The Artist in the South Dakota Penitentiary

Frederick Henry Morse was an artist who made a career in the late 1800s painting portraits of politicians and local notables in several Midwestern states and cities. Long after putting away his brushes, he found himself in serious legal trouble in South Dakota. Which...

Better County Government

South Dakota counties are structured and operate in accordance with state law. But it’s a one size fits all model that doesn’t fit our county well. With roughly a quarter of the state’s population, Minnehaha County would be better served by a more flexible approach....

Sioux Falls is Not a Factory Town

The recently exposed plan to bring one or more additional slaughterhouses to Sioux Falls disappointed many in the community. Apparently, our hopes and aspirations for our city are very different than the elected officials and development officers who encouraged this...

Too Many Governments in South Dakota

We like to think our state is a great example of small, conservative government at its best, with minimal wasteful spending. But I suspect we may be fooling ourselves. By historical accident, we now have too many governments in South Dakota. And they aren’t laid out...

Thoughtful Growth for Sioux Falls

Governor Noem likes to say that we are “open for business” in South Dakota. I generally like and agree with that sentiment. But recent history suggests we might also want limits. Two Big Surprises Not long ago two surprising bits of news hit Sioux Falls. A group...

Fictional Democracy in South Dakota

As a lifelong Republican and casual observer of South Dakota politics, I have had a nagging feeling for several years that something just wasn’t working right. Then I heard reports from this year’s Republican convention and it started to sink in. Our 20th century...

Effective City Government Arrives in Sioux Falls

“You can’t fight City Hall.” It’s one of those sayings that sum up recognized truths. It generally suggests that you can’t win when challenging a bureaucratic system like the government. But in the early 1990s a bunch of us in Sioux Falls did just that. We convinced...

The Western Surety Kirbys

Over a period of many decades and four generations of one family’s leadership, a South Dakota business quietly dominated its industry. The company was Western Surety Company. The family was the Kirbys. And the industry was the small, miscellaneous fidelity and surety...

One of the Strangest Episodes in Supreme Court History

It began with a call from a friend working at the downtown Sioux Falls public library. She had received an information request from someone on the east coast about a long-dead local attorney, my great grandfather, Joe Kirby. She wondered if I would be interested in...