by Kevin Woster

Rapid City Journal

August 10, 2010

Noise? What Noise?

That rumbling roar around the Black Hills these days is just the sound of fun, South Dakota style.

At least, that’s what Gov. Mike Rounds said Tuesday when he learned that he had won the “Noisy Dozen Award” for the month of August from New York-based Noise Free America because of his participation in the Sturgis rally. The group presents a monthly “Noisy Dozen” award to those it believes to be major noise polluters.

Noise Free America spokesman Ted Rueter criticized the governor in a news release for riding in the annual Mayor’s Ride on Monday. Rueter said the governor’s participation promoted the spirit of noisy lawlessness that permeates the rally through illegally modified exhaust systems.

There are thousands of lawbreakers at the rally, violating a federal law that was passed in 1972, Rueter said. But the law has seen little enforcement in most states, however, since former President Ronald Reagan stopped funding the federal Office of Noise Control and Abatement, arguing that controlling noise pollution was a state and local issue.

Noise Free America is pushing to have the office re-established and to promote enforcement of the original law, which Rueter said some cities already use as a basis for enforcement of motorcycle exhaust equipment law.

The nation is filled with motorcycles that have been modified to make more noise and violate the law, Rueter said. And no place is worse than Sturgis, he said.

“In reality, the Sturgis event is probably the largest concentration of lawbreakers ever,” Rueter said. “And Mike Rounds, the governor, gave aid and comfort to this massive lawbreaking.”

The governor wasn’t a bit sorry, either.

“We don’t mind a little noise out here in South Dakota, whether we’re riding Harleys or shooting the state game bird,” Rounds said. “I can take the criticism, I guess. I think I’ll continue to ride.”

Rounds said he rides a 2008 Harley-Davidson Softtail Deluxe on loan from Petersen Motors in Pierre.

“They basically let me use it in the summertime, to kind of get ready for the ride here,” Rounds said. “I think they like it if the governor is riding a Harley.”

The governor likes it, too. Rounds rode motorcycles a bit in his youth and reconnected more seriously with the machines owned by Petersen Motors after he was elected governor.

“I went down to Russ Petersen … and he offered to take me out in the evening and get me back up to speed,” Rounds said.

Monday he was up to speed with Sturgis Mayor Maury LaRue, Mitchell Mayor Lou Sebert and state Rep. Jim Putnam, R-Armour, in a group of about 150 riders in an charity event for the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department. They took a different route this year, which took them past Bear Butte, over to Belle Fourche, up Spearfish Canyon and back through Lead and Deadwood and down through Boulder Canyon to Sturgis.

“It was a beautiful way to spend a few hours out seeing the Black Hills,” Rounds said.

Rueter said that rather than join the flow of bikers, Rounds should have deployed “the state police to issue hundreds of thousands of citations to noise violators. Gov. Rounds is condoning the world’s largest concentration of noise criminals.”

The governor said his Harley is stock and doesn’t violate any laws that he knows of. And he doesn’t think of the other bikers as lawbreakers.

“The people you meet out there, these are some really salt-of-the-earth people,” he said. They love the country. They love the outdoors. They’re really easy to get along with.”

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or [email protected]