Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

Sioux Falls City Councilor Pat Starr did the right thing

Sure, we can discuss the minute details about how Pat handled this (did he walk out at the right time? Was it professional? etc., etc.) but when you look at the BIG PICTURE something I reminded the council to do when looking at the parking ramp project to begin with, I think Pat walking out was the right thing to do, especially since he had no other options. The Mayor and Kiley already said there would be no more input, could Pat really have gotten the rest of the council to overturn it? Probably not.

As Tim Stanga brought up during the meeting (and Belfrage discussed it on his show today) the council’s minds were already made up before the meeting even started.

What was disappointing the most about the input about the ramp itself was the fact that we heard NO testimony from the developers, we also had NO testimony from the city’s legal counsel about the liability of Hultgren and Drake.

It was obvious that the mayor wanted to bury the hatchet as quick as possible, it was obvious when he was acting like a restless child when Stehly brought forward amendments.

But what is more troubling is that Kiley and Huether reaction to Starr’s statement that he is the one being ‘unprofessional’. The entire council and mayor BESIDES Starr acted like complete children throughout the meeting, as I have pointed out earlier. I don’t blame Starr for not wanting to be a part of it. I also applaud him that his name will not appear on any of the documents or votes on the project (that I think will never happen due to lawsuits, lack of investors, bankruptcy OR all of the above – remember, the developers have already said they have no investors yet, or a hotel franchise).

Huether and Kiley were acting like jackasses when it comes to public input, as they normally do, and they finally got called out on it. If anyone should be embarrassed it should be them. Honestly Starr looks like a Star in this manner.

The tiresome complaints about Public Input and this messy thing called a democracy

I still scratch my head a little bit when I still hear people talk about a NFL player kneeling at a game to bring awareness to police brutality.

To be honest with you, I think most of the professional athletes in this country are overpaid brats that bilk public tax dollars for their stadiums of gold and glitz. But no matter who they are, they have a right to their 1st Amendment Rights.

City ordinance allows 5 minutes for public input as long as it isn’t inflammatory or threatening. Following Roberts Rules of Order the mayor or chair of the meeting has the right to cut off the public input if it violates these rules.

I’m not going to give you another lesson in the 1st Amendment, but I do have something to say about public input and the constant complaints from some people in the public and some in the media about how ‘certain’ people shouldn’t be able to speak.

First off, some of the same people, like myself do speak each week, but I think we bring a different topic forward each week, some don’t, oh well.

Some would say we are negative. Baloney. Petitioning your government has to do with improving government. The whole point of the 1st Amendment is allowing the public to tell it’s government how it can do things better. Government officials don’t always agree, but to call it negative is far-fetched. People are uncomfortable with criticism, but if you are an elected official that is part of the job, if you don’t like it, please resign. Government doesn’t have time for thin skinned cry babies.

But most importantly, especially here in Sioux Falls, the public only gets that five minutes once a week at the city council meeting. We are there on our own accord and are not getting paid to be there, unlike our elected officials. The mayor even asked a well known public inputer who was ‘putting him up to it’ to speak out. As if they were getting money on the side to criticize the administration, because who would dare just do it on their own?

The mayor on the other hand who absolutely detests public input spends several hours each week, on the clock, in front of a camera giving his opinion on various parts of city business, mostly propaganda, and sadly that propaganda probably costs us taxpayers several thousand dollars each week. I would be willing to bet that over the past 7-1/2 years our mayor has spent well over a $1 million using city media to push his agenda while each of us have 5 minutes that doesn’t cost the city a dime.

A great example of this was the numerous town hall meetings in which the mayor and city staff sold us on an indoor pool and the propaganda didn’t stop after the pool was built, in fact it threw a party celebrating the pool’s attendance over the first year. But did you know over the past 2 months since the 1st year anniversary attendance was way down from last year? Did you also know on January 1st the pool rates will go up significantly? You won’t hear that from talking heads in city hall.

This is why our ‘5 minutes’ each week is important whether you like it or not or if the mayor hates it, it’s important to a democracy.

UPDATE: Disgraceful

Tonight before the city council meeting councilor Stehly talked to a boy scout troop about city government, neighborhood watch and than asked the troop to pay close attention to public input as it was an important part of city government.

Shortly after a usually long public input that the mayor tried to ignore, he ran after the Boy Scout troop to see them on their way in the outer room.

Joe Sneve from the Argus tweeted this about the encounter;

So while Stehly seems to see the importance of the 1st Amendment and citizens petitioning their government during public input, the Mayor turns around and tells a Boy Scout troop that it is a ‘circus’. You wonder just how confused they must have been. Leave it to the mayor to call a constitutional right a circus. What a putz.

UPDATE: Joe corrected me today, the mayor didn’t use the word ‘circus’ but something along that sentiment when apologizing to the Boy Scouts.

National Anthem – To Kneel or Stand, Nov 9, 2017

Is it time to get up or down? Is right to express your rights? The Supreme Court guaranteed our ability to express our rights through the flag. Why do certain groups believe their version of what is right is the only version of what is right?

Like every civil rights discussion we Americans ever have, someone or some group decides we shouldn’t use our voice or action to express an opinion different than theirs. What does society have to lose by letting everyone speak? (Kind of like da mayor during City Council meetings?)

This November 9, 2017 Augustana University panel discussion let’s both service veterans and average citizens talk about Colin Kaepernick’s kneel. The kneel is a sacred symbol in human history. It can be submission or reverence. Why was it a problem? What does Sioux Falls have to say about this discussion? Listen it and see where you fit your thoughts.

Side Note: The video ends before the end of the program, so I wanted to include some closing statements by the Panelist (Vic?). He stated at the end that he felt more safe in the military on active duty than he does now when a police officer is following his car. He also talks about his challenges of raising a black son in our current society.

Denise (who is one of our city clerks and a veteran) touches on that she tried to get some female veterans for the panel but there was some time conflicts. She also asked a poignant question, “What if this was Tom Brady that took the knee instead? Would we be having this conversation.”

The National Anthem; To Kneel or Stand, A Panel Discussion.

Thursday, Nov 9th 7:00 to 9:00 pm Located in Froiland Science Center Rm 113. Augustana University

A comprehensive approach to a relevant conversation on rights, equality, and the misunderstanding of the protest.

We will have panelist with years of military service expressed their opinion of the situation. Then we will find ways to educate one another and move toward proactive solutions in our city.

This event is free and open to the public.

I am going to try to attend. Looks like an interesting conversation. To be honest with you, I struggle with how many Americans misinterpret the 1st Amendment and only think it applies to THEIR opinions but not others. I may not agree with someone’s protest, but as long as it is peaceful I will defend their right to protest.

A teachable moment?

I never expected SOS Shantel Krebs to take down the photo of a Mobridge student sporting a traitor’s shirt or another student sporting gang symbols. But she did, good for her. Even though she said it was ‘out of respect to the faculty and students’. Not even sure what heck that means, but nice try Shantel.

What worries me more about this situation is that schools don’t teach government or civics anymore. Some would say this is a 1st Amendment issue, I would agree. So let’s have that important discussion. What if the shirt was a Swastica or a image of Satan? What if it was of a nude girl? History tells us that we fought a bloody civil war to defeat the traitors of the South, just like we fought another bloody war to defeat facism in WWII. While I will defend anyone’s right to express themselves, there is a fine line when you are doing it on school time funded by taxpayers. I got into this same debate with the SF school district when teachers were advocating for the school start date on the taxpayers time and dime. Or when a private HS painted Christian religious symbols on taxpayer funded snowplows. There is a time and place (even legally) when it is appropriate to express your 1st amendment rights. Disrupting other students when taxpayers are paying to educate these kids is not appropriate, Mobridge faculty should have known better. Placing this photo on a taxpayer funded website for over a year is also not appropriate. Krebs and her staff should have known better, and should apologize out of respect to her fellow taxpayers who fund her salary and office.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, but when you are using my tax dollars to force your opinion on me, I take issue with this. If you want to look or talk or act like a jackass, you have that right under the 1st Amendment, you lose those rights when you use my taxdollars to do so. Maybe if schools would get back to teaching history and civics we wouldn’t have to see this stupidity anymore. It makes you wonder if our elected government officials understand the government they are in charge of running.

Are our regulations in Sioux Falls enabling us to be bad neighbors?

Hey, I see it right here on my blog, several anonymous commenters throwing barbs at each other, because it is protected speech, and better yet, no one knows who is saying it. We seem to be a lot more daring in how we treat people when we can get away with it without being identified. Sad really;

Is there really a need to demand action from the city or call the police every time we’re annoyed at a neighbor’s too-long grass or the landmine their Chihuahua left beside our mailbox?

Approach minor nuisances of daily existence on your street with a Neighborhood Watch philosophy that promotes autonomy and self-reliance. There will always be occasional extremes — like the toxic situation seen recently in Norton Acres — but a great deal can be handled on a neighbor-to-neighbor basis without appealing to authorities. Good fences might make good neighbors, but only if we’re willing to walk through the gate for mediation and understanding when needed.

In other words if we just chose to talk with each other instead of anonymously turning each other in, things would be a lot better off, and frankly cheaper.

The Chamber gives their SLANTED view of city government

Nothing like the Chamber Advocate for a little light reading about how the city of Sioux Falls is running like a well oiled machine.

First they would like us to know OUR rights when it comes to Public Input and the 1st Amendment;

However, if a public body agrees to hold public input sessions, then some limited constitutional rights are extended to the speakers. Still, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that a public body has the right to put time, manner and place restrictions on speech as long as those restrictions are generally content neutral and serve a governmental purpose. Courts have also noted that the purpose of these meetings, City Council for example, is to conduct city business and not to take public input. That recognized purpose permits the Council to legally restrict public input.

We of course have had this debate here before, and I have come to the realization that the city council CAN restrict public input. I get it. That wasn’t my point. My point is, that IF the city is going to allow Public Input, which they do, then they shouldn’t restrict our 1st Amendment rights during that time period by chastising us for speaking. If you don’t want us to ‘redress our grievances’ than eliminate public input, which I think would be difficult. As pointed out above, these meetings are for the city council to conduct business, a lot of decisions are made, based on input from the public, or at least should be.

In other Advice from the Advocate, they would like us to believe an OPT-OUT by the school district is for our own ‘safety’;

In other words, increasing the opt-out puts a safety net in place and ensures the District is able to provide a high-quality education for all students for years to come.

Make no mistake, if a governmental entity has the power to increase your taxes, they will use that same power to spend that money. Their is no such thing as a ‘safety net’ or ‘savings account’ in government. They WILL spend every last penny that they suck out of us, and you can almost guarantee that $5 million dollar ‘possible’ increase is already spent. The Chamber of course advocates for property tax and regressive increases on food taxes to help fund education because they are protecting members from an income tax.

The Chamber also decides to weigh in on the ambulance service in town. They have determined that it is what we are willing to pay for that determines what kind of quality of care we are getting . . . imagine that, always about the bottom line with the Chamber;

We will close with this. It appears our emergency medical response system is working when the objective data is considered. Also, the REMSA Board, not an elected lay council, is the right way to manage the system. The Council, by Charter, is a policy setting and legislative body and is to avoid administrative and management issues. It also appears that six of our councilors generally agree the system is working and the structure in place is valuable while two spearheaded the critical questioning.

However, we also understand that if your 911 call is one where there is a delay, you will have a concern. The provision of public services is always a balance between resources and expectations. If we expect (as an exaggerated example) a two-minute ambulance response for every emergency call, we can probably achieve it – but you won’t want to pay for it. Quality assurance conversations are important and we encourage them using the right data and in the right context.

We wouldn’t need more than two mutual aid agreements if PP would just staff more ambulances, but they won’t, as the Chamber has pointed out, too expensive. Yet, ironically our first responders, the SFPD and SFFD seem to show up first, subsidized by the tax payers while PP rides to bank with the profit from the transfer and delivery of a patient. All the more reason showing us a PUBLIC ambulance service not only would save patients money, it would probably save tax payers money (because we would be reimbursed for those calls), but more importantly, it would probably be 10X faster and more reliable than a FOR PROFIT ambulance service.

The Chamber has members to protect, we get it.

Mayor’s Public Input Diatribe last night proves he has NO Clue what the 1st Amendment means

Shortly after the city council meeting last night I sent the city council and the mayor an email reminding them of the language of the 1st Amendment, I highlighted this part;

‘or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.’

Why did I send them this? Because after public input last night the mayor went on a diatribe about how he has been trying for six years to eliminate public input and has not succeeded (FF: 51:00). He said that it was not ‘productive’ and they shouldn’t have to listen to it.

What astonished me the most is that the mayor of South Dakota’s largest city has no regard for the US Constitution or the 1st Amendment. Pretty scary that a person who rules over a city of 178,000 people thinks freedom of speech at a public meeting should be squashed because ‘he doesn’t like it’.

Call a waaabulance! (but don’t call a regular one, it might not show up.)

In a little over 11 months this nightmare of closed government will hopefully be over for the citizens of Sioux Falls, and we can hopefully go back to ruling as a Democracy and bring a little sunshine back to city government.

Transparency Irony

Over the past couple of weeks I have been humored by the irony of our Council Vice-Chair Slick Kiley bragging about live streaming the Annexation Meetings and having them recorded to be viewed later (though they failed with the baby monitor with the 1st meeting). It also seems they think it is just AOK to record and live stream the re-districting committee meetings (just like the Charter Revision and Planning meetings). But for some reason, the very delicate and fragile elitists that serve on the Parks Board couldn’t be bothered by such transparent government, they may freeze up or have a nervous breakdown if they have to sit in front of a video camera.

Do I suspect a bit of Hypocrisy when it comes to transparency in regards to recording certain meetings? REMSA and the Parks Board can hide under a cloak of secrecy while spending millions of tax dollars or making health and safety decisions for the rest of us. But when talking curb and gutter, we need to open the floodgates of transparency.

C’mon Slick! Either all the way, or not at all.