GOOD: It was quite a week for high school basketball in western South Dakota. On Wednesday night, four-time defending state A champion and the top-ranked St. Thomas More girls’ basketball team was upset by number-two ranked and undefeated Belle Fourche 43-42 in Belle Fourche. On Friday night, the top-ranked Rapid City boys’ Central AA team was edged by second-ranked Rapid City Stevens 57-53. Overall, Black Hills’ prep basketball teams are having an outstanding season. In addition to the top-ranked teams that squared off last week, the Stevens girls’ team is ranked second in Class AA and the Sturgis and Douglas boys’ teams have records of 11-4 and 12-4 respectively. This is the best season in years for area schools. Let’s hope they ride the wave all the way to the state tournament.

BAD: It’s no secret that housing prices are rising in Rapid City, which is good news if you’re selling. If you’re looking to buy, however, it’s a different story, especially for first-time homebuyers. The Nationwide housing affordability index study published by the Health of Housing Markets report provides some perspective. After the fourth quarter of 2017, Rapid City ranked 400th out of 400 U.S. metro areas in housing affordability. Sioux Falls ranked 397th. Housing prices also are climbing along Interstate 29 in and around communities like Brookings and Watertown. The problem in this state isn’t so much the cost of housing, it is wages that are not keeping up with housing costs. If something isn’t done to help the state’s young families achieve the American dream of home ownership, we’re going to lose them to states with better-paying full-time jobs.

UGLY: The attack on the initiative-and-referendum process continues to be a top priority for state lawmakers. Today, they are scheduled to consider House Bill 1302, which prohibits people from getting paid for gathering signatures for ballot measures. This is one of many bills being considered to undermine direct democracy in South Dakota. Others ban out-of-state contributions for ballot measures, prohibit out-of-state residents from collecting signatures for ballot measures and increases from 51 to 55 percent the number of votes it takes to amend the state Constitution. In addition, House Speaker Mark Mickelson has talked about legislation to prohibit ballot measures that amend the state Constitution, unless, of course, the amendment originates in the Legislature. The majority of residents who voted in 2016 for Initiated Measure 22 thought they were sending lawmakers a message. Since then, lawmakers have overturned IM 22 and are doing all they can to silence voters while strengthening their own voice.

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