Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 2013 SDADA Column

One of a trade association’s (i.e South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association or National Automobile Dealers Association) main functions is as a representative body. A trade association advances the collective view and position of its members to government departments, agencies, regulators and legislators. It also communicates the collective view and position to the media and other opinion-makers.

It is in this capacity that the SDADA will work to work to repeal South Dakota's Damage Disclosure law in the upcoming legislative session. I know each of you recognize the many deficiencies of this law so I will not discuss that in this space.

But I will offer this experience. I opened a body shop at my Ford store in February of 2013. It has been truly amazing how many consumers have asked us to work with them to keep the damage under the $5,000 threshold for a damage disclosure. This law does not work for consumers, dealers, body shops or insurance companies. No one is well served by the law. IT IS A BAD LAW!

In order to repeal the law, however, it will take a concerted effort by our entire organization - I mean dealers and their staffs, our association staff and our vendor/partners. It is a battle worthy of fighting but we must work together to be successful. We will need support from ALL SDADA members. That means coming to our annual legislative reception, being willing to testify, making phone calls to legislators among other efforts.

We don't yet know what we will have for opposition but I know we can win this issue regardless of opposition because it is an outdated law, our organization commands great respect among legislators and we have the political capital necessary to win. But it will take a broad, grassroots effort.

I am committed to do what I can to repeal this law. I urge you to consider how you might help with this effort!

Bill to Reduce Paperwork at Auto Dealerships Advances in House

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved by voice vote a bipartisan bill, H.R. 724, which would eliminate some red tape required by the Environmental Protection Agency when buying a new car or truck. The bill would repeal a 1977 mandate, which requires dealers to certify that a vehicle complies with the Clean Air Act. (This form is required to be presented by the dealer to the purchaser of a new vehicle even though all vehicles must comply with the Clean Air Act before being sold in the United States. Additionally, a Clean Air Act certification sticker can be found under the hood of most vehicles, or in the owner's manual, making an additional certification by the dealer redundant.) The legislation now goes to the floor of the House for consideration.

NADA Convention Mobile App for 2014 Now Available

The mobile app for the 2014 NADA Convention & Expo is now available for download for smart phones and tablets. The free app, which syncs with myNADAplanner, allows attendees to maximize their convention experience by providing: up-to-the-minute updates on workshop sessions and events; workshop handouts and presentations that can be downloaded; a customized schedule builder; walking maps to navigate the convention center and expo floor with exhibitor descriptions and booth locations; and tools to stay organized.

The app is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android devices. To download, visit the App Store or Google Play Store and search for NADA2014.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 2013 SDADA Column

"Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom"- Merry Browne

I think that quote best describes the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's desire to eradicate the indirect lending model auto lenders use with automobile dealers. They do not care about how this change would affect consumers. The bureau simply wants a flat-fee model.

In March, the CFPB issued a bulletin that holds lenders responsible for unintentional discrimination at the partnering dealership — known as disparate impact. They offered no methodology for how they came to the determination that this was an industry-wide problem.

Interestingly, because an application for an auto loan is not legally allowed to contain information about a borrower's gender or race, regulators must use "proxies" to assume the customer's profile based on trends in surnames and census information. So how do you even determine that discrimination has taken place? It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy!

NADA continues to fight this fight on behalf of dealers and now the American Financial Services Association (AFSA), a trade association that includes many auto lenders, is launching an independent study into the effects of the indirect lending model on consumers and the auto industry. Their study will include an analysis of the costs and benefits of the status quo vs. changes, such as flat fees, advocated by the bureau.

I think most dealers would welcome a fair, balanced study of whether there is inequity in the system. I don't know any dealers who advocate discrimination based on race, religion, sex or any other type of profiling.
The study also needs to look at whether costs to the consumer may, as many have suggested, be raised elsewhere in the business model. NADA has cautioned that the Bureau’s efforts will harm consumers by reducing the competitive benefits of dealer-assisted financing.

Consumers, lenders, dealers and regulators would all be best served by getting ALL the information before making decisions!

How's Your 401K?
I was elected to the NADART board two years ago. Last week I attended a NADART board meeting. There are a lot of great things happening with NADART.

NADART gives auto dealers access to retirement services not available to other businesses. By combining the buying power of thousands of auto dealers across the nation, NADART gives NADA members access to superior fiduciary and leading administrative support, regardless of the size of their business. This “strength-in-numbers” approach is a powerful example of the difference between NADART and other 401(k) providers.

If you are using your local broker because he buys a vehicle from you every 5 years or you are using a large brokerage house that does not afford you the personal care and tailoring of your plan that you need and deserve, you owe it to yourself — and your employees — to discover how NADART can make a difference for you. Go to https://www.nadart.org/WhyWeAreDifferent.aspx for more information.

NADA Convention: 33 Hotels Sold Out; Limited Number of Rooms Available in New Orleans
I hope you are planning to attend the 2014 NADA Convention & Expo in New Orleans. If so, you should register as soon as possible and book one of the few remaining hotel rooms. Thirty-three out of 36 hotels in the NADA convention block are sold out. Only three hotels have rooms available, which are Embassy Suites, Hyatt Regency and Omni Royal Crescent. There are numerous conferences and events scheduled in New Orleans over the same dates as the NADA convention and so hotel rooms are filling up quickly and there’s limited space. The NADA convention runs Jan. 24-27. Dealers and their managers who register by Jan. 16 will receive at $75 discount from the on-site rate. For more information or to register, visit www.nadaconvention.org.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

SDHSAA Fleeces Fans for Foundation Funds

Bob Mercer has written a story about the South Dakota Activities Association's new ticket pricing policy which steals a dollar per ticket from member school and places it under the "care" of the SDHSAA Foundation.

The net result of the new ticket pricing policy is a 40% increase in ticket prices for all sub-state tournaments. Despite this increase in prices, it is not uncommon for schools to lose money hosting these sub-state events. The SDHSAA gets their take from the gross proceeds while members schools are left to pay expenses out of what is left. In some cases, that is not enough to cover the overhead and so schools end up dipping into their own funds to make up the shortfall.

From Mercer's article:
School officials aren’t happy with the $2 increase, according to Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission. “So that message is being heard,” Lucas said. 
The groundswell against the $2 increase prompted a response from Carney earlier this month.
He sent a letter to school districts statewide on Nov. 8. He promised that money from the foundation will eventually flow back to schools.
The Aug. 29 vote called for a foundation committee to be established. Until those people are appointed, the association board will oversee the foundation.
The foundation committee is supposed to make recommendations to the association board and the board will make recommendations to the SDHSAA member schools for the April annual meeting, according to Carney.
Carney said in his letter that he’s working with Stephanie Judson, president of the South Dakota Community Foundation. Carney and SDCF’s then-president Bob Sutton signed the agreement in 2007 creating the activities foundation.
Records from the board’s meetings in 2012 and 2013 show Carney and his staff presented options for raising money for the foundation on several occasions.
The meeting minutes however don’t show any discussions or explanations about why the foundation needed the money or why the foundation should be used rather than the association’s treasury.
If the money from the foundation will eventually flow back to schools anyway, why does Mr. Carney feel the need to take it from the schools in the first place?

Does Mr. Carney believe the SDHSAA knows how to distribute that money better than the member schools do?

So none of the foundation funds will be used for SDHSAA “pet projects”?

Do you think fans would rather give the dollar to the SDHSAA or to their own member school?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Quest for the Wapiti

After more than fifteen years of applying for a South Dakota elk tag, on May 29, 2013, I received an email from the SD Department of Game, Fish & Parks notifying me that I had drawn a Black Hills elk tag. Wow! I was excited! I had started applying in the early 1990's and at some point, I got busy chasing kids and missed applying for a couple years and lost all my preference points. I started again in the early 2000's and had 8 or 9 preference points when I drew this tag.

I was fortunate to draw in the unit in which we had recently bought a cabin so that made it very convenient (and much cheaper). I immediately reserved the cabin for the last week of September and the entire month of October.

The Preparation

Next I busted out the resources. I read two books immediately and once September rolled around, I scoured the internet for tips and tactics.

The plan was to head out to the cabin after my daughter, Sarah's, volleyball tournament in Miller on 9/28. That would give me two full days to scout and then the season opened on Tuesday, October 1. I made a list and started packing. My list was extensive and grew with every article I read.

Then about a week before I was due to go, Sarah got news that she was in the homecoming court. That meant I had to be in Chamberlain for coronation on Monday, September 30 - the night before the season started. That would not be real convenient - a 4-hour drive after coronation to the Hills. But it's what had to be done.

The Scouting
Sunday, September 30, 2013

Two days before the season opened a friend, Scott, and his dad took me out to scout for elk. They are avid elk hunters who often scout for elk even when they don't have tags. They had several favorite places to share with me.

We started at the end of Limestone Road area. We went for a short walk where he showed me a great vantage point from which you could see a huge draw and meadow. He bugled a couple times to see if we could get a response, but no luck.

From there, we went to another area a bit further south toward the Dry Lake area. Here there were several ridges that divided and overlooked these long, wide meadows.

After that we went to the Dead Ox area where they showed me where they had killed an elk. They gave me several ideas how to work that area as well. Then we went to the Little Spearfish area. We discussed several different strategies for how to hunt this area as well. There were hunters who had moved their campers in and were setting up camp in different parts of the little Spearfish area.

Finally, we went to the Rifle Pit Road area in the far southwest corner of the unit. I was somewhat familiar with this area. This is where I had done my limited scouting on a couple of earlier trips to the cabin.

All morning, they had stories of their elk hunts and different places they've seen elk. It was fun to listen to them. It was so obvious that they had a passion for elk hunting.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The alarm went off at 5 AM.  I got dressed, grabbed my stuff and took off in the middle of the night. I got there little before 6 AM. After throwing on my coat and grabbing my binoculars, I set off for an area that I thought would be a good place to watch early in the morning.

I got about 20 steps from the truck, and I heard elk bugling. That got the adrenaline going. I was no longer sleepy! I followed my ears. I was somewhat familiar with the area from which the bugling was coming. I had walked that area evening before.

The sky behind me was starting to get light. I walked about a quarter-mile into a huge open meadow between two wooded plateaus. It sounded like I was close the bugling. Sure enough, when I looked through my binoculars, I saw a group of about a dozen elk in front of me about 200-250 yards.  I made my way to a tree stump where I could sit and watch them through the binoculars.

I watched them for 15-20 minutes as they slowly made their way toward me. Eventually they got to 150-160 yards.

I took some pictures and decided to try to shoot some video. That was a mistake. When I turned the video on, the flash came on. I did not realize the light was on, but I knew I had been busted when all of the cows and calves were looking at me. A dozen pairs of eyes were focused right on me!

Meanwhile the herd bull was preoccupied with a satellite bull. The herd bull was a 6x5. He was awesome. The satellite bull, a rag horn, was quite aggressive.

Finally, the cows and calves scampered into the woods behind them. The herd bull followed the cows into the woods and the satellite bull scampered to the edge of the woods

I let them settle down a bit and then decided to approach them directly into the wind. I had to move to the right (north) approximately 100 yards. The herd bull continue to bugle alerting me to their location.

I followed them from about 300 yards behind for a quarter mile. Eventually I wound up on top of one of the plateaus with some shorter trees and good visibility. I was able to listen to the satellite bull, the herd bull and a third bull bugle  back and forth at each other for 15-20 minutes

I took pictures, shot video (more carefully this time!) and recorded the sound of the bulls bugling back and forth. It was a majestic sight and sound - Mother Nature at her finest.

I watched this huge lone 6x6 bull walk into the same area as the herd. They were behind trees so I did not see the interaction between these two majestic bulls. I heard tree scraping and foot stomping. Eventually the lone bull walked back, crossing in front of me. (See video below - turn the volume up!)

I followed the herd for another 45-60 minutes. It was interesting just watching the interaction among the herd. I did not want to get busted again and perhaps scare them out of the area so I would not be able to see them again tomorrow.

Finally I made my way back to the vehicle and headed back to the cabin. I grabbed some lunch, organized my hunting supplies, and left for Chamberlain. Coronation was scheduled for 8 PM.

I left the cabin at 12:30 PM and arrived back at the cabin at 11:40 PM. I changed into my hunting clothes, packed my lunch, packed my supplies and took off for the hunting site. I arrived at my chosen hunting site at approximately 1 AM.

The Hunt

Day 1 - Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I parked my Tahoe and trailer alongside the road and reclined the driver seat and tried to sleep. Needless to say. that didn't work as well as I'd have liked. About the time I got to sleep, I got cold and woke up.

Finally about 4:30 AM, I bagged the idea of sleep and got ready to hunt. After I got ready, I sat in the Tahoe and listened for elk bugling. I didn't hear any so I decided to set off to the area where I had seen the herd and the bulls the day before. It was ominously quiet as I walked the mile to that area.

Once there, I decided to just walk into the wind. Shortly thereafter I came across a cow about 60 yards straight ahead. She was looking directly at me. I froze and waited her out. Finally she went ahead of me into the wind and down the trail.

I decided to follow her. Soon after that, I heard a grunt and then a partial bugle. I slowly approached the area where I had heard the bugling.

There I saw a nice bull. It appeared to be that herd and the bull that I had seen the day before in this very same area. I saw 8 to 10 cows with the bull. Over the next 10 minutes, I slowly approached the group. At times I had to stop and freeze as I had cows looking my way.

Finally the bull sensed something was up and started to move from my left to right about 115 yards out. I prepared to shoot as he would come out of a group of aspen trees to the right. Once he came out, he hesitated just long enough for me to pull the trigger.

He hunched his back and lowered his head in cowering. I knew that I had hit him. He froze. Meanwhile the cows took off away from him. I chambered another shell preparing to take a second shot. But he was facing directly away from me. I watched and waited for him to topple. But he didn't he took several steps away from me and behind a tree.

I decided not to disclose my position to him and instead moved to my left for better vantage point. He took a couple slow steps to the right behind a tree so that I could not see him. At this point I decided to move in to get a better view. I never saw him again.

I went down to the trees where he was standing when I hit him and surveyed the area. There was nothing to be found. No blood, no hair and no sign of any type. I looked everywhere. I literally spent the next two hours looking everywhere I could. I got down on my hands and knees to look for blood. I could not find any.

After searching for two hours, I decided to walk back to the truck to get something to eat. I spent about a half hour there, then returned to search some more. No luck. I was frustrated, I was angry, I was tired and I was sad. It was a beautiful bull and the thought it going somewhere, lying down and dying made me sick.

About 2 PM, I've had enough. I decided to head back to the cabin. I had walked over 8 miles and was working on less than three hours sleep. Tomorrow would be a new day.

Day 2 - Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My scouting friend, Scott, called me on Tuesday night and asked if he could hunt with me on Wednesday. I was happy to have him join me and so we set a meeting time at the "Big Draws" hunting spot.

After a short night on Monday (with my sleeping in the Tahoe at my hunting spot), Tuesday night was an early night for me. I hit the sack about 8:30 PM. I was ready to go at 4:15 when the alarm went off.

The hunt started with a bang as shortly after getting out of our trucks we heard bugling up the draw. Though we were about an hour before legal shooting hour, we decided to go ahead and start walking up the draw

After walking very slowly for about half an hour, we were starting to get very close (within 150 yards) to the bull that was bugling. We decided to sit and wait for the sun so that we could see the elk.

As we sat waiting, I thought I heard some sticks breaking in the hills next to us. Suddenly it sounded like a stampede of Buffalo coming down the hill. They came down the hill about 200 yards from us, then stopped in our draw about 150 yards from us.

It was just starting to get light enough so we could make out the silhouette of the elk we had followed earlier on one side of us and the herd that can down the hill 150 yards on the other side of us. It was pretty exciting to have so many elk around

Looking back to the east at the elk that came down the hill, we could tell that the bull in that group was very nice. So as they made their way out of the draw and up the hill behind us, we decided to pursue them. We got another look at the bull as he was silhouetted at the top of the hill against the sky. He was awesome. Scott thought he could have been at 350-class bull.

We followed them up the hill and through the forest for about 3/4 mile, we lost contact with that group. Eventually a 5 x 5 satellite bull made its way in front of us. He was very shootable and we got to within 150 yards. He was walking from left to right and I was in the open with an opportunity to shoot. Scott blew a cow call and stopped him. But he stopped behind a tree.

Scott called again and he stepped out from behind the tree and I shot. I knocked him down. I could not see him but Scott, who was flanked to my right about 20 yards, could see them go down. He said the elk laid there for about 10 to 12 seconds then got up and slowly continued to walk. He got below the horizon for me so I could not take a second shot.

I did not like the shot I took because I was standing with nothing other than a monopod to shoot from. I am much more comfortable leaning against a tree or in a kneeling or prone position. I felt like I hit him high in the shoulder.

We went to the area at which I had hit him and looked for blood. We found no sign of any blood so we waited about 30 minutes to track him. We followed his trail. He had walked through a saddle which filtered down into a very narrow trail. There was little other place for him to go. We saw tracks that would indicate that this is the path he took.

Unbelievably, Scott saw him just to the left of the trail about 30 yards. He was sitting underneath pine and spruce trees. I could not make his whole body though his butt was facing us. Scott told me to shoot him but I couldn't make out the body parts of the bull. So Scott went down the hill about 20 yards and got a much better perspective of the body. The bull was lying with his nose tipped forward in the dirt and his antlers for tilted forward. He looked like he may be dead.

Scott told me to shoot him so I took a couple steps forward and released the safety. I looked a couple times through the scope to see if he was breathing. I could not tell.  I was about 15 yards from the elk. Scott asked me if maybe he was already dead (since it had probably been almost an our since I originally shot him). I took the safe off and started to lower the gun to take another look, and the elk just jumped up – and ran away.

I couldn't believe my eyes. The second before I had the gun leveled at him with the safe off and ready to pull the trigger. In just that very instant moment in time, he broke away at the right time.

We followed his trail for as long as we could and then we could not determine where he went. We combed the woods for three hours looking back and forth. We found blood in the bed where he was laying. There was not a lot of blood but there was blood. The whole bed area smelled of bovine-elk scent.

I could not believe this happened again. I could not believe that I lost this elk when I was 15 yards away with a gun pointed at him and the finger on the trigger. I was just had to wonder why this was happening.

We walked back to the truck about 11:30 AM. He had to go back to town to go to work. I had some lunch and contemplated my options. I hunted all afternoon. I started in the spot where the elk had run away. I found more blood and more tracks but it did not help me find the elk.

I picked out a good vantage point overlooking a meadow and a wallow - the nearest water to where I shot the elk. I sat there all afternoon.

Day 3 - Thursday, October 3, 2013

I dreamed about that elk laying in the trees all night. Then I thought about it all day. I must have played that scenario over in my mind over 200 times. I cannot believe that I don't have an elk after being 15 yards from a downed elk. All I had to do was pull the trigger.

With bad weather approaching tomorrow, I felt pressured to bag an elk today. I went back to the area I decided to call "Big Draws". That is where I did most of my scouting, and where I had hunted the prior two days.

As I was getting ready, about 45 minutes before sunrise, I did hear one bugle from an elk. But that was it for the day. I covered over 10 miles there in the "Big Draws" area and on Limestone Road.

I took a couple hours off during lunch to go to Spearfish to pick up some supplies. But aside from that, I hunted hard all day with no elk in sight. But there was plenty of time to replay that scenario of the elk laying in front of me the day before many, many times in my mind.

About 3:00 PM it began to rain. Shortly thereafter, it turned to snow. By the time the sun went down, the ground was white with much more snow coming. When I got back to the cabin, I talked to my son, Alex. We decided that he should not drive out from Sioux Falls since there were winter storm and blizzard warnings for the area. He had planned to drive out and hunt with me over the weekend.

I lost electricity about 3 AM. When I woke up there were 10 inches of snow on the ground. The forecast was calling for up to 30 to 36 inches of snow.

Friday, October 4, 2013

There was no hunting on Friday, October 4, the fourth day of the elk season. There was, however, over 30 inches of snow that fell on Terry Peak. I have never seen snow like this. Especially considering that it's still early October.

The storm was called Atlas and it was far worse than anyone had forecast. In addition to 50+ inches of snow in many parts of western South Dakota, there were 70+ mph winds to go with the heavy, wet snow. The roofs on several buildings in Spearfish, Sturgis and Lead collapsed under the weight of the snow.

I shoveled snow today for about three hours. I did not make a whole lot of  progress - it filled in after I shoveled each time. My win for the day, was that I was able to pull the truck forward about 12 feet closer to the road. The ATV and trailer are buried and won't be seen until spring.

I had no television. There were technical difficulties with the DISH service. Thank goodness for ESPN's internet radio coverage of major-league baseball playoffs or I would have gone nuts. Electricity went off intermittently as trees fall on electrical wires.

I did not know it at the time, but the elk hunt was effectively over. We got 55 inches of snow on Terry Peak over a 72-hour time frame.

The snow cat came through about 8:30 on Sunday evening. He left a very crude path to follow but I got up about 7 o'clock and spent an hour and a half digging the Tahoe out. Finally, Monday afternoon, the snowcat and a couple of skid loaders cleaned out my driveway.

I decided to return home for a couple days. Since I would not be able to hunt, it did not make sense for me to just lay around the cabin. My plan was to return the next weekend. I did have time to play through the scenario of shooting that elk last Wednesday several times!!

Day 4 - Sunday, October 13, 2013

I came armed with snowshoes and winter gear. The snowshoes were needed; the winter gear wasn't. Despite hunting for 13 1/2 hours and walking over six miles in snowshoes, I saw no fresh sign of any elk.

Day 5 - Monday, October 14, 2013

As I left the cabin, mist was falling from the sky. The closer I got to my destination, the harder it came down. I decided not to wear snowshoes since I was just going to walk half-mile to the top of the hill. By the time I got there, it was hard rain.

When I got to the top of the hill, I picked out a tree stand behind. My view overlooked the area in which I saw elk tracks the day before.

It rained for about an hour and a half before turning into snow. The forecast was for 8 to 12 inches of snow on the mountains. As the snow started to accumulate, I decided that I was not going to get stuck on the mountain. So after about 2 1/2 hours of sitting in the rain/snow, I decided to go back to the cabin, pack up, and head for home.

Needless to say, I played that scenario of the elk lying 15 yards in front of me over in my mind many, many times while sitting in the rain and snow. I had plenty of time to think about it on my drive home as well.

Day 6 - Sunday, October 20, 2013

By now, over 90 inches of snow had fallen on Terry Peak. That is more than their average annual snowfall. I don't know how much had fallen where I was hunting but it was plenty. I left home at 8 AM and got to the cabin around 11 AM. I took an hour to get ready and then I left for the Tinton Road area.

Despite walking over 7 miles in snowshoes, I saw no elk sign. I went back to the Tahoe. I then decided to road hunt for a while because the snow was coming down hard. I traveled north on Tinton Road all the way to Spearfish hoping that as I got to a lower elevation, there would be more grass showing through the snow. Then I went up Higgins Gulch Road toward Crow Peak.  I saw several deer, but no elk.

I travel back south on Tinton Road. As sunset approached, I saw several sets of elk tracks along the road. When I stopped to look, I saw that they were at least a day old.

Day 7 - Monday, October 21, 2013

My morning got off to a rather poor start. I drove to the corrals on Tinton Road and was just going to pull into the approach to get my vehicle off the road. Instead, I got stuck in the appoach. It took a ton of patience and about 10 minute of gently rocking back and forth to get it out. I left the Tahoe on the road.

I loaded up, put on my snowshoes and took off up he hill above the corrals. This was the same area where I had hunted the previous Sunday. So I walked and walked and walked and walked - up and down. For seven hours and over 8 miles I trodden along in my snowshoes. I walked back into the "Big Draws" area down Timber Gulch Road. I stopped occasionally to let out a cow call or to glass the area.

I saw nothing. The very few tracks that I saw were at least 2 days old. I saw rabbit tracks, squirrel tracks, chipmunk tracks and deer tracks that were all fresh. But there had not been any elk in the area recently.

I got back to the vehicle about 2 pm and decided to return home to watch my volleyball player. I needed a new plan. I had 3-4 days let to hunt and I hadn't seen an elk since the snow storm.

Day 8 - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The final three days of the hunt came after a football weekend in Minneapolis. Alex, Andrew and I watch the Gophers thump the Huskers on Saturday and the Packers drill the Vikings on Sunday Night Football. So I made the trip from Minneapolis to the cabin with a 90 minutes stop at the store in Oacoma. It was a 625 mile trip.

The hunt moved north looking for less snow. I learned of a SDGFP game production area just south of Spearfish. I decided to hunt there on Tuesday morning. I went up by way of Higgins gulch which meant a 400 foot climb straight up the side of the gulch. It was a killer.

Once there, I walked about 7 miles around the game production area. I met several other hunters who had not seen any elk since the storm either. They had not seen any recent signs of elk either.

I saw no recent sign of elk. I saw several deer (both mule and whitetail) and fresh turkey tracks, but not what I was looking for.

I was exhausted after the climb back down to the Tahoe. I decided to road hunt down Tinton Road. I took a 2-hour drive down the middle of the hunting unit and saw nothing. I also drove up Riflepit Road to no avail.

Day 9 - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I started the day back at the game production area after finding a road to drive up there the night before. Once there, I parked the Tahoe and set off to the south.

I walked all the way down near Tinton Road (about 3.5 miles). I followed some tracks that were probably 2 days old as I walked. It was the most encouraging sign that I had seen since the storm.

I walked all afternoon. I called, walked, waited and looked for more sign. Late in the day, I found some very fresh droppings (soft and slippery) about two miles north of the "Big Hill" area.. That was very encouraging - something I could use after 3+ weeks of discouragement. I decided that I would come back there for the morning of my final day of the hunt.

I was encouraged for tomorrow's hunt. I left a few minutes before sunset so I could watch the World Series game. I packed as I watched the Red Sox clinch the World Series! That was certainly great. Now if I could just get a bull tomorrow!

Day 10 - Thursday, October 31, 2013

I woke up and prepared the cabin for my departure. I was very optimistic having seen all the fresh sign the night before. I got to my hunting spot about 45 minutes prior to sunrise. The GPS led me to the spot I had selected the night before.

It was a nice morning. The wind was blowing 15 to 20 out of the northwest. But the temperature was in the mid-30s. I used a few cow calls, and then moved 25 to 50 yards at a time. I used this strategy for a good 90 minutes.

After not getting elk calls in return, or seen any other fresh sign, I decided to pursue a different strategy. I found a trail and followed it for about three quarters of a mile.

My enthusiasm diminished after no response or fresh signs. I return to the Tahoe about noon. I traveled into Spearfish for some lunch. After lunch I made my way down spearfish Canyon to Savoy.  I continued on Roughlock Falls Road to Tinton Road

The sun was shining brightly and the snow was melting. I made my way from Tinton Road back to the area I had hunted that morning. I found a logging trail to walk. I walked about a mile down that trail. No fresh sign.

So I decided to finish the day where I had started. I went back to the same area I have been in the morning. I met a deer archer. He suggested that the elk came through that area in the morning.

I parked the Tahoe and made my way up the tallest hill/mountain that I could find. I climbed about 350 feet vertical over about 3/10 of a mile. When I got up there, unfortunately, there was heavy timber so I did not have any kind of a view. So I came partially down the hill to where I had some view. I watched several vehicles go by below me on the roads.

As I sat there, I reflected on my elk hunt. I thought about the bicycling all summer to prepare. I thought about the many magazine articles books and internet articles that I had read. But mostly I thought about that elk lying there in the trees with his nose in the dirt and how that should've been the one that ended up in my bag.

I managed to have 10 days in the Black Hills. I had forgotten the solitude and peace that comes with that. I am grateful for that and the opportunity to see Mother Nature’s majesty. The elk will have to come another time.

Scary Halloween pic. This selfie is supposed to include a big bull elk. Unfortunately the elk did not cooperate. Pretty disappointed. I worked hard getting ready and I worked hard hunting. Mother Nature had other plans. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

October 2013 SDADA Column

The can has officially been "kicked down the road". While headlines read Crisis Over Shutdown and Debt Limit Ends, if you read between those headlines, they have funding until Jan. 15, 2014. The debt ceiling has been raised until February 7, 2014. So the debt ceiling discussion will happen again next year, when 2014 primaries will be in swing.

But the deal also includes an agreement to appoint members to a bipartisan group of members of Congress to negotiate future spending levels. The hope is they will come to a consensus by early December, so theoretically they will hammer out their differences without the threat of economic disaster hanging over everyone’s head - because that’s always worked so well in the past. Call me a cynic.

Take the most recent debate and add in the stakes of a campaign and you have the formula for another fiasco. I've heard it said that our government spends money like a drunken sailor. Not true. The drunken sailor is spending his own money!!

Winter's Early Call

Earlier in October, I was stranded in my cabin in the Black Hills for four days. While the 50+ inches of snow inconvenienced me, it had a far more devastating effect on residents and businesses of the northern Black Hills and the ranchers in the northwest part of our state.

Had this type of tragedy happen in other parts of our country, the cry for federal help would have come from all corners. Instead, we have local organizations and other business groups starting relief funds to help. Businesses and ranchers got back to business within days. Though it was a terrible disaster, these people prevailed.

Forrest McConnell Elected NADA Chairman for 2014

As I sat in my cabin without television and water (I was fortunate to have electricity for most of the time), I missed my first NADA board of directors meeting. While I awaited the snowcat and skid loaders to dig me out, I thought it might be nice to be at the NADA meeting in Santa Barbara rather than up to my a** in snow the first week in October.

At the California meeting, the NADA board elected Forrest McConnell, III, chairman for 2014. Forrest is a smart guy and he will be a great chairman. I look forward to working with him. Bill Fox (New York) was elected NADA vice chairman. They take office at the 2014 NADA Convention & Expo in New Orleans.

NADA Convention Ranked as One of the Most Innovative Meetings for 2013

BizBash, an industry magazine and online resource for event planners, listed the past NADA Convention & Expo as one of the most innovative meetings for 2013—ranking 10th out of 15 conferences held by corporations and trade associations this year in North America.

BizBash says the strategy and design of conferences and conventions continues to evolve as hosts embrace new models for engagement to create an experience that provides value for attendees by addressing their needs and interests.

There’s plenty to get jazzed about with the upcoming 97th annual NADA Convention & Expo in New Orleans next January. For one thing, the city has invested billions of dollars in major restoration projects, and the convention center was updated just this year. Plus, there’s been a 55 percent increase in the number of restaurants over the past seven years, nearly $800 million in hotel upgrades and $77 million in street improvements, including a new streetcar line.

The NADA convention runs Friday, Jan. 24, to Monday, Jan. 27. This will be the 10th time the convention has been held in the Big Easy since 1973. Considered the “Automotive Industry Event of the Year,” the convention includes dealer-manufacturer franchise meetings, educational workshops, hundreds of exhibits on the expo floor and numerous networking events. Dealers and their managers who register in advance by Jan. 16 will receive a $75 discount from the on-site rate. For more information or to register, visit www.nadaconvention.org.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 2013 SDADA Column

As that great American philosopher Mike Tyson said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the
mouth". Sometimes things don't work out like they are supposed to. Despite our plans and intentions, life gets in the way and screws things up.

As many of you know, I had a deal to sell my stores. My stores were not for sale. But someone came to me early this year and offered me a deal that I felt was good for me and my family. So I pursued it. We signed an asset purchase agreement, got approval from the factories and had everything ready to close. Four days before the closing date, my buyer pulled the plug on the deal.

I will spare you all the bloody details but suffice it to say that it was quite a blow. My wife, Judy, and I had mentally transitioned to the next stage - though we did not know what that was. It was tough on the emotions to reel that back in and start over again.

But we have done it because that's what dealers do - we adapt and adjust. I am happy to be a car dealer. I have never seen myself as anything but a car dealer - and that's a good thing - because it looks like that is where I'll be and what I'll do for some time yet!

Perhaps the most difficult part of the decision making process was idea of missing out on the relationships with those of you in the South Dakota car industry. Judy and I have made some wonderful friends through the years and the thought of falling away from those friendships was the "dark side" for us. We are pleased that since we are staying in the business, we do not have to worry about keeping in touch with our friends in the auto industry!

I believe this is an appropriate time to thank you for the opportunity of representing you on the NADA board. I and am proud to serve as the South Dakota director. Representing my fellow dealers has been the most noteworthy privilege of my automobile career. I look forward to working with each of you in that capacity going forward.

Washington Conference
I just returned from Washington where I was part of the South Dakota delegation to this year's NADA Washington Conference. We had a great group: Scott Peterson, Trace Beck, Bruce Eide and our Next-Gen dealer, Nick Prostrollo joined Myron and me.

We heard an impassioned speech from Senator Ted Cruz on the funding of ObamaCare and shutting down the federal government. Karl Rove added an interesting political perspective to those issues. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) also addressed the group and answered questions (sort of) on those two topics.

We heard from several other speakers but what struck me about those three Republican speakers was that on the two key issues of the day, ObamaCare and the federal budget, there was absolutely no consensus on what to do. If fact, it would best be characterized by saying they were "all over the board". It did not instill confidence that we were going to be resolving either of these two issues anytime soon!

Our primary issue as we visited the Hill was trying to protect our financing model. The assault by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on the dealer financing model is not justified in any way and we sought to carry that message to our South Dakota elected officials. Senator Thune agreed to sign the Portman-Shaheen letter to the CFPB asking for some insight as to their methodology. While our visit with Senator Johnson was more productive that in the past, I don't know that we moved the needle much.

I enjoyed my time with my fellow dealers in DC. Our association is fortunate to have great leadership - Scott, Trace and Bruce did a superb job. Myron always represents us well and is so respected among his peers. Nick did a great job of offering the NextGen perspective - I was grateful to have him join us.

FTC Announces Advertising Enforcement Actions Against Dealers
The FTC issued a press release Sept. 3 stating that it has entered into proposed consent orders with a Cleveland dealership and a Baltimore area dealership for alleged advertising violations that appeared on their respective websites. In the former case, the FTC alleged that the dealer advertised that particular Ford models are available at a specific dealer discount when “in fact, once consumers reach the dealership, they find out that [the dealership] has failed to disclose that the specific discounts are available for some, but not all, of the Ford models advertised.”

In the latter case, the FTC alleged that the dealer advertised specific dealer discounts and prices as being generally available to consumers when “in fact, once consumers reach the dealership, they find out that there are significant restrictions on obtaining the advertised discounts or that the advertised discounts are not available in full.” In particular, the FTC alleged: “In numerous instances, the advertised discount and price are subject to various qualifications and restrictions … for example, being a member of the military, being a recent college graduate, possessing a bank account at a particular bank, or owning a vehicle that has a lien on it. In numerous instances, even if consumers meet all of these qualifications or restrictions, they cannot obtain the advertised discount and price.”

The FTC alleged that these are deceptive practices which violate Section 5 of the FTC Act. In the proposed consent orders, the dealerships (which neither admit nor deny the alleged violations) agree to several provisions such as avoiding certain advertising representations, retaining their ads and promotional material for 5 years, and filing compliance reports with the FTC. The FTC’s press release, which contains links to its complaints, the proposed consent orders and the ads that gave rise to these actions, is available here: www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/09/autoads.shtm.

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 2013 SDADA Column

Like most of you, I was proud of South Dakota's billing as America's Top State for Business for 2013 by CNBC in July. It was something that we, as business people, already knew. It was great to see the rest of the world let in on that well-kept secret and the coverage provided invaluable exposure for our state.

The fact that we have no corporate income tax, no personal income tax, no business inventory tax, no personal property tax and no inheritance tax played into South Dakota's high rating. But let us not take any of this for granted. Every year, there are bills submitted in the legislature that go right at the heart of these advantages we enjoy. We need to be vigilant in protecting these strengths.

We must continue to work hard to ensure that our regulations and laws are reasonable and eliminate unnecessary burdens for our businesses and for those entrepreneurs who want to start a business. Governor Daugaard made these points in an editorial published in many of the states' newspapers.

As community leaders, let us work to continue to build the South Dakota tradition of being "great place to do business".

Why the Dealer Franchise System Is Here to Stay
Franchised auto dealers are on track to sell more than 15 million new cars and trucks this year, including a half million electric, natural gas, hybrid and other alternative technology vehicles. These Main Street businesses – the backbone of their communities – are leading America’s economic recovery. Franchised auto dealers employ nearly a million Americans, provide good jobs that can’t be shipped overseas and engage in robust market competition.

For more than 100 years, automakers have contracted with franchised dealers to sell and service their vehicles for one simple reason – it’s the most efficient and cost effective way of doing so. Franchised auto dealers’ cumulative investment in land, equipment and facilities exceeds $200 billion – expenses that auto manufacturers would otherwise have to incur. Ford and GM tried owning their own dealerships and failed. These experiments proved that factory stores did not deliver better customer service or reduce consumer costs.

A question has been raised as to whether automakers should be licensed to sell directly to consumers. A better question is who should decide this licensing issue – and the answer is the states. In our federal system, states have the right to license lots of important retail industries – everything from eyewear to alcoholic beverages. The states are best positioned to decide what level of accountability, regulation and competition is best for their citizens. Although all states regulate the auto retail marketplace, their approaches differ widely: many allow automakers to sell direct; others require a local licensee as an additional layer of accountability. This reflects the fact that, when it comes to auto retailing, one size doesn’t fit all.

It is easy to understand the rationale behind state laws that foster the presence of a well-capitalized, independent dealer network. New vehicles are expensive, generally require financing and often involve a trade-in. Consumers are better served by multiple retailers competing for their business. A Ford dealer’s biggest competitor, for example, is usually the other Ford dealer down the street. Most buyers, according to the Harvard Business Review, value a combination of online service, personal service and physical locations over standalone Web distribution – which sounds exactly like the dealer franchise system that’s currently in place.

2014 ATD Convention: Online Registration and Housing for New Orleans Now Open
The city of New Orleans will host the 51st annual ATD Convention & Expo next January. The Big Easy has recently undergone major restoration projects, such as $800 million in hotel upgrades, $77 million in street improvements that includes a new streetcar line connecting the Sports District to the Central Business District and French Quarter, and a 55 percent increase in the number of restaurants over the past seven years. “There’s a limited number of hotel rooms available at the Hilton Riverside, which is the ATD headquarters hotel, so we're encouraging dealers to register as soon as possible,” said ATD Convention Chairman Steve Parker. “A benefit of staying at the Hilton Riverside is that ATD dealers, managers, spouses and relatives can attend the daily continental breakfasts and evening receptions sponsored by Eaton.” The ATD convention runs concurrently with NADA from Friday, Jan. 24 to Monday, Jan. 27. ATD attendees who register by Oct. 7 will receive a $150 discount from the onsite rate. For more information or to register, visit www.atdconvention.org.

Monday, August 5, 2013

July 2013 SDADA Column

As summer winds down, the CFPB's assault on dealer reserve continues to gear up. On July 16, 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed Richard Cordray, a man who is quoted as saying, "consumers should not have to pay more for a car loan simply based on their race" (as if to insinuate that car dealers believe that they should), to a five-year term as the CFPB's director. Sen. Tim Johnson, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, called the vote "a win for the American people."

From its website, here are the CFPB's definition of "buy rate" and its tips for negotiating a loan:

"A buy rate is the interest rate that a lender quotes to your dealer when you seek a loan directly through the dealer. Your dealer may offer you a rate that is higher than the buy rate. The rate the dealer offers you is called the 'contract rate.' Sometimes the lender pays the dealer a fee that is based on the difference between these two rates, which can give the dealer an incentive to charge you a higher interest rate than you qualify for.

"TIP: Ask the dealer what the buy rate is and offer to pay the buy rate plus a flat fee, rather than paying an interest rate that is above the buy rate. This could save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

"TIP: The dealer may offer you a higher interest rate than you can get directly from a bank or credit union. Shop around to find out who offers the best interest rate."

As we dealers know, indirect loans at the dealership can often undercut the rates on direct-to-consumer loans. I think most dealers would encourage consumers to shop around and see who offers the best and most convenient deal on a loan -- a bank, a credit union or a dealership.

Getting the best overall deal is not as simple as securing the lowest interest rate. Trade-in value; down payment; manufacturer incentives that are exclusive to a captive finance company; the convenience of having multiple lenders bid for the dealership's business; etc. are all factors that affect the value of the deal.

How long before our customers show up at dealerships demanding a loan at the buy rate and not a cent more?

NADA Moves Dates for 2015 – 2018 Conventions
Beginning in 2015, the NADA Convention and Expo will be held Thursday to Sunday, instead of Friday to Monday. “After surveying the membership and exhibitors, the consensus was to end the convention on Sunday, instead of Monday,” said Desmond Roberts, chairman of NADA’s convention committee and a Chevrolet dealer in Hodgkins, Ill. “The Thursday to Sunday timeframe will allow convention attendees to be back at work earlier the following week.” The 2014 NADA and American Truck Dealers (ATD) conventions will be held concurrently in New Orleans from Jan. 24-27 as scheduled from Friday to Monday.

Here are the revised dates for the NADA and ATD conventions:

2015 – San Francisco (Jan. 22-25)
2016 – Las Vegas (March 31 - April 3) 2017 – New Orleans (Jan. 26-29) 2018 – Las Vegas (March 22-25)

For more information on the NADA convention, visit www.nadaconventionandexpo.org. For more information on the ATD convention, visit www.atdconventionandexpo.org.

OSHA Targeting Dealerships
OSHA is targeting automotive repair and maintenance businesses, including new-car dealerships, through a Region 8 (http://www.osha.gov/oshdir/r08.html) Local Emphasis Program. This focused inspection activity, scheduled for between April 16 and at least Sept. 30, 2013, stems from five complaints OSHA Region 8 received in FY 2010, all of which resulted in citations. NADA urges dealerships nationwide to review the inspection directive (http://www.osha.gov/oshdir/r08.html) and their health and safety compliance. Dealerships with specific questions regarding their compliance should contact Lauren Bailey, NADA Regulatory Affairs, at regulatoryaffairs@nada.org or (703) 821-7040 or contact their state or local dealer association.

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 2013 SDADA Column

I just returned from the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs where I attended the NADA summer board meeting. The two burning issues with NADA currently remain the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau's "disparate impact" accusation and Tesla's attempt to skirt state franchise laws.

As I mentioned at our SDADA board meeting in Pierre, the threat from Tesla is not their ability to sell $100,000 plug-in cars in South Dakota; but rather their desire to avoid state franchise laws in selling automobiles without utilizing dealers. There is a very real threat of Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, trying to do an end run around the state courts and filing a lawsuit in federal court to nullify our franchise laws.

As you know, we have spent a lot of time and money fortifying our franchise law to protect our very significant investment. The thought of a federal court striking these laws down distresses me immensely!

Do you trust your franchise with a federal judge? If not, please stay engaged on this issue.

Talking Points on CFPB’s Disparate Impact Initiative

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) continues its all out assault on automobile dealers. The CFPB wants to change the way finance sources compensate dealers for arranging financing. This is an obvious critical attack on our business model. At our NADA Board Meeting in Colorado Springs, NADA attorneys, Andy Koblenz and Paul Metrey, provided an in depth overview of this issue,  why the CFPB’s approach is both procedurally and substantively flawed, and what Congress and the media should be demanding from the Bureau to support its initiative.

They  have prepared talking points that summarize this issue.  These can be used with lenders, lawmakers, the media or other members of the automotive industry. You can find these talking points here.

If you need additional information, please contact Paul or Andy at (703) 821-7040.

Letter to CFPB Demands Release of Information Supporting its Fair Lending Allegations

A letter circulated by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and signed by 12 of her Democratic colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee was sent to CFPB director Richard Cordray on May 28. The letter asks for the analysis and methodology supporting the CFPB’s assertion in recent fair lending guidance issued to finance sources that there may be disparate impact discrimination in indirect auto lending. The CFPB is using this allegation to push finance sources to compensate dealers with flat fees instead of dealer reserve. Despite numerous requests, the CFPB has steadfastly refused to release this information or any data supporting its efforts to eliminate the dealer’s ability to discount the interest rate offered to consumers. This lack of transparency, coupled with the members’ concern that “credit markets function competitively and efficiently,” prompted this inquiry. The other signers of the letter were Reps. Joyce Beatty (Ohio), William Lacy Clay (Mo.), John Delaney (Md.), Bill Foster (Ill.), Denny Heck (Wash.), Dan Kildee (Mich.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Gary Peters (Mich.), David Scott (Ga.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) A copy of the letter can be found here.

Rivera Hired as NADA VP of Legislative Affairs

Ivette Rivera has been hired to replace David Reagan as the vice president of Legislative Affairs.  Ivette returns to NADA most recently held the position of executive director of Legislative Affairs and was involved in many critical issues and played a key role in dealer exemption from CFPB and the Cash for Clunkers program. This is a great hire for NADA. Ivette will do a great job.

New NADA President Testifies before Senate on Rental Car Recall Bill

NADA President Peter Welch testified May 21 before a Senate consumer protection subcommittee on S. 921, a bill concerning rental car recalls. During his testimony, Welch emphasized the vital role that auto dealers play in fixing recalled vehicles. While supporting the purpose behind the bill, Welch informed Senators that recall work can sometimes be delayed because the part needed to remedy the recalled vehicle has not yet been designed or manufactured. Under the bill, a rental vehicle would have to be put out of service if the part needed was unavailable. NADA’s president cautioned Senators against regulating “multinational corporations with fleets of hundreds of thousands of rental vehicles” the same as “auto dealers with fleets of five loaner vehicles.” Welch also raised concerns that the bill would subject dealers to new federal inspections, new federal reporting requirements and stiff new penalties. For a copy of Welch’s testimony, click here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Explorers featured on Simply South Dakota tour

The Explorers were featured on the 6:00 pm edition of KSFY's "Simply South Dakota" on Thursday, June 27.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

That's the Way It Is...er...Was

Walter Cronkite was an icon of American broadcasting. He was a legend and anyone over fifty years of age remembers Cronkite's famous announcing the death of President John F. Kennedy or his reporting the assassination of Martin Luther King or his reporting on the moon landing among many others.

Douglas Brinkley's biography of Cronkite took me on a journey that evoked many memories and emotions from my first twenty years on this planet. I enjoy biographies and historical books, but nothing I have read before has inspired so many memories from my childhood. Cronkite was the one who delivered the news of every significant national or world event from my early days.

The very mention of Cronkite's name reminds me of my maternal grandmother who, in a supreme understatement, was not Cronkite's biggest fan. Grandma Theresa was an avid reader. Her conservative politics were fueled by her favorite publications, Human Events and the US News & World Report. Both were popular conservative magazines in the sixties and seventies.

Grandpa Frank was a Goldwater-conservative. Though he died when I was just seven years old, I knew, even then, of his political activism. He was a small businessman/entrepreneur who served many years as Tripp County, South Dakota Republican Chairman. But Grandma took a backseat to no one when it came to Republican politics.

It was Grandma who first put the thought in my mind that a news broadcast might have an ideological slant. As a young boy, I naively thought that the news was the news. But Grandma made it crystal clear that she did not agree with Cronkite's version of the news. She rarely made it through an entire CBS Evening News broadcast without calling Cronkite a "bastard" (her favorite moniker for those with whom she did not agree).

This was long before satellite or cable television. In rural South Dakota, your choices were Cronkite's CBS or a snowy, noisy broadcast of ABC that depended very much on weather conditions and the height of your external television antenna. NBC was not an option. Cronkite's early evening news broadcast was almost the exclusive source of television news in that area.

So Grandma loved to hate Walter. I remember her talking back to the television, telling Walter to quit editorializing and just deliver the news! That was the filter through which I read this book.

Grandma was not the only conservative who never forgave Walter Cronkite for editorializing in early 1969 that the Vietnam War would end in a “bloody stalemate". But Cronkite’s editorializing made him into part of the story. That is not the newsman's role.

As Matthew Sheffield notes, according to Brinkley's book, during the time he was anchoring the CBS Evening News, Cronkite secretly begged liberal senator Bobby Kennedy to run for president and then later interviewed Kennedy about his plans, never disclosing his private pleadings. That's not all, however, Cronkite planted recording devices inside the Republican Party's convention in 1952 and then later had the audacity to go after president Richard Nixon for Watergate.

At the time of Cronkite's death, James Taranto examined how a great newsman helped undermine his profession’s ethos. By taking sides, Cronkite compromised his role as a newsman. The line between editor and newsman since Cronkite has gone from blurred to erased.

Brinkley portrays both the traditional and objective journalist who Jack Kennedy distrusted and the egotist and emphatic liberal who lost his moorings after he retired too early. The revelation that Cronkite was a liberal and talked with liberal politicians, such as Bobby Kennedy, really shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody and pales in comparison with the politicization of the media today.

Grandma had no use for any of Cronkite's colleagues either. Dan Rather, Harry Reasoner, Morley Safer, Eric Sevareid, Mike Wallace, et al were all thorns in her side. Even when cable gave Grandma some choices, I don't think she held Howard K. Smith or Franks Reynolds (ABC) or John Chancellor (NBC) in any higher esteem!

Despite widespread criticism of Brinkley's editing, I found "Cronkite" to be a very interesting read. It was a step back into a time which seemed less political at the time. But looking back, I'm not so sure it was.

It is ironic that a book about the life and times of Walter Cronkite would cause me to write about my Grandma Theresa, but as Walter would say...