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Hannah Hunsinger, Journal staff 

Boy Scout troops march in the Veterans Day parade in downtown Rapid City on Saturday.


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Pat Hall still selling, developing and promoting Rapid City after 50 years

Even after 50 years in the real estate business in Rapid City, Pat Hall’s enthusiasm for his profession and his hometown still shines.

“I’m actually more excited now than I was then,” Hall said of his long career.

“I think Rapid City is going to just keep growing,” he said.“It’s an outstanding town.”

Hall saw the potential way back in 1967, when, as with most 21-year-olds, he yearned for bigger and better things.

Hall, now 71, remembers working his way through college holding down three jobs — one with Black Hills Packing Co., another at Haggerty’s Department Store in the Baken Park Shopping Center and a third pumping gas at a Mobil service station, also in Baken Park.

He remembers taking note when local Realtor Ken Kirkeby drove up to the gas station, or came to Haggerty’s to shop.

“When he came to Haggerty’s to buy clothes, everybody in the store would try to catch him because they knew Ken Kirkeby was good for two suits,” Hall said.

Kirkeby, with a telephone in his car (a rare luxury in 1967) and a penchant for nice clothes, impressed Hall, and Hall apparently made an impression on Kirkeby as well.

The Realtor eventually asked him to consider selling real estate.

"Pat’s a heck of a salesman and real good at talking about the product. That’s where I bought my clothes,” Kirkeby said during an interview this week.

Hall, a graduate of Rapid City Cathedral High School, had transferred to National College of Business (now National American University) by then and decided to try a real estate course at the school.

At the urging of an instructor at NCB, Hall took and passed the real estate test, becoming what was thought to be one of the youngest certified real estate sellers in the state, even receiving a congratulatory letter from then-South Dakota Gov. Nils Boe.

After signing his Realtor’s license on Oct. 23, 1967, Hall took Kirkeby up on his offer and joined him and Larry Lewis in their firm.

Hall said his mentors were successful by being unafraid to challenge the norm.

Lewis, for instance, always believed in advertising real estate on Sundays, which ran contrary to industry rules at that time.

Hall said he was the designated fall guy, occasionally placing ads in Sunday papers, then being fined for doing so.

“I’d get more leads because of having those ads and those were worth more than the fines,” Hall said with a laugh.

Hall went on to develop the Carriage Hills subdivision in southwest Rapid City, buying the property in the early '70s with a $25,000 down payment.

More recently, his developments to the south led to the extension of Fifth Street to Catron Boulevard.

He also developed Kirkwood Townhomes and worked with Dream Design International developer Hani Shafai to build new high-rise student housing at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Hall and Shafai also teamed up on a proposal to locate Rapid City’s second Walmart near the intersection of Catron Boulevard and Minnesota Street.

They overcame five rejections of the site by Walmart planners before finally sealing a deal to build the store there.

“He’s one of the best ice-breaker people I’ve ever met. He knows how to start a conversation really well,” Shafai said.

Hall’s salesmanship led to a deal bringing Rapid City’s first professional sports franchise, the Rapid City Thrillers of the Continental Basketball Association, to town in 1987.

He took some heat from basketball fans when economics forced the Thrillers to move to Florida after a 10-year run in Rapid City, but that didn’t stop him and other investors from stepping up to help an arena football franchise, the Rapid City Flying Aces, to complete the 2006 National Indoor Football League season.

Hall paid forward the mentoring he received from Kirkeby, Lewis and others by helping a new crop of Realtors find their way in the profession.

Troy Ward remembers being tapped by Hall right out of college. They worked together at Coldwell Banker Real Estate for 14 years.

Hall can see potential in property development that others can’t foresee, Ward said.

A case in point, Ward said, was the Sandstone Ridge complex on Sheridan Lake Road, originally designed as apartments. Hall wanted to develop that housing not as rentals but as condominiums for sale.

“A lot of folks didn’t think that would work to convert that to condominiums. He had the vision for it and it did work. That was more than 20 years ago, and a lot of those folks still live there,” Ward said.

Steve Anderson, now of Assist-2-Sell in Rapid City, first met Hall when he was a ball boy for the Thrillers. After a successful basketball career at Rapid City Central and the University of South Dakota, Anderson was also recruited by Hall.

“He knew the work ethic of an athlete and thought I’d be a good Realtor,” Anderson said.

Anderson earned his Realtor’s license in 2005, then signed to play professional basketball in Europe. He returned and went to work for Hall the following year.

“At one point, I needed to go back east and do some work and make some money before I went to Europe. My mom had breast cancer,” Anderson recalled.

“He said 'No, stay with your mom. Here’s the money,'” Anderson said.

That generosity is also apparent in other corners of the community. Hall helped the downtown City of Presidents statue project by purchasing three of the 43 life-sized presidential sculptures.

He sponsored the bronze of James Monroe in memory of his father, and a statue of Abraham Lincoln in memory of his mother.

A statue of Lyndon Johnson was for three high school friends who died in the Vietnam war, he said.

At age 71, one would think Hall would be ready to kick back with fond remembrances of a long, rewarding career.

How long will he keep up his work schedule?

“I had someone ask me that, and I said I’ll probably keep selling dirt until they throw it in my face,” he said.

Until that day comes, don’t bet against Hall being at the forefront of building and shaping Rapid City’s future.

He gets excited talking about the current push to expand the core of downtown Rapid City east of Fifth Street to link with the School of Mines, which he calls one of the city’s most underappreciated assets.

“I think some of the things I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been involved and pushed the envelope,” he said.

“I’m betting on this community. I can just see it growing and doing well.”


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Reporter finds Lyft a quick, convenient and cheap option for Rapid City rides

Late last week, Journal reporter Samuel Blackstone set out on a casual, circuitous ride around town to compare a local taxicab business with the newly arrived ride-hailing service Lyft, which has begun operating in Rapid City.    

Getting a Lyft

Sitting on a bench outside the Safeway grocery store at 730 Mountain View Road on Thursday afternoon, I pulled up the Lyft app, set my pickup and destination location —the Rapid City Journal office — and hit the button requesting a ride. About 45 seconds later, a driver was en route, her location demarcated with a small car icon on a live feed map.

Lyft told me the name of the driver, make, model and color of the car and an estimated arrival time. My driver, Kimberly Siekman, would be at Safeway in 13 minutes, the app estimated. Nine minutes later, she was there.

I hopped into her clean, 2016 silver Chevy Equinox and we started for downtown Rapid City. I was only the ninth ride in Kimberly’s incipient foray into the ride-hailing industry, she said, though she’s used Uber in Chicago and Denver as a passenger.

So far, she’d found 3 p.m. until bar closing hours to be the best time for business, especially on weekends. Last Friday, she was as busy as she wanted to be when people were looking for rides to the Rapid City Rush hockey game at  Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

“It’s nice for people during events at the civic center and especially during the holidays,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of Christmas parties, a lot of consumption of alcoholic beverages.”

Siekman, who works part time as a stylist for Stella & Dot, hopes Lyft will help combat drunken driving in the area. Calling the experience “a blast,” Siekman added that the ratings for drivers and passengers was a great way to self-police the application.

“You know what you’re getting as a passenger, and the driver knows what they’re getting when they accept a passenger's ride,” she said. “The taxicabs are going to fall by the wayside if they don’t keep up with the times.”

The ride was quick, smooth and cost $6.69 before tip.

Taxicab confessions

Just a short while prior, I had called a local taxicab company for a quick ride from the Journal's office to the Safeway store. With just $1 in my wallet, I needed a car that could take credit cards. The dispatcher said that wasn’t a problem. A car would arrive in just a few minutes, he added. I left the office, walked across the street and waited.

Seventeen minutes later, a banged-up Pontiac minivan heading east on Main Street approached, jostled up just slightly onto the curb, and stopped. After three rounds of yanking on the door handle while the driver pushed unlock, back and forth and back again, I successfully pulled the door open and slouched into the front passenger seat.

I exchanged a few salutations with the driver, who explained that it was his first day on the job. Not too bad of a day so far, he said.

I glanced around the interior. You got a credit card machine in here? I asked.

Nope, he replied before laughing.

As he relayed the conundrum to dispatch, I reached for the seatbelt. It was stuck in the closed passenger door. I reopened the door to retrieve it then saw why: time hadn’t been kind to the beige, webbed polyester fabric, its once- taut body now slumped outside the car’s doorway like a lifeless snake.

The solution to the credit card complication was simple, the driver kind and conversational, the ride, quick, seamless and without another hitch. He had yet to see any Lyft drivers on the road and hadn’t heard any rumblings about a loss of business from his employer since Lyft's arrival in Rapid City, he said. I wrote my credit card information down on a notepad, thanked him for the ride and said goodbye.

The trip cost $7.25 before tip.


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City allowing Lyft drivers without regulating ordinance

Though a city ordinance regulating ride-hailing services has yet to become official, city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said the city is aware that drivers are currently operating in city limits.

“We are aware that there are drivers signing up to provide services,” Shoemaker said. “We’re not citing the drivers for any violations because we are in the process of changing the ordinance to allow the activity.”

Shoemaker said the city has not engaged in any dialogue with taxicab companies about Lyft’s arrival or the ordinance changes, which are being incorporated into an ordinance originally intended to regulate area taxicab companies.

That ordinance is schedule to be discussed Wednesday during the city Legal and Finance Committee meeting.

Nica Cruz has worked at Rapid Taxi for 10 years as a driver, dispatcher and manager. In a phone interview Thursday, Cruz said the question was never if but when a ride-hailing service would come to Rapid City.

She said the business hadn’t seen any effect yet but estimated that if it did, it would likely be on weekend nights when closing time descends upon area bars. Around then, Cruz said, demand far exceeds supply, leading to long wait times and risky behavior.

“I get people saying, ‘Well, I’m just going to drive, then,’” Cruz said of what people, often inebriated, say to her when, as a dispatcher working the night shift, she gives long wait time estimates to callers.

“Having that option (Lyft) is probably the best thing for everybody around. You can only do so many runs per hour.”

Cruz said Rapid Taxi typically has about 10 to 12 drivers per shift and the company runs on a seven-day schedule.


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HUBER: Changes to the Journal will help the paper move forward

It's the only thing in life that's constant, so it should come as no surprise that changes are taking place at the Rapid City Journal.

But we believe you will be pleased with all of the new content we are providing. We are pulling our resources together to produce an even better product that will provide comprehensive news coverage that is unrivaled in South Dakota.

Changes to the print edition

The biggest change you will notice is the addition of the "Our Northern Hills" page, which will publish daily in the Journal. While it wasn't an easy decision to close the Meade County Times-Tribune and Butte County Post, we feel this new page will help readers in those areas stay connected with their communities. The Northern Hills are filled with vibrant and growing communities that are important to the fabric of the Black Hills. As such, we will continue to tell the stories of those places and the people who live there. 

Readers will also notice several changes to our Sunday editions. 

First, the Journal brought back a familiar face to help get new content and a strong local voice on the Opinion page. Kevin Woster is coming back to the Journal to write a contemporary issues column every two weeks. You can read his first column today on page D5.

Woster is intimately familiar with the area, having spent decades working for South Dakota newspapers. His knowledge as a journalist is rivaled by few in our state.

Readers will also notice a News Analysis page that will help anchor our Sunday opinion section. Half of the new page will be dedicated to a week in review on the biggest stories in the country. The second half will feature an in-depth look at a couple of national topics. This will allow readers to "tune out" of cable news for a few days and not feel guilty about it. 

Another visible change to the print product will be a combining of the comics page with the fan-favorite LA Times Crossword in our daily paper. Because of this change, we had to cut a few comics from our daily rotation. If a comic was cut from the Monday through Saturday pages, it will still appear in our Sunday section. 

I know for some of you this will come as a shock. I, too, spent my childhood rifling through the Sunday paper to read the comics. These decisions weren't made lightly or quickly. We feel our new comics and puzzle page will still bring hours of enjoyment to our readers while helping us focus resources on producing local content.

In addition, the Journal will no longer publish the Life & Style section. The types of stories published in this section won't go untold, they will just appear in a different part of the paper, the A section. Candy DenOuden's #adulting column about millennial life will now appear in the Compass. 

We will continue to print our popular Milestones page, but it will move inside the West River Life section. The Sunday Travel page will also stay, but it will be published inside the Saturday features pages.

Online

As journalists, we are renewing our focus on bringing more relevant digital content quickly to our consumers.

Our website, rapidcityjournal.com, is the best place in the Black Hills to get local news. We will strive first and foremost to report the news accurately, while also delivering it in a timely manner. Readers will find our website as a place they can visit multiple times throughout the day and read new stories each time. We plan on increasing on digital presence without compromising our print product.

We hope readers will interact with reporters and editors on Twitter and Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @RCJHuber. 

We have also expanded the way we reach our consumers. Our podcast offerings allow you to listen to local news on your smartphone or desktop computer.

Seth Tupper's Mount Podmore is a South Dakota political podcast that wonks and political novices shouldn't miss. Tupper brings years of journalism knowledge to this 20-minute podcast, interviewing some of the biggest names in local, state and national politics. Listen Monday for an interview with Sen. Mike Rounds.

Rich Anderson and Geoff Preston's sports podcast will give important insight and analysis on everything from Rapid City Rush hockey to Post 22 baseball.

Culture

Lastly, there has been a shift in culture here at the Journal and some of you may have already noticed.

We have worked hard in the last few months to repair relationships with the community while continuing to bring people the news that matters most. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear about it. If you have a problem with our coverage, I personally want to hear why. Seriously. Call my office, at 394-8413. 

Most importantly, we will continue to bring quality, local journalism at a reasonable price that is unmatched in our region.

I grew up in the Black Hills and understand the impact that quality local journalism has on our communities. Follow along with us as we start this exciting new chapter in our history.


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District moves toward robust suicide approach

Three suicides among three male students between July and September caught school officials flatfooted.

“We were dealing with it reactively,” said Matt Seebaum, assistant superintendent for educational services at Rapid City Area Schools.

Was it more than a chance cluster? Suicide among youth can spark a contagion, a me-too effect, leading others to take their lives. School officials wanted especially to avoid inspiring a contagion.

The district had policies in place, Seebaum said, but the incidents from summer and fall revealed holes and inconsistencies.

“We did tighten things quickly,” he said. One existing policy required written reports on every interaction involving a concern for suicide. This was extended so top administrators became better aware of ongoing problems.

From the start of the school year through Nov. 9, Seebaum said, the district received 77 reports of suicide concern. Of those, 18 involved elementary school students, 14 involved middle school students, and 45 involved high school students. Follow-up showed the degree of risk to each student ranged widely. Responses to the most serious were scaled up to include law enforcement and mental health practitioners.

The numbers should concern everyone, but they won’t surprise people working with suicide. South Dakota has a high suicide rate, especially among youth, and the rates have risen over the last two decades. South Dakota lies in the western suicide belt — a string of sparsely populated states running north to south where there is near universal access to guns. Guns may not increase intent, but they are designed to kill.

Meanwhile, the suicide rate among South Dakota’s Native Americans is nearly double that of whites. About one fifth of Rapid City students are Native American, Seebaum noted, and there is a lot of crossover with the state’s reservations, with a lot of opportunity for contagion.

As bad as that is, the reality is probably worse. The statistics show only what agencies have been able to count, Seebaum noted. “We do not have a complete data set,” he said.

In September, amid the district’s concerns of a me-too contagion, RCAS reached out to national school suicide experts Scott Poland and Richard Lieberman. The pair addressed the recent contagion at Academy 20 schools near Colorado Springs, Colo., where suicides occurred within one year, including four within four weeks.

Their insights helped, Seebaum said, but RCAS officials quickly realized the district could do more to intervene and prevent suicide.

“We can’t predict the future, but we can anticipate,” he said. “What we have works for now, but what we can have can be so much better.”

While the focus is on a better plan for the district, RCAS hopes it can spark a collaborative community approach to better address suicide en whole. Such an effort would blur the lines between mental health, law enforcement, health care, and the public.

“We can close some loops,” Seebaum said. RCAS can bring nearly all of the players together for a discussion.

One example of that is the second community meeting on suicide that RCAS will host at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Western Dakota Tech Events Center. More meetings are planned throughout the school year as the district prepare for the launch of its more comprehensive suicide program in fall.

Among the insights Poland and Lieberman shared was an appreciation of suicide’s seasonal trends and danger points.

For students, the winter holiday season attends more suicides but so does spring, a time when students realize their school year was not as successful as they had hoped.

A deeper dive into the 77 suicide reports issued so far also points to concerns around fifth grade (nine reports) and ninth grade (22). Transitions between elementary, middle school and high school can be difficult for those who do not feel prepared.

The district’s new approach to suicide will involve more training about suicide, expanded awareness of warning signs, and a culture of reporting.

Poland and Lieberman tell them suicide reports will rise, but attempts and completions will decline. The key word is decline rather than prevent.

The district’s new approach will also define a better path for recovery once a student suicide occurs.