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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, July 4, 2015
Still work to be done after same-sex marriage ruling
In offering South Dakota’s official reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, Gov. Dennis Daugaard took a matter-of-fact tone.
“We are a nation of laws and the state will follow the law,” he said.
The even-handed approach he chose signaled to residents that he intended to abide by the ruling, and state agencies affected by it are responding in the same no-nonsense manner.
Unfortunately, it will take more than a respect for the law to help our state navigate the next chapter in the evolution of protections for same-sex couples and all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.
South Dakota needs to act to add “sexual orientation” to legal protections against discrimination in employment, housing and other areas. Those steps would go a long way toward promoting tolerance and fairness as hallmarks of our state.
As things stand today, same sex couples in many parts of South Dakota can legally marry on the weekend, then conceivably lose a job or an apartment the next week.
The prohibitions against discriminating against employees or renters because of race, sex or religion are written into law. Protection for gay and lesbian residents in those areas is not.
In South Dakota, the notion of broadening the definition of those protected from discrimination likely will be strongly debated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
We have proven that we can disagree strongly on issues such as this, yet co-exist. Elected leaders can step beyond their personal biases and work to find compromises and solutions to difficult issues.
Clearly, there will always be rancor among some, disagreement and disapproval from others. Those strong feelings won’t fade away just because of a Supreme Court decision.
But by and large, the discourse in our state following the Supreme Court’s decision has been civil and respectful.
Hopefully, we can continue the momentum and agree that no South Dakotan should face discrimination. That should be the overriding principle that governs our next steps.
We urge Gov. Daugaard and leaders of the state legislature to work together with those who will propose adding such protections into our laws.
We can work together to end discrimination in this state and to nurture a more tolerant and inclusive society.
The Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 9, 2015
We should all want to end homelessness
Have you ever wondered where you’ll sleep at night?
We don’t mean just the casual road-tripper’s flight of fancy, where free-spirited individuals travel without an itinerary or schedule. Those people typically have a smartphone and a credit card, which means they might not know where they’ll stop - but they know it will be somewhere safe, warm, and on their own terms.
Not everyone has that luxury, as evidenced by the 2015 Statewide Point in Time Homeless Count.
According to a story in our Wednesday edition, the count, conducted on Jan. 27, recorded 1,036 homeless people in South Dakota. Sixteen individuals were counted in Davison County. Nine were children.
While 87 percent of the people found shelter the night of the count, 13 percent didn’t. About 15 percent planned to sleep outside that night.
Think of that. In January, one of the coldest months in a state known for harsh winters, about 155 people slept outside. On Jan. 27, the day of the count, the temperatures were relatively mild: in Mitchell, we saw a high of 49 degrees and a low of 28, according to the National Weather Service.
But earlier in the month, on Jan. 7, the high was just 2 degrees. The low was minus 7. It’s a safe bet that there were nearly as many people seeking shelter on Jan. 7 as Jan. 27, and temperatures like that create life-threatening conditions.
The Point in Time Homeless Count was conducted by the South Dakota Housing for the Homeless Consortium in collaboration with other agencies. According to survey officials, the statewide count is just a snapshot of homelessness in South Dakota. Only 37 of South Dakota’s 66 counties reported to Housing for the Homeless, due at least in part to the vast land area in some of the more rural counties. And there aren’t enough volunteers to cover those miles.
Translation: There are likely more homeless than reported - hundreds more, maybe.
Housing Research and Development Officer Lisa Bondy pointed to the stigma associated with homelessness, noting that there are so many reasons why a person might be on the street. It can happen to anyone - the elderly, displaced veterans, people with mental health issues, people with disabilities. Mothers, fathers, sisters, uncles, cousins. And, yes - even children. We as a society have an obligation to look out for the most vulnerable members of our community.
So, what are we going to do about this, Davison County? Wring our hands and say, “Oh, how sad”? Judge people for not having the same circumstances that we do? Even if you’ve worked hard for everything you’ve got and had nothing handed to you, that’s no excuse to turn a blind eye to neighbors in need. We Midwesterners pride ourselves on how helpful and friendly we are. That should extend to everyone, not just the people we think deserve our help.
The Mitchell Public Comment Meeting on the draft 10-year plan to end homelessness will be held at noon on July 21 at the James Valley Community Center’s North Room in Mitchell.
Attend. Participate. Speak up. Let’s work together and make sure that at the next January count, there are no more homeless men and women on the street, and no more children left out in the cold. It’s just one of the many ways we can make our community even better - for everyone.
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 5, 2015
Thunder Valley a reason for optimism, enthusiasm
Of all the possible combinations of human qualities, the marriage of optimism and enthusiasm seems to produce the best results.
That’s why the ambitious Thunder Valley multi-use project on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation holds such promise for a Native American community that needs an infusion of good news.
Often, the reservation seems to lurch from crisis to crisis: in response to a child’s death, a crackdown on roaming dogs; with suicides on the rise, a series of well-meaning counseling and community-action sessions.
But Thunder Valley is different. From the start, it has been a planned community on 34 acres, including 32 single-family homes, a grocery store, a small farm, powwow grounds and an area for youth recreation. On Monday, June 22, the project, after five years in the planning and organizing stages, broke ground. By the end of the year, reservation families are expected to move into some of the homes.
It is planned as an environmentally sustainable community.
A large crowd attended the groundbreaking, and smiles were everywhere. The project has the backing of the federal government, with a grant totaling almost $2 million.
Buildings, blueprints and cash are staples of any project, but without the spirit of getting things done - a spirit that endured over the five years of effort to make Thunder Valley a reality - the project’s colorful artist’s rendering could have turned into yet another empty promise.
Speaking at the groundbreaking, Nick Tilsen, executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, captured that spirit in one lengthy but heartfelt sentence: “A bunch of young people from the rez created this vision, and it’s been recognized everywhere throughout the United States, all the way to the White House, all just because we came together and decided we were going to have the tenacity to go after something we were hungry for.”
His further pledge, that “Today is the beginning of the end of poverty on Pine Ridge,” may seem overstated. Thunder Valley, like every project, will have difficulties along the way, and realism may temper some of the optimism of the groundbreaking.
But Pine Ridge will rise only if “people from the rez” take on the challenge of ending the cycles of poverty, crises and hopelessness. May the “Thunder” in the project’s name be the loud, emphatic sound that heralds prosperity, peace and a bright future.
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