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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Jan. 22, 2015
Snuff proposed ban on smoking in city parks
After a nudge from a former member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the city is considering a smoking ban for its 1,650-acre park system.
Advisory Board member Chuck Tinant got the ball rolling after he recently was asked by Jeff Schild if the city was pursuing the smoking ban. A young daughter of Schild, who now lives in Bismarck, North Dakota, was apparently exposed to secondhand smoke last year in a park while he was the advisory board president.
Tinant told the Rapid City Journal that he too supports the smoking ban, pointing out this is a public health issue and that young children in particular deserve a smoke-free environment while enjoying city parks.
The proposal comes at a time when smoking bans in city parks are spreading like wildfire across the nation. According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, more than 1,000 communities have instituted bans or designated smoke-free parks, and a Google search shows many other municipalities are considering similar actions at this time.
Three questions, however, come to mind almost immediately when the proposed smoking ban is discussed.
First, is it even enforceable and, if not, why bother? Secondly, is this a problem in an expansive park system where it is not difficult to find a quiet spot? Third, would this put Rapid City on the slippery slope of becoming a nanny state of sorts?
Advisory Board member Karen Gundersen Olson addressed the enforcement issue when she said, "We don't want our police walking around the parks giving out tickets for smoking."
Olson makes a good point. The city's parks already have a leash law for dogs that seems to be rarely enforced at best. So why add another ordinance that could only be selectively enforced?
It also is unclear if smokers are creating problems at parks. The only complaint that has been publicized to date was initiated by someone who no longer lives in Rapid City.
Cigarette smoking is not to be condoned as those who chose to indulge in this habit are exposing themselves to serious health risks. It is not, however, a city's job to craft ordinances that make statements or fulfill someone's personal agenda.
New ordinances should only be approved after it is demonstrated that a need exists for them. Absent that, the laws become nothing more than government looking down its nose and telling people how to live their lives, which is a direct contradiction to how we represent ourselves in western South Dakota.
If those who support this measure can point to reasons beyond possibly exposing a child to secondhand smoke, then and only then does this measure merit serious consideration of local elected officials.
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Jan. 19, 2015
Pipelines necessary in oil-addicted world
Here is a tale of two proposed pipelines that could run through South Dakota.
The diameter of Pipeline 1 is 36 inches. Pipeline 2 is 30 inches.
The proposed length of Pipeline 1 will be 1,179 miles. Pipeline 2 is 1,134 miles.
Pipeline 1 will carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day. Pipeline 2? Up to 570,000 barrels.
The first pipeline would cut through western South Dakota en route to Nebraska. The second through eastern South Dakota, including the Sioux Falls area, to a final destination of Illinois.
One of those pipelines has created a national political controversy. The other? Had you even heard of it?
Keystone XL, the first pipeline in our examples, has caused picketing and political posturing. The second, the Dakota Access Pipeline, was first announced last summer. Unless the pipeline was proposed to cross your land, most people have been undeterred.
That doesn't mean we should accept the pipeline without asking questions or learning as much as we possibly can.
All residents in the area should be asking: What are the risks? Who will be monitoring and regulating the pipeline for leaks and other issues? What are the emergency shutoff procedures? Who will pay for any problems that arise from a leak?
But it's no surprise that when politics enter the picture, talking points get thrown about, facts get forgotten and the issue becomes one big argument.
Here are a few key points.
— Pipelines are much safer than oil transportation by rail and more practical than truck. A train crash in Quebec in 2013 killed 47 people and spilled 1.5 million gallons of oil. There was a close call in North Dakota when several rail cars caught fire. If that incident had happened in a populated area, property damage would have been significant and lives could have been lost. As far as truck transportation, Forbes estimated it would take a million-and-a-half tanker trucks to transport the Keystone equivalent oil.
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