Noem talks shooting range, housing, campground development at BHSS town hall
Housing, a proposed shooting range, Custer State Park development, and education were some of the topics South Dakota governor Kristi Noem addressed at a town hall meeting during the Black Hills Stock Show on Saturday, Jan. 29 in Rapid City.
Noem and lieutenant governor Larry Rhoden addressed a crowd of about 150 people during the town hall.
Rhoden addressed the crowd, saying how chaotic Noem’s term has been, from record flooding when she took office, to COVID. In regard to COVID, Rhoden said of Noem, “It’s been quite a ride. Few people know how much pressure was brought to bear on the governor to fall in line with the rest of the United States, when the governors from across the country started closing down business. I’ll say this, as emphatically as I know how–she stood alone.”
Rhoden pointed out that Noem believes the government doesn’t have the right to tell people how to live their lives.
Not closing down the state has brought economic benefit, as South Dakota now has the strongest economy in the nation, according to Rhoden.
“I live in the freest state in a nation that was built on freedom,” Rhoden said.
Noem said she and Rhoden may be the first and only governor and lieutenant governor who both made their livings from agriculture. In fact, earlier that day, Noem sold a horse at the Black Hills Stock Show horse sale.
“We want to make sure we’re not just making South Dakota the best state to have an operation in to raise cattle, raise this country’s food, but also that we’re fighting back against federal regulations and tax policies that hurt our ranchers out on the lands,” Noem said. “When we grow our food in this country, it’s a national security issue. If we think a pandemic was scary, wait until we don’t have food, and another country controls that. That’s why we have farm programs. That’s why we make sure we have lots of farmers and ranchers out on the land that are diversified, so the American people control their own food supply, it’s safe and it’s affordable.”
Noem addressed the current state of South Dakota, pointing out the state has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country, some of the fewest regulations on small business, and less than 1,200 people in the entire state on unemployment–is among the lowest in the country–with 28,000 open jobs. She also said South Dakota is one of only two states that saw their drug overdose rate drop over the last two years, going down 16 percent.
Noem also introduced Kevin Robling, secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, who talked about the proposed shooting range near Rapid City. HB 1049, which would have provided funding for the project, was deferred to the 41st day by a vote of 8-5 in the agriculture committee on Jan. 25. One audience member, who introduced himself as James Bialota, from Rapid City, said he had submitted confidential business plans to the Office of Economic Development, proposing a similar shooting range as an expansion of the ammunition production companies he moved to South Dakota a few years ago. Noem said she was unaware of those plans and asked to speak with him after the meeting.
Noem also addressed the proposed new campground at Custer State Park. The expansion was originally going to be 140 camping spaces and be located within the elk range at the park. It has since been relocated to a hay meadow that has less wildlife impact, and will include 70 electric-only RV camping spaces. One campground owner in the audience mentioned her concern that it would compete with private campgrounds in the area, but Noem said the state camping spaces would be a lower price-point than most, so would be more accessible to lower-income visitors, and that it wouldn’t be expanding the number of camping spaces, but replacing camping spaces that have been lost to flooding or other factors.
Noem also said she was providing additional federal funding dollars to the grant program that matches community and development dollars for lot development for housing expansion.
A high school teacher asked how Noem would address the teacher shortage situation, and Noem said she had proposed a 6 percent pay increase–the highest ever, and twice what is required under state statute–for teachers.
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