Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Following on the heels of our post, below, on South Dakota ranking last in open government, Bob Mercer has a story in this morning's paper about the secrecy in which the new state university campus in Sioux Falls has been contrived.
The Brown County Democrats Dollar-A-Month Club this noon rang with frustration and indignation. One of the legislators present said the state house and senate often posture as governing bodies in South Dakota, but in actuality the state is run by a select group of insiders who regard themselves as the lords of the manors who run the world according to their whims, conveniences, and advantages. The serfs may cast votes in sham elections, but they have no voice in state affairs.
Mercer's story pointed out that the plan for the Sioux Falls campus is "larger than South Dakota citizens were told and has never been officially approved or even publicly discussed by the Board of Regents."
The story states that the plan calls for three buildings to be built within the next six years. When Gov. Rounds and the Regents announced the plan Tuesday, they mentioned only two buildings to be built. They specified a classroom building and a Graduate Education and Applied Research Center. Officials confirmed to Mercer that a third classroom building is planned.
Mercer's story states: "The overall concept and financing plan for the new campus were developed in secret, primarily by [regents president Harvey] Jewett and fellow regent Terry Baloun of Sioux Falls in private meetings with various Sioux Falls business and education officials, outside the regents' normal process for construction projects."
The story reports that despite the fact that the plan has never been debated or formally voted on in open session or formally, millions of dollars in public funds and privates donations are committed to the project. The regents are tabbing $7.7 million in their construction fund and Gov. Rounds says he will ask the Legislature for $8 million. The research building would use $4 million in federal grant money obtained by the University of South Dakota and $2 million that the regents have already budgeted. Aberdeen's Great Plains Education Foundation, for which Jewett sits on the board, has pledged $5.8 for the project.
Discussions at today's Brown County Democrats pre-legislative review indicated that there is a great deal of opposition to the building of a seventh campus. West River people think the resources are going disproportionately to East River campuses. People close to NSU are also suspicious about the eventual implications of the plan and the movement of programs to the Sioux Falls campus.
The main point of discussion, however, was the subterfuge and circumvention of open democratic processes exercised by the regents, the Governor, and those who regard themselves as the feudal lords of South Dakota.
The prevalent attitude at today's meeting was cynicism and dejection at the absence of democratic process in state affairs. A young local office holder grumbled about the cost in lives and dollars to bring democracy to Iraq when South Dakota is under feudal rule.