Friday, October 17, 2008

Do the District 32 Republicans even care what you think?

The Rapid City Journal recently sent a questionnaire to local candidates, and the answers were published in the Journal and online.

It's a nice one-stop shop to hear candidates ideas and values clearly laid out. Like those of Bethany Wojahn, Eric Abrahamson, and Sen. Tom Katus, for example.

Some excerpts of what the District 32 "Dream Team" said:

Tom Katus:
1. What’s the first piece of legislation you want to sponsor/author if elected to the 2009 Legislature?

I will continue to support public education at all levels. Together with Kathryn Johnson, our local member of the Board of Regents, I believe in the concept of “seamless education” from pre-school through post-secondary. ... I will continue to support public charter schools as a small school approach to our students who do not respond to the massive high schools at Stevens and Central. I will also continue to support the technical colleges’ self-governance and tribal college scholarships, despite the Regents’ and the Governor’s opposition to both.

Eric Abrahamson:
2. What is the single most important issue (if different than number one above) to the voters in your district?

Over the last six months I have knocked on more than 1,600 doors in District 32. Voters are concerned about the state of our economy, the lack of access to affordable health care and the price of energy and fuel. Over and over, however, the conversation returns to education. People understand that the investments we make in our children and in high quality schools pay off in higher wages and a stronger economy. We need to support our schools.

Bethany Wojahn:
5. What are the problems, if any, with education funding? What are your solutions?

The most significant barrier our state faces when it comes to funding education in South Dakota is our leadership in Pierre. Education simply is not a priority, in spite of the fact that some claim otherwise.... Now is the time when our leaders must take responsibility for fixing this funding crisis. By opposing and blocking legislation time and again that would provide our children with the funding they need, the incumbent leadership in Pierre is shirking that responsibility. The money is there. The political will is not.

But what about their opponents?

It sure seems that they don't think anyone is interested, given the amount of thought that went into their responses and their inability to take a stand on anything.

Stan Adelstein, didn't even submit an answer, amazingly, conceding the floor to quasi-Republican quasi-independent Elli Schwiesow, who gave us very few specifics, except this gem in response to what legislation she would propose:

There will be a learning curve, but I am confident I can represent District 32 well.

I'm not so confident, as the only issue I've heard anything concrete from Elli is her anti-choice convictions and stock conservative talking-points like the so-called "65 percent solution." If elected, you can bet moral direction from the State would be in that first bill.... No, thank you!

Why take a chance on her, when Tom Katus has been doing very well promoting good legislation, from both sides of the aisle in Pierre and has impressed everyone in with his expertise and ability to get things done. As I like to say, Bill Napoli likes him--is there a greater compliment for a non-Republican?

On the House side, it was a little shocking to see the lameness Republican responses from District 32...

First, Bryan Dreyer answered the five questions, with (I'm not making this up) with a grand total of 158 words. These were flip, not pithy, answers, for example:

3. How should the state respond to transportation department funding shortages caused by falling tax revenues?

We need to look at consolidating services and concentrate on repairing our infanstructure [sic]. We also need to look at taxing vehicles such as scooters which currently are not taxed equally to vehicles.

Scooters? Yep those scooters, a tax on them will make a dent in a projected $130 million shortfall. A stiff registration fee of $100 per scooter... let's see that's 1.3 million scooters in a state with a population of 800 thousand people. Good thing they are so darn popular around these parts. Did Dreyer think about this for longer than... 5 seconds?

In contract, Brian Gosch wrote long, wonkish answers that don't really let us know where his opinion lies. I dare you to figure out what Gosch thinks we should do from the following meandering discussion, except maybe we should just sit back and let the super-smart people make the decisions for us:

3. How should the state respond to the transportation department funding shortages caused by falling gas tax revenues?

State highway funds have declined in recent years. Future federal funding is uncertain. Costs are inflating. Thus, the state formed an interim committee called South Dakota Highway Needs and Financing. This committee met in June and September of this year. The last license fee increase was in 1999. Compared to other states, South Dakota’s fuel tax is about average. The current tax is not on a percentage basis, rather ....

yadda yadda

...It is vital our congressional delegation be effective in securing appropriate ongoing funds. Currently, South Dakota gets about $2 back for every $1 its citizens pay into the federal highway trust fund. The interim committee will meet again in November to formulate a recommendation.

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