- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, May 6, 2016

Hub and spoke system.

Grid system.

Some combination of both.

Whichever philosophy the City of Sioux Falls lands upon to govern the public bus system, the guidepost must remain an integrated public transportation system that best serves long-term goals.

It would be a mistake, at this point in our troubled mass transit history, to scale back.

The Sioux Area Metro - or SAM as we now know it - has recorded ridership declines for the last three years. There are several factors contributing to that, most notably that the national recession likely forced more folks to use public transit. But it cannot be denied that convenience plays a factor.

To that end, a discussion about how the SAM works is in order.

The SAM currently uses a series of loops through the city that start and end at the main station downtown. This is the hub and spoke system.

City Councilor Greg Jamison said recently we should consider a grid, whereby buses run back and forth along mainly linear, intersecting paths, a plan used in other cities.

It may also be possible to use a hybrid of the two. The goal would be to increase convenience and perhaps frequency in the core area while still serving some farther flung pickup points.

These are all legitimate points of discussion.

That debate should occur, however, under the guiding principle that public buses are just one element of a holistic metropolitan transportation plan. South Dakotans are unaccustomed to the notion that transportation planning involves anything other than four wheels and a gas card.

For the city of Sioux Falls at least, that has to change. The numbers demand it.

The metropolitan population is approaching the quarter-million mark. That’s only going to go up.

City planners know this. They’ve been watching and trying to adapt the overall direction of the development to include more “mixed-use” projects in order to create pockets of activity that serve the needs of regional neighborhoods. This means keeping people closer to where they live, work and play and de-emphasizing the need for multi-lane thoroughfares.

No matter what we do, we can’t widen our way to success.

Mass transit has to be part of the equation. That requires thinking beyond the next budget cycle.

There are definite fiscal challenges, particularly as the federal government has decreased funding to local systems. It would be a mistake for Sioux Falls to do the same.

There is a temptation in debating the future of SAM to simply reduce the coverage area to serve fewer people. The idea here is to focus on the areas of highest use. The flaw in that thinking is that mass transit is the domain of the lower class.

That’s bunk.

Buses are an effective form of transportation for all of us. Mass transit is a critical part of our city’s infrastructure, just like sewers or police protection.

This is not the time to shrink coverage, or reduce spending.

Make it more convenient.

Make it more efficient.

Make it work.

___

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, May 8, 2016

For Spink County residents, it seems too early to say yes, and too early to say no.

But we like the passion they are displaying and the questions they are asking about a possible borehole drilling test project in their county.

The federal government and others are looking for a suitable way to store spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste deep underground. With seemingly suitable rock formations beneath the surface, Spink County has been deemed as one of the possible testing sites - at least for a dry run.

U.S. Department of Energy officials have stressed that the borehole testing would not involve any nuclear waste. However, no promises have been made that the area in the future wouldn’t be considered as a site where waste could eventually be deposited 3 miles deep.

However, officials from the U.S. Department of Energy said during recent meetings that no nuclear waste could be stored in South Dakota unless approved by a public vote. Some say such a decision would be in the hands of state lawmakers. Either way, it’s nice to know there’s an in-state safety valve.

Plus, there has been no approval given for even testing or drilling in Spink County. Right now, it is all in the talking stage.

The 10-month experiment would involve drilling a straight hole 3.2 miles deep to take core samples from the granite. The granite is about 1,000 feet below the surface in Spink County. Teams would drill 15,000 feet into the granite for core samples and to see if drilling a very straight hole is possible.

Some Spink County residents have been quick to shout “NO!” to this idea in no uncertain terms. We understand their concerns, accept their reasonings, and again, applaud their passion.

But this seems like a fascinating project. We wonder if it has the potential of future jobs and other ways of stimulating the local economy beyond the initial testing.

The real question, though, is whether it’s safe. Nothing else matters if it is not safe. Money means nothing if the safety of Spink County residents is compromised.

To us, it seems like people should learn all they can about the project - pros and cons. Discuss it and learn what your friends and neighbors are saying about it. Ask a ton of questions - many good ones have already been asked by residents.

Even if the answer is no in the end, this seems like a good process to go through. Walking through processes often provides teaching moments that are useful in future situations.

Disposing of nuclear waste is a serious matter. Do it wrong, and you can affect many future generations to come.

So the issue needs careful study, intense listening and thoughtful questions. After that, the answer some Spink County residents are searching for should become clear.

We hope an answer can be found that works for a majority of our friends and neighbors to our south.

___

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, May 10, 2016

UGLY: Now that Roy Jeffs has pulled back the curtain a bit on life at the FLDS compound in Custer County, it is time for law enforcement in this state to take a closer look at a secret society that has a notorious nationwide reputation. Roy Jeffs is the son of Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sexual assault yet still leads the FLDS. Roy Jeffs spent time at the Pringle compound, which features manned guard towers at its remote location. While there, he said he saw underage girls with babies and members regularly poaching wildlife in the Black Hills. He said he too was sexually abused by his father before eventually escaping from the clutches of the group in 2014 while working for a FLDS construction crew in Iowa. Despite complaints from neighbors, the state has turned a blind eye to the activities of the polygamist group that recently saw its Pringle leader, Seth Jeffs, charged in Utah with food stamp fraud and money laundering.

GOOD: So maybe the city won’t need to spend $38 million to bring Barnett Arena into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act? That certainly could be the case, according to Geoffrey Ames, a project manager with Meeting the Challenge, which has worked with other communities faced with ADA challenges. In a question-and-answer piece in Friday’s Rapid City Journal, he said the city has a number of options available to make the facility more accessible for the disabled short of spending many millions of dollars. Some of the problems, for example, can be addressed by changing policies, he said. The Civic Center Advisory Board deserves credit for inviting Ames here and getting a valuable perspective on solutions that will ultimately be paid for by taxpayers.

BAD: Sen. Mike Rounds has again illustrated the disconnect between those working in the Washington, D.C., bubble and average Americans who want elected officials to focus on - to name a few issues - improving the economy, reducing the cost of health care and higher education, and limiting the role of the behemoth known as the federal government. With all these and many other critical issues that need to be addressed, South Dakota’s junior senator and former governor sent a press release Monday touting the latest bill he introduced: The Cyber Act of War Act, which requires the executive branch to “define” when a cyber act constitutes an act of war and for the federal government to compile reports on those efforts. It is hard to get excited about a bill that seems to do little more than keep bureaucrats busy while having no impact on our daily lives.

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