Guest Column: Promoting Civic Participation by David Zokaites

Promoting Civic Participation
by David Zokaites, Sioux Falls Mayoral Candidate

We must replace widespread complacency with active participation in American government.  I want to encourage voting, promote honest public discussion, and provide citizens more voice in government.  I have plans for an economical system that does all this.  Democracy!

It’s frequently difficult for citizens to participate in our government.  This is due to multiple problems, all of which can be simply corrected.  The biggest impediments are insufficient publicity for local elections, candidate stances which are often mired in misleading political rhetoric, and politicians who are more concerned with funding campaigns than with public service.  Different jurisdictions (city, school board, state) often have separate election dates and polling places.  Additionally, special meetings (such as advisory board and “emergency” city council) give little notice.  All these problems make me wonder –- is citizen involvement tolerated instead of being encouraged?  Perhaps the goal is to create political theater that pretends to work for the people but all the while is surreptitiously reducing civic participation so that it’s easier to protect special interests.

To promote a healthy democracy, I encourage our city to distribute notice of elections and government meetings.  We should publish overviews of issues, stances, and meeting agendas.  I envision a system that allows people to enroll for notice of important civic events, the most critical of which are elections.  People could also subscribe for notice of  political meetings (county commission, city council, school board).  Participants could similarly subscribe to selected citizen board meetings (ethics commission, parks board, planning and zoning, …).

To encourage people to sign up for event notice, the city should annually mail a letter to every city address.  This letter would say please enroll in CIPS (Civic Involvement Promotion System).  Enrollment is free and voluntary.  There would be options to enroll online or with a prepaid postcard.  Election notice could be sent via email, text message, or postal mail.  Due to short lead time, some notices would only be available electronically.  For elections, the system would send notice on voting locations, vote by mail, candidates, and initiatives.  So that voters understand people running for office, candidates would provide introductions, mission statements, policy overviews, and questionnaire responses.  This information would be provided to voters along with other election details.

For debates and candidate questionnaires, it’s critical to select appropriate questions because whoever controls the questions guides the discourse.  The assessment of what’s important should be left to the candidates.  Each candidate could submit 10 questions then all candidates would answer the same 5 or 10 randomly selected questions.

For meetings, the new system would send notice of meeting time, place, and agenda.  This notice would be sent via email or text because special meetings and agendas often have short lead time.

In these troubled times when trust in government is at an historic low, when politicians hide behind divisive rhetoric, we need a way to reconnect citizens and their government.  This new system will certainly help.  Democracy!

Author’s note:  This article is based on my presentation to Sioux Falls City Council on February 2, 2021.  Video of my presentation is available online at starting at 1:47:05   The PowerPoint is posted at—02022021

Release: SDGOP Hires Executive Director for 2022 Election Cycle

From the SDGOP’s website:

South Dakota Republican Party hires Executive Director for 2022 election cycle

South Dakota Republican Party Chairman Dan Lederman announced today that Terin Lucero, former Political Director for the Republican Party of Virginia and Deputy Director for Data Analytics for the Youngkin for Governor campaign, has been hired as the SDGOP’s Executive Director for the 2022 election cycle.

Lederman noted “We are excited to bring someone on with Terin’s experience, and it shows the Republican Party’s level of commitment to maintaining and expanding our historic gains in the number of Republican elected officials in South Dakota.”

“In the past two cycles, the party has seen significant gains in voter registration and fundraising with only a limited amount of staff,” Lederman said, “but with redistricting and a number of new legislative districts, we are taking nothing for granted. The GOP is ready to hit the ground running in 2022.”

In addition to working in Virginia, Lucero also has experience working for the Republican National Committee as a field organizer for the party, and in data analysis where he explored avenues for party growth.

Currently, Republicans control 90% of the legislature with 32 of the Senate’s 35 seats, and 62 of 70 House seats. In addition, Republicans make up 100% of statewide offices where Democrats have not won a race since 2008.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Defending the Defenseless

Defending the Defenseless
By Sen. John Thune

Each year, I’m encouraged by the tens of thousands of Americans who travel to Washington, D.C., around the Roe v. Wade anniversary to participate in the annual March for Life, and I’m particularly proud of all the South Dakotans who, over the years, have made the trek to our nation’s capital to let their voices be heard.

The March for Life, of course, is just one small facet of the pro-life movement, which works every day in this country to offer help and hope to moms in need. But events like this are fundamentally important, because they provide a public witness to the truth about abortion. They remind all of us that in this country we are denying our most vulnerable citizens their most basic right – something that can be all too easy to minimize or ignore. Perhaps most importantly, these marchers, and other people in the movement like them, lead by example to underscore our responsibility to speak up and stand up for unborn babies in this country.

The CDC reports that almost 630,000 babies were killed by abortion in 2019 alone. That number is so big it’s almost unfathomable. Sadly, it could be an underestimate as state reporting to CDC on abortions is not required or consistent. To put 630,000 in perspective, that’s equivalent to roughly 70 percent of the population of South Dakota – killed in one year.

Abortion advocates would like to obscure the fact that unborn babies are human beings, but they face an uphill battle. Because every person knows, on some level, that when we’re talking about abortion, we are talking about killing a human being.

It is reprehensible that a country like ours, dedicated to the defense of human rights, has some of the most extreme abortion laws in the world. The United States is part of a handful of countries that allow elective abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy. Among those other countries are China and North Korea – not exactly the kind of company we want to be keeping when it comes to protecting human rights.

I will continue to work in Washington to protect the right to life of unborn human beings. As we anticipate the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I am working with my pro-life colleagues to advance legislation like the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It is unthinkable that the law allows unborn babies who are capable of feeling pain to be killed by abortion. I’ve co-sponsored this legislation in previous Congresses, and I will continue to be a fierce advocate for it until the day we can get it signed into law.

I am proud to stand beside all those who work so hard to secure the right to life of unborn Americans. I know that it is not always easy. But I am confident that in the end, right and justice will prevail. Because we have the truth on our side – the truth that every human being, born and unborn, old or young, of every race and religion and political persuasion, is created in the image and likeness of God and has infinite dignity and value.

I will be keeping all birth mothers and children in my prayers, and I hope you’ll join me.


Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: One Year…It’s Been a Bumpy Ride

One Year…It’s Been a Bumpy Ride
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
January 21, 2022

This week marked one year since President Biden took office. I wish I could say happy anniversary, but it isn’t that happy. Let’s be honest, it’s been a bumpy ride.

I’m not somebody who just complains. I also focus on solutions, so I’m going to identify four areas where I think this administration has failed and how we can do a better job as a country.

For one, during his first few days in office, President Biden reinstated catch and release policies and ended the Remain in Mexico policy put in place by President Trump. I support this policy because it significantly decreased illegal border crossings and essentially ended the crisis at the border. In 2021 alone, there were over 1.7 million illegal border crossings. While a federal court recently blocked the administration’s action on this policy, I am hoping we will see illegal crossings come down as soon as possible.

Secondly, inflation is higher than it has been at any point in the last 40 years – that’s a long time. Because we have a federal government that continues to spend. I’ll continue to vote against trillion-dollar package after trillion-dollar package. We’re thirty trillion dollars in debt. President Biden should focus on needs as a country rather than on wants.

Rising prices due to inflation have only increased more due to shortages from the supply chain delays. I’m sure many of you have run into issues trying to buy lumber, your favorite items from the grocery store, or furniture for your home. While supply chain disruptions have mostly been caused by COVID-19, the President’s administration has not enough steps to reduce the backlogs at American ports.

Foreign flagged ocean carriers have been discriminating against American manufacturing and agriculture products. When I saw how this was affecting businesses in South Dakota, I teamed up with U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) to introduce the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA). OSRA holds these folks accountable and prevents discrimination against American exports. Our bill passed the House in December 2021 and I’m hopeful it will pass the Senate.

Due to the shortage of truck drivers, I’ve also requested the administration re-up stalled pilot programs put in place by previous administration to expand the number of eligible truck drivers who can drive across state lines.

Speaking of worker shortages, there are currently 10 million job openings in America. The workforce participation rate is the percentage of adult Americans that are working – it’s gone down and has not returned to what it was prior to the earliest days of COVID-19 – in fact, it’s as low as it has been in any point since women entered the workforce in large numbers. We are still paying people a lot of money not to work. We need a social safety net in this country – I believe in it, but it needs to be one that encourages work. We have a help wanted sign around every corner in every country. Let’s get Americans back to work.

There are a lot of strong solutions out there to fix the problems our nation is facing – I’ll continue to stay focused on those solutions.

Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: In South Dakota, we protect life  

In South Dakota, we protect life
by Governor Kristi Noem
January 21, 2022

It is no mistake that when Thomas Jefferson declared all men are endowed with the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” LIFE came first. The Constitution clearly delegates defending the lives and safety of the people to the government as its chief role. That includes defending the rights and the lives of unborn children.

In South Dakota, we took great strides toward protecting those lives.  The total number of abortions declined more than 80% over the last decade. Credit goes to our legislators, who proved that abortion does not need to be a divisive issue. Last year, we earned unanimous, bipartisan support for my bill to guarantee protections for unborn children with Down syndrome.

But we cannot rest until we protect every unborn life.  The Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to make that a reality. As soon as the High Court overturns Roe v. Wade, our state laws already in place should protect every unborn South Dakota child. But until then, we can take steps to protect South Dakota children today. And we will do it from the very first heartbeat of every child.

Each human life carries a beautiful uniqueness from the moment that life is conceived. Before long, they have their own unique heartbeat, too. Science tells us that an unborn child’s heart starts beating as early as six weeks after conception. And any abortion after that point stops that heartbeat — stops that life — stops that gift from God.

That gift must be protected. I am bringing a bill this session to ban abortions after a heartbeat has been detected in the womb. This law, similar to the Texas Heartbeat Act, will save lives and ensure that South Dakota remains a staunchly pro-life state.

We must do more to uphold South Dakota’s culture of life, protect the unborn, and defend women against dangerous procedures. That includes stopping the movement toward telemedicine abortions which pose a serious threat to women in our state.

Chemical abortions happen when a woman ends an unborn life with a pill. These unsupervised procedures expose women to four times the risk of ending up in the emergency room.

We all know how important it is to see a doctor, especially when concerned about health risks. Under the Biden Administration, the federal government removes the safeguards that protect women in our country by easing requirements for telemedicine abortion and chemical abortion pill-by-mail. But as the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns, an “in-person visit is medically necessary and sound medical practice because it ensures that every woman receives a full evaluation for any contraindications to a medication abortion.” Telemedicine strips away those visits—those safeguards.

I will not stand by while the federal government jeopardizes women’s health. Last year, I signed an executive order banning telemedicine abortions in South Dakota. The legislature approved the rule for our Department of Health to take action immediately. I am bringing legislation to codify this rule permanently into state law. I am asking lawmakers to take action to protect South Dakota women from this dangerous procedure.

We respect life in South Dakota, and I look forward to the day when we protect all unborn lives.  Our laws must reflect our values and our commitment to protect the unalienable rights of all of our citizens.


Back from vacation – and I need a vacation.

Time to catch back up on things, as I’ve been away from my desk for most of the last week in Florida on a sort-of vacation, while my wife did a presentation on research she’d done at a conference.

(That’s me pictured in a display in front of the American experience part of Epcot).

I would definitely term it a sort-of vacation, as it’s not very relaxing when of the two children at home, one gets sent home from school with a rotten cold and COVID tests (he didn’t have it), and the other one was giving the caregiver a hard time all week long. Kind of hard to relax with that going on in the background.

We got back Friday night, and I’m exhausted enough that I need a vacation after my vacation.

Gov. Noem Announces Two Pro-Life Bills

Gov. Noem Announces Two Pro-Life Bills

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, as tens of thousands of pro-life Americans participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, Governor Kristi Noem announced the text of two pro-life bills to protect unborn lives. The first will ban abortions once a child’s heartbeat can be protected; the second will ban telemedicine abortions in South Dakota.

“Every human life is unique and beautiful from the moment it is conceived. Every life is worthy of our protection, worthy of the right to live,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “We hope that this year’s March for Life will be the last and that the Supreme Court will finally protect every unborn life. But until that comes to pass, these bills will ensure that both unborn children and their mothers are protected in South Dakota.”

Governor Noem previewed her heartbeat legislation last year when she directed her Unborn Child Advocate to review South Dakota laws and ensure that we have the strongest pro-life laws on the books in South Dakota.

Governor Noem blocked telemedicine abortions via executive order last year. This procedure happens when a woman is prescribed a pill to perform a chemical abortion over the phone or internet. Chemical abortions are a dangerous procedure that are four times more likely to cause the woman getting the abortion to end up in the emergency room.

Over the last decade, abortions have declined by approximately 80% in South Dakota. Last year, Governor Noem signed eight pro-life bills into law, including a ban on abortions based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome and a bill to protect children born alive, regardless of the circumstances of that child’s birth.

You can read the draft heartbeat legislation here. You can read the draft telemedicine abortion ban legislation here.



Sad news from Pierre today

If you hadn’t heard, long time telecommunications lobbyist Greg Dean passed away suddenly this week:

“Kind of hard to believe,” Schoenbeck says. “You can even see in the hall when I came in this morning. There’s a real damper. It’s sort of top of mind with everybody here. It’s a community here, amongst the legislature and Greg was a really fine member of it.”

Bill Van Camp is a fellow lobbyist and friend of Dean’s. He says Dean was a straightforward and honest guy.

“Easier to deal with, even when you were on the other side of the aisle from him,” Van Camp says. “Just a hell of a great guy. A great dad. A real pillar of the Pierre-Fort Pierre community and he will be sorely missed. Just a great guy.”

Read the entire story here.