- Associated Press - Friday, September 2, 2016

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Aug. 30, 2016

Unfortunately, WNV is still a danger

Unfortunately, we’ve just been reminded in the most painful way possible that the West Nile Virus is still a threat to local residents.

The announcement made by state officials Monday that a Yankton County resident has become the first fatality of the virus this year drove that message home.

As we noted on this page a few weeks ago, West Nile remains a big threat to us even though the Zika virus is currently garnering most of the attention.

It’s understandable why Zika is a major concern, especially in Florida where more cases are being found.

But Zika does not pose a direct threat to this region of the country, since the insects that carry it are not found in this climate.

Nevertheless, when the news broke recently that the first South Dakotan was diagnosed with the virus, it was big news in some places, even though the individual contracted it while traveling elsewhere. And that is the big threat that is posed to us here from Zika.

On the other hand, West Nile is swarming here around us. And unlike Zika, which causes only mild symptoms but can generate birth defects, West Nile can be fatal.

What makes the virus even more of a threat right now is the fact that, generally, there doesn’t seem to be too many issues with insects. Whether it’s because of the recent cooling nights or the breezy conditions, mosquitoes seem to be mostly kept at bay, which makes it quite easy for many of us to dispense with using insect repellant or wearing long-sleeve shirts.

But these are deceptive conditions, which only add to West Nile’s threat.

And now we’re heading into the Labor Day holiday and the fall sports season, during which time many people will be outdoors, particularly in the hours when the mosquitoes present the greatest threat.

So, the danger is still with us.

And as this week’s news tells us, those dangers haven’t eased even if we have become overly accustomed to the presence of the virus in our midst.

It’s worth mentioning again that your odds of contracting West Nile even if you are bitten by an infected mosquito are quite small. And if you are bitten by such an insect, your chances of developing any symptoms once again work in your favor. And if you develop symptoms, it may be nothing more than a mild fever .

But, there is also the chance that it could turn into something far worse than that.

Until the first frost, which is, of average, a little more than a month away, stay on your guard like it’s mid-summer. In fact, right now is the peak season for West Nile, and it’s no time to loosen your defenses even though the calendar and your schedule tell you fall is coming fast. The danger is not past.

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The Public Opinion, Watertown, Aug. 30, 2016

We should know what government is up to

“No one except the press gives a tinker’s damn about protecting the people’s right to know. The general public really doesn’t care.”

Those prophetic words were part of a front page story in the Public Opinion on Sept. 18, 1976. The person making the statement was Del Griffin, legendary editor of the Aberdeen American News and (then-) president of the South Dakota Associated Press Association. Griffin’s comments summed up the consensus of officials questioned about what secret court records in South Dakota mean to the public.

Then-executive secretary of the South Dakota Press Association, Bill McDermott of Brookings went on: “Those who should care, the silent majority of millions, sit back complacent and quiet, failing to recognize that the freedom of the press exists in our country not for the benefit of the press, but for the benefit of the people.”

What precipitated those harsh comments and reflections on South Dakota and the U.S.A. back then?

It was a declaration made by then-S.D. Attorney General William Janklow, who said criminal records are not public and the public does not have a legal right to inspect them. The court official in charge of the records may permit inspection of completed cases, including appeals, Janklow said in his review of a 1935 law on South Dakota’s books at that time.

The story went on to discuss how the head of the S.D. Senate Judiciary Committee indicated there’s a good chance the law would be changed or repealed in the 1977 legislature.

The newspaper people quoted in the story were not as optimistic.

“They (attorneys) probably would like it if we never found out anything they do,” said McDermott. Griffin added: “The average guy who gets arrested for driving intoxicated, he doesn’t want his name in the paper and feels it’s none of your business.”

Both men, according to the story, thought the law was unconstitutional because the state constitution declares courts open to the public.

Janklow concluded his reasons why the records should be kept closed until the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty with this statement: “I don’t think you people understand what effect you have on the family and friends of an accused person. It’s just a matter of an individual’s basic rights versus the First Amendment rights of the press, and I chose the individual’s rights.”

Advance to today, and we continue to see that same line-in-the- sand argument over the public’s right to know about their government and what it is doing (or not doing), vs. government officials keeping information about their activities locked up so only a few bureaucrats and elected leaders know what’s going on.

In 2002, attorney general candidate Larry Long (now the presiding 1st Circuit judge) offered to the public and media outlets to form a state task force to look at open government and open records issues if he was elected. He won that election, and since then, our state has made good progress on attacking open government issues.

But, we have so much more to do.

Current S.D. Newspaper Association General Manager David Bordewyk recently commented, “Over the years various task forces on open government (OG) have proven valuable and effective. Bringing stakeholders together to discuss and decide workable solutions for problems related to public access and transparency in government works well.

“Then-Attorney General Larry Long laid the groundwork for the effective method when he appointed the first OG task force in 2002. He convened another task force in 2007. And Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley appointed another OG task force in 2012.

“We’ve seen major overhaul reform of the state’s public records laws, significant revisions to the open meeting laws, the creation of the state’s Open Meetings Commission and an appeals process for anyone who believes he or she has been denied access to government records and information.

“Just as important as these new laws has been the focus and attention given to OG issues and the public’s right to know by elected officials and citizens everywhere. It’s been a good thing,” said Bordewyk.

We couldn’t agree more. But the key point is: We aren’t done yet. We have much more to do when it comes to accessing the public’s information and how the public’s business is conducted by our elected officials.

Stay tuned.

And starting today, why not give “a tinker’s damn” and become a knowledgeable and active citizen involved in understanding government business in our city, county and state?

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Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, Aug. 25, 2016

Educators should encourage dual credit program

South Dakota’s high school students have more opportunities than ever.

Through a program that began in 2014-15, South Dakota juniors and seniors are eligible for dual credit courses, which count for both high school and college credit.

And, after the first year it was available, the program gained significant momentum during the 2015-16 school year. We’re thrilled to hear about it and hope educators and parents promote its benefits.

To get paid a decent salary in today’s workforce, some form of post-secondary education is necessary, whether it’s from a two-year technical college or a four-year institution. To see students utilizing the dual credit program shows long-term planning and organization, which are great traits for employers to see when hiring.

Last year, more than 3,500 students in South Dakota were enrolled in some dual credit courses, compared to about 2,300 the previous school year, and collectively they saved millions of dollars. The cost per credit is $48, while the state picked up the rest of the cost.

Statewide, students saved more than $2.5 million in the 2014-15 school year by using the program, which averages $1,000 per student, according to information presented by Gov. Dennis Daugaard in his State of the State address in January.

And now more than ever, students need a break to pay for their college education.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2015-16 school year was more than $32,400 at private colleges, $9,400 for state residents at public colleges and about $23,900 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Those savings are strong incentives for students to have good grades throughout high school. To be eligible for the courses, students must meet admission standards of the post-secondary institute.

Even better, the dual credit program allows students who are educated beyond the high school level to move on to more advanced coursework.

All of those benefits spell out success for South Dakota’s students and show why the program is a no-brainer for juniors and seniors.

South Dakota’s students have more opportunities than ever because of the dual credit program. In turn, we hope it’s a serious consideration of all juniors and seniors and highly encouraged by all teachers and parents.

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