- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 30, 2014

Resolve problems at the IHS

Problems at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers get all the attention, but similar stories of neglect at Indian Health Services clinics go virtually unnoticed.

Last week, the Unified Tribal Health Board met in Rapid City to discuss failures of the IHS in the Great Plains region. In attendance were members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe and other tribes, and representatives from South Dakota’s congressional delegation - Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.

Testimony heard at the July 18 meeting included stories about inadequate treatment at IHS facilities, and allegations about cutting corners and misdiagnosing ailments to save money that could then be spent on IHS employee bonuses.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same type of complaints about treatment and operations at VA medical care facilities.

The Aberdeen Area Office in Aberdeen oversees 19 IHS units and tribal-managed facilities that provide health care to about 122,000 Native Americans in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, including seven hospitals, eight health centers and several smaller satellite clinics.

For tribal members on and off the reservations, Indian Health Services provides their primary medical care. It’s vital that the care they receive is responsive to their medical needs, and that IHS doesn’t cut corners unnecessarily to save money.

The problems aired at the Unified Tribal Health Board meeting are not the result of recent failings at the IHS, but are representative of complaints that have been raised repeatedly over the years against the federal health care program for Native Americans. In 2008, Sen. Johnson blasted the IHS in an oversight committee hearing for the agency’s “Priority One” policy that denies some treatments if they are not life-threatening. It appears that the IHS has not changed its approach to health care.

The VA scandal has prompted promises by members of Congress to ensure that veterans receive the care that they have been promised. The same concern should be provided to ensure that Native Americans receive adequate health care from the IHS.

Congress has oversight over the IHS and South Dakota’s congressional delegation should take the lead in helping to improve health care for Native Americans.


The Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 29, 2014

Miller Classic game plan has worked, so don’t change it

In the inaugural year of the Mike Miller Classic basketball event, a massive winter storm rolled into Mitchell. That was in 2010, when a late-December blizzard brought cold, wind and about 10 inches of snow in two days.

For the most part, basketball fans didn’t care about the frigid South Dakota weather. They still showed up to watch the first year of the classic, which, for the past four years has brought in some of the nation’s top high school basketball teams and showcased them on Mitchell’s city-owned tourist attraction, the Corn Palace.

Each year after, the Miller Classic continued its success and was a major highlight of the basketball season. Fans packed the Corn Palace to see highly anticipated matchups, and Mike Miller - the Mitchell native and NBA player for whom the tournament is named - made a surprise showing in 2011.

“I wish I wasn’t so old, so I could play in the Corn Palace again,” Miller told a large crowd prior to Mitchell’s 2011 game against Custer. “Thank you so much for all the support.”

Yes, basketball enthusiasts fans look forward to the Miller Classic annually. (This year, it’s being held Dec. 27 and Dec. 29). The day the pairings are released are always filled with excitement, with fans checking to see which of the nation’s best high school players will come to Mitchell to play in our arena.

But Monday, we learned the Corn Palace this year will lose half of the Miller Classic to Sioux Falls. Event organizer Ernie Kuyper told The Daily Republic that the first day of the two-day event will be held at the Corn Palace, and then it will move to the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls for the second day.

We - and we suspect other Mitchell fans - were disappointed to hear this news. Aren’t Sioux Falls and the state’s largest cities already garnering enough attention by taking the majority of the state tournaments?

In its own way, the Miller Classic has been Mitchell’s state tournament for the past four years, drawing huge crowds and filling the town’s hotel rooms and restaurants for two- and three-day stretches.

Kuyper said he doesn’t see this as a slight to Mitchell, because the event is still being held at the Corn Palace, at least for one day. And we certainly understand that this is Miller’s event, and he and event organizers can choose to host it wherever they please.

But wasn’t this classic supposed to be about South Dakota basketball and fans of the sport? If Sioux Falls and the state’s biggest cities are getting state tournaments, and Mitchell doesn’t qualify for those, shouldn’t basketball fans get a chance to watch a weekend’s slate of games solely at the Corn Palace, where Miller grew up playing the sport?

Kuyper explained the classic, while being played at the Pentagon, has a chance to be televised on ESPN. That’s exciting news, but the purpose of the event is to expose South Dakota basketball and give the state’s fans something to be excited about, rather than picking up a major-network TV deal.

Basketball fans have shown wind, cold temperatures and blizzards will not stop them from attending the Miller Classic at the Corn Palace. That’s already proven. And out-of-state schools have raved about the facility and Mitchell’s ability to host.

So, Miller Classic organizers, we must ask one final question: If your game plan is working, why change it? Doesn’t seem like smart basketball strategy.


Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, July 30, 2014

What’s the city hiding from taxpayers?

What’s wrong with the buckling panels on the curved sides of our new Denny Sanford Premier Center?

The siding is noticeably bulging in spots, and residents rightfully wonder why. The $115 million building is scheduled to open in early October, after all.

City officials asked a consultant, the Judd Allen Group, to come in and examine the building to try to determine what had happened and, more importantly, how it could be fixed.

The firm did that, apparently, and sent its report to the city.

At least we think they made some recommendations after studying the problem. So far, city officials have refused to let anyone see the report - not the City Council, not the Argus Leader, not taxpayers.


What could possibly be in that report that would warrant this extraordinary level of secrecy by city officials?

It seems there might be several possible causes for the bulky panels:

- The materials are bad.

- The installation was flawed.

- The city’s specifications were off.

- Some combination of the above.

Any of these factors would classify as a detail the taxpaying public would want to know. We’re all paying for the events center and deserve to know how problems in the building will be resolved.

So, why the secrecy? As far as we know, there’s no open criminal investigation underway here or a personnel file that might be exposed.

In explaining the officials’ decision not to let anyone see the report, City Attorney David Pfeifle pointed to a section of law that exempts certain internal records or “information received by agencies that are not required to be filed with such agencies” along with several other types of documents from being considered open public records.

Maybe this building report fits one of those categories, though that’s certainly debatable. Because city officials already made that determination, we can’t tell.

They could have come to a different conclusion and should have.

Which leads us back to the question: What is in that report that warrants this extraordinary level of secrecy?

Secrecy breeds suspicion, and suspicious minds all over the city are now tuned into this discussion.

This is a report on siding, after all.

Treat it like that and tell us all what’s going on at the events center and how it might be fixed.



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