DeSantis should leave Disney to the coast; Board of Regents turnover: Your letters

Second Amendment

Your letters to the editor for May 14, 2023:

The Presidential solution to the debt crisis the better solution 


Citizens of the United States have enjoyed a high level of government services, although not as high as other developed nations.   At the same time American taxpayers have enjoyed much lower tax rates (37% marginal rate) than other developed countries(typically 52% marginal rate).  This combination of low taxes and high services has required borrowing every year except one for almost a century.  Both the President and Congress agree that this must stop.  There are the same options that individuals have:  Increase income (raise taxes) or decrease expenses (cut programs/services) or both.  The President and Speaker McCarthy have taken different approaches. 

President Biden 

Although containing some cuts, the President Biden approach relies on increasing income by increasing the tax rates on corporations and higher income individuals (those with incomes over $400,000).  This reflects his party’s political position.  His base is overwhelmingly the middle and lower classes and they put him in office and expect consideration.  As a result, his proposal does not increase their taxes nor does it make significant reductions to their services.  In his proposal the deficit reduction relies almost entirely on taxing corporations and those over $400,000 and coincidentally, are not his base. 

Speaker McCarthy 

Speaker McCarthy has taken the opposite approach.  His approach is to reduce government costs/services by cutting programs.  This also reflects his party’s political position that fiscal problems are a cost problem not a revenue problem.  The donor base is overwhelmingly those over $400,000  and they expect to be considered.  These people are self-sufficient and do not consume most of the relevant government services.  In the Speaker’s proposal, the cost of reducing the deficit falls almost completely on the middle and lower classes and holds harmless the higher income Americans and corporations. 

I favor the President’s position for several reasons. 

  1. Our services are not so high that they should be cut.  Some need to be increased.  We do not provide national health care as other developed nations do.  We do not provide child care so that women can work the way other developed nations do.  Our veterans should receive better care, not reductions in care. 
  1. Our low tax rates resulting from tax cuts by three presidents, Reagan, Bush (jr) and Trump. They have restricted revenue, and each president created a new record for deficit spending as a result.  Contrary to Reagan’s statement, we DO have a revenue problem not a spending problem. 
  1. The people that most benefit financially (very high incomes) from our system should be the ones helping to stabilize it. 
  2. An example of the cuts proposed by the Speaker:  The Speaker’s proposal takes food from the children of poor mothers (SNAP) .  I am a veteran and a user of the Veterans Administration health services.  The Speakin (Military Times estimate) or 22%.  This is after the nation spent trillions of dollars over three wars in the last 30 years creating millions of veterans who would be harmed by this proposal.  Babies and veterans should not be the ones paying for the deficit to let the wealthy not participate in the cuts.  It contains similar cuts to other important programs to hold harmless the wealthiest Americans. This is unacceptable.  

— John Cunningham, Sioux Falls 

More: Beaudion: In Tuesday’s election, the need for representation cannot be understated

What we held in common was our commitment to our students 

I taught US history for 35 years, from 1985 to 2020. 25 of those years were at USD. Despite a variety of voices that claim the contrary, my years of experience provide no evidence of widespread efforts to indoctrinate students to a “liberal agenda.” Not once—again, not once—did I attempt to indoctrinate my students to a specific ideological persuasion. I am unaware of any evidence my colleagues did, either. 

When I started at the USD history department, four of us were veterans. What we held in common, in addition to our service to the nation, was our commitment to teach our students how to think critically about history. We recognized that to fully appreciate US history, our students needed to examine the good and the bad. There has been a lot of both. 

We could, and did, teach about slavery, about racism, about sexism, and about our treatment of Native Americans. We taught about the abuses of robber barons. We assigned books that were critical of unregulated capitalism, that were critical of some elements of US foreign policy, and critical of discrimination against minorities. 

That said, we also recognized and taught about the good in US history. We taught about US generosity in the form of the Lend-Lease Act, the Marshall Plan, and the Food for Peace Program; about the US commitment to universal human rights; and about US responses to all sorts of humanitarian crises.  

If I sought to “indoctrinate” anyone, it was outside the classroom. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it is my opinion that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I encouraged my students to participate and vote in elections. I promoted service to our fellow human beings, to our community, to our state, to our nation, and to the world. My colleagues did, too. Maybe that is part of the reason so many of our former students have run for (and often won) public office, taken public service jobs, or become teachers. If that is “indoctrination” to a “liberal agenda,” I am guilty! 

Anyone who claims that university faculty in SD are a monolith of fuzzy headed liberals who denounce our history knows nothing about what is actually taught at our campuses. 

–Steven Bucklin, Sioux Falls 

The hodgepodge of state gun laws is not reducing gun violence 

At the time the 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791 State Militias were the only military the new nation had and there was no difference between civilian and military guns. The members of the militia had to supply their own rifle and ammunition.  

Unfortunately, the gun manufacturers and the NRA along with conservative media have managed to create the notion in some people’s minds that the 2nd Amendment allows civilians to own and carry any weapon, anywhere at anytime. Common sense tells me that is wrong – Former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Warren Burger argued in 1992: “That the sale, purchase, and use of guns should be regulated just as automobiles and boats are regulated; such regulations would not violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”  

What happened? Congress repealed the Brady Act in 2004 which had banned the manufacture and sale of assault style guns. During the 10 years of its existence mass shooting were 70% less likely to happen than the period before or after the ban.  

Gun lobbyists have been very successful in creating an environment that has made this nation into a gun crazy place where “freedom and liberty” are equated with gun ownership. People now feel less safe so they go out and buy another gun – the deadlier the better. I agree with Chief Justice Warren Burger; gun ownership and use are a privilege – not a right.   The current hodgepodge of state gun laws is not reducing gun violence. The United States needs Comprehensive Federal Gun Regulation. We need laws that ban manufacture and sale of assault style guns and large capacity clips and require permits for all semi-automatic guns.  

We need to repeal “stand your ground laws” and increase funding to the ATF and other law enforcement to regularly inspect gun shops and shutdown shops with citations and include extended waiting periods of at least a month for purchase of all semi-automatic guns.  

Gun violence events in public places like schools, churches and shopping centers do not cause the most gun violence deaths, but they are the most traumatizing to the general public and the increasing frequency of these tragedies is probably why the majority of Americans support stricter gun regulation.  

This witness quote is from the 5/7/2023 Texas shopping center mass killing: “I don’t know his motive, but it wasn’t mental health that killed these people. It was an automatic rifle with bullets; That’s what killed them,” Steven Spainhouer said. “I’m a gun lover: I have guns, I’m a former police officer, I’m a former army officer. But these M4’s and MAR15’s they’ve got to get them off the street or these things will keep on happening.” 

— Richard Peterson, Wewela 

More: Islam: The stakes are too high not to vote Tuesday

DeSantis should get out of Florida and leave Disney to the coast 

I don’t know about you, but if I were the head of Disney, I would tell Czar DeSantis to ‘go kiss a moose’ and get the L out of Florida. Savannah, Georgia would be more inclined to bend backward to get them there.  Savannah is on the ocean and is not interested in telling Disney that they cannot run their business the way they want by passing laws where they can terminate any agreement Disney has with vendors and those who provide logistical support to the existing park in Orlando.  Prior to Disney, Orlando was a quiet city without the type of services needed to support such a big operation. Once Disney was operational, the city experienced a construction boom with thousands of homes, an international airport, and a plethora of retail, hotel, and eating facilities.  If Czar DeSantis continues, I predict there will be billboards throughout Orlando that say, “Would the last one out of Orlando please turn out the lights.” I am certain the citizens will reward the Czar accordingly for his economic development policy.  Savannah has several beaches and redeveloping its existing international airport into a bustling modern international transportation hub should not cause leaders much of a problem. Not only will Georgia benefit from Disney’s presence, but South Carolina, more specifically Hilton Head, should also experience a wave of prosperity it has never seen.  Not only that, Disney Cruise Lines can relocate its east coast operations to Savannah’s safe harbor area, capable of providing a safe port during the hurricane season. Yes, Czar DeSantis with his desire to dismember anyone who disagrees with him is doing a great job in Florida.  Yes, I salute Czar DeSantis and award him the Middle-Fickle-Finger of Fate Award. 

— Steve Anderson, Sioux Falls 

Vote with common sense. Vote Dawn Marie Johnson

The time has come to vote with common sense. Our state Department of Education recently passed the social studies standards despite overwhelming opposition to them. The committee who vetted these standards was largely composed of people with little to no background in the actual understanding of what it takes to educate children. The time has come to squelch the idea that having gone to school makes you an expert on education policy and start voting for someone who isn’t entrenched in special interests for the few. The time has come to vote for someone who has actual experience working with children and educators.  Dawn Marie Johnson is that someone. She is the only candidate for the SFSD School Board who not only has worked in our schools but has the knowledge of our current programs and the vision to improve them to impact all of our city’s children and families.   Please vote for Dawn Marie Johnson, someone who has what it takes to make informed decisions for the policies that affect our most important residents: our children. 

— Sue Zueger, Sioux Falls 

What’s with all the BOR turnover? 

The revolving door at the Board of Regents continues and it begs the question of who, what, when, where and why will we see some transparency about what’s going on within the board?   The Director Brian Maher left to take a new position in Nebraska, Member Tony Venhuizen left to serve in the legislature. Barb Stork resigned in January despite her term not expiring until 2025.   The 9th member of the current board Joan Wink, THE ONLY DEMOCRAT, announced in March she would not be completing her term.   Two new replacements were just appointed, one an educator and another a business man and with their joining the board, it is composed almost entirely of Republicans. That breaks the bylaws of the BOR which states that “no more than 6 members of the same party can serve.” Where is the accountability? “With the uproar in education in this state, and over much objection by the public and educators, it seems Noem marches on unchecked in her efforts to control the direction of education K-12 right through college. 

— Mary Maxwell, Sioux Falls 

Editor’s note: This current board makeup would break the board’s bylaws which state that “no more than six Regents shall be members of the same political party,” if it weren’t for a student regent, whose party affiliation isn’t subject to the requirements of the overall board, according to an opinion drafted by former attorney general Mark Barnett, the governor’s office explained. 

More: Noem appoints Sioux Falls School District administrator to South Dakota Board of Regents

Vote for school board on Tuesday, and vote for Dawn Marie Johnson

Everyone has an opinion on education, but few have the motivation it takes to work in the field. If we fail to vote for experienced public service workers for our school board–if we fail to vote, altogether–our schools will be led by outsiders who bring ineffective, destructive agendas to our classrooms.

I’ve been teaching for 12 years. I’ve experienced the issues we face in education first hand, and Dawn Marie Johnson has my enthusiastic vote Tuesday for Sioux Falls School District school board member. Let me tell you why.

Johnson works tirelessly, conferencing with teachers and staff. Her experience in education and role with the South Dakota Afterschool Network prove she knows how to connect students with community resources. She’s a builder. She’s a networker. She listens, which will inform her work on the board.

Johnson understands that kids need a sense of purpose. With no purpose, our youth struggle in education. And she knows that quality of life outside of school affects the ability to perform within the classroom, so she values afterschool and summer enrichment programs. She will help advance our district’s Community Learning Centers and partnerships with programs like Leaders of Tomorrow.

Johnson trusts educators. She knows many of us are worn down by politics infiltrating our jobs, from the change in social studies standards to the fight over school and classroom libraries. She supports parents with personal concerns, but she doesn’t support the right of one parent to control opportunities for others.

Brian Mattson is our only serious alternative. He’s a veteran, and he has “a heart for the job.” People at his church wanted him to run. If you study his agenda, you won’t find much detail, but here are a few of his ideas.

Alarmingly, Mattson wants to improve safety by arming school staff and volunteers, using the state’s School Sentinel Training. He thinks more guns in schools will work.

Mattson likes the new social studies standards, despite opposition from teachers and parents. He understands it will siphon $3 million dollars from other budget items, and he’ll look for cuts.

Mattson thinks a good approach to improving discipline is providing more exercise. Look, I agree with Mattson on this point: our students need more energy outlets. But does he show understanding of the policies and regulations that dictate our packed schedules? No. He brings no relevant experience to the table.

Turnout for school board elections is typically less than 5% of voters. A very small percentage of people will have a massive impact. Will you vote? Will you vote for Dawn Marie Johnson, the caring and qualified candidate this Tuesday?

Rachel Palmer, Sioux Falls

How to submit a letter to the editor: 

Letters need to be roughly 300 to 500 words, and will need to include first and last name, address, city and title. Addresses won’t be publicized, of course, but it’s a way for us to make sure those who submit a letter are who they say they are. 

Letters will run on Sundays in print and online as we receive them. There may be moments, however, when we don’t have any as we work to solicit interest and actively rebuild this part of our coverage for readers. 

You can submit those to News Director Shelly Conlon by emailing or submit them through our online form here, which also is sent directly to the news director. 

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