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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 28, 2015
Domes look nice, but lost luster on street
It's unfortunate the new Corn Palace domes sat on Sixth Avenue in Mitchell for months before they were actually installed Monday.
Nestled between the Corn Palace's south walls and the Scoreboard Pub & Grille, the domes waited patiently for their day in the sun. It was about four months after the believed-to-be completion date of the renovation that the domes finally were lifted off the street and onto the Palace.
Spectators and city officials watched as the new-look Corn Palace started to take form.
And, honestly, we felt the old domes were out of date. The Palace needed a new look. Did it need a multi-million dollar renovation? We'll find out.
Hopefully these new domes, turrets and updated Palace features attract more tourists to Mitchell. Our city has been undergoing a major self-promotion effort in the past year through endorsing its Top7 intelligent communities designation, creating a new logo and getting the word out about the great things we have going on here.
And that's great. But hopefully the majority of the tourists feel Mitchell made a good decision with its new domes and updated Palace.
As far as the domes, we've heard positive and negative comments. And now that they've been installed on the Palace's roof, we're actually listening to the reviews. While the domes rested on Sixth Avenue, we didn't feel the judgments were worthy. It was like trying to determine the sparkle of a Christmas tree without the star. It was unfinished.
We've heard some people think the new domes are hideous, while some really like the new look. Surely there are always going to be people who complain about a major decision such as this one.
What's our opinion?
Well, the domes certainly lost some of their luster while sitting on Sixth Avenue. We drove by them day after day and wished they were in their rightful place, on the Palace's roof. We realize it probably was tough to keep them hidden because they needed to be assembled, but seeing the domes gave away the surprise.
But we appreciate city officials ensuring their durability. Tuesday morning's early storm, which included 48 mph winds, gave at least an early inclination that these domes will withstand South Dakota's rough weather.
Overall, we're happy with the new domes, especially since they're finally on top of the Corn Palace. It will be interesting how the LED lights, which are going to be installed at a later date, will improve the domes even more.
Hundreds of thousands of people are going to see these domes for years to come, so we hope they're well-received. They're going to help define our city. Like it or not, the Corn Palace is Mitchell's identity.
Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 30, 2015
Report shows need for prescribed burn bill
A report released Tuesday confirms what many thought about the April 13 prescribed burn that went awry at Wind Cave National Park, torching 6,240 acres before scores of firefighters could extinguish it.
The 62-page report prepared by a federal interagency team of fire-management specialists says the National Park Service team underestimated how dangerously dry conditions were at the time and did not provide adequate fire protection in the event it spread beyond the planned 1,000 acres, which it began to do about three-and-half hours after ignition.
The report, however, did shed light on a near tragedy when a UTV that a National Park Service employee and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service worker were riding in rolled and then was consumed by the fire. The two managed to escape injury, but it was a close call.
The biggest red flag in the report was the revelations of a "let's burn" mindset among the fire crew and that one fire management officer had a "gung-ho" attitude about how about much fuel would be burned that day.
While we appreciate enthusiasm from our federal workers, this provides valuable insight into why the fire team pulled the trigger despite the high fire danger signs and warnings that were commonplace during a hot and dry spring already punctuated by a number of fires.
The report goes on to describe "the perfect storm" that led to the fire burning out of control. In this case, the perfect storm was an increase in wind speed — hardly a rare occurrence in the Black Hills — that blew an ember into a dry patch beyond the border of the prescribed burn.
We applaud the investigators for how quickly the report was prepared and for providing additional insight into how the fire team made a decision that in the end required state and local firefighters to quickly mobilize and help fight a fire that covered the entire area in a smoky haze for days.
Despite these findings in the report — prepared by experts from U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service — Wind Cave National Park spokesman Tom Farrell points out that no park officials or fire-team members were found negligent and that no disciplinary action will be taken against anyone involved in the burn.
He also said that Wind Cave officials learned valuable lessons after reviewing the final report that will be used when future prescribed burns are planned.
While we are pleased that they say they have learned from this mistake, it's going to take more than a little assurance to convince us that better planning and decision-making will occur before the next prescribed burn is given the green light.
As a result, we support Sen. John Thune's "The Prescribed Burn Approval Act," which would require the National Park Service to at least collaborate with local and state officials when determining the appropriate time to start a burn.
In addition to helping local firefighters prepare for the prescribed burn, this legislation would make federal agencies more accountable to the public and perhaps act as a check if a "let's burn" mentality clouds good judgment again.
Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, July 27, 2015
So, just when is the right time?
Unfortunately, it's the same-old, same-old when it comes to gun violence in America. Another day, another dark chapter in the ongoing narrative and another excuse not to talk about it.
This time, the latest entry in this tale comes from Louisiana, where last Thursday, a man got up in a movie theater, pulled out a gun and methodically began firing at the crowd. Two people were killed and nine others were injured before the gunman, identified by police as John Russel Houser, took his own life.
You know the story, because we've been down this road too often, and we have buried too many in the process. The numbers vary and the dates change, but the theme goes on and on.
What followed in its wake was politically predictable: When asked about gun control policies and how a man who, it is reported, had mental issues somehow was able to acquire a gun, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared that this wasn't the time to talk about such issues. Families are grieving, he said, thus this wasn't the proper moment to engage in such a discussion.
"There will be an absolute appropriate time for us to talk about policies and politics," he said, "and I'm sure that folks will want to score political points of this tragedy, as they've tried to do on previous tragedies."
This comes from a governor who is currently running for president and will no doubt herald his staunch Second Amendment support as a selling point.
We've heard this too many times after too many similar tragedies. It was a persistent mantra in the wake of the Newtown massacre in Connecticut almost three years ago, because, amid all those dead children, the last thing pro-gun lawmakers wanted to talk about was gun control.
And so Jindal echoed a familiar response, shoving the issue off until the issue fades from the public radar while other headlines lure our attentions — until the next shooting.
So, when do we take talk about this?
When is the appropriate time to talk about the next people to die? And there will be more victims, without question.
What these politicians are really saying, it seems, is that there is never a time to talk about it, as far as they are concerned. Meanwhile, people keep dying. According to the FBI, "active shooter" events — defined as an incident in which "an individual (is) actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area" have jumped from 6.4 incidents per year between 2000-2007 to 16.4 incidents a year since.
It's also no secret that gun control issues in general are not widely popular in the U.S. That's understandable, given how the issue is portrayed in such absolute, freedom-or-tyranny terms. But given the issues standing in the polls, why not talk about it? Why not discuss it?
After all, there is a problem, as the FBI stats indicate. And the deaths pile up.
So, when do we decide to deal with this?
When do we decide to find some solutions?
Why do we wait for politicians, determined to wait in silence for the controversy to fade away?
What can be done?
By pushing off the debate and announcing that "now is not the time" for such discussions, we've come up with the answer to every one of those questions.