Kristi Noem is attempting to roll back some of the school lunch regulations that went into effect last year. She seems to generally support the effort to get kids to eat healthier, but she thinks the regulations have gone too far and are causing some kids to go without enough to eat. (Click here to see Noem’s legislation.)
At last night’s Mitchell City Council meeting, an oft-repeated claim was made about Mitchell supposedly having the highest or among the highest property taxes in the state:
Roger Musick, CEO of Innovative Systems, addressed the council Monday and spoke in favor of the proposal. Musick said a city administrator in the city’s government could help reduce the city’s property tax rates, which are among the highest in the state for similar-sized cities.
“I think it’s time for a change,” he said. “We’ve tried it for 100-plus years this way, and the result is taxes that are too high.”
I’ve heard that claim repeatedly since I began working here in 2003, and I did a story on it in 2007 to check the validity of the claim. I found back then that Mitchell’s property tax rate per $1,000 of valuation was actually the third-highest among the state’s largest cities. I also found that the issue was much more complex than many people might have guessed. Brookings, for example, had all kinds of city-owned businesses — including the hospital and the local telecommunications provider — that brought in extra revenue and reduced the burden on property tax payers. Other cities didn’t have that extra revenue.
I hope to have a reporter check again soon on the claim about Mitchell’s high property tax rates, since it’s now being used in support of a proposal to add a city administrator to city government.
In the meantime, in case you’re curious, here’s my story from April 21, 2007:
Wide gap in city property tax rates
Huron has highest in state; Mitchell 3rd
By SETH TUPPER
The Daily Republic
The property tax rates payable this year to South Dakota’s 10 largest cities vary widely, from a low of $2.61 per $1,000 of valuation in Brookings to a high of $10.788 in Huron.
Why the large gap? Experts in taxation and public finance cite two main factors: differences in property values from city to city, and the funding that cities get from other sources besides property taxes.
The alternate funding is the easier of the two explanations to understand.
Take Brookings, for example, which has an unusually high number of what are called “business-type” activities. Martin Guindon, the state’s auditor general, said the money Brookings pulls in from those activities may help drive down the city’s property tax rate.
“That’s probably one of the bigger factors, I think,” Guindon said.
It wasn’t long ago that South Dakota Democrats were tingling with excitement over the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
Sure, Tim Johnson, who’s been the rock of the party these past few years and a dependable leader for decades, is retiring. But the Democrats had his son, Brendan, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota, as a possible candidate. They also had Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a former congresswoman. Even Mike Huether, the accomplished mayor of Sioux Falls, was talked about as a potential Senate hopeful. Any one of those three would have been a viable, respected challenger to the presumed Republican candidate, Mike Rounds.
And then there were hints of trouble on the Republican side. Some thought U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, who ousted Herseth Sandlin, might challenge Rounds in a primary.
Things were looking pretty darn hopeful for the Democrats.
Then, suddenly, over a span of weeks, Herseth Sandlin announced she won’t run. Brendan Johnson faded away, apparently not wanting to jump into politics at this precise moment. Huether, as far as I know, hasn’t ruled it out but hasn’t expressed a lot of interest, either.
Meanwhile, Rick Weiland jumped into the race on the Democratic side. (Remember him? He’s that guy who lost that race against somebody that one year way back.) And yesterday, Kristi Noem announced she will run for re-election to the House rather than challenge Rounds in a Senate primary.
What does it all mean? It means that as I write this, Mike Rounds’ election to the U.S. Senate is as close to a foregone conclusion as conclusions get in politics. And if that happens, it means South Dakota Democrats, who’ve long claimed congressional officeholders as at least a shred of something resembling political success in the state, won’t have even that anymore.
The Democrats desperately need somebody to ride onto the field of battle and rally the troops. Otherwise, they’re looking at a situation beginning in January 2015 in which they might be completely locked out of statewide and congressional offices, and still have an embarrassingly small number of legislative seats. It’ll be as close to literal one-party rule as South Dakota’s ever had.
Is there anybody out there who can save the Democrats? Anybody?
As Tom Daschle and Harry Reid take up arms against each other over South Dakota’s US Senate seat, let’s all take a breath and remember two things:
- Brendan Johnson has not yet said that Brendan Johnson is not running for the U.S. Senate in 2014. (Make that a double – neither has Tim Johnson.) Some surrogates have said he isn’t running, and those surrogates do have some credibility – namely quasi-declared candidate Rick Weiland and Draft Brendan organizer/co-conspirator Ryan Casey. Still and all, no word from the man himself.
- While Rick Weiland has said he is running, he has yet to formally organize and announce a campaign. Which leaves the skeptics among us – me included – to withhold judgment on a would-be Weiland candidacy until the car has fully taken the track. I’ve been told this vehicle is an infant, so it’ll be 0 to 100 in record time if it comes true.
Of Weiland, Senate majority leader Reid tells Politico: “He’s not my choice.” Not words one can easily take back.
After reading the Politico story linked above, one must also wonder whether Weiland’s unexpected entrance into the 2014 mix might have more to do with Tom Daschle wanting to show Harry Reid that he can set the South Dakota table with more flair and impact than can any DC politi-hack. But, knowing what I know about Daschle, I take him at his word when he tells Politico:
“They have to make their decisions, and I have to make mine,” Daschle said. “I don’t take it personally, and they shouldn’t, either.”
A big reason for Daschle’s political success was his ability, perhaps an innate South Dakota-ness, to not let his ego call the shots. A methodical accommodation of others’ interests and matter-of-fact dismantling of temper-tantrums have been Daschle’s hallmark. Not that he does not have his own temper, but he is disciplined in its control.
Which makes him going all-in with Weiland all the more curious. Did he ever support SHS or Brendan for the nomination? Just what the what is going on?
So where does the Tom v. Harry battle royal leave South Dakota for 2014?
- Stephanie Herseth Sandlin says she’s out. I don’t look for that to change, but all things are possible. Politico makes it sound as though Reid & Co. have not given up. (So you’re saying I have a chance!) (For all of Daschle’s skill, I don’t buy the Politico take that his endorsement of Weiland kept her out. I think she would have enjoyed the challenge.)
- Most folks believe Brendan is out. I have not yet joined their ranks. If he is out, what changed in such a hurry? How do Tim and Barbara Johnson feel about how this is shaking out? What does this bizzaro turn of events do to a future Brendan candidacy?
- Will Rick Weiland truly be the Dems’ standard-bearer in 2014? If so, he had better be already drafting those position papers, lining up staff and raising money. It’s a long, bumpy road to the US Senate, and Rick Weiland apparently won’t find the Welcome Wagon waiting for him if he completes the journey.
- If you’re a rank-and-file (yet passionate) Democrat in South Dakota, you probably didn’t think things could get much worse. Remember, Stephanie might run for governor down the road. Tom Daschle and Harry Reid don’t give a hoot about that job.
If you’re a reader of The Daily Republic, you may know I wrote a column recently in which I advised Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to either forgo next year’s Senate race in order to fulfill her expressed desire to spend more time with her family, or to quit talking about that desire so much if she had already decided to run.
I’m under no illusions that my column had any impact whatsoever on her decision, but I do think, partly for the reasons I outlined in the column, that she made a smart move.
You can’t go all over the state telling everybody how important your family time is — as Herseth Sandlin had been doing lately — and then jump into the first big-time political race that comes along. It would look hypocritical.
The next time an opportunity arises, Herseth Sandlin’s young son will probably be in grade school, and she’ll be more able to make the sacrifice of time it takes to run for and win a statewide elected office.
Furthermore, I think the political winds are against her right now. When the regular voter thinks of Herseth Sandlin, I think there’s still a feeling of, “didn’t we just vote her out a couple of years ago?” It’s too soon for a full-scale comeback. Besides, I don’t see her beating Mike Rounds in a Senate race or Kristi Noem in a House race, and another defeat right now could be the end of Herseth Sandlin’s political career.
There will be more opportunities for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Nobody is emerging so far from the Democratic Party in South Dakota to challenge her as (in the absence of Tim Johnson) the party’s biggest star. She will continue to be the first name on Democratic lists for every statewide office that opens up. Of course, Brendan Johnson is out there on the horizon, but it’s looking more like he, too, might pass on the 2014 cycle. And we all know there’s plenty of room on the perilously thin South Dakota Democratic bench for two.
With a few more years living and working in South Dakota under her belt, Herseth Sandlin will be an even better candidate. One of the knocks on her was always that she left the state as a young woman for college and law school and appeared to rarely come back. By the next time she runs for something, with all the time she’ll have spent living, working and raising her child in South Dakota, that criticism will have been obliterated. I can honestly say I’d be more inclined to vote for her knowing that she’s shared my experience of being a working parent in South Dakota. And she’ll be better able to relate to voters, which is a scary prospect for Republicans, given she’s already shown she can win statewide elections in a Republican-dominated state.
So today I say congratulations to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin for making a good decision for sound reasons. Enjoy your family and your life for a while. I have a feeling the Democrats will still need you a few years down the road, and you’ll be able come back to politics when you’re truly ready.