sidewalk repair this fall, noticed either via resident complaint or through city inspection. Like in most South Dakota municipalities, the city gives property owners a chance to hire someone to fix the sidewalks themselves, or they can let the city pay and then reimburse the government later for the work.

Either way, the walks get fixed.

But that process has gone awry in Lead and Deadwood, according to a recent Journal article. City officials have been slow to act, and residents of those hilly cities have shunned paying repair bills that for one Lead resident was near $20,000.

So the sidewalks are crumbling. The situation got so bad that the U.S. Postal Service threatened recently to end on-foot delivery until the walks were repaired. Postal officials said several postal carriers had actually been injured while traversing cracked walkways over the past few years, and they’d had enough. Postal officials last month backed off on their threat, but who knows for how long.

While liability for injuries that occur on busted up sidewalks is a mixed bag - property owners typically are liable but in some cases cities have had to pay up - the situation should never come to that.

Residents in Rapid City and other places should continue to expect to pay when their walks are damaged or worn out. And officials in Lead and Deadwood need to aggressively inspect sidewalks, and then take steps to ensure residents are put on the clock for repairing them.

While shelling out thousands to repair a sidewalk technically owned by a city is surely one of the burdens of municipal living, property owners have a duty to themselves and their neighbors to make it safe. Governments, meanwhile, need to step up enforcement to hold those residents responsible.

Taking a walk through any city neighborhood should be a route to serenity, not a path to risk one’s safety.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 4, 2014

Solve teacher shortage now

If our state’s difficulty recruiting, hiring and keeping teachers hasn’t reached a crisis state, we’re quickly on our way.

South Dakota’s teacher shortage is a many-tentacled problem. The arm that gets the most attention is our embarrassingly last-place national ranking in teacher pay. Our neighboring states of North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota alone offer average teacher wages 21 percent to 43 percent higher than we do.

Clearly, pay puts us at a competitive disadvantage, but so does our geography. Recruiting lawyers, doctors, nurses … basically any profession … to live and work in rural settings is increasingly difficult. Add the aforementioned pay discrepancy, and when it comes to educating our children, we find almost a quarter of our school districts starting the year with teacher vacancies.

Then we find ourselves reaching for lesser, stopgap solutions such as hiring uncertified candidates or making current staff teach subjects they aren’t certified to. We discuss adding a summertime tax to raise teacher salaries to halfway fill the gap to what North Dakota pays.

These systems of trying to make do are fine and even can lead to getting some real world expertise in the classroom as instructors gain their certification, but they are not a plan. They are not adequate. They are not going to move South Dakota forward.

If South Dakota were lagging so significantly in any other traditional economic development area, we’d form task forces, change laws, create tax breaks and more to combat the issue and bring business to our state. And rightfully so. And that is exactly what the governor’s office and the state of South Dakota must do: address our teacher shortage with the same vigor and ingenuity as we attack traditional economic growth.

After all, the education of our youth is a definable piece of merchandise we are producing. Getting return on that investment is going to take more brain power and, yes, some more money.

We have the ability and political infrastructure to turn this around. We just need to decide to stop condoning sub-mediocrity.

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Press & Dakotan, Yankton, Oct. 7, 2014

Newspapers are still on a mission

You know what a newspaper is: It’s that news source on your doorstep each morning, that packet of information you hold in your hand and scan to find out the local news and whatever else is going on in your world.

Yes, that’s the product most of us call a newspaper - a fairly self-explanatory label.

But a newspaper business is MUCH more than that, and that’s something that National Newspaper Week - which this week is - serves to remind the world.

Newspapers have evolved greatly in the 74 years that National Newspaper Week has been observed. But the changes made in the last 20 years, the last 10 years or even the last two years have been remarkable.

The storyline for the newspaper business has not been a bright one for the past several years. Across the industry, both profits and circulation have fallen as consumers seek new, more immediate ways to get the information they want. That desire has been fueled by computers, tablets and smartphones. It’s easy to dismiss the newspaper industry as a lumbering dinosaur facing extinction.

But here’s a clear truth: The people within the newspaper industry recognized long ago that change was essential for survival. While the industry weathered the arrivals of radio and television, it faced a monumental challenge when the Internet roared into our lives and across our society. Newspapers could have folded right there; in fact, some did.

But so many others did not, because change required something far more dramatic from them.

With that, newspapers began providing an online component back in the 1990s; they didn’t wait until the wave passed them by. And they’ve moved into the realms of social media and video. Today, we do stories that often require more than words and a photo on a printed page.

There is much more to newspapers than just the paper.

It’s been a struggle, to be sure. But we still attack this mission with the same outlook: Providing the best local news that we can, with whatever means are at our disposal.

That’s what National Newspaper Week reminds us. We have customers to serve, a base we call home. They - you - are our purpose for existing.

With all that being said, the week should also serve as a reminder that there is still a vital place in our society for printed news. It has a permanence that is unmatched; once something is in print - like a legal notice, for instance - there is no eradicating it, no redacting the contents, no changing certain facts to match prevailing desires. That aspect makes print an indispensable matter of record in a digital age in which the flow of history can be altered with a few keystrokes. And items in print aren’t here and gone like a sound byte, and they don’t vanish with a refreshed computer window display. Again, print offers permanence; in a sense, it truly is the people’s domain.

And that age-old trait is just one more facet of what a newspaper is all about here in the 21st century - and it remains as vital as ever.

So, whether it’s through digital access or time-honored print delivery, newspapers still do what they have always done to serve their readers and their communities, and they will continue to be dedicated to that mission long into the future.

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