- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, June 11, 2014

Cutting CO2 emissions the right thing to do

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that will force South Dakota utilities to decrease their total carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent by 2030.

Fifteen years, 35 percent.

Certainly, this is something that can be done - for both the health of our environment and our own health. However, despite the obvious benefits, the proposed rule has ignited a battle of the superpowers: it’s wind and natural gas against coal and its allies.

The EPA ensures that its proposal “builds on what states, cities and businesses around the country are already doing,” as EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told the Orlando Sentinel editorial board earlier this month.

Wind energy has seen a boom in our state, and it looks like it will be the direction energy conservatives and environmentalists will push the rest of the energy industry toward. After all, it makes sense to invest more into what we are already investing in. (Unless, of course, you own a coal company or work in the coal industry.) For us, that’s natural gas and wind.

However, Gary Hanson, chairman of South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission, warns that natural gas, while it is an alternative now, might be the victim of the next EPA regulation change because it also emits carbon dioxide.

Those opposed to the new rules claim that cutting emissions will increase electricity bills and the cost of doing business. The EPA is quick to note that the flexibility and timeframe of the proposed cuts will actually result in smaller consumer electricity bills in or by 2030.

Look, not all change is good. And not everything that will change with this proposed rule will be good. The EPA acknowledges that, along with decreased dependency on coal, there will be job losses in plant construction and mining - but they also figure more jobs (upward of 34,000 more) will be created than lost between 2021 to 2025.

Now, has the EPA always been right? Nope, but that’s been to its benefit, too. Dean Baker, a Washington, D.C., economist and the co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told ThinkProgress that historically what the EPA has projected new regulations would cost has been significantly less than their actual cost. Why? Because they do not take into consideration new innovations and only base their predictions on what we know and have today.

That’s something we thought of, too. In 15 years, with all of the advancements in technology that we have already made, will a 35 percent cut be enough? Given what is considered “cutting-edge” now versus 15 years ago, we can’t be certain.

Bottom line: For our future, cutting carbon dioxide emissions is the right thing to do. Sure, there will be growing pains but, if we don’t do it now, it will be another conversation that just keeps happening.

The EPA is set to finalize its proposal mid-2015.

___

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, June 7, 2014

City must find way to annex tracts

In a city such as Sioux Falls, where growth is a constant, annexations are to be expected.

Currently, the city’s attention is on the Prairie Meadows subdivision, a collection of 75 homes near the intersection of the Tea-Ellis Road and 41st Street. Sioux Falls has grown to and beyond that subdivision in recent years, and it’s time for those residents to become part of the city.

If only the process were that simple.

In reality, annexations can often be contentious, bulky, lengthy processes. This one is shaping up to be no different.

Complicating things is the price tag hanging over the Prairie Meadows residents to join up with the city of Sioux Falls. The estimates on costs to individual homeowners to upgrade streets and other infrastructure to meet city standards is from $17,000 to $100,000. No matter how enticing the added city services might be, that is simply a large financial hill to climb for most of us.

To their credit, city officials are doing the right thing by trying to work with the property owners in Prairie Meadows. The city is offering loans to help residents pay for the upgrades, allowing them to repay the cost over 20 years at 3 percent interest. In the past, such loans had to be paid off in five years.

City staff members also are meeting with each property owner to answer questions and offer assistance.

The hope is to make the annexation voluntary. Some have signed petitions to do that, but to get the needed 75 percent approval from residents will be an ambitious target.

City leaders should continue with the process no matter what happens with the petition drive and help the residents as best they can to pay the bill.

Those living in subdivisions adjacent to the city limits had to be aware that annexation was a probability when they built or bought homes there.

Beyond Prairie Meadows, there are about 50 additional pockets of unannexed land located within the city limits of Sioux Falls. The city is prioritizing those for annexation as well. Ten are targeted for annexation this year, with the remainder to follow.

It’s important to add these islands of property that were left behind for various reasons during previous annexation attempts. And it’s important for the city to avoid making exceptions like this in the future.

The benefits to annexation, from better sewer and roads to police and fire protection, are worth the effort in the long run.

___

Mitchell Daily Republic, Mitchell, June 10, 2014

Mitchell is no longer City of No

Mitchell has too often been a place where progressive ideas get rejected.

We don’t have a complete, historical list of city ballot issue results, but we know the recent success rate for ballot issues was dismal prior to June 3.

Here’s a quick summary of the city ballot issues we can recall over the last 10 years:

- 2005: Voters rejected, 53-47 percent, a public funding package of up to $5.8 million for a proposed convention center at what was then called the Holiday Inn and is now the Ramada.

- 2007: Voters rejected, 69-31 percent, a proposal to raise property taxes and build an arena along the state Highway 37 bypass.

- Also in 2007: Voters rejected, 51-49 percent, a proposal to lift the cap on the number of malt-beverage (beer) licenses in the city.

- 2010: Voters rejected, 56-44 percent, a proposal to allow Sunday off-sale liquor (“off-sale” means alcohol that is purchased and taken away to be consumed elsewhere).

- Also in 2010: Voters approved, 53-47 percent, an initiative to designate all the publicly owned land around Lake Mitchell as park land. (Though this one was approved, it arose from the public as an angry response to a City Council action; therefore, it could be considered another rejection.)

- 2011: Voters rejected, 66-34 percent, the proposed addition of a city manager to Mitchell’s city government.

- 2012: Voters rejected, 63-37 percent, a proposal to switch three one-way streets to two-way traffic.

That’s a lot of rejection. With such a poor record, it’s obvious why nearly everyone we spoke to prior to June 3 thought the proposal to allow sidewalk wine service in the downtown district would be defeated. Even many supporters of the proposal were sure it was doomed.

But the wine proposal sailed to passage, supported by 60 percent of voters compared to 40 percent in opposition.

That’s a solid victory. Does it mean something has changed in Mitchell? We’re tempted to think so. Think of all the other progressive projects going on in Mitchell right now. We recently built a second ice rink and funded it with a higher tax on hotel rooms; we’re adding on to the library; we’re renovating the Corn Palace; and we’re about to build a new City Hall. It just seems like the winds of positive change are in the air.

Or, maybe we’re making too much of the recent election. Maybe all those previous ballot issues were just bad ideas, and a good one finally came along.

Whatever the reason, we’re proud Mitchell voters have finally approved a progressive proposal. If we want to make our city better, we can’t reject every idea that shows up on a ballot.

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