Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 15, 2013

Rushmore vital to economy

Mount Rushmore National Memorial reopened Oct. 14, thanks to Gov. Dennis Daugaard and a group of private donors who are paying to keep the memorial open during the partial shutdown of the federal government.

When the National Park Service closed the memorial to visitors on Oct. 1, Daugaard offered to use state funding to keep it open. The park service refused the offer.

The White House eventually agreed to let states keep national parks open using state funds. Daugaard said the state would pay $15,200 per day to keep Mount Rushmore open to visitors. The funds will come from various private donors who have pledged to “buy a day” of operating the memorial.

Paying $15,200 a day to open Mount Rushmore is a bargain. A 2011 NPS report found that national parks in South Dakota receive more than 3.8 million visitors a year who spend $165 million in nearby communities and support 2,651 jobs. That’s more than $450,000 a day to the state and Black Hills economy — $15,200 is cheap by comparison.

We applaud the administration for its change in policy that saw a heavy-handed approach to the shutdown. National parks and memorials, even those that normally are not gated, were barricaded to the public.

Mount Rushmore had even put up orange traffic cones to prevent tour buses and other visitors from using pullouts on Highway 244 to see the presidential faces. Gov. Daugaard protested the move, and the cones were removed. A park service official said the cones were put up because the agency didn’t have enough staff to monitor the pullouts, and that they were being removed because of safety concerns.

We are skeptical of the park service’s motives. In 2011, during another budget crisis, the National Park Service wrote to Gov. Daugaard, requesting South Dakota Highway Patrol roadblocks at both ends of state Highway 244 to prevent anyone from driving past the memorial and seeing Mount Rushmore from the highway. Daugaard responded by offering instead to use state resources to keep Mount Rushmore open.

Past experience tells us that the park service is more interested in public inconvenience during a shutdown than public safety.

Let’s get something straight: Mount Rushmore is owned by the taxpayers and the public, not the National Park Service, which needs to be reminded who serves whom.

We applaud Gov. Daugaard, the private donors and, yes, the National Park Service for cooperating to reopen Mount Rushmore to the public.


The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Oct. 14, 2013

Ability, not gender, is key in coaching

A woman will be a head coach of the sophomore boys’ basketball team at Mitchell High School this season, leaving us to ask just one question:

What took so long?

The Daily Republic reported Oct. 12 that Erin Olson has asked for a transfer of her extracurricular duties, from assistant girls’ varsity basketball coach to head sophomore boys’ basketball coach. The school board finalized the move at its meeting Oct. 14, and Olson will now join the MHS boys’ program.

Olson has all of the credentials needed for the job. She was a star player for MHS from 1991 to 1994, playing point guard for four years during Mitchell’s most successful girls’ basketball era.

She helped the Kernels to four state title games and two state championships before playing collegiately at the University of Wyoming and then the University of Minnesota.

She played professionally and coached in the collegiate ranks and also has worked at various high-level basketball camps. She is a teacher in Mitchell.

Her game-winning, last-second basket in the semifinals of the 1994 state championship is to this day one of Mitchell High’s all-time sports highlights.

To us, she’s a natural to coach any basketball team, and we commend the school board for approving an idea that just a generation ago would have been considered outlandish.

Mitchell has had women coaching boys at times in the past. Tennis and golf coaches often are of opposite gender of the players they supervise, although never — at least that we know of — has a woman coached boys in a locker-room sport.

MHS has had several men coach girls’ basketball, including longtime coach Gary Munsen and, most recently, current coach Wes Morgan.

Considering her strong resume, Olson should be the trailblazer and we’re glad it’s her.

Congratulations to Erin Olson for her unique new job, and also to the athletics department and the school board for recognizing a good, young coach when they see one.


Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 12, 2013

Lunches within the guidelines: School innovators make federal standards work

These days, it’s easy to blame the federal government for aggravating our lives.

Here’s one example: The new school lunch program standards unveiled last year. The healthier eating guidelines, effective at the start of last school year, set limits on calories and salt in the lunches. They also phased in more whole grains and required fruits and vegetables to be included in the menus daily.

The problem is many students just didn’t like the foods being served.

So, many observers quickly blamed the federal program for the problems in implementation. Some parents started supplementing their children’s lunches or replacing the meals altogether with foods their kids would eat.

That’s certainly one corrective avenue to take.

But it’s refreshing to see some school districts take a different approach. Maybe, the school officials said, if we work at it just a little — add a dose of ranch dressing here and there for example — we can get our students to try new foods and to eat the healthier meals.

In Baltic, for example, school lunch supervisors tinkered with the menus, and presented more familiar foods to kids more often. And meal planners started serving one-ounce servings of fat-free ranch dressing with the carrot sticks and broccoli.

In Tea, when students refused to try green peppers, refried beans and garbanzo beans, the school lunch officials also went back to a more familiar list of vegetables. And they’re marketing the foods differently, changing the names of some offerings to entice kids to try them.

Some of their tactics seem to be working. And that’s the point.

The standards set up in the National School Lunch program are designed to be healthier for children. We cannot deny that childhood obesity is a problem in our society. Healthier eating habits, even small bites at a time, will help these young people live longer, happier lives.

It’s a goal that’s certainly worthy of effort by school districts. We applaud those school lunch officials who haven’t thrown up their hands and blamed the federal government or simply blamed the media for the problems with the reception and implementation of the healthier lunch guidelines.

They’re being imaginative. They’re communicating with parents, and they’re working out healthier eating solutions.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all federal government disagreements could end in compromises such as these?

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