Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
E-Mail: Enter 'Beacon' in subject box. Send to: Minnekota@Referencedesk.org
South Dakota taxpayers are going to get it, but good, where the sun doesn't shine. Like a heroine in a silent film melodrama, the State will be bound up and sacrificed on the railroad tracks.
Certain elements in South Dakota state government just cannot grasp the idea that any business done with taxpayers' money and in behalf of the people of the state should be done openly, honestly, and with full knowledge of the people. But we have a gag law which lets some state officials and corporations pay hanky panky in the closet. We hope they are getting off, because a lot of people are getting screwed.
Now comes the core line railroad that the people of South Dakota own. Burlington Northern Santa Fe wants to buy it. The railroad also wants the deal kept secret.
This was the old Milwaukee line set of tracks that were abandoned when the railroad failed. Bill Janklow raised the sales tax a penny to buy and fix up the tracks. Burlington Northern Santa Fe has had an operating agreement with the state for the tracks. Now it wants to buy them, and the state has agreed.
No one knows what the real deal is. But it has some legislators who are members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee justifiably exercised about the secrecy with which the deal is being conducted.
Sen. Jerry Appa, R-Lead, said: "The taxpayers bought it. Now we're selling it, and we're telling the taxpayers you can't know one damn thing about it. It's totally wrong."
Sen. John Koskan, R-Wood, said the state officials involved in the deal appear to be making commitments that the Legislature will have to fund. And we say that is a real serious derailment of all principles of democratic, honest government.
State Transportation Secretary Judy Payne and Deputy Attorney General Roxanne Giedd says Burlington Northern is requiring some details in the deal to be kept confidential. And we say since when do corporations dictate how an allegedly democratic government of the people does business? And we answer, in South Dakota it has always be so.
If there is one bi-partisan effort that should be the first order of business if democracy is ever to return to South Dakota, it is striking down all the gag laws on government business and stipulating that all business transacted in behalf of the public be done in the full open, where the sun shines.
We paraphrase Lt. Gen. Russell Honore: "Put down those goddamn gag laws and corporations. This isn't Iraq."