Yankton Area Flooding FAQ

The Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce has issued an FAQ regarding flooding and sandbagging for the Yankton area.

It will be posted at www.yanktonflood.com, which is a clearinghouse for local flood information set up by the Yankton County Office of Emergency Management.

Yankton Flood Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Where can I get sandbags?
• Yankton County Shop – 407 W. 11th St.
• Riverside Acres Park

Question: How do I properly sandbag?
• Flyer: http://www.nwk.usace.army.mil/Flood/NWD_Sandbag_Pamphlet.pdf

Question: Where do I find storage – buildings, u-hauls, trailers?
• Call the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce at (605) 665-3636.

Question: Where can I park a camper or RV with hookups?
• Call the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce at (605) 665-3636 or visit our Web site at

Question: Where do I find temporary and long-term housing?
• Call the Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce at (605) 665-3636
• If emergency shelters are needed, information will be issued through the local media.

Question: Where can I find news and information?
• Go to http://www.yanktonflood.com
• Local media websites
o http://www.yankton.net
o http://www.kynt1450.com, http://www.wnax.com, http://www.kvht.com

Question: How do I flood-proof my house?
• Visit: bReadysd.com: http://www.breadysd.com/index.cfm
• Visit: Disasterrecovery.sd.gov: http://www.disasterrecovery.sd.gov/flood_info.aspx

Question: Will areas be asked to evacuate?
• At this time there are no evacuation orders.  Should evacuation orders be issued, they will be
broadcast through the local media.

Question: Will I be able to access my house if I have been evacuated?
• This will be on a case-by-case basis and coordinated among state and local officials.

Question: Is there anyone who can help me with storage containers, boxes and help if I wish to
evacuate now?
• Residents needing boxes can contact Walmart at (605) 665-1425
• The Chamber is collecting zip ties, packing tape and boxes which are available at 803 E. 4th St.
on a first come, first serve base.
• To request volunteers to help with packing and evacuating,  go to http://www.yanktonflood.com and
e-mail in a request or call the Chamber at (605) 665-3636.

Question: Will I need to take any preventative measures with my sewer system?
• Residents in affected areas are being asked to pump their septic systems dry before Tuesday,
June 7 to help eliminate potential water contamination issues.

Question: What are the current releases?
• Releases from Gavins Point Dam are 85,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) through June 2
• Releases will step up to 130,000 cfs by June 7
• June 14 releases will step up to 150,000 cfs

Question: What will the river level be during this time and how high will the water get?
• As of May 30, the water at the Dam was at 1,163.87 feet and is forecast to rise to 1,168.62 feet
by mid-June.

Question:  Should a disaster be declared, do I have to sandbag to receive money from FEMA for
Individual Assistance?
• Residents are encouraged to undertake all reasonable prevention measures.  Failure to
sandbag will not affect any potential disaster assistance.  Note that there is not currently a
disaster assistance declaration from the federal government for individuals.

Question: Are the dams along the Missouri River safe?
• Dams on the mainstem of the Missouri River are structurally sound and performing as designed,
despite the high water.

Question: What highways/areas are closed?
• Crest Road (along the dam) is closed due to regularly scheduled maintenance work. It will be
closed Mondays at 7 a.m. through Fridays at 5 p.m. It is open for traffic Saturday and Sundays.
• NOTE TO LOCAL TRAFFIC: Unless you are volunteering, the public is requested to stay clear of
Riverside Acres and River Aspen areas to allow for sandbagging and relief efforts.
• Due to construction congestion at 8th Street & Summit Avenue Intersection and 8th Street and
West City Limits Road intersections, local traffic and larger vehicles are encouraged to use
alternate routes to access the lake area.

Question: Where can I go for questions, help, or just general information?
• City of Yankton: http://www.cityofyankton.org
• Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce (605) 665-3636

Corps Establishes Joint Information Center On Mo. River Flooding

Like many other people in the Yankton area, my weekend was largely spent watching and reacting to the rising level of the Missouri River. On Monday, P&D Managing Editor Kelly Hertz and I spent much of the afternoon chronicling sandbagging efforts and made a trip out to the Gavins Point Dam spillway, which has quickly become a bustling tourist destination. All that is missing is a concession stand.

Fortunately, while I live in an apartment on the shore of the Missouri River, I don’t think I have anything to worry about. I’m situated on a huge hill. If my house goes under, the Discovery Bridge and Meridian Bridge will be flooded, as well. I hope I don’t end up eating those words …

Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established a Joint Information Center for Missouri River flooding information. It includes a number and e-mail address for the public to contact them for information. People may find it of use. Here is that press release:

Omaha, Neb. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, announced today that it has
established a Joint Information Center to ensure timely and coordinated release of accurate information
to the public by providing a single release point of information.

“As communities along the river experience unprecedented flows out of the Missouri River main
stem reservoirs, we want to ensure they are provided with accurate and up-to-date information in
a timely fashion,” said Erik Blechinger, Missouri River Joint Information Center Director.

The public can email questions to the Joint Information Center at MRJIC@usace.army.mil or call
(402) 996-3877.

Record flows and flooding are the result of above-normal snowpack and extraordinary rain events
during the last several weeks. Significant flooding in cities, towns and agricultural land is expected
in North and South Dakota with many areas from Sioux City, Iowa, to the Mississippi rising above
flood stage.

Flows from five of the six dams are expected to reach a record 150,000 cfs no later than mid-June.  The
previous record releases took place in the fall of 1997.

“We continue to receive precipitation in the upper basin,” said Jody Farhat, Chief of the Water
Management Office here. “Each day we update the reservoir forecast with new rain and snow runoff
information.  When changes to the inflow forecasts occur, which they often do, it is necessary for us to
make adjustments to the come-up schedules at the mainstem reservoirs to balance the impacts of
changing conditions.”

“The sooner we reach these maximum release rates, the less risk there is that we’ll have to go
higher. Once we have evacuated some storage in the reservoir system, we will have more
flexibility to respond to changing conditions,” said Farhat.

“Protecting lives is our number one priority right now,” said Brig. Gen. John McMahon, Commander of the
Northwestern Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. “We are working closely with state and local
emergency management teams to identify potential flood areas, provide residents with the most current
information and help protect vital public infrastructure.”

People living along the river are encouraged to make evacuation plans to protect their possessions and
property. Maps for potential flood areas can be found at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil

Payne, Clooney Team Up For ‘The Descendants’

I just realized today that Omaha-born director Alexander Payne has a new film coming out. I saw some blurbs yesterday about a new George Clooney movie, but I had no idea it was a Payne effort.

It’s been far too long since he put out a full-length film. After all, the last one was 2004’s “Sideways.”

I love Payne’s intense and caring character studies. He has a way of bringing a warmth to his characters that manages to make them endearing, even if they aren’t really all that endearing.

The new film is called “The Descendants,” and the trailer makes it look as though it sticks to those aforementioned Payne attributes. That’s a good thing. I’m excited to see this movie.

With the long weekend coming up, you might have some time to watch some films. If, like me, you live hundreds of miles from any showing of Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” chances are you’re looking for a home viewing option. (I’m still not convinced I need to go to the theater to watch “The Hangover II.”)

A film I will be returning to this weekend (and sharing with some friends), is “The Browning Version.” It’s a powerful examination of a British schoolteacher who must come to terms with the fact that he has failed as a teacher and, perhaps, as a man. I first saw it several years ago when Criterion released the film on DVD. It has always stuck with me, and I’ve been an advocate for the movie. I look forward to seeing if others form the same bond with “The Browning Version” …

Of course, I’d recommend that any readers brave enough to follow my film suggestions give it a try themselves 🙂

Here is a scene from the movie, though if you come into it without context it has nowhere near the weight it actually carries:

Public Schools Increasingly Charging Kids For Classes, Services

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent story on Wednesday about the rising costs of public education and the measures that are being taken to meet the funding gaps. Because of the costs, cuts in state funding and a lack of willingness by local taxpayers to foot higher bills, the difference is being placed upon parents in the form of fees.

It’s tempting to think that is as it should be, but I think that’s a real mistake. If that is the road America is going to travel down, the results will not be pretty.

This is part of the larger scourge of our nation that I often make reference to — increasing economic inequality. Let me provide you with a few statistics.

In 2009, the top 1 percent of U.S. households owned 35.6 percent of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent.

In 2010, CEO pay jumped 24 percent, which more than makes up for the two-year decline they saw during the recession. In comparison, average workers (those who still had jobs) saw their pay increase by 3.3 percent — perhaps enough to cover the increasing costs of gas and food.
So while the nation’s top CEOs were paid an average of $11.4 million, the average worker got $33,121.
That means CEOs got paid 344 times what the average worker got paid in 2010, up from 287 times in 2009.
To give some perspective, in the 1980s, that pay gap was just 40 times.

Because wealth is increasingly pooling at the top, there is less money to go around for the rest of us trying to cling to our middle class status.

Traditionally, the escape hatch from poverty in this country has been education. If you get a good public school education and excel at it, you can get financial assistance to go to a good college and then on to a decent job. That, I would guess, was the most common form of the American Dream. People worked hard to get an education and built a better life for themselves. Because of the education system, you did not have to come from wealth to build a life. But if we are going to start charging for educational opportunities in those k-12 years, that ladder out of poverty begins to crumble. All of a sudden, being a good student isn’t enough to get a good start in life. Having parents with money has always helped, but in this scenario it is necessary.

It’s really depressing to think that Americans would settle for such a scenario.

Instead, we need to start attacking income inequality. One good place to start is to tax the wealthy at higher rates and support estate taxes. After all, to those who are given much, much is expected. It makes sure that money stays in circulation and doesn’t just pile up in a bank somewhere while it could be doing good in the world. Otherwise, we are heading down the road to a sort of modern-day feudalism …

Is that enough of a preface for this really interesting story from the Wall Street Journal by Stephanie Simon?

MEDINA, Ohio—Karen Dombi was thrilled when her three oldest children were picked for student government this year—not because she envisioned careers in politics, but because it was one of the few programs at their public high school that didn’t charge kids to participate.

Medina City Schools are in deep financial trouble. To save their vaunted athletic and music programs, the district has enacted a policy that no one in the administration feels good about: Pay to play. WSJ’s Stephanie Simon reports from Medina, Ohio.

Budget shortfalls have prompted Medina Senior High to impose fees on students who enroll in many academic classes and extracurricular activities. The Dombis had to pay to register their children for basic courses such as Spanish I and Earth Sciences, to get them into graded electives such as band, and to allow them to run cross-country and track. The family’s total tab for a year of public education: $4,446.50.

“I’m wondering, am I going to be paying for my parking spot at the school? Because you’re making me pay for just about everything else,” says Ms. Dombi, a parent in this middle-class community in northern Ohio.

Public schools across the country, struggling with cuts in state funding, rising personnel costs and lower tax revenues, are shifting costs to students and their parents by imposing or boosting fees for everything from enrolling in honors English to riding the bus.

At high schools in several states, it can cost more than $200 just to walk in the door, thanks to registration fees, technology fees and unspecified “instructional fees.”


Though public schools have long charged for extras such as driver’s education and field trips, many are now asking parents to pay for supplies needed to take core classes—from biology-lab safety goggles to algebra workbooks to the printer ink used to run off grammar exercises in language arts. In some schools, each class comes with a price tag, to be paid at registration. Some schools offer installment plans for payment. Others accept credit cards—for a processing fee.

Public-school administrators say the fees—some of which are waived for low-income families—allow them to continue to offer specialty classes and activities that would otherwise fall to the budget ax. Some parents support that approach, saying they’d rather pay for honors physics or drama than see those opportunities eliminated altogether.

Some educators, too, argue that fees are good public policy. In a time of fiscal austerity, they say it’s not fair to ask taxpayers to fund an all-inclusive education that offers Advanced Placement Art History, junior varsity golf and fourth-year German with little regard for the cost.

The proliferation of fees comes at a time when the cost of public education has been soaring. After adjusting for inflation, average spending per pupil has increased 44% over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Personnel costs—which amount to about 80% of expenses in many school districts—have driven some of the increase, along with increased costs for utilities and technology. The average salary for a public-school teacher nationally has jumped 26% since 2001, though that growth didn’t quite keep pace with inflation.

At the same time, school revenue has plunged, mostly due to cutbacks in state funding. Squeezed by lower tax revenue and higher expenses for programs such as Medicaid, states have cut education funding by a collective $17 billion in the past two fiscal years, though some of that was backfilled by the federal stimulus.

Large additional cuts are on the table this fiscal year in many states, among them California, Texas, Florida and Colorado.



Nationally, district after district has eliminated or cut enrichment programs for gifted students, help for struggling readers, advanced math and science courses, music, art, foreign languages, drama, sports. Some have tried asking local residents to approve higher taxes, only to be shot down at the polls. So administrators say fees are the only way to stave off even more drastic cuts.

“Things are getting tighter,” said Collene Van Noord, superintendent of the Palmyra Area School District in southeast Pennsylvania, which recently began charging $20 lab fees for many science, art and music courses. “If we can pass on the added costs for some of our more expensive courses to direct users, it seems more fair than to pass them on to the entire community” in the form of tax hikes, she said.

[Fees] Dombi FamilyBAND FEE: $200. Because of new fees at Medina Senior High, Tessa Dombi, a freshman, had to choose between band and choir.

Most states prohibit public schools from charging for core classes. But schools can generally charge for supplemental materials, a category that has been broadly defined. In Iowa, for instance, paper is considered “not essential to the teacher’s presentation of a course,” and thus need not be provided at public expense, the state Department of Education website explains.

A 52% increase in some fees this year at the Blue Valley School District in Overland Park, Kan., means a typical high-school student now owes $235 at enrollment, plus supplies fees as high as $65 a class. The tab will be similar next year at Wheaton North High School in Wheaton, Ill., after a recent fee hike: $221 for baseline registration plus $150 per sport and class fees as high as $50 each.

Here in Medina, the charges imposed on the Dombi family’s four children include $75 in generic school fees, $118.50 for materials used in biology, physics and other academic courses, $263 for Advanced Placement exams and $3,990 to participate in cross-country, track and band. That’s not counting the $2,716.08 the Dombis paid in property taxes specifically earmarked for the schools.

Their oldest daughter, Tessa, loves to sing, but they told her she couldn’t take a choir class this year, as it would add $200 to the bill. “It’s high school,” Ms. Dombi said. “You’re supposed to be able to try different things and see what you like.”

[FEES] Dombi FamilyCROSS-COUNTRY FEE: $660. Zach Dombi chose track.

Many states require schools to waive academic, but not extracurricular, fees for the poorest students, generally those with an annual income less than $29,000 a year for a family of four. Those above the cutoff, however, can be sanctioned if they don’t pay in full. Schools may withhold their diplomas or ban them from commencement, which itself often carries a $30 to $60 “graduation fee.”

Even when waivers are available, advocates for the low-income contend that it violates the spirit of a free public education when parents must, in effect, seek charity to pay for their child’s math workbook. In California, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state for allowing districts to charge a wide array of fees.

Administrators and parents also worry that fees might affect some students’ chances of getting into good colleges. Schools across the country now charge substantial “pay to play” fees not only for sports and arts programs, but also for more modest activities, including community service. Among the charges: $350 to join chess club, $200 to participate in Students Against Drunk Driving, $85 to write for the literary magazine—and $50 to clean up beaches with the Environmental Club.

Academic transcripts, too, can take a hit, as the most rigorous courses—the kind that impress college admissions officers—can be the most costly. At Marietta High in southeastern Ohio, it costs $33 to take chemistry, $36 for honors chemistry and $152 for the Advanced Placement course.

Dakota Ridge High in Littleton, Colo., charges sophomores $15 for basic 10th grade English but $50 for honors, which uses additional materials. Juniors can take basic English for $8 or pay $75—plus a test fee of about $90—for Advanced Placement English Literature.

Although most districts make just a small percentage of their overall budget from academic fees, administrators say the revenue allows them to replace worn textbooks, for example, or provide math workbooks that students can actually write in.

The jump in public-school fees has a back-to-the-future feel for New York University professor Jonathan Zimmerman, who studies the history of education. He’s reminded, he said, of the early 19th century, when public schools drew on taxpayer support, but also often charged tuition. That practice began to shift in the 1840s with Horace Mann’s drive for free “common schools.”

Basic Registration Fees

Community Unit School District 200 – Wheaton, Ill.
Elementary school:
Registration fee — $95
Technology fee — $15
High school:
Registration fee — $175
Locker fee — $6
Music fee — $10
Technology fee — $40
Graduation fee — $30

Blue Valley School District – Overland Park, Kansas
High school:
Learning resources fee — $100
Technology supply fee — $15
Activity programming fee — $120

U-46 High School District – Elgin, Ill.
Instructional fee — $125
Locks — $10
Student ID — $5

Course Supplies Fees

Lakota Local Schools – Liberty Township, Ohio
English 9 — $12
French IV — $75
Honors Chemistry I — $39.50
Physical Science 101 — $25
AP Microeconomics — $40

Bloom Township High School District – Chicago Heights, Ill.
Physics — $13
AP Biology — $34
Advanced Ceramics — $25
Freshman P.E. — $26

Dakota Ridge High School – Littleton, Colo.
English 9 – $18
Honors English 9 — $38
Honors English 12 — $59
AP English Literature — $75
Chemistry — $10
Honors Chemistry — $20
AP Chemistry — $40 plus book
German II — $20

Leeds High School – Leeds, Ala.
Art — $40
Business technology — $25
Chemistry — $25
Drafting — $40
Marine Biology — $25

Extracurricular Activities Fees

Arlington Public Schools – Arlington, Mass.
Cheerleading — $408
Ice Hockey — $720
Gymnastics — $720
Wrestling — $480

Lakeville North High School – Lakeville, Minn.
Debate — $190
Fall Musical — $110
Chess Club — $150
Science Olympiad — $150

Lenape Regional High School District – Shannon, N.J.
Activities fee — $200 to participate in one or more activities including:
Literary Magazine
Gay/Straight Alliance
Students Against Drunk Driving
Asian Club
National Honor Society
Student Government
Stage Crew
Jazz Band

Hamilton-Wenham High Regional High School — South Hamilton, Mass.
Football — $864
Volleyball — $537
Baseball — $591
Girls tennis — $372
Boys tennis — $239
Literary Magazine — $85
World language club — $71
School musical — $200

Miscellaneous fees

Douglas County School District – Castle Rock, Colo.
Riding school bus daily — $180
Band uniform cleaning — $15 / semester

U-46 High School District – Elgin, Ill.
Driver’s Education
Behind the wheel instruction — $300
Textbook — $20
Student parking permit — $60

Though the right to free education is now enshrined as an American value, when written into state constitutions, it typically carries a qualifier: Students are entitled to a “suitable” or an “adequate” education on the public dime.

That has long been interpreted expansively. As far back as the 1920s, schools were offering a wide variety of courses designed to serve many aptitudes and interests, Mr. Zimmerman said.

Today, however, educators and lawmakers are wondering if that’s sustainable—or necessary. As the population ages and fewer voters have children in the public schools, some communities are questioning whether an “adequate” education really requires the public to fund a full menu of arts courses, or advanced science classes that may draw just a handful of kids, or a debate club or a gymnastics team.

Seeking to define the extent of taxpayers’ obligation, Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal suggests that “what should be required is more than the 3 Rs, but it is decidedly less than everything school districts choose to offer.”

In Medina, a quaint town midway between Cleveland and Akron, school costs had risen 23% over five years to $75 million in 2010, after the district opened two new elementary schools to meet projected enrollment increases. Last year, revenue fell sharply after state funding was cut.

To shave costs, the Medina school board eliminated 106 teaching positions, or 20% of the teaching staff, over two years. Class size increased—from 25 kids per teacher, to 31 or 32. Many AP science and math classes were eliminated, along with the German and French programs. The district also reduced its offerings in art, music and other electives.

To further bring down expenses, the teacher’s union agreed last summer to $1 million in concessions, taking a 2.45% pay raise instead of the scheduled 3.45% raise and boosting their contributions to their health coverage from $80 a month for a family plan to $215 a month. These moves, combined with the layoffs, have saved the district nearly $3 million, cutting the 2011 budget by 4%, to $71 million. The district’s average cost for teacher salary plus benefits is about $68,000.

The district also sought to raise revenue. Three years in a row, voters were asked to approve higher property taxes to stave off steep cuts to athletic and arts programs. Three years in a row, voters said no.

“We can’t afford to get our teeth fixed because it’s too expensive,” said Joyce Harris, who is 70 and voted against the proposed tax hike. “If we have our taxes go up to pay for little Joey’s football, that’s not exactly fair.”

So the district turned to parents for financial help. Starting last winter, Medina began charging $660 to play a high-school sport, $200 to join the concert choir and $50 to act in the spring play.

Large families didn’t get a break. Neither did poor families, though 16% of Medina students are considered economically disadvantaged.

There were to be no waivers, for any reason.

The extracurricular fees, meant to raise $1 million for the district, had immediate impact. The track team, for instance, shrank from 191 to 92 student athletes. “It’s like half your family is suddenly gone,” said 15-year-old Tessa, a runner.

Some academic costs also jumped. The school cut advanced calculus to save money, so a handful of top students were left with no math class. Worried that would look bad on her son’s college applications, Cindy Fotheringham shelled out $850—plus $150 for books—to enroll him in an online calculus class. At the elementary school level, many parents will pay $30 per student next year to cover math workbooks and writing journals, which will bring in about $68,000 for the district.

Administrators say the cuts and fees prompted about 100 students to switch to private schools.

But the fees have brought a few unanticipated benefits. Though participation in athletics and music is down, those who remain are more committed than ever, according to some teachers. Many teens have taken jobs to help pay for their activities and say they’re proud of their new responsibilities.

While it has pained him to put price tags on so much of the public-school experience, Superintendent Randy Stepp said the new cost structure may not be all bad.

“Students have to realize, as our country is realizing, that you can’t have everything,” Mr. Stepp said. “We all have to make tough choices.”

Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com

‘Love And Poison’: An Introduction To Suede

When it comes to my writing, there is perhaps no one single human that has more of an influence on what I aspire to than Brett Anderson.
Anderson is the lead singer/songwriter of Suede, an English band that exploded in the early 1990s and kicked off the Britpop movement.
Their first, self-titled album is a mixture of raw youth and sexuality coupled with beautiful drama. When it first came out in 1993 and I read about the buzz, I purchased the album but don’t remember falling in love with it entirely. There were several tracks, such as “Sleeping Piils” and “The Next Life,” that kept me returning to it, but overall it was a bit of a mystery to me why it was SO HUGE.

I love the line, “Too Siamese to catch the leaves from those trees.” I still have no idea what it means, but it makes sense in the context of the song for some reason.
In 1994, Suede pretty much disavowed any association with what Britpop had become with the release of “Dogmanstar.”
I remember reading a review of the album in the College Music Journal (of which I was an avid reader because of the accompanying mix CD that came with every issue), and when I went to Sioux Falls next I purchased it.
I was immediately struck with its brilliance. I was a teen, and its dark and dramatic tales of romance, alienation and isolation created a whole universe in my mind. It was so tragic and romantic. Of course, it was considered somewhat of a commercial failure at the time, but it has gone on to be the favorite album of fans like myself. I consider it to be nothing short of a masterpiece.
In particular, I began to really take notice of Anderson’s lyrics. They made me look at the world in a different way, a talent that many writers do not possess. As you can imagine, I wrote a lot of poetry/lyrics that were attempts to emulate Anderson and I re-evaluated Suede’s debut album. Now, I believe it to be only of slightly lesser brilliance than “Dogmanstar.”
“Asphalt World,” a song about a love triangle, completely shook my soul and contains some of my favorite Suede lyrics: “Sometimes we ride in a taxi to the ends of the city/Like big stars in the back seat, like skeletons ever so pretty …” and “She’s got a friend, they share mascara, I pretend/Sometimes they fly from the covers to the winter of the river/For these silent stars of the cinema/It’s in the blood stream, it’s in the liver …”

Anderson always cites “The Wild Ones” as the high point of Suede’s creative abilities. Who am I to argue? It’s one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard. “And, oh, if you stay, I’ll chase the rain-blown fields away/We’ll shine in the morning and sin in the sun/Oh, if you stay, we’ll be the wild ones running with the dogs today.”

Suede would reach their commercial peak in 1996 with the release of “Coming Up,” which contains hit after hit (as least, for European and Japanese audiences), but moved away from the darkness and paranoia of “Dogmanstar.” The lyrics aren’t as thought-provoking and complex, but they still have charm and intoxicated my brain.
Take, for example, “Trash”: “We’re trash, you and me/We’re the litter on the breeze/We’re the lovers on the streets/Just trash, me and you/It’s in everything we do.”

The b-sides collection that followed, “Sci-Fi Lullabies,” contained some of Suede’s best material, a fact that wowed many critics who were not previously familiar with the band’s lesser-known work.
“The Living Dead” brought me to tears on first listen. It had an emotional resonance with me.

Due to self-admitted problems with drug addiction, Anderson’s lyrical output suffered on the final two Suede albums, “Head Music” and “A New Morning.” He started doing things like rhyming “house” with “mouse,” and the critics had a heyday ripping him to shreds. However, there were still plenty of musical highlights. “Everything Will Flow” was just one of them:

Suede broke up in 2003, and Anderson embarked on a solo career, where he went on to do some of the best lyrics of his life, in my opinion. He also did a very solid one-off album with The Tears.
A favorite track from this period is off the 2009 album “Slow Attack.” It’s called “Scarecrows and Lilacs.” It ends with, “Your hands look small and the skin is so cold/With your nails all cracked like beetles backs/They’ll cover the village like ghosts/They’ll cover the mountains like crows/But they’ll find us where our blood meets the snow, where the lilacs grow.”
Here is another fantastic song from the album:

Anderson and his music has been a constant in my life. (I even own a signed copy of his book of lyrics.) However, what brought him to the forefront or my mind recently was the reformation of Suede. For the last couple weeks, the band has been devoting each show to performing an entire album, which has delighted fans.
Suede has even said it plans to work on new material, but makes no promises it will see the light of day. Needless to say, people like me are crossing their fingers.
Here is a snippet from last week’s performance at London’s Brixton Academy:

This is a lot to digest in one post, and maybe I’ve only been successful in indulging in my own love for the work of Suede and Brett Anderson. However, the band never made inroads in the United States, so many Americans never had a chance to discover its music and fall in love with it.
I guess I’m giving you that chance.
Let me know if you get the same “love and poison” I got from Suede/Anderson …

Weldon: I Left Yankton For Health Reasons

I was reading the front page of the Mitchell Daily Republic today and was greeted with the photo of an old acquaintance — former Yankton City Manager Jeff Weldon.

The first sentence of the accompanying story by Tom Lawrence reads as follows:

Every two weeks, Brookings City Manager Jeffrey Weldon walks into a City Council meeting knowing he could be fired.

That made me laugh, and I suspect Jeff would laugh with me if he were at my side.

Jeff may or may not know that reality better than most considering his sudden termination by the Yankton City Commission in October 2007 after a couple years of service. That special meeting on a Friday afternoon sparked a heated political controversy in Yankton (which may or many not have been eclipsed by the drama of the recent Yankton School District opt-out election). When all the smoke cleared that winter four years ago, Yankton’s mayor and a city commissioner had been recalled.

Weldon, meanwhile, landed on his feet as the city manager of Brookings, a place that he has told me personally is a much better fit for him.

He was in Mitchell Tuesday to speak to the Lions Club. The city will hold an election June 7 to determine if voters want to convert to a city manager form of government. Weldon, of course, believes in that form of government and described it as a good investment that can save a city money in the long run.

He also had a few words about his experience in Yankton that local readers may find of interest:

(Weldon) said a political dispute over a municipal pool in Yankton led to his departure there after a “toxic” political climate developed.

“I tell people I left for health reasons,” Weldon said. “The City Council and I were sick of each other. Brookings is a much better fit for me.”

Last week, Brookings Mayor Tim Reed spoke glowingly of Weldon to the Mitchell Kiwanis Club. Reed said Weldon was largely responsible for the growth and progress in his city. He is the city’s third city manager and has held the job for three and a half years.

It’s good to hear that Jeff is doing well and still has a sense of humor (though I’m sure there is a lot of personal truth in the statement).

‘New Normal’ Not Just For Economy; Weather Changes Also Occurring

A view of the Gavins Point Dam spillway on May 11. This flow is nothing compared to the 85,000 cubic feet per second that are expected to be released through the dam by next week. (Photo by Kelly Hertz.)

In the South, there has been an incredible string of devastating storms.

Closer to home in Yankton, releases at the Gavins Point Dam are expected to reach well beyond record levels next week because of heavy rains and above-normal snowpack in Montana and North Dakota.

Scientists I’ve spoken with are always careful not to say a particular weather event was caused by climate change related to human activity. However, scientists have been vocal about how climate change is or could be a contributing factor to the weather events we’ve witnessed around the world . After all, one of the things associated with climate change, according to the research, is extreme weather events like torrential rainfall, droughts, etc.

Oil companies, especially, have spent a lot of money trying to discredit climate change science. However, the scientific consensus on the subject is overwhelming, even if the public consensus is not.

I came across this Reuters article today, which addresses the “new normal” we are seeing in regard to weather events:

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a “new normal” of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.

“It’s a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we’re seeing,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.

“We are used to certain conditions and there’s a lot going on these days that is not what we’re used to, that is outside our current frame of reference,” Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.

An upsurge in heavy rainstorms in the United States has coincided with prolonged drought, sometimes in the same location, she said, noting that west Texas has seen a record-length dry period over the last five years, even as there have been two 100-year rain events.

Hayhoe, other scientists, civic planners and a manager at the giant Swiss Re reinsurance firm all cited human-caused climate change as an factor pushing this shift toward more extreme weather.

While none would blame climate change for any specific weather event, Hayhoe said a background of climate change had an impact on every rainstorm, heat wave or cold snap.

“What we’re seeing is the new normal is constantly evolving,” said Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of Swiss Re’s Global Partnerships team. “Globally what we’re seeing is more volatility … there’s certainly a lot more integrated risk exposure.”

Read the rest here.

The climate change science relating to tornadoes still has a ways to go, according to Andrew Freedman at the Washington Post:

As I wrote last month, climate change is expected to change key ingredients needed for tornado formation (for example, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere worldwide is already on the rise, and this can contribute to greater atmospheric instability), but there hasn’t been any trend in observational data to suggest that tornado behavior – either frequency, strength, or regions they typically strike – is shifting. Tornadoes are extremely capricious events, and teasing out statistically significant trends from historical records is very difficult.

Climate scientists have already demonstrated trends in other extreme weather and climate events, including floods and heat waves, showing that manmade climate change is tilting the odds in favor of their occurrence. However, such research is lacking when it comes to tornadoes, with computer modeling studies suggesting that conditions may become more favorable for tornadoes as the climate warms, but perhaps not by very much.

Read the rest of his interesting blog on the subject here.

Yankton Museum Featured In Sioux City Journal

The Dakota Territorial Museum received a nice write-up in Sunday’s Sioux City Journal. I’m lucky enough to get to the museum regularly through work, but I know many people have never paid a visit to it. It’s well worth the time, as it provides a window to the Yankton area’s fascinating history.

The article also mentions the ongoing effort to restore the Mead Building on the historic Human Services Center campus. I hope they can follow through on that plan, as it would make for a beautiful museum.

Here is the beginning of the story:

YANKTON, S.D. — If you enjoy history, then helping out at the Dakota Territorial Museum might light up your life.

The museum, located in West Side Park, is owned and operated by the Yankton County Historical Society (YCHS), formed in 1961.

The YCHS, through the Dakota Territorial Museum, exists to preserve, protect, interpret and educate the public about the heritage and development of the city and county of Yankton and the surrounding area, explained museum director Crystal Nelson.

Housing memorabilia of early Yankton and Dakota Territory days, including Native American Sioux (Lakota) Indian and pioneer artifacts, the museum offers visitors a glimpse into Yankton’s pioneer history.

“For example we have a 1613 Czechoslovakian Bible and a 1630 Norwegian Bible,” Nelson said. “When you think about how those survived from crossing the ocean, to crossing the country to arriving in this area, it really speaks to the heritage of those early immigrants.”

Read the rest here.

Big Head Todd And The Monsters: From The Cosmos To Yankton

Todd Park Mohr gave me a very pleasant interview, and I look forward to seeing Big Head Todd and the Monsters in Yankton’s Memorial Park at 9 p.m. June 3. For more on Yankton’s 150th anniversary celebration, visit this site.

Here is the fruit of my interview, which appeared in today’s Press & Dakotan:

Big Head Todd and the Monsters have never played in Yankton, but it will likely feel familiar to the band when it performs here in June.
“I’ve enjoyed playing Vermillion, and I like that part of the country, so I’m looking forward to being there,” lead singer and guitarist Todd Park Mohr said during a telephone interview with the Press & Dakotan. “Being from Colorado, it makes me feel at home somehow.”
The band will play a a free concert at Memorial Park June 3 beginning at 9 p.m. as part of Yankton’s 150th anniversary celebration. They will be joined by Boring Daylights (with Sarah Benck) at 6 p.m., and The Nadas at 7:30 p.m.
According to Wikipedia, Big Head Todd and the Monsters is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. However, it’s apparently not a subject that the band has broached.
“I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but yeah, it’s right around there,” Mohr said. “I haven’t been counting.”
While many people remember Big Head Todd and the Monsters mostly for their 1993 breakthrough platinum album “Sister Sweetly” and the singles “Bittersweet,” “Broken-Hearted Savior” and “Circle” — the band has never slowed down. They’ve put out more than a dozen albums consisting of original music and live recordings, including 2010’s “Rocksteady.”
In February, under the alias Big Head Blues Club featuring Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the band released “100 Years of Robert Johnson,” a tribute to the legendary Delta blues singer who only recorded 29 songs before dying a mysterious death at age 27 in 1938. Johnson has since had a tremendous influence on modern rock ‘n’ roll, having been covered by the likes of the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters collaborated with blues legends such as B. B. King, Hubert Sumlin and David “Honeyboy” Edwards on the effort.
“It was a great opportunity for me and my band,” Mohr said. “Obviously, I’ve been a blues fan my entire life. The biggest thing for me was to come to learn a whole new level of blues that I hadn’t known very well, which was Robert Johnson and that earlier style of blues. That was a big deal for me musically, but also to be working with some of my heroes was awesome, as well.”
On March 8, the band reached new heights — literally — becoming the first to perform a live wake-up call to astronauts from the Johnson Space Center. Big Head Todd and the Monster’s “Blue Sky” was the most-requested song in a contest to wake up the crew on Space Shuttle Discovery. It collected 722,659, or 29.3 percent, of the total votes.
Mohr said it was a great honor for the band.
“It’s pretty interesting to be the first to perform live to the astronauts in space. It was thrilling,” he said. “When we went out (to Houston) to do it, we were given some really great private tours of the training center and the mission control rooms. It was a special treat.”
While Big Head Todd and the Monsters have not had much chart success for many years, they still have a large and devoted fan base — affectionately referred to as “Monster Nation.” Mohr said he is comfortable with how the band’s career has evolved.
“It has been a nice mixture of success versus being able to do what we want to do and have the lifestyle we want to live,” he said. “We’ve had a very fortunate career, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with where the band is at now.
“It’s always a struggle to figure out how to keep relevant as a band and get music out to people when the landscape is changing so much,” Mohr continued, speaking of the immense shift the music industry has gone through to adapt to a more digital world. “We just keep focusing on making good songs and putting on good shows. I think our audience has followed us.”
He said the band plans to keep recording music and touring for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think I’m employable otherwise,” Mohr said. “It would be tough to work at the supermarket.”
When Big Head Todd and the Monsters comes to Yankton, he said the audience can expect to hear songs from throughout its catalogue.
“Our repertoire is a representation of our whole career, but it changes from night to night,” Mohr said. “We’ve got a lot of songs to choose from.
“We’re just looking forward to being with you and sharing your 150th anniversary,” he added. “We’ll share our 25th (anniversary), and we’ll have a ball.”