Saturday, December 22, 2012


I wasn't going to write a musing about guns because it can become such an incendiary topic but I just can't sit on the sidelines regarding this issue. The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was horrific. I cannot get the image of those six and seven year old children being mowed down by a semi automatic assault rifle, some being hit up to eleven times. How do you get that kind of image out of your head?

Finally, after a self imposed silence following the massacre at Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association's top leader, Wayne LaPierre, said at a Washington news conference yesterday that, quote, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

That may be, but does it have to be with an assault rifle and hundreds of magazine clips of ammunition? I drove past a gun shop in Sioux Falls a couple days ago and the parking lot was packed. I suppose every gun enthusiast in the area was in that shop buying up as many guns as they can, panicked because they think they are going to lose their right to bear arms.

LaPierre wants schools to have armed guards, volunteers if you can imagine. Did you know that over one third of the schools in this country already have uniformed police officers serving as resource officers in schools? Did you know that Columbine had an armed deputy sheriff at the school the day of the shooting there and it still did not deter the massacre?

It amazes me that people cannot stay rational and instead of going "ballistic" and losing their collective rational minds regarding this issue. Now we have a state legislature who wants to introduce a bill allowing school teachers and other personnel to bring guns to schools. I don't think school superintendents and school boards across this country need the NRA or state legislatures to dictate how to deal with gun violence in their schools.

Why did everyone wait with baited breath to hear what the NRA had to say on the massacre at Sandy Hook?

Why do they seem to have such power in this country to even be credible and relevant when speaking about the horror in Newtown, Connecticut?

Why should we have to listen to what LaPierre has to say about what this country should do about school safety while he arrogantly proclaims guns not to be the problem?

Guns are his bread and butter. Guns are his money. LaPierre and his NRA are the least credible spokesman to speak on this issue and La Pierre was entirely self serving.

That press conference yesterday was disgusting and insulting to the American public and the grieving families in Newtown, Connecticut.

There is no rational reason for any person to own a semi-automatic assault rifle and magazine clips that spit out 30 to 100 hundred rounds of ammunition in a split second ripping bodies apart as people are mowed down. It's excessive, it's overkill and both must be banned. Why can't it be as simple as that?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Postponed Election

The snow gate issue has been interesting to follow over the past two years. The city has been testing snow gates for a couple of years. If you read the report, it is clear that it will cost taxpayers more money for snow removal, it will slow down operations and it will narrow streets.

However, if you listen to the snow gate petition organizers and the people who signed the petitions to get it on the ballot, they don't care what it costs, how long it takes or that it will narrow their streets. They just do not want to have to shovel that mound of snow dumped at the end of their driveway and they want the city to do it for them.

Plenty of past political officials signed the petition and they were identified at the council meeting last night as if to prove that the present city council was not in tune with everyone. I personally do not lay much stock in these past officials signage on the petitions. I think some of them probably signed the petitions as a political statement to the present administration, but that is just speculation on my part.

It was interesting to watch the public testimony last night and the council responses. I can see both sides. People do not not want to shovel the snow dumped at the end of their driveways by those motor graders. I don't like to do it either. The petitioners want someone else to take care of their snow problem. The city council is concerned about money, logistics and operational issues. That's their job and they were doing it last night.

If you assume the general public is well informed when they signed the snow gate petition, then you can assume that those 8,000 plus people know it will cost more money, it will take more time to plow streets clean and it will narrow their streets. I am sure the people who organized the petition drive let people know those facts when they encouraged them to sign their petitions. Right?

I understand the city councilors concerns about logistics regarding all those leased vehicles and sub-contractors hired to assist the city in plowing streets. But the fact is they have been researching this issue for a couple years now and those subcontractors should have been voicing their opinions/concerns about meeting the requirements by now and figuring out whether they can do it or not. Right?

My disclaimer - I don't support snow gates. I have read the report and I don't want to spend taxpayer dollars on something that can only be used when snow levels are low. I don't want snow removal to take longer than the 3 days it now takes to plow out the entire city. I don't want narrower streets in the winter. When it goes to a public vote, I will vote no.

However, I am of the opinion that the vote should have been held in April. It is the city's job to research the issue and get the logistics studied and identified and communicated to the public. It's called educating the public. The snow gate petitioners organized and got enough signatures to call for a vote.

Whether you agree with this referral action or not, is no longer relevant. Maybe the city should have been more engaged and vocal about communicating and educating the public about it's reservations while the petition action was going on. Between now and April, the city could have been communicating it's reservations about this issue and laying out all the facts.

I know, I know, they said they don't have all the facts. The problem is the petitioners don't believe them and think they are stalling because they don't support snow gates. It seems to be a trust issue with Stehly and her army of supporters.

There is a bigger issue here, in my opinion. When people start organizing referrals and petitions affecting operational issues that are the responsibility of the administration and the city council, then there is going to be a problem. Citizens can't be in charge of day to day administration and operational matters. There will be a breakdown in government services. That is why we elect people to oversee such matters.

And that is why you saw what you saw last night. This is not good government, people. If you don't like what the city council and the mayor are doing then vote them out of office. Referring day to day operational matters to a public vote is wrong and Stehly and her army, no matter what their good intentions, are wrong in this petition drive. And yes, the council was wrong last night in postponing the election.

And now everyone can see the breakdown in good government.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A History of Mass Shootings in the USA

 This list (copied from the ARGUS LEADER)  is a heartbreaking chronicle of violence in this country.

I hate the way some people take these horrific acts and mold them into comments to support their left or right wing political agenda.

Why can't we just be horrified at the loss of innocent life and express grief and support in a respectful manner?

The shameful comments questioning the validity of President Obama's expression of emotion is beyond the pale.

The breakdown in humanity, respect,  and decency in this country due to political partisanship is shocking and disturbing.

Notable mass shootings in US

December 2012:
Gunman kills 20 elementary students, 6 teachers and his mother in Newtown, Connecticut.

Aug. 2012: Gunman kills six, before taking his own life at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin outside Milwaukee.

July 2012: Twelve people are killed when a gunman opens fire during opening night of a Batman movie in Aurora, Colo.

April 2012: Gunman kills seven at a California Christian university.

Jan. 2011:
Gunman kills six people and wounds 13, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a shooting spree outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz.

Nov. 2009: Thirteen killed and more than two dozen wounded at Fort Hood, Texas, army base.

April 2009: Man opens fire at an immigrant community center in Binghamton, N.Y., killing 13 before taking his own life.

March 2009: Man kills 10 people, including five relatives in rural Alabama, then kills himself.

Feb. 2008: Former student opens fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University, fatally shooting five students and wounding 18 others before committing suicide.

Dec. 2007: Man opens fire at Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., killing eight, before taking his own life.
April 2007: Student kills 32 people and himself on Virginia Tech campus.

April 1999: Two students open fire at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing 13 and wounding 26 others before killing themselves.

May 1998: Two teens killed and more than 20 people wounded when a teenager opens fire at a high school in Springfield, Ore., after killing his parents.

Oct. 1991: Man opens fire at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, killing 23 and wounding 20 before taking his own life.

June 1990: Man shoots people at General Motors Acceptance Corp. office in Jacksonville, Fla., killing 10 and wounding four, before killing himself.

Aug. 1986: Postal worker who was about to be fired shoots 14 at a post office in Edmond, Okla., then kills himself.

Aug. 1966: Man opens fire from the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, killing 16 people and wounding 31.




Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is Longfellow Elementary School at $1 a Good Buy for the City?

I viewed Director Smith talking to the City Council about the School District's offer to sell Longfellow Elementary School to the City for $1. I realize the City Council needed to know about the offer, but I would have rather heard Director Smith speak realistically about the offer than the pie in the sky, life is good, this may be a good deal outlook on the school district offer and we need to study it.

The $1 offer is not really a good deal for a city and it doesn't take months of study to figure that out. Capital dollars are tied up on many other projects out into the future. The school is two blocks away from McKennan Park so using the property for a city park doesn't make sense.

The building is old and needs to be refurbished, remodeled, updated for future use, whatever that might be. The city would have to do that if they wanted to use it as a city building. A community center is usually attached to an elementary school. A community center at that location doesn't make sense if it doesn't make sense for an elementary school.

It's awfully nice of the School District to try to unload their white elephant problem to the city by "giving away" their problem for $1 but we can't be that gullible, can we? That one buck will turn into millions of bucks to rehabilitate their problem. The city can be an attractive problem solver for the school district because the city has all that sales tax money available to them that the school district doesn't have at their disposal.

I suppose the city could buy it and try to economically develop it. Another TIF? Spend money on tearing the building down to ready the property for development? After all, economic development is supposed to be the Mayor and Director Smith's expertise, isn't it? Frankly, I would rather they stayed focused and direct their efforts on economically developing that Russell Avenue corridor near the Denny Sanford Premier Center and the downtown area. Priorities, people.

Instead of studying everything to death and putting the directors through a meaningless exercise in trying to identify possible uses, it is sometimes "prudent" to just say thanks, but no thanks and move on with the priorities already on one's plate. Vision, leadership and practical and prudent thinking, please.