- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

American News, Aberdeen, Sept. 13

Can Expedition baseball score in Aberdeen?

A different brand of baseball is coming to Aberdeen starting in spring.

Aberdeen will be part of the 10-team Expedition League that will use wood bats and be played by unpaid college players from all over the nation and Canada. It seems like a nice fit in Aberdeen, a town with a rich baseball tradition and two college baseball programs from which players could be recruited.

A 64-game regular season, with 32 in Aberdeen, will add entertainment opportunities from May to August. It also has the potential to give baseball here a much-needed boost both in numbers and facilities.

Aberdeen Hardball Association President Guy Trenhaile said he’s also excited about the ripple effect the team could have on youth baseball.

“If this collegiate baseball can do for youth baseball what the Wings have done for hockey, it’ll be great,” Trenhaile said.

The Wings are Aberdeen’s junior hockey team featuring unpaid players ages 16-20 who are hoping to extend their on-ice careers by earning college scholarships. They play in the North American Hockey League.

Trenhaile is a past member of the youth hockey board. He said that with the help of the Wings, participation in youth hockey has increased 200 percent in Aberdeen.

And if first impressions mean anything, we like the attitude of the new owners of the Aberdeen team in the Expedition League.

Owners Chuck and Mayra Heeman said purchasing the team is a risk. However, they have been amazed at the positive attitudes and experiences they’ve had so far.

“The city of Aberdeen has an obligation to some point,” he said. “But we have an obligation to the city of Aberdeen. We’ve got to make this thing work for the people, and we’re promising you to do that.”

That onus is certainly on them to make it work, but we think it has great potential here. So does Expedition League president Steve Wagner.

“(S)ummer collegiate baseball is absolutely incredible and the Aberdeen market will do, I think, very well,” Wagner said. “A lot of real positives here, a lot of baseball folks .”

Also, we certainly think the new Aberdeen baseball business has opportunities to learn from the Wings, and vice versa. Both are trying to sell sports packages in a competitive sports market community under 30,000 in the city.

The Wings, coming off their most successful season in franchise history, have established solid cornerposts in Aberdeen. Attendance-wise, the Wings consistently have been one of the top draws in the NAHL.

That in a town where, at the same time and sometimes the same day, thousands of fans turn out for their Northern State football and basketball games. At the same time, Presentation College and three high schools in Aberdeen are drawing fans as well.

So surely this seems like a town that could use another draw to its summertime activities. Especially in baseball. Not only does this community have excellent amateur and youth baseball traditions, Aberdeen has had two successful runs in minor league baseball, although the latter Prairie League fizzled out after only a handful of seasons in the 1990s.

Still, Aberdeen left its mark as during the 1995 Prairie League season, the Aberdeen Pheasants set an all-time minor-league record by going 56-13 (.812) in the regular season.

Aberdeen baseball is best known for its 1946 to 1971 run in the Northern League. The Northern League produced some of Major League Baseball’s best players, including greats Don Larsen, Jim Palmer and Lou Piniella.

So, another brand of baseball in Aberdeen?

Sounds like a good idea to us.

___

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Sept. 9

Higher voting threshold not needed for city council races

What does city councilor Rex Rolfing hope to achieve with his upcoming amendment to establish a majority-vote requirement in future city council elections?

His publicly stated rationale is that there’s no “legitimate” reason not to make council races as “important and meaningful as the mayor’s race.” That means forcing council campaigns to a runoff election if a “50 percent plus one vote” threshold isn’t met by the winner of races involving more than two contenders.

The current requirement to gain a seat at Carnegie Town Hall is to earn more votes than any other competitor and secure at least 34 percent of the vote.

Under those parameters, Rolfing and amendment supporter Michelle Erpenbach would have faced additional weeks of campaigning on their way to election runoffs in their 2010 council bids.

Councilor Pat Starr - who along with councilors Theresa Stehly and Greg Neitzert would also have gone to a runoff in 2016 under the proposed change - said he’s not bothered by the potential $80,000 price tag for runoffs because “there’s a cost to democracy.”

At the risk of softening all this self-importance over how to seat a city council, there are good reasons to vote down this amendment:

? Council positions don’t carry nearly the same weight as the top executive office in Sioux Falls’ strong-mayor form of city government. That is a legitimate reason not to make attaining the position as demanding or expensive.

? Spending a potential $80,000 for runoff elections to determine office-holders who represent only a portion of the city’s electorate might not be a proportional “cost to democracy.”

? The likelier prospect of facing a runoff, along with the additional time and money required for longer campaigns, puts grassroots candidates at a disadvantage to deeper-pocketed establishment candidates, a potentially greater cost to democracy.

If the goal is fairer representation through preventing the election of candidates supported only by a minority (rather than trying to keep rabble-rousers at bay), there are smarter and cheaper methods than defaulting to a delayed top-two runoff.

Alternatives like ranked-choice voting (or “instant runoffs”) allow voters to rank an array of candidates in order of preference, a process used in Twin Cities municipal elections. When there’s not a first-round majority winner, the rankings come into play, reflecting the will of voters more accurately than a later runoff with lower turnout than the original election.

Change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily a virtue. If our city council feels a better system is needed to produce democratic outcomes, let them be equally democratic in finding a method that won’t leave the general citizenry shaking its collective head.

___

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Sept. 7

Congress needs to preserve DACA program

Just as Americans are coming together in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, a man-made storm is brewing and the designated first responders are members of Congress.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the same lawmakers who seem to view compromise as a threat to their livelihoods have six months to rescue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that applies to around 800,000 young people known as Dreamers who lack legal immigration status through no fault of their own.

President Obama established the DACA program by executive order in 2012 after Congress failed to address what many now consider a humanitarian issue. President Trump, who recently said he “loves” the Dreamers, wants Congress to find a legislative solution or he may revisit the issue later, which might be the best hope for Dreamers who could be deported to countries as foreign to them as to a rancher born and raised in Western South Dakota.

House Speaker Paul Ryan did offer them a sliver of hope Wednesday when he told reporters, “I think there’s a serious humane issue here that needs to be dealt with.” He added, however: “But it’s only fitting and reasonable that we also deal with some of the root causes of this problem. We’re going to work with our members to find out where that compromise is.”

But compromise is not part of the vocabulary of Republican lawmakers like Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who criticized President Trump for not sending the Dreamers packing immediately.

South Dakota’s Republican lawmakers - Sens. Thune and Rounds and Rep. Noem - have not yet taken a public stand on the issue even though approximately 500 state residents are Dreamers, which is disappointing but not unexpected.

The Dreamers can now expect to become a focal point of the immigration debate that helped Trump get elected president. But these young people who consider themselves Americans are not the criminals that Trump referred to when he declared he would build a border wall that Mexico would pay for someday.

In order to be a Dreamer, participants must have no criminal record, prove they were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and be under 31 years old when the program was launched. They also must renew their permit every two years. These are people who follow the rules, serve in the military, attend college, pay their taxes and work in professional careers. One of the heroes of Houston who died was a Dreamer who drove more than 100 miles to rescue Hurricane Harvey victims.

Among those who support the program are 400 business leaders who asked President Trump to preserve the program. According to a recent report from the Center of American Progress, 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ Dreamers. Religious leaders, law enforcement officials, judges and Republican senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina support the program.

Three things are clear moving ahead if Congress fails to preserve the program in a timely manner or at all: the issue will further divide our country along racial lines; our illegal immigration problems will continue to exist; and opponents of reform will be galvanized and millions of Hispanic voters and others will be energized for the upcoming mid-term elections and beyond.

However, this shouldn’t be a debate only about immigration policy. The Dreamers are real people with families here who deserve better from the place we like to call the greatest country in the world. Congress needs to put people ahead of politics this time.

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