Is there a fix?

Citizens have had many successful petitions in Sioux Falls. Is it time for another one?

The Sioux Falls Home Rule charter is 25 years old this year and is showing growing pains. Sioux Falls has grown from a small pothole town to a medium sized pothole town with the size of each of the potholes increasing with it. The idea we can’t plan for a sustainable future is confirmed with every meeting our mayor and city council show up to. Our get rich quick on the backs of the citizens, shows we must have a City Council actually doing what the Home Rule Charter calls for it to do – SETTING POLICY.

Setting policy means the City Council is required to develop a long range plan with instructions for the Mayor to implement. These instructions are called Ordinances. The Mayor in most home rule charter cities must do what the City Council instructs but in our town the mayor tells the City Council what to do. Our processes are broken and broken bad. We hear it at every Tuesday City Council meeting. We heard it recently when a citizen showed up to say the mayor’s position must be redefined to stop the meddling.

We citizens have a BIG responsibility. We need to tell this City Council and all future City Councils what their responsibilities are.  We need to tell this mayor and all future mayors what their responsibilities are. How do we do this?

Right now there are monthly meetings being held to make it look like decisions to improve the home rule charter. As we have watched over the last few election cycles, nothing is going to happen except screw us more. The Charter Revision Commission will hear testimony about how wonderful everything is in each part of the Charter and then move on to the next area. If a citizen shows up to talk about a problem with a part of the Charter, the Chair will sometimes say thank you to the person and then completely ignore the recommendation. Our city election of 2018 is a prime example of total dysfunction, with all our problems every idea was thrown away.

Our Charter was designed to be a Strong Council – Strong Mayor form of government and it has the marks of failure because the mayors we have had subvert the will of the people and their representatives by sitting on the council. Just look at the disastrous $70 million dollar parking ramp deal passed by an out of control mayor and his dysfunctional friends on the City Council to see we have lost our way.

There is talk around town of doing something about the problems our dysfunctional Charter has. What ideas do you have? Some have called for eliminating the Charter altogether, changing to City Manager form, making the mayor a ceremonial position with no veto or Council vote, going back to the Commission form or a mix of the above. What do you think?

Personally, I think it is time citizens took matters into their own hands.



10 comments ↓

#1 Scott on 07.05.19 at 6:44 pm

Very truthful article. Will be very interesting to see how the next election plays out.

#2 There's just something about the ambience of a tank. on 07.05.19 at 7:16 pm

I think the answer is to find a strong mayoral candidate to complete a weak mayor/council system. It would be the perfect balance, where we would be dependent upon a cult of personality to get anything done.

In the absence of this special personality, the Council would then run things by default, where democracy would rule unless a majority of the Council itself had a controlling personality, which would then over time, perhaps, require once again a strong mayor system.

Frankly, it’s never ending. We once had a mayor and two commissioners (pre-’86), then a mayor and four commissioners (pre-’94), and now our strong mayor/council system since ’94. We reinvent government in this town like the French have republics. Maybe for now, what we could actually use is some #freedomfries, where the Council rules with no city wide council members, and a mayor without a seat at the Council….. And then after that fails, we should try the mayor and two commissoner thing again just for fun.

The real problem, though, is not our form or forms of government, rather it’s the control of the bureaucracy and the local developers over our Council that needs to be dealt with. But I have no answer for that, accept that Shakespeare did once write: “The first thing we do, let’s ki…..” jk 😉

#3 D@ily Spin on 07.05.19 at 7:35 pm

I discovered how undemocratic and corrupt Strong Mayor Charter is in 2006. The Charter Revision Committee is just a front to make it look like there’ll be change. I feel a whole new charter is needed. Strong Mayor made Huether a multimillionaire. It costs half a million to get elected into the 100k job because the bribes and kickbacks make a mayor rich. Anyone who runs for mayor promising to replace the charter gets my vote. SD Supreme Court has the authority to supervise implementing a new charter. Several court cases have come close to reaching this status. POWER BELONGS WITH THE PEOPLE. Not a few developers, mayors, and two billionaires.

#4 Anne Hajek on 07.07.19 at 8:36 am

Scott – When I was elected in 1994 as an at-large member of the first city council under this government, the charter stated “The Council shall act as a part-time, policy making and legislative body, avoiding management and administrative duties.” That language has not changed. Under the strong- mayor form of government we were not even allowed to speak to department heads or staff without first going through the mayor’s chief of staff. The Charter Revision Commission may not alter the form of government which was approved by the voters. Only the voters have the authority to do that. I hope this helps clarify the issues.

#5 Resonder on 07.07.19 at 2:13 pm

The Charter does give the Charter Revision Commission the ability to redefine the roles of the mayor and council for the voters to confirm or deny the commissions decision if they are willing to offer changes. We have yet to see a commission willing to take a hard look at any balance of power changes.

#6 l3wis on 07.07.19 at 2:22 pm

“The Charter Revision Commission may not alter the form of government which was approved by the voters. Only the voters have the authority to do that.”

As I have suggested.

#7 Voter on 07.07.19 at 3:08 pm

Resonder says:

The Charter does give the Charter Revision Commission the ability to redefine the roles of the mayor and council for the voters to confirm or deny the commissions decision if they are willing to offer changes.
___________________________________________

And, therein lies the problem. Few Charter Revision Commissions have had the courage to seriously research (and refer to voters) possible changes to a charter that is now 25 years old.

I would expect the same from its newest member, Ann Hajek.

Ms. Hajek says, “The Charter Revision Commission may not alter the form of government which was approved by the voters. Only the voters have the authority to do that.”

Since Commission members have not had the courage to suggest changes to the City Charter, perhaps private citizens can accomplish change through the petition/vote process.

Let’s hope so.

#8 time citizens took matters into their own hands? on 07.07.19 at 5:44 pm

Who would be willing to get involved in a citizen effort to change the charter?

#9 Sally on 07.08.19 at 7:46 am

Perhaps Sioux Falls should follow Watertown’s lead and change to a City Manager form of government?

#10 "'Extremely' Stable Genius" on 07.08.19 at 2:22 pm

We already have a “City Manager” form of government. It consists of a triumvirate or more of developers.

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