Alan Clem, 1929-2016

The funeral is Saturday in Vermillion for Alan Clem, who was a long-time political and government professor and researcher at the University of South Dakota. He was born in Nebraska and cut his political teeth working for two U.S. congressmen from Nebraska. He joined the USD faculty in 1960. Among his students through years thereafter was Larry Pressler, who as a Republican won election to the U.S. House of Representatives and then served three terms in the U.S. Senate. My sense has always been that Professor Clem was a significant influence on a 1983 book, U.S. Senators from the Prairie, on which Pressler was author. (Amazon currently lists several copies available at $150 minimum for the hardcover and $31.70 paperback.) The book provided biographical notes and speech excerpts for South Dakota’s 23 U.S. senators to that point.

Alan Clem was listed as author of several books during his USD days. They reflected his nuts and bolts approach to elections and the politics that can influence elections. I never attended any course or seminar where he taught, but I purchased several of his works through the years. One changed how I worked on election nights. A statistic he emphasized was voter registration numbers and voter history at the precinct level in a county. Knowing the precinct numbers and history allowed an observer to see where a precinct’s results were headed, and enough precincts with results provided the basis for declaring a winner in a contest in that county. Enough county results became the basis for declaring a winner in a statewide contest. This is now common practice on election nights, but at the time in the mid-1980s that simple approach became a reliable tool for this reporter.

His style was dry. I met him a few times at various political events. I liked that he showed up to watch the action. I didn’t like that his writing seemed to heavily rely on the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, but those were in days before news websites, and like many people he appeared to overlook the news outside of the reach of the Sioux Falls newspaper. Regardless, Alan Clem was a major figure at USD; the university prepared a detailed news release a few days after his death Monday. The USD release even included some fun insights and telling quotes from two sons. I always got a kick out of the title of one of his books: “The Government We Deserve.”

A truly good guy is leaving AAN

When I first heard the rumor I knew, unfortunately, that it would prove true. Cory Bollinger made it official Wednesday. He is departing as publisher of the Aberdeen American News and returning to Indiana, where he will continue as vice president for publishing for Schurz Communications and will hold the title of regional publisher for a group of Schurz newspapers in Indiana.

Cory leaves the American News as a much stronger, much more innovative and much more important newspaper. Farm Forum, the weekly green-sheet tabloid, looks strong as ever. He started Outdoors Forum magazine. He brought in executive editor J.J. Perry from Indiana to transform the newsroom, teach new and better ways to young and old staff alike and take the newsroom deeper into the digital age.

When Cory came to Aberdeen, I felt sorry for him. That was in February 2010. Publisher Dave Leone was dying. Executive Editor Cindy Eikamp had been scheduled to retire but stayed aboard during a time of crisis. Cory received the title of interim publisher. I admired Cindy for sticking around and I admired Cory for coming aboard. He immediately found his footing. He’s only become more sure-footed through the six years he’s lived in Aberdeen.

In my opinion, one reason that Cory succeeded so much was that he truly wanted the American News to succeed. Real newspaper people can sense real newspaper people. He is as real as any I’ve known — and more real than many I’ve known. Another reason for his success is his combination of patience and innovation. He found ways to get things done. A third reason was that he trusted people to do their jobs well and he could guide by asking the right question. And fourth, he spread the credit and, when there was some to spread, he spread the wealth. I own two excellent pair of Red Wing shoes because of the bonus that every employee received one unbelievably exceptional year. I probably will wear those shoes the rest of my life and I will remember the rest of my life how I came to own them.

A fifth reason Cory succeeded was that he listened. When employees in a survey said they wanted a new building, which would mean a new location, he took action. No, he couldn’t raise a new home for the Aberdeen American News, but he could make its 1950s-era building better. Today, the building inside and outside is very different than the place I walked into one July day in 1984 for a job interview. One thing hasn’t changed: The printing press, the heart of it all, remains in the basement.

Cory wraps up at the American News on June 23. His successor takes over a good operation that is much better because of Cory. He seems much too modest but he is proof one person can make a big difference. He leaves behind J.J. Perry as executive editor, and J.J. is proof too that one person can make a big difference. They are the kind of team that doesn’t come along often in life.

During her long tenure as executive editor, Cindy Eikamp helped a long line of publishers who varied in quality and accomplishments. They came and went, while she stayed as the rudder and daily fire chief. She once told me Cory would be her last publisher.

Oh, did she finish with a winner.

The people of Aberdeen are fortunate that Schurz bought the American News during a time of upheaval in the newspaper world. The family-owned company has been very good for the paper. They sent Cory Bollinger. And we are better, so much better, for it.

Public losing a defender in Sen. Brown

One of the drawbacks to term limits for legislators in South Dakota is sometimes the truly good step aside. Such is the case of Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, who is retiring from the Legislature after eight years in the Senate rather than running for a House seat. On Wednesday morning, the South Dakota Newspaper Association announced its board’s decision to name Brown as the next recipient of its Eagle award for dedication to open government. The news release is here.

The Legislature had a highly productive 2016 session on open meetings and open government. Without lawmakers such as Brown; Rep. Al Novstrup; retiring Sen. Bernie Hunhoff; Rep. Burt Tulson; retiring Sen. Ried Holien; retiring Rep. Lee Schoenbeck; and many, many others, the public wouldn’t have as many opportunities to follow its governments’ actions. We’ve also seen positive changes from Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Our laws aren’t up to the standards found in other states — for example, official correspondence can be kept confidential, even when it is decisional — but we have seen tremendous progress in the past 10 years or so, dating back to the work of former lawmakers such as Nancy Turbak Berry, Dave Knudson and Bob Gray. (Turbak Berry, Knudson and Novstrup are past Eagle recipients.)

The scandals under way in state government are helping fuel the open-government cause, according to some legislators. That’s been true in the recent past as well, such as opening up tax-rebate decisions and bringing the South Dakota High School Activities Association meetings into the open via Internet simulcasts of meetings. Generally the Legislature has been receptive to correcting situations where transparency has been lacking. That is a good thing.

Another seatbelt-less victim w/update

South Dakota’s latest traffic fatality is a woman, age 19, who died in a crash early today (Tuesday) five miles south of Rapid City. She was a passenger in a pickup truck. All six people in the truck were thrown from the vehicle. None wore a seatbelt. The driver faces charges.

This continues a string of South Dakota fatalities involving people who weren’t wearing seat belts and were thrown from vehicles. Just a week ago, the state Department of Public Safety issued a reminder to people to buckle up. As of April 4, ten of the 13 fatalities this year weren’t wearing seat belts.

Said Lee Axdahl, director for the state Office of Highway Safety, “Human bodies are not built to travel through windshields or be thrown out of vehicles in rollovers. Thinking you can simply hang onto the steering wheel and brace yourself at high speed doesn’t work for NASCAR and it doesn’t work in a passenger vehicle.”

As the signs say, Think.

UPDATE: Later this morning we learned another person has died from a South Dakota crash. She and her passenger were thrown from a car near Oacoma on April 4. She died Thursday. Twelve of the 15 most-recent fatalities weren’t wearing seat belts.

0-6 Twins hold home opener today

The only major league team worse at baseball so far this 2016 season than the Atlanta Braves is the Minnesota Twins. The Braves stand at 0-5 after week one. The Twins are 0-6. A win slipped away Sunday afternoon in Kansas City. Too many strike-outs by Twins batters at the wrong times is one reason for the winless start. The Twins host the Chicago White Sox today at 3:10 p.m. CT. On paper, after their many off-season moves, the White Sox might be the better team. So far the Twins haven’t scored more than three runs in a game, and they’ve allowed four runs or more in five games in a row. The Twins finished 2015 with a record of 83 wins and 79 losses, ending a four-year string of sub-.500 finishes. The six-game losing streak to start this April makes a .500 record difficult to achieve in 2016. My simple math indicates they would need to go 84-72 the rest of the way. I had hope they could win between 80 and 90 games this year. Maybe they still can. Today we start to find out.

UPDATE: The Twins lost again. They get a day off today (Tuesday). My guess is they will win Thursday. There’s no FSN cable broadcast that day.

State universities split on Student Federation dues

The Collegian reports in its latest weekly issue that South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota student government leaders wanted a more favorable dues structure for funding Student Federation. The SDSU student newspaper’s Makenzie Huber reports that SDSU student leaders “announced the institution would be disaffiliating from the Student Federation because of a disagreement on the organization’s budget and bylaws on March 31.” That happened to be the most recent meeting for the state Board of Regents, whose members gathered in Rapid City one week ago. The federation is the joint lobbying organization for students at the six state universities.

Huber reports that USD students also announced their government would be pulling out of the federation. That would leave the four smaller universities — Northern State, Dakota State, Black Hills State and School of Mines and Technology — in the federation while the two largest student bodies would be either in a second alliance or functioning as two free electrons circling about university affairs at the regents and Legislature levels.

The split results from SDSU and USD student leaders seeking a flatter dues structure for funding Student Federation. The current structure is based on student numbers: A university with larger enrollment pays a larger amount of dues. SDSU and USD student leaders evidently disagree with what their campuses are getting in return for helping to pay for events such Students for Higher Education Days (SHED) and from travel expenses for the federation’s leadership and executive directors. Huber reports part of the fight ties to the tuition freeze funded by the Legislature for the coming school year; USD wasn’t able to proceed with a fee increase that was previously planned.

A dues structure that would be flatter rather than based on enrollment is sought by SDSU student leaders. The SDSU Students Association votes Monday, April 11.

A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin comes to mind: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall hang separately.” The fight over the future of Student Federation also is remindful of why our nation has a Senate with two senators from each of the states, regardless of population, and a House of Representatives, where each state’s number of representatives depends on population. South Dakota, by the way, has two senators and one representative.

0.38 BAC and specific intent

The South Dakota Supreme Court this morning released its decision overturning the second-degree kidnapping conviction of Jeremiah Liaw. The case turned on Circuit Judge Larry Long’s refusal to issue the jury instructions that Liaw’s public defender sought. In summary, Liaw had a blood-alcohol content of 0.38 — nearly five times the threshold for a drunk-driving conviction — at the time he harassed several people in another person’s backyard, physically took control of one of them after she confronted him and marched her down the block in Sioux Falls. She was able to call 911 from her yard and, after he pushed her into traffic, she called 911 again from a store after he had left the store. Liaw’s lawyer argued that specific intent had to be shown on Liaw’s part to commit second-degree kidnapping. Judge Long, previously state attorney general, disagreed. The jury convicted Liaw.

The Supreme Court decided the appeal was a case of first impression and agreed with Liaw’s lawyer. The justices in their 5-0 decision reversed the kidnapping conviction and remanded the case to circuit court. “Liaw’s defense was based in part on his argument that he was so intoxicated he could not form the requisite “purpose” required by the statute,” Justice Janine Kern wrote in the decision. She added:

“Kidnapping in the second degree, in violation of SDCL 22-19-1.1 is a
specific intent crime. The State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that Liaw had the specific intent to “inflict bodily injury or terrorize” Angela Calin
and the jury should have been so instructed. Additionally, Liaw was entitled to an
accurate and complete instruction on voluntary intoxication so that the jury could
properly consider his defense.”

Lottery revenue is up across the board

The South Dakota Lottery Commission meets Thursday morning at the Capitol. The information packet contains good news, from the perspective of lottery officials. All three types of lottery games are generating more revenue this fiscal year in comparison to fiscal 2015. In three nutshells:

Video lottery players have lost $156.6 million through March 31. One year ago, at the similar point n the fiscal year, players had lost $148.8 million. Known as net machine income, this revenue is split between establishments and state government. Based on year-to-date NMI, the projection for the state’s share for the full fiscal year through June 30 is estimated to be $103.08 million, up from $98.29 million. The 4.6 percent gain so far comes despite fewer terminals — 8,924 as of March 31 vs. 8,945 a year ago — and despite fewer establishments. There were 1,346 as of March 31, down from 1,380 a year ago.

Instant tickets — the scratch-off games — have seen $19.42 million in sales through March 31, a slight increase from $19.20 million at the similar point one year ago. The 1 percent gain points toward an estimated profit for the full fiscal year of $5.47 million, up from $5.46 million for fiscal 2015.

Lotto jackpot games such as Powerball and others have sold faster this fiscal year as well. Through March 31, sales totaled $23.61 million, an increase of $3.5 million over the similar point a year ago. The projection for the full fiscal year is a profit of $8.78 million, up from the $8.42 million for last fiscal year.

South Dakota gets all five presidential contenders

It’s good to see that all five of the remaining Republican and Democratic candidates for president will be on South Dakota’s ballots for the June 7 party primary elections. The Republican primary is closed, meaning only people registered as Republicans can mark their ballots for the choices of Donald Trump, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The Democratic primary is half-open; South Dakota Democrats allow independents to vote in the Democratic primaries. Their field is former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. South Dakota, New Jersey and New Mexico hold their Republican presidential nomination contests June 7, last in the nation. On the Democratic side, the list of states holding their contests that day is longer;. along with South Dakota, New Jersey and New Mexico are California, Montana and North Dakota.

Unless independents file, some legislative candidates have won

Presuming there aren’t any candidacy petitions still out in the mail, the fields look set for the Republican and Democratic legislative slates. There are many primaries for House and Senate, mostly on the Republican side. There also are some of the 35 legislative districts where candidates have won because they are unopposed (although independents can still file through April 26).

The so-far unopposed for seats in the 35-member Senate include six Republicans and five Democrats:

District 1 — Democratic incumbent Jason Frerichs of Wilmot;

District 2 — Republican incumbent Brock Greenfield of Clark;

District 14 — Republican incumbent Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls;

District 18 — Democratic candidate Craig Kennedy of Yankton, running to succeed Democratic incumbent Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton;

District 21 — Democratic incumbent Billie Sutton of Burke;

District 23 — Republican Rep. Justin Cronin of Gettysburg, who’s term-limited in the House and is running to succeed term-limited Republican Sen. Corey Brown of Gettysburg;

District 24 — Republican incumbent Jeff Monroe of Pierre;

District 26 — Democratic incumbent Troy Heinert of Mission;

District 27 — Democratic Rep. Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge, who’s term-limited in the House and is running to succeed term-limited Democratic Sen. Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, who’s running for the House;

District 29 — Republican incumbent Gary Cammack of Union Center; and

District 31 — Republican incumbent Bob Ewing of Spearfish.

At this point it appears there are 11 candidates for the 70-member House of Representatives who are unopposed. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is drawing Monday afternoon for ballot positions.