- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, April 4

Time for tougher sentences

Sentencings in some high-profile cases have been a Rubik’s Cube mystery lately.

We don’t understand how judges come up with their decisions, but we feel like there needs to be more consistency, and perhaps harsher penalties, with sentences.

Two cases we reported on last week especially got us thinking.

Donald London shot, injured and nearly killed a state Highway Patrol officer received a 40-year prison sentence for his role in the 2015 Kimball standoff, but Matthew Novak - who violently cut a woman with a knife and killed her in Woonsocket - got 30 years in prison.

Then, on Monday, a judge decided to sentence Albert Fischer, of Lake Andes, to only 60 days in prison for driving drunk and crashing his vehicle, which led to the death of his younger brother.

When comparing each instance side by side, does any of that make sense?

We certainly don’t believe so.

Again, we don’t fully understand the process in which judges go through to make these hard decisions. Judges have a huge responsibility in holding the fate of a person’s life when sentencing them for a crime, and we respect each of them for those duties.

Though, we wonder if South Dakota’s crime rate has risen in recent years because many sentences aren’t harsh enough. According to a report last month from the Attorney General’s Office, South Dakota law enforcement agencies reported a total of 40,069 arrests, a 5.84 percent increase from 2014.

The vast majority of those crimes are not violent in nature, and many of them are drug-related. But we presume the people who receive light sentences for drug offenses are those who typically become violent offenders.

We appreciate judges who are up for the immense task we place before them, but maybe it’s time we see some harsher sentences for violent crimes, and perhaps a tougher stance against drug offenses as well.

While some might argue stricter sentences wouldn’t deter someone from committing an act that’s already illegal, we believe the threat of longer prison terms for violent or repeat drug offenders couldn’t possibly have a negative impact on the crime rate in South Dakota. And with a stronger deterrent in place, an individual might think twice about driving drunk, firing a gun at law enforcement officers or stabbing their housemate in the neck.


Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, April 3

A new era of recycling looms

A big change is coming for Yankton. Will residents be ready?

The change is single-stream recycling, a system by which residents won’t have to sort out their recyclable refuse items into different categories. Instead, items to be recycled can be placed in one bin - a single stream - and will be sorted out down the line.

It’s overdue and it’s needed. Yankton has not exactly been at the forefront in regards to wide-scale recycling, and the need to join the 21st century in this regard was essential.

Of course, it’s not that city official have ignored the issue. They’ve debated the best course for pursuing a more aggressive recycling program for some time, in part because it does come at a cost. Finally, it was determined that going with the single-stream method would be the easiest and, thus, most accepted approach for residents.

This process will kick into gear next month, but the signs of its arrival will be everywhere.

For many residents, that sign will take the shape of two large (92-gallon) upright carts. As the Press & Dakotan reported Saturday, there will be a black cart for general garbage and a red cart for recyclables. There are currently 9,000 of these carts stacked near the city’s wastewater treatment plant, creating a sight that looks like a black and red mountain range. Workers will start delivering these carts to residents in about two weeks.

So, as was asked at the top of this piece, will residents be ready? The city will be making every effort to bring people up to speed. Each cart will come with a packet of instructions telling people what kind of items go in which cart, what changes there may be in recycling (for instance, there will no longer be any distractions between No. 1 and No. 2 plastics) and how to place the carts out for pickup.

It’s an indication of just how big of a change this is going to be for Yankton residents.

So far, city officials say there have been a few questions about the new process. However, the best guess is there will be a lot more coming as the carts are distributed and as the actual change in the process is deployed.

People in general want to do recycling. It has a lot of environmental benefits and is just better for everyone. But the fact is, recycling takes some work - and when residents are asked to sort out different items into various separate categories, it can be a lot of work. The single-stream system reduces that workload and makes the process very simple. (The public will be asked, however, to rinse out recyclable items before placing them in the bins.) The simplicity means convenience, and that will make the program work well in the long run.

The first step (besides receiving the new carts) will be adjusting to the next method. It’s a change of habit for some, but a better way to dispose of recyclables for everyone. Ultimately, it will be a big plus for Yankton.


Capital Journal, March 28, 2017

New criminal booking photos law a step in right direction

The movement for a more open and transparent government scored at least one concrete victory during the 2017 South Dakota legislative session.

Booking photos of criminals will be opened up to the public starting on July 1, thanks to a bill supported by Attorney General Marty Jackley. This is something for which the newspaper industry in our state has fought for years.

It’s been a long time coming and, as Jackley was quoted as saying in the story published in Tuesday’s edition of the Capital Journal, making booking photos available to the public makes good government sense.

There are several reasons for this. Perhaps the most important reason for journalists is that being able to secure a booking photo helps to ensure that the right person is identified when we’re reporting on crime. That’s a big deal to us.

Of lesser importance is the fact that the new law brings South Dakota into line with almost every other state in the country, most of which long-ago passed laws that made booking photos open to the public.

We feel that making booking photos open to the public is a step in the right direction for South Dakota. The more open our government can be at all levels, the better.

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