Daugaard Can Deliver A ‘Red Meat’ Speech, Praises Matt Michels

I’ve seen Gov. Dennis Daugaard in campaign mode before, but I’ve never seen him like I saw him Saturday.

I’ve covered the 2010 gubernatorial race, as well as various appearances by Daugaard in Yankton and elsewhere since he was elected. While I’m no expert on the governor, I certainly have a working knowledge of him from these events and interviews I’ve done. He is a very considerate, polite and respectful man in my experience.

So as a reporter it was interesting to see Daugaard as the Republican Party “Cheerleader in Chief” while covering the Yankton County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner. It’s a role you would certainly expect the governor to play, but I’d never seen him rallying the base for an upcoming election. I felt like I was witnessing a new dimension of Daugaard.

He took a hard, partisan line on matters as he spoke to party members about the need to vote in November — and the need to vote Republican.

The Democrat Senate and the Democrat president create more obstruction than opportunity today,” the Republican governor said during his Yankton County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner address held at JoDean’s Steakhouse and Lounge. “Republicans want to create jobs, restrain the growth of government, and reduce energy costs and dependence. The national Democrats are totally absorbed with getting re-elected, not just in this election but any other year. They are doing what’s popular and not what’s necessary.

You can read my complete coverage of Daugaard’s speech at the event here.

Yankton resident and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels was also in attendance Saturday. Daugaard took the opportunity to praise Michels in his hometown.

When I was fortunate enough to gain the nomination of our party to run for governor, it was a very easy choice to make when I asked Matt to be my running mate.

I tried to be deliberate about it and not let my own personal thinking be the only thing in the room. I asked a number of people through an intermediary who they thought would be a good lieutenant governor. I probably asked 10 different people whom I respect.

I had my own ideas. Matt was at the top of that list. But I wanted to see what other people thought. Of those 10 people who were asked, there was only one person that every single one of them named, and that was Matt Michels. So not only do I respect him, but many, many other people across this great state respect him.
Matt, thank you so much for saying yes.

The governor went on to tell a joke, claiming it was the result of Michels seeing the future.

A man will approach a marine at the White House and say, ‘I want to speak to President Obama.’
The marine will say, ‘Sir, I’m sorry, didn’t you know? Obama is no longer the president. He was defeated in the election.’
‘Oh,’ the man will say and then depart.
The next day, the man returns to that same marine. He says once again, ‘I want to speak to President Obama.’
Once again, the marine will say, ‘Sir, President Obama was defeated in the 2012 election. He is no longer the president.’
The man will depart.
On the next day, the man will again approach the same Marine guard and say, ‘Sir, I want to see President Obama.’
Again, the marine in exasperation will say, ‘Sir, I told you now twice before, and I say again for the third time, President Obama is no longer the president.’
‘Oh, I know. I just love hearing you say that!’
(Laughter and applause.)
Matt sees the future, and I am happy about that future!

So, all in all, I learned a lot Saturday.

First, Gov. Daugaard can deliver what my editor calls “a red meat speech” to the party faithful when needed.

Second, Michels can see the future! 🙂 (Though we’ll have to see if his prediction comes to fruition before I pay him any money to look into my own future …)

A Brookings Model For Future Of Yankton Recycling?

Could Brookings provide a model for Yankton to follow as it formulates a plan for recycling in the future?

At its last meeting, the Yankton City Commission was presented with the findings of phase one of an HDR, Inc., solid waste strategic planning study for the Joint Vermillion/Yankton Solid Waste System.

While the study is looking at the entire operations of the Joint Powers, much of the focus of commission discussion was the part about recycling.

Here is a short excerpt from the story I wrote:

Yankton and Vermillion currently use a curbside recycling method wherein residents are asked to sort materials before they are put out for collection. Another possibility is single-stream recycling, where residents put everything in one container and it is later sorted at the collection center.
“You get more participation that way because it is easier for the citizen,” Evans said. “But it takes more processing to sort that material.”
Following the presentation, Commissioner Jake Hoffner spoke strongly in favor of implementing a single-stream system.
“I really think that the single-source recycling is imperative,” he said. “I think we’re behind a little.”
Constituents have told him that is the direction they would like to go, Hoffner stated.
“I don’t know the costs,” he said. “I wish I did know exactly what that was, but I would encourage us to work together with the community and see what that cost would be because it would take pressure off the landfill.”
Tom Nelson and Julie Perakslis of Keep Yankton Beautiful also told the commission that single-stream recycling is needed.
“When we go out and do presentations for the public and talk to members, there is a hunger for a stronger recycling program in this community,” Perakslis said. “People want to be able to recycle glass. They are confused about the difference between cardboard and pressboard. They’re not sure what the program takes. They want the program to be easier. They don’t want to have to separate things into a bunch of containers. They don’t have the time for it.
“I honestly think if we went with a single stream program, we would get a lot more participation,” she added. “People want it.”

In the case of Brookings, the city went to single-stream recycling in 2008. The sorting of the material occurs at the city’s recycling center. According to the study of the Vermillion/Yankton Joint Powers, the entity would have to expand its facilities to house such an operation.

On Friday, the Brookings City Council took things a step further to make the recycling process more stream-lined, according to the Brookings Register:

In the not-too-distant future, community residents should be doing a lot more recycling, says Todd Langland, Brookings’ director of solid waste management, as the city begins automated, curbside pickup of recyclable materials.

The city’s plan is to give each residence a rolling recyclables container – just like the current household waste carts – that can be lifted and emptied mechanically by the city’s long-arm garbage trucks.

The council Tuesday authorized Langland to set the program in motion. His first step will be to submit a grant application to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for assistance with the purchase of containers.

Langland told the council the cost for 3,200 new containers will be approximately $225,000. A DENR grant would pay for half the cost of the containers.

The city sanitation team also would like to add another truck equipped with a container pickup arm. That would run another $225,000 to $250,000. Even with added costs, Langland and his planners say the automated recycling program will save the city money and at the same time increase recycling efforts by residents.

Under the expanded program, recycling will still be voluntary, Langland said, but the process will be much easier with containers and automated pickup.

Brookings no doubt has a different situation than the local Joint Powers as far as its facilities/finances, but as local officials consider the future of recycling here, they may do well to look at the success of a sister city of similar size.

The more we can recycle, the better.


‘Hunger Games’ Horror: A Rabbit’s Perspective

Ribbles the Rabbit was looking forlorn when I found him sitting next to the Library of Congress in Washington.

When I was in Washington, D.C., last week, I got used to over-friendly squirrels scurrying in the streets.

I even witnessed a city commissioner become a St. Francis of sorts, with birds eating cake off her plate and a squirrel moving in for its own share of the action as said commissioner sat and watched with amusement.

But I was a little surprised when I came back to the hotel and found this lost little bunny sitting next to the Library of Congress.

Had he gotten so involved with a book on how best to eat my mom’s garden that he lost track of time and became separated from his family?

Was he an escapee from the White House Easter Egg Roll several weeks earlier?

All I knew was that he looked terribly sad sitting on the corner all alone.

I approached and gently asked if I could help him with anything.

“I’m from South Dakota,” I said, “so I probably look just as lost as you do. But maybe luck would have it that we could help one another.”

The rabbit smiled.

“I’m Ribbles,” he told me. “Ribbles the Rabbit. I’m not lost. Not really. I’m just disillusioned.”

It turns out that Ribbles had come to Washington after the release of “The Hunger Games.” The movie was entertaining, he admitted, but it had horrible consequences for his family. The book series and film had all kinds of young people picking up bows and killing rabbits so they could prepare Katniss-Style Roasted Rabbit and other “Hunger Games”-themed cuisine. Ribbles lost two brothers and an uncle, as well as many friends within two week’s time.

While rabbits may come across as fierce warriors to gardeners, they are in fact a pacifist species. Therefore, Ribbles decided to spearhead an effort to make it illegal to bowhunt rabbits just because an individual had watched or read “The Hunger Games” and thought it would be cool.

Have you heard of this effort?

The Capitol was a dark place for Ribbles the Rabbit.

I thought not. Ribble’s meetings with federal legislators had gone absolutely nowhere. Thus, he sat disillusioned by the Library of Congress waiting to meet his fate at the end of a young bowhunter’s arrow.

As he told me all of this, I fully expected him to break down in tears at any moment. The weight upon his heart came across with his words.

I urged him to come down off the ledge and join me for a salad at a nearby Thai restaurant. It was all I could think to do.

Ribbles was from Tennessee, had a soft spot for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and was a big fan of the movie “Donnie Darko.” In fact, he usually dresses up as Donnie’s friend, Frank the bunny, at Halloween.

Say no more. We really hit it off.

While we didn’t end the slaughter of rabbits by “Hunger Games” fans that day, we did forge a friendship.

I offered to bring Ribbles back to Yankton where I know plenty of people with gardens that he could feast upon and make new rabbit friends. What the heck? Why not?

It turns out that it was a good move. Ribbles is really liking it here, and his spirits are rising by the day. He can’t wait for the gardens this summer, so please make them big and luscious.

If any of you do happen to go rabbit hunting in the area, please ask your prey if its name is Ribbles before firing. If it is him, please spare his life. Ribbles would appreciate that show of kindness, and so would I.

How Big Is Yankton’s Menards?

I’ve been asked several times this week, “Just how big is Yankton’s Menards? I heard it is the biggest in the state.”

In order to get an answer to the question, I turned to company spokesperson Jeff Abbott. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any definitive answers.

As for just how big the store is, Jeff said, “Over 200,000 square feet.” The exact figure, he stated, is not available.

And is it the biggest in the state? All Abbott would say is, “This store was built in the same large format as the other stores we’ve been building throughout the Midwest in the past several years.”

So yeah, he basically just left us all hanging. I couldn’t get him to be more specific during the course of a couple emails.

If you’re interested in just how large Menards stores can be, Wikipedia (assuming its information is correct) has some answers:

In 2007, the 240,000 sq ft (22,000 m2) and larger Menards stores began selling groceries.[3] By adding a second story mezzanine for less often accessed items, space can be made for groceries on the main floor.

In March 2005, the company opened the first 2-story, 300,000 sq ft (28,000 m2) Menards megastore in St. Paul, Minnesota. It followed in November 2006 with another 2-story store in Hodgkins, Illinois. In March 2009, Menards opened its flagship megastore in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. The Waukesha megastore is the largest Menards in the United States and has two glass elevators, two massive industrial escalators, and a snack shop.


This still doesn’t get at how Yankton’s Menards store stacks up against all the others in South Dakota, but readers may find it interesting all the same. In January, the Minneapolis Star Tribute wrote a story about Menards’ success:

With its homespun persona and catchy jingle, Menard Inc. over the years has successfully fended off challenges from national big-box competitors like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

So much so, that the Wisconsin-based home improvement retailer, known for its “Save Big Money at Menards” tune, is now building its own big boxes. And by big, we mean big.

Last year, Menards debuted the conversion of its Eden Prairie location into a 235,000-square-foot, two-floor behemoth that makes a Costco or Wal-Mart Supercenter look modest by comparison. The company, which operates 37 stores in Minnesota, is also supersizing its original 128,000-square-foot Golden Valley location to 250,000 square feet, modeled after a similar two-level store in St. Paul. The Golden Valley store will reopen this spring.

The retailer also paid $5 million for a 2.2-acre lot next to its Richfield store, which it will begin tearing down in a few months. The company now boasts 262 stores in 13 states, mostly in the Midwest.

Menards has accomplished several contradictory feats: It builds stores of enormous size at a time when retailers are downsizing, while also maintaining its reputation as a salt-of-the-earth, family-owned business. The retailer has somehow merged intimacy and big box into the same sentence, retail observers say.

Target and Best Buy may be based in Minnesota, but Menards has seemingly done a better job ingratiating itself with the community, said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a consulting firm in New York.

“Menards enjoys the hometown advantage wherever it goes,” Flickinger said.

The company did not release financial data and declined to make any executives available for interviews. But experts suspect Menards is gaining market share against Lowe’s and Home Depot, by far the industry leaders with 40 percent of the $300 billion home improvement market.

Read the rest here.

‘I Have My Opinions That I Will Scream To My Children’ — An Interview With Comedian David Koechner

David Koechner is not only a funny guy, he is also a really nice guy.

At least, that was my experience when I interviewed him recently in advance of a couple performances he will be doing April 27 at Minerva’s Grill and Bar in Yankton.

The Press & Dakotan ran the story I wrote following that interview last Friday. You can read it here.

However, there was a lot from the interview I couldn’t fit into the story.

Well, I shouldn’t let that stuff go to waste, right?

It turns out that Koechner was a political science major in college. He said he still pays attention to politics.

With the 24-hour news cycle, it’s all become so much garbage and noise that it’s merely gossip now, which is so disappointing. I think one of the real problems of governance is the 24-hour news cycle.

If you are familiar with Koechner’s comedy, he doesn’t do political commentary. Why not?

These days, we’re so polarized that you can’t take that chance of offending people in the room. That’s not my specialty, and I’m not a pundit. I have my opinions that I will scream to my children.

Koechner, a Missouri native, wasn’t sure if he had been through South Dakota on a road trip before or not. Still, he said he has no preconceived notions about the state and its people.

I don’t judge an audience. You can’t. That’s weak.

I’m there to entertain. If somebody felt that I would have the aptitude to fit in with the good people of South Dakota, why wouldn’t I go there? At the end of the day, we’re all Americans.

My stuff is not political. It definitely has a point of view. We all grew up in the same country and have experienced a lot of the same things, so it’s not like I’m going to a foreign country.

We also spoke about Koechner’s series of short interviews with celebrities called “Always Open.” He has really good guests, and they talk about some off-the-wall subjects. Check the series out here.

We shoot them for about 30 minutes, and they are edited down to three minutes. We just come up with off-the-wall questions like, “What did your childhood smell like?” It causes you to go, “Oh, it’s got a sense memory and an emotional memory.” We try to get something different out of a person.

Finally, we talked about some of Koechner’s comedic inspirations.

They include Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle and  Bill Burr.

I think he is one of the best going right now.

I couldn’t help but ask Koechner his thoughts on one of my all-time favorite comics, Doug Stanhope. Turns out, he is quite fond of Doug, too.

Doug is a different style than I do, but he is honest. I love his honesty.

When you talk about finding your voice, anybody who wants to know what that is, check out Doug Stanhope. I haven’t been on a bill with him, but I met him years ago in Montreal. I think he’s hysterical. You hate to say he’s brave or confident, but I’ll put it this way, he’s got some fucking balls. He’s highly articulate, too. It’s a real talent to be able to speak so forcefully and with such great articulation. He has such authentic opinions.

Curious about Doug Stanhope? This recent interview with him at The Quietus gives you a good feel for what his comedy is like, i.e., not for everyone.

I hear tickets are going fast for Koechner’s shows Friday. Thankfully, I’ve got my tickets already. See you there.

Memories Of ‘Last Summer’: Eleanor Friedberger Live

I was in Washington, D.C., last week for work.

And I can assure you I worked plenty covering the meetings the City of Yankton/Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce held with various government agencies and elected officials.

But I also took the opportunity to enjoy some music. I even managed to drag some friends along with me.

It just so happened that my visit to D.C. coincided with that of Eleanor Friedberger, who stepped out from the Fiery Furnaces last year with a solo album. It’s been a while since I’ve given the Fiery Furnaces a listen, but I never really got into them.

That’s why it took me a while to actually listen to Friedberger’s “Last Summer.” I read good reviews of it when it came out, but it wasn’t until Tim McMahan at lazy-i put “My Mistakes” on his annual mixtape that I took notice.

I love that song. I quickly followed up with a listen to the whole of “Last Summer” on Spotify. More gold.

That’s why I was excited to be able to go to the Black Cat, one of D.C.’s staple indie music venues, to catch a Friedberger show.

The opening act was Hospitality, who have a very upbeat pop sound. One friend was sure his daughter would love their CD and snagged a signed copy. Score!

Here is a fun video for the band’s single “Friends of Friends” featuring actress Alia Shawkat, who I fondly remember as Maeby Funke on “Arrested Development.”

Eleanor Friedberger put on a solid show. It’s a no-frills affair that features three bandmates and her kicking out her quality tunes (and some covers).

Friedberger gives off a 70s rock vibe with her look and some of her heavier tunes. But she is versatile and covers her share of musical territory.

I captured some videos of her performance. Check them out for yourself. The sound is pretty darn good.

Was The Tammy Haas Story In Poor Taste?

Was the Tammy Haas story the Press & Dakotan ran recently in poor taste?

(Read it here. Kelly Hertz also wrote an editorial about the case here.)

That was the argument made in the following letter I received after the story was printed. Read it for yourself:

Dear Mr. Johnson,
I have to write this to tell you how the front page of 4-14-12’s paper was in very poor taste.
How does Tammy Haas’ family rate to get the front page like that — with a huge picture of her?
There are a lot of families who have had tragedies over the years and are able to give most of their pain to God. Apparently, the family can’t.
You are not helping them by catering to them in this way! There are local Yankton and Tabor families who have lost their children and husbands to the war, and there is no mention of them anymore. And that was only a few years ago! Those men/boys died as HEROES!
The front page of the P&D should’ve held the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic! That was an historical moment in our history and would’ve educated many young people in our community!
I, too, have lost a loved one at a very young age in a similar tragedy. I gave my pain to God and am able to go on and not think that everyone in this town owes me something!
— An Anonymous Yanktonite

This probably won’t surprise you, but I disagree with the letter writer.

It’s true that there are plenty of area families that have been struck by tragedy, including those who lost loved ones in Iraq. We’ve written extensively about those losses and certainly sympathize with them.

The reason we chose to do a story on Haas is because to this day the details surrounding her death 20 years ago are a mystery. Many in the community believe someone is still out there who knows what happened on that night in 1992. Local authorities hold out hope that one day they will be able to provide peace to the family, even though no new compelling evidence has emerged for many years.

I remember speaking with former Yankton County Sheriff Dave Hunhoff about the Haas case a year or two before his retirement after more than three decades in office. He said it was the one case he would most like to solve before he retired. Unfortunately, he didn’t get what he wanted.

Because of the lingering mystery, it is a story that continues to resonate with the people of this area today. It is also why the family continues to talk publicly about their loss. They hope the details will emerge.

That is the reason we felt this story deserved the treatment we gave it. In fact, I worked very hard to make sure the story was in good taste. It took me most of a day to get everything crafted the way I wanted.

If the writer of this letter thinks his/her sentiments are in good taste, I would encourage that individual to submit a signed letter to the editor that could be published on our editorial page.

I offer my sympathies for the writer’s loss, but this is a case where we will have to agree to disagree.

Any thoughts on this, readers? Do you think the story was in poor taste?

Russell To Get $105,000 Salary At New Post

Curious about what Yankton City Manager Doug Russell will be making at his new post in Kalispell?

Tom Lotshaw at the Daily Inter Lake recently reported the details of the Kalispell contract:

The employment agreement offers Russell:

 A $105,000 annual salary with no bonus alternatives;

A 12 percent city contribution to the International City Management Association Retirement Corporation in lieu of the Public Employees’ Retirement System;

A $400 monthly vehicle allowance;

100 percent paid health insurance for Russell and his family;

Up to a $20,000 loan for relocation costs, with the city forgiving 1/52 of the debt for each full pay period Russell is employed by the city;

Six months’ salary severance and a payout of all accrued sick leave and vacation in the event of termination without just cause;

A 15-day vacation leave credit and accrual of sick and vacation leave at the rate given to employees who have been with the city for 16 years;

Annual cost-of-living adjustments at the average increase afforded to other city employees.

I’m not sure how everything else stacks up, but Russell was set to get a $95,000 salary in Yankton this year (and he just received a $5,000 bonus at the end of last year).

A $10,000 salary bump along with moving closer to family? To use a tried and true (and tired) meme, I’d say Doug Russell is winning.

Today’s Sermon: Don’t Urinate On A House Of Worship

Several lessons could be drawn from an entry I wrote up today for the Daily Record (which can be read in its entirety in tomorrow’s Press & Dakotan).

Let’s begin with the entry:

• A report was received at 3:28 p.m. Friday of a male urinating in some bushes by a church in the 1700 block of Burleigh St. before getting into a Buick Regal. An occupant of the vehicle also threw a beer bottle out of it. The driver was located in the 1700 block of Mulberry and arrested for driving under the influence.

First lesson? Don’t pee on the bushess at a church. If someone sees you, they are automatically going to think you are a big time jag-off. All eyes are going to be on you.

Lesson number two: Don’t travel with someone who is going to do something even more egregious than your peeing on church bushes — such as throwing a beer bottle out of the vehicle you are driving and giving those eyes that are on you even more reason to call the cops.

Lesson number three: This is probably the most important lesson, and one that you, my smart and sophisticated readers, have already surmised. Don’t drink and drive. Doing so can easily lead to the story above and give you a lot of heartburn that you don’t need in your life.

That is all for today’s sermon, boys and girls. Now, please, go and spread the word.

Yankton Menards To Open April 24

Yankton’s Menards will open April 24.

I’ve been hearing that date for some time but could get no confirmation out of the home improvement retailer’s corporate headquarters.

Well, the confirmation came to my inbox late this afternoon.

I know a lot of you have been waiting to hear this, as one of the most common searches that brings visitors to my site is some variation of “Yankton Menards opening.”

Breathe deeply now. Only one more week to go. 🙂

Here is an excerpt from the press release:

The new Yankton Menards Mega Store, located at 3210 Broadway Avenue (On Broadway Ave Between 31st St and 33rd St) will open for business on Tuesday, April 24, 2012.  With the opening of this new store, the Yankton, SD area will now enjoy all of the great services and low prices that Menards has to offer.

Jeff Abbott, Menards Spokesperson says, “We are very pleased to announce the opening of this new store which signifies our commitment to provide the best in home improvement goods and services plus shopping convenience in the Yankton area.  Homeowners, tenants, business owners and contractors will have now have great access to a full-line of building materials and supplies at the lowest prices in the area.”

Menards is well-known throughout the Midwest for its complete selection of high-quality, name brand merchandise, tools for any job, and state-of-the-art in-store computers to help guests design their special projects.  Menards carries the materials and tools for all of your home improvement projects from just needing a light bulb or can of paint to building a deck or new home!  Plus, the new Yankton store will also carry name brand appliances, pet products, lawn and garden supplies and even a line of convenience groceries as your one-stop shopping experience.  As always, Menards is known for its excellent guest service and the place to “Save Big Money.”  There is something for everyone at Menards from the beginning do-it-yourselfer to the experienced contractor.

Lawrence Young, Yankton Menards General Manager says, “We are really excited to open the doors to this beautiful new store.  We cannot wait for everyone to see the new store with the wide aisles, large inventory, full-service lumberyard, beautiful garden center and all the great departments.  We will work really hard to provide the best in home improvement goods and services at the lowest prices in the area for many years to come!”