I have written the following editorials on topics that I believe are important, they’ve been published on the Editorial Page of the Rapid City Journal. If you have any specific questions on any issue, I urge you to CONTACT ME at any time.
Remember Those Who Served
Earlier this month our community celebrated Veterans Day. We honored our active and past military servicemen and servicewomen. We are now about to enjoy Thanksgiving Day. Americans will assemble and express gratitude for the daily blessings and privileges of life here in the United States of America. Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day, I contend, are integrally linked.
They’re connected because South Dakota is a proud state with thankful citizens fiercely patriotic and fervently supportive of the state guard and the national military. We’re respectful of the honor and devotion to duty exhibited daily by our veterans past and present. We’re aware they’ve devoted their lives in service to country, and we’re thankful they’ve bravely answered our nation’s call.
In early spring of this year, House Bill 1179 was introduced to the state Legislature. The bill, sponsored by several East River senators, formally defined a veteran as any person who has served their full military obligation for active duty, reserve or National Guard service and who has been separated or discharged under honorable conditions. Gov. Daugaard signed the bill into law on March 13, 2015.
It’s about time. One hundred twenty-six years after South Dakota was granted statehood, those citizens who honorably wore a military uniform in allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and to our state have been duly recognized in statute. Air Force, National Guard, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Marines.
The Oath of Office for military officers and the Oath of Enlistment for military enlistees both require absolute affirmation to “support and defend the Constitution” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Both oaths end with the subtle plea “So help me God.” The service members who take this oath unequivocally submit and dedicate their lives in service to their state and to their country. Their contract with the military demands availability on a 24/7 basis, during peacetime or war, stateside or otherwise. There is no ambiguity.
When our brothers and sisters in arms raise their right hand and swear that oath, they don’t conclude with “maybe,” or “when convenient.” Our military service people and our state guard personnel have vowed they’ll dutifully step into harm’s way on our behalf. They’ve manned the front line. They’ve signed that proverbial blank check.
We all applaud the legislative sponsors of HB 1179, and we applaud Gov. Daugaard’s endorsement in recognition of past, present and future veterans who’ve committed to our United States and its constitution. And for the first time in state history, my fellow South Dakota veterans can now celebrate both Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day with a codified legislative endorsement recognizing and honoring those commitments.
The two holidays are indeed linked. It’s time for a giving of thanks, especially, to those veterans who have reported to their eternal duty station. It’s time to be thankful at Thanksgiving for those who have relinquished their lives and to those who have devoted their lives to protecting our country.
It’s my hope that every gathering this Thanksgiving season will devote a brief moment in honor and solemn respect to all service men and women; that they’ll continue to stand guard over the liberties guaranteed in our cherished constitution. So help us God.
The chocolate mint theory for local sustainability
Look around. Listen up. Feel the energy. Watch as Rapid City’s parks and playgrounds are enthusiastically modernized. Listen as your neighbors continue to debate recent ballot issues. Be optimistically aware of surges in local business construction activity.
Environmentally, socially, and economically, Rapid City is robust.
As members of a spirited and healthy community, we own a responsibility to ponder some sensitive questions: Does Rapid City have the wherewithal to pass its social vigor on to its next generation? Will our communal spirit endure with our children? Is Rapid City’s social condition sustainable?
Recognizing the impact of these questions and in contemplation of our community’s growth and future livability, Mayor Sam Kooiker four years ago formed the city’s Sustainability Committee. This nine-person panel was chartered with: fostering the stewardship of our urban environment, endorsing social causes leading to greater prosperity and encouraging sound economic plans for responsible fiscal growth.
And Rapid City is abundant with sustainably-worthy attributes. Record-setting rains have our public “greenspaces” more true-to-color than ever before. Our soccer fields and baseball diamonds sound like crowded kindergarten playgrounds. Recent Arbor Day tree plantings prove we’re a citizenry concerned about ecology. We’re environmentally and recreationally healthy.
We’re also experiencing a springtime economic boom. Commercial building permits are up 17 percent from last year. Unemployment is down. Taxable transactions have increased by nearly $30 million. Businesses are incubating here and, like the soccer fields, our local economy is a brilliant green. Rapid City is economically and commercially healthy.
Programs like Starting Strong, Habitat for Humanity, and NeighborWorks are engaged and empowering as they steadfastly revitalize neighborhoods and our social consciousness. Daily we witness fervent public involvement in serious school board and academic issues; we know our local educational and social systems are enhanced by a phenomenal level of public participation. Albeit challenged, our town is socially active and healthy.
Environmental and recreational vitality. Economic productivity. Social consciousness. Rapid City appears to have it all. But is our current societal condition sustainable? Can we “pay it forward?” Earlier this spring, the Sustainability Committee hosted an Arbor Day tree planting in North Rapid’s Willow Park. Among the attendees were three children at the park’s playground. The children confidently interrupted the program announcing “Chocolate Mint” as the name they’d spontaneously chosen for “their new tree.”
To me, there’s no better indicator of future optimism for Rapid City than the innocent adoption of a “chocolate tree” by the neighborhood youth. So the city this year apparently planted a sign of idealistic sustainability along with its annual Arbor Day tree. We installed an unsophisticated, unintentional symbol of confectionery delight for the local kids, but an intricate and very deliberate symbol of a promising community future for everyone else.
So listen intently, watch for opportunity, and then lend a helping hand. It’s not the committee’s task alone. We’re all responsible for our community’s social, environmental and economic prosperity. In Rapid City, our unique Chocolate Mint tree perfectly embodies our civic challenge to branch out and blossom into our future as a thriving, vibrant and sustainable community.
Legislative campaign shouldn’t be about mudslinging
I’m David Johnson. I’m a Republican candidate for South Dakota’s District 33 Senate. In recent days, I’ve been the target of criticism for refusing to answer questions about my opponent in this race.
I decided years ago that I’d someday run for public office. My business now permits me to do so. I feel obligated to my community; it’s treated my family and our operations graciously for 50 years. That same feeling of obligation is why I joined the Air Force years ago.
I’m a lifelong Black Hills resident with a bachelor’s degree from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and a master’s degree from the University of South Dakota. My wife of 28 years and I have three daughters, each educated in the public and higher education schools of South Dakota. I offer a driven dedication to District 33.
It’s not about my opponent.
In February I received South Dakota’s “New Candidate’s Guidebook” published by the Secretary of State. The first line asks: “Are you thinking of running for office in South Dakota?” It doesn’t ask: “Are you thinking about campaigning against another candidate in South Dakota?”
Our election laws do not describe elections as one candidate versus another, or mandate that candidates engage in malicious verbal battle.
I’m frequented with questions as to my opinion about the other candidate. I believe the voters in District 33 will ultimately answer those questions themselves. For the record, I’m campaigning for a Senate seat that is open by state law to public election every two years. I am not and will not be campaigning against anyone.
Indeed there is another candidate in this Republican primary. I’m disturbed by both his past and recent public statements. His pattern of public announcements has made local and national headlines, resulting in an unprecedented apology from our governor on behalf of the citizens of South Dakota. What alarms me most about the other candidate’s views is the possibility that he may actually believe what he’s saying.
To be an effective legislator, it is of paramount importance to be tolerant and non-judgmental. District 33 deserves better.
In my tree business, I bid against my competitors for a contract. Never in 34 years of bidding have I been asked to bash competitors or voice opinions as to their tactics. The contract is awarded to the business that meets specifications and offers the best all-around deal. I’ll run my campaign the same way I’ve run my business for the last one-third century.
I’m committed to taking my campaign along the high road, separating myself from questions about the other candidate via the “no comment” path. I’ve refused to partake in the mudslinging game that’s so attractive to the antagonists and headline chasers. Expect further “no comment” if questions are not issue-oriented or germane to District 33 residents.
My campaign will broadcast my vision and get the facts out through position papers, candidate forums and public issue discussions. District 33 Republican voters have the opportunity to place a thoughtful, tolerant, conservative candidate, businessman, family man and former military officer on November’s general election ballot.
I’m a candidate for South Dakota’s District 33 Senate. Don’t ask me about the other guy.
Ballot boycotts won’t stop corruption
Note: This editorial piece appeared on the Opinion Page in response to the public outcry in western South Dakota against the unethical campaign materials distributed by some local politicians and their PACs during the Primary and General elections of 2014. Mr. Johnson has been an active and vocal participant in local citizens’ efforts to raise the standards of behavior of public officials during political campaigns.
There is a notable, palpable sentiment afloat regarding the primary and general election activities of 2014. Numerous letters and satiric cartoons recently published in this newspaper provide testament to the fact that citizens are increasingly wearied by the lack of campaign integrity. If the editorial pages are reliable indicators, South Dakotans are getting fed up.
As a former military officer and local political participator, I’m anxious about my community’s increasing fatigue. Some people have even stated they’d protest by refusing to vote in future elections.
The weariness is absolutely understandable. We’ve watched as some candidates creep deeper into their murky puddles and we’re worried how deep they’ll go. We’re dispirited as we see politicians deny misbehavior hiding behind special interest groups and out-of-state PACs, knowing that scant few voters fact-check. Campaign ads and mailings are commonly distorting the truth, or worse, presenting blatant lies.
Along with ballot boycotts, we’ll see elevated contempt and apathy as inevitable responses to bad-mannered campaigning. Residents with thoughtful civic backgrounds will refuse to run for public office, aware that vile smears likely await them from opponents. Society’s idealistic and energetic youth will shun the entire political system — a dark trend we’re already witnessing here in western South Dakota.
Community reactions like these are very serious; a body politic wholly misaligned with the visions of our founding fathers. As a democratic society, do we really want to look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and profess their futures are so inconsequential as to warrant our snubbing of an upcoming election? Citizen involvement is the cornerstone of our civility and all of society loses when good people withdraw.
So l suggest a more enlightened strategy. Know that the free flow of political information empowers and energizes a republic and serves to keep our government honest and robust. Read, analyze, and embrace the postcards and ads as personal invitations to become informed. Fact-check!
Don’t refuse to vote, but instead redouble your determination to attend the ballot and bring your civic-minded neighbor with you. Hold candidates accountable. Vote for those who campaign with authentic policy statements coinciding with your own convictions. inspire your favorite municipal cause by actively participating in the American political process.
There’s no FDA to mandate political truth-in-labeling. There’s just us, the voters. Campaigns engaging in social deceit are foiled only by an electorate that proactively refuses to be deceived.
President Adams said a vote ”for principle” is a vote “never lost or cast in vain.” At a minimum, then, vote for principle; the only effective way to eliminate unethical campaigning is to vote out the unethical campaigner.
Americans would do well to remember that hundreds of thousands of patriots have paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our access to the ballot box. I’ll pay my sincere respect to them by fulfilling my voting obligation at every future public election and by honorably participating in each electoral battle. Do not give up. Join me.