Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

Ethics & Represent SD at Dem Forum (Jan 13, 2017)

Corruption is illegal in America? When did this happen? Who knows this? If this is true, who snuck this into the rule book? Does South Dakota use this rule book? Does Sioux Falls count? Anybody let the Sioux Falls City Attorney and pseudo Ethics Board know anything about this?

So many questions and no answers even though the voters of South Dakota tried to do something about it last November when they voted overwhelmingly to begin the effort to open up the books for all to see. The Sioux Falls Democratic Forum put the Open Government efforts on the wall for all to see when they invited Represent South Dakota to address the crowd on January 13, 2017.

Doug Kronaizl and Mark Winegar of Represent SD brings a message of ethics and responsibility to reality for all to see.

We are in a time when those who are in power are struggling to shut out everyone else. We voters are stupid, gullible, uninformed and hoodwinked for demanding our “leaders” be open in all ways if they are chosen to be help us. Being an officeholders does not mean we give you the keys to the treasury to do as you please. It does not mean you are to take everything so the next officeholder has to start from scratch.

In the November vote, the voters said we do not fully trust our officeholders or as Saint Ronnie liked to say, “Trust but verify”.

If you are against taping city board meetings, you are anti-transparent

I believe the Sioux Falls City Council is set to vote on recording parks board meetings this next Tuesday. If the measure passes (must get 5 votes because it is an ordinance) it will open the door to more transparency when other boards will be asked to be recorded, like REMSA.

Folks, this is a GOOD thing, open and transparent government will always benefit the public and protect us from corruption. Just look at the oral arguments today at the SD Supreme Court, our local paper had to sue the city over something as simple as a settlement contract, it shouldn’t be that way.

The opposing side has their excuses, and I will debunk them;

• It will cost to much to record and to store videos. First off, if it is so expensive to record these meetings, why do we have such an enormous budget following the mayor around to do a press conference every time he gets a haircut or wipes his butt? Secondly, you wouldn’t need a production crew, a city employee in attendance could simply set up the camera, hit record. As for storage, digital storage these days is minimal cost, and even if it wasn’t, the city could do like the county and use YouTube to store the meetings.

• It will discourage people from volunteering on boards. Really? The Planning Commission, one of the most powerful boards in the city has been recording their meetings for 12 years, they are all volunteers and it seems like they never struggle finding people to serve. Secondly, I wouldn’t want anyone serving on a board that wasn’t pro transparency and open government. Just because you volunteer on a government board doesn’t give you a license to keep secrets, quite the opposite.

• The public/media will twist what is said in the meetings or interrupt them. If they are recorded, the public really won’t have a reason to show up in person, and secondly, if the entire meeting is recorded and put online, not sure how that is ‘twisting’ it’s content. The only time the truth is twisted is when decisions are made behind closed doors.

Let’s face it, these boards make important decisions that impact thousands of lives and millions of dollars of taxpayer money, they need to be transparent and readily available to the public. Any councilor who would vote against this are basically saying they are happy with the status quo and are anti-transparent government, any other arguments are weak kneed and ‘twisted’.

South DaCola 2016 year in review (Part I)

art-maze-mower-lrArtMaze, one of the better parts of Sioux Falls life in 2016

2016 has been a rough year for citizen activism. While it has been up and down here in Sioux Falls with many successes and failures to boot, it seems Washington DC has gone into full collapse as we allowed racist, sexist, hillbillies to elect our president.

READ ABOUT 2015 REVIEW HERE.

But locally there were three things that stood out;

• Governor Daugaard claiming that voters were ‘hoodwinked’ into voting for IM 22, then getting the Pierre (in)justice system to go along with it. Funny how for over 40 years voters have been voting his party into power, and no word about ‘hoodwinking’ but once that corrupt power will be challenged, all the voters are idiots. As one official told me that used to work for Dennis, it’s not the public that are idiots, it’s Dennis. And his idiocy has been shining through.

• The South Dakota Democratic Party’s bottom completely fell out, and the people in charge patted themselves on the back. Insanity I tell you! Insanity!

• But one of the greatest achievements of the year is the Sioux Falls City Council’s change of power. The four new councilors have been flexing their muscles with a little help from Councilor Erickson, and while they have had a few missteps to start out, they have been learning from the battle scars. While ‘leadership’ of the council (Rolfing and Kiley) seem to be on a two man mission to rubberstamp all things Huether, shut down public input, and concoct false ethics charges against a fellow councilor (until they got caught lying like the snakes they are) they are becoming more and more in check. The city council has many big plans for 2017, and I have a feeling their agenda will push through easily as our lame duck mayor melts.

Let’s take a look at some the finer high and low points of 2016;

• The Huether Tennis center continues to block parking from other event attendees at the Sanford Sports complex though they basically stole $500K from taxpayers for the facility. Throughout the year there was several reports on cones and signs blocking the lot with not cars in it. But hey Mike’s Bride won an award this year and seemed surprised she did, without commenting that her check to the organization that gave the award wasn’t returned.

• The Sioux Falls City Council leadership and mayor’s HR department pulled a military retiree out of their asses for city clerk, a person who will be in charge of our city elections and hasn’t been registered to vote for years. He also proved his knowledge of official stamps when he stamped a petition without even bothering to read it. While Mr. Greco has gotten better over the year, the city clerk position should not be a $80K+ a year job as an apprentice, sadly being trained by one of his assistant clerks who has ten times the qualifications and applied for the position but was turned down. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the council chair’s view of women in the work place.

• Speaking of letting the mayor’s HR department and Leadership’s Mutt and Jeff pick the next internal auditor, the council barked loud enough that they did not want another ‘Greco’ pick. Not sure if the barking worked, but the person who was set to take the job saw the writing on the wall and turned it down. Hopefully the person who ultimately gets the position won’t be turned down because they shave their legs.

• The city continues to blow money on the Winter Wonderland Display, but the way the mayor has been cutting budgets these days, I expect next year’s display to be a couple of homeless barrel fire pits, sponsored by the Dudley House of course.

• After posting about the ridiculous corporate like raises the mayor has been giving to his management team, he turns around and still screws the minions with dismal raises again this year. I think in a special note to the city employees on their Christmas paystub he wrote, “I don’t care.”

• The city continues the FREE condom distribution program at area bars, and for some reason Monk’s is always emptied the quickest. Coincidence that is also a favorite watering hole of city managers . . .

• The Tuthill shooting case becomes ‘inactive’ and a tree branch shadow gets off scott free.

• The Erp wrongfully calls out local massage therapists as prejudice because they pointed out the ‘shower massages’ that were taking place around town. Apparently someone got a bad fortune cookie that day.

• The car rental tax and BID tax grabby-grabby fails in Sioux Falls, but the state legislature passes one of the most idiotic tax increases ever so our teachers are now just tied for last instead of dead last in pay. Out hoodwinking governor already has plans to rob the pot only one year after its passage.

• Hartford’s city government was in a state of collapse. Who really cares?

• The Levitt Pavilion is moving forward in Sioux Falls. It will be nice watching outdoor concerts sitting in the grass while battery acid is boiling beneath our asses.

• The Boulevard ordinance changes went into effect. Now stop worrying about rocks and plant a garden.

• The Washington Pavilion got a change of leadership after Darrin Smith takes over as President. So far he has only eliminated one director, but I hear the blood-letting has just begun. Now let’s throw another couple of million at the place to fix the poor construction to begin with. That will never happen with the Events Center . . .

• The Events Center cracks down on outside snacks and guns at events. We are all now safe from cheap fat people shooting us, but not in the parking lot.

• The Pottie Room war starts in Pierre and is guaranteed to return in 2017.

• A state legislator calls transgender people ‘twisted’. Now I’m struggling with what word to use describing our state legislators?

• A city council candidate throws a hissy fit over a post I wrote about his wife’s involvement with the Jesus plows and after threats to my employer I pull the post. He ends up taking last place in the at-large race. How’s Jesus working out for you now?

• Due to health reasons, Kermit Staggers decides not to run for a 4th term on the city council. His endorsement of Stehly puts her over the top.

• One of the youngest candidates in city history runs for city council. I apologize to Briggs for all the shitty things I said about him during the campaign.

• The Argus Leader sues the city for the details in the secret events center siding settlement. The Argus loses the first round but it is headed to the SD Supreme Court.

• On a similar note, the SON neighborhood is also awaiting a judgement in their Walmart suit with the SD Supreme Court.

• While our Sioux Falls City Council approves the DAPL through Sioux Falls, it takes thousands of protesters in ND to actually stop it. Too bad our city council chair doesn’t understand how to vote.

• The Mayor and Q-Tip Smith screwup the DT parking ramp development by flapping their traps to soon, and the council later on in the year returns the favor and defunds the ramp all together for 2017. I still think the fiasco is what got Smith to seek refuge at the Pavilion.

• City officials throw a hissy-fit over Bruce’s camera at a city meeting we were invited to by then city councilor Kenny Anderson. Looking back on it now, I just chuckle.

• Former city councilor Dean Karsky and now commissioner elect has become the official endorser in Sioux Falls.

• Bruce and I do a presentation on voter turnout in Sioux Falls at Democratic Forum and one of the mayor’s buddy developers in Sioux Falls tries to shut us down. When he fails, he walks out. Another casualty to transparency.

Sioux Falls City Council Public Input, Dec 6, 2016

Does a private business have a 1st Amendment right to paint a mural on their property?

mural-disclaimer

Mural image; Argus Leader Media

10421463_855518467812223_5991870852080024025_n

As a commenter pointed out, the irony of code enforcement cracking down on a private business for painting a mural, but allowing students to paint on publicly owned property their religious beliefs and being protected by a ‘disclaimer’ is a bit hypocritical. Could the business owner put a ‘disclaimer’ on the mural to exempt themselves from city code? Besides, the US Constitution is the highest law of the land, it trumps city charter.

Food for thought.

The Jesus Plows are back!

jesus

Lutheran School’s ode to fish and Jesus.

king

While stating you are ‘Christ the King’ school is not an issue, the Cross to the far left may be.

You sometimes wonder what part of the US Constitution government officials don’t understand when it comes to the 1st Amendment? Thomas Jefferson made it clear;

Jefferson’s metaphor of a wall of separation has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Reynolds v. United States (1879) the Court wrote that Jefferson’s comments “may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment.” In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”

Many have argued against it, like our city attorney and mayor, but they are hardly our founding fathers who formed our democracy and wrote our bill of rights and constitution. The separation of government and religion is there to protect all of us, not just Christians.

The sad part of this is that after already being warned that this was not a good practice, the city relies on a disclaimer that is too small to read as a snow plow comes flying by with Jesus painted on the front. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Why not just implement a policy that is simple;

Schools are discouraged of painting words or symbols on government owned property that promote a certain religion or sect. For example; Star of David, Muslim moon or the the Christian cross. If a school is not willing to abide by those rules, their ‘artwork’ will be painted over.

Wow! How simple is that?

For the record, I don’t have an issue with the Christian schools painting ‘God’ on the snowplows, that is a general term that doesn’t refer to a particular religion and well within 1st Amendment rights. Other words such as ‘faith’ or ‘spirituality’ are also acceptable.

Government property should not be used to promote a certain religion. Period. Many great societies immigrated to our country to rid themselves of religious persecution. They were tired of government telling them how to worship, or to worship at all. With freedom of religion, comes freedom from religion. Government has no place in it, and our Mayor, City Attorney and Public Works department should not allow it on government property.

The Village Idiot calls Stehly a Lone Wolf

bully-rolfing

Since I have been writing this blog, I have been a strong advocate for open government, transparency and 1st Amendment free speech rights. I think you all know that. We may not always agree on what people have to say, but we have that right.

Theresa defended that Tuesday afternoon.

But to call Theresa a ‘Lone Wolf’ is the furthest thing from the truth. She has formed coalitions in every political activity she has been involved with. She has embraced the community and worked for them. It is no secret why Theresa is sitting on the council, because of her community involvement and sticking up for the little guy. I would call her ‘Mother Wolf’ before I would ever call her ‘Lone Wolf’.

Gawd, Rex, what the heck is wrong with you? Seriously Dude?!

Ironically, while everyone wants to blame her for the ‘drama’ if Rolfing would have just let her speak and not gaveled her (there was NOTHING confidential in what she was saying) there would have been no drama. And the chickensh*t council just sat there and let it happen. Wow!

As a citizen we have a right to transparency, the Argus Leader is in the middle of a lawsuit right now with the city over it. We talk often about transparency in our government, we get no where.

I know about the charges lobbed at Theresa (a butt hurt Chief of Police and moving chairs around Carnegie because of the 911 aniversary), they are petty, in fact not even worthy of blogging about, or an ethics charge, just prattle from perfect hair Mike.

This of course is NOT over, chickensh*ts and idiots get emboldened when they are embarrassed. They have there resources, and we have ours. You want a fight on transparency? You are going to get it. You are going to lose, big time.

First off, props to Cameraman Bruce and our credit on the video. Our cameras are always rolling.

Bully Council Chair Rex Rolfing gets handed his A . .

If I were to say I haven’t known about what has been going on for awhile, I would be lying. In fact, I’ve known about this kind of (council) intimidation well before Huether even took office. When councilor Kevin Kavanaugh threatened to press charges against then mayor Munson who was running for a second term over middle of the night contract deal on Phillips to the Falls, he was brow beat by a group of ‘concerned citizens’ to back off. He did.

Since then, when councilors don’t play ‘reindeer games’ they get bullied and beat up. Theresa is just the latest casualty, but she wants this kind of intimidation to end;

“I have been bullied, intimidated and threatened. … I have been told not to talk to the media. I have been told not to advocate for the citizens,” she said while reading from a prepared statement.

As I have stated, elected officials are legally guaranteed by the US Constitution to 1st Amendment rights. In other words as long as they are not telling the public or the media about confidential contracts or voting on items they speak about (conflicts of interest), they are free to speak about the issues. When they use their free speech to benefit themselves or to sway votes or meetings, then they are in violation (Federal courts have ruled on this).

As far as I can tell, Stehly has not done any of those things. She has spoken honestly to the public and the media about issues facing our community. She has NOT used her speech to benefit herself or others. She is for transparency, period.

Councilor Rolfing & Mayor Huether are planning changes to public input

censor

The key word here is ‘planning’. I warned councilor Rolfing last night in public input that he should be cautious about moving forward on changes because he would have a big fight on his hands.

He supposedly cooked up his proposal in the top secret operations committee meeting in the basement of Carnegie on Tuesday. I am unclear what is all in the proposal, but I heard it involves ‘comment cards’.

The plan is to have each commenter sign in with a comment card and write down the topic they choose to speak about. Then the mayor or Rolfing would sort through the cards and pick the commenters they wish to speak by calling them forward.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

While I am not opposed to signing a sheet to say I will comment (it’s good for the clerk to have the correct spelling of the commenter’s name for the minutes and the record) I am not in favor of being called up like I am in 3rd grade speech class.

Picking and choosing the commenters is a blatant disregard for the spirit of free speech and the 1st Amendment. Elected officials are in place to serve us, not the other way around. I often say if they have a problem with that arrangement, do us all a favor and resign.

As I have reminded the mayor and council in the past, if public input is disruptive or offensive, the commenter can be gaveled at that time and asked to stop or even leave. The chair has that power and I agree with that procedure. Some people do get out of control and can be frivolous.

But picking and choosing who can comment and about what is favoritism and goes against transparency and open government as a whole. Something the mayor absolutely hates with a passion.

I know that some other folks in the media are aware of the proposal and won’t stand for it either.

Like I told Rolfing last night, I welcome the debate about changing public input, bring it on, because you are going to lose, and lose big time, and in the process you are going to look very foolish, if you don’t already.

What is the push behind the transgender ordinance really about?

equallyhousing

The city attorney wants to revisit the ordinance;

City attorneys plan to retract and revise a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classes protected by the city’s anti-discrimination rules.

The City Attorney’s Office unveiled a proposal earlier this year that would put in writing that private employers, landlords and business owners can’t discriminate against someone for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Councilor Greg Neitzert this week called the proposal “an outrageous infringement on religious freedom” and wanted to know how it would affect private businesses’ bathroom policies. The proposal’s authors now say they want more time to tighten the language.

While Greg may have a point, I see all kinds of other issues with this besides bathrooms and churches. The rumor circling in the halls of city hall is that the city could be eligible for more HUD money if they change the ordinance. Are the consequences of hundreds of lawsuits worth it? And what kind of money are we talking about? As I said before, as the city’s public policy it is a good idea, forcing it onto private employers (especially landlords) could be problematic and may even be a violation of individual constitutional rights. You can’t change your race or gender (very easily anyway) and those are examples of a protected class, it’s easy to tell if they are being discriminated against. Transgender may be more difficult to police and control and as someone said to me the other day, “Kind of looks like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Councilors expect to revisit the issue sooner rather than later, and some are more eager than others. Councilor Michelle Erpenbach said she hopes to see it reintroduced in quick fashion.

“I can’t figure out what you’re going to do to tighten the language because we have to use the words ‘sexual orientation and gender identity,’” she said. “We need it to pass in the most comfortable way possible. But it’s something we absolutely need to pass.”

Comfortable way? There is no comfortable way. I am more in favor of educating the public about the issue before passing more regulations on private industry. When people don’t understand something, their knee jerk reaction is think it is bad, and when you start regulating private citizens to do something they appear as bad, you have not done a very good job of educating them. That’s why it took several years for gay marriage to pass, people first needed to understand it.

I think if the city thinks this is an important thing to pass besides getting more money from the FEDs for housing, then it should go to a public vote. Asking 8-9 individuals to pass such sweeping legislation is unfair.

I also think this is a Red Herring to separate out the conservative councilors, and make them look anti-equality, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If I was on the council, I would excuse myself and refuse to vote on it based on the fact I may be bias because I have gay friends.