Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

Food for thought (when it comes to religious freedom)


Another Daily Update

Well lots of things have been happening in our pleasant city besides frolicking in the pools that are getting more expensive (The Sioux Falls City Council had a great discussion at the informational meeting on Tuesday). Let’s just say not everyone is happy about the rate increases and how they came about. I think the only councilor to support them was Karsky, and he was even skeptical.


During public input (at the Sioux Falls City Council meeting), things got a little heated. Bruce Danielson pointed out the secret sub-committee meetings that were taking place to get the pools rates passed without including the public OR the city council. As Bruce was talking I noticed Parks Director Kearney was ‘laughing’ at Bruce pointing out the meetings. In fact you can see him laughing on camera as Bruce is at the podium.

When I took the podium, I first chastised the stupid 5-minute rule and reminded the mayor, the council AND the directors in the room that there are NO time limits on meetings and they all get paid very well to be there.

I then thanked the city council, and told them I was ‘proud of them’ for the discussion they had at the informational, and told them to take the issue to an OPEN committee meeting to discuss with the public. I also chastised Kearney for openly laughing at Bruce and the secret meetings.

I closed with telling them about my meeting with Patrick Warren, and told them he was a great asset to the city, and they should not have fired him.

After another constituent blabbered about it being OK to have closed door meetings (because you get more things done that way – OMG – you ain’t a kidding) Bruce attempted to approach the podium for a second time saying it was well within Roberts Rules of Order, to which he was gaveled, then I.L. Weiderman approached also, to which he was gaveled, then we all got a pleasant lecture from Hizzoner about how we need to conduct ourselves at the meeting, and that city directors are not ‘paid enough’. I think I laughed out loud.


Moving on, I had an update over the weekend about the mosaic wall. I was told two things, that some of you may or may not know. Central Services who is in charge of cleaning city owned art never ever intended to budget for or clean the wall AND even if development happens at the triangle lot adjacent, the wall has to remain, It’s a Federally mandated flood wall. I asked if volunteers could clean the wall and that is out of the question due to the salt buildup. Special chemicals have to be used by professionals to clean the wall. I am told that councilor Erpenbach is working on a solution.


The council was a bit dumbfounded last night (Item #16)when ‘former’ Billion Automotive employee (Dave Billion Jr.) addressed the council over Billion Auto wanting a street vacated so they can expand there lot on 41st street. He spoke against it, and his testimony must have been good, because the vacation failed 3-5 (it needed 6 votes to pass). A confused council questioned Billion’s intentions. Councilor Kenny Anderson Jr. asked why he was speaking against it, and something about ‘Doesn’t your company want this vacation?’ Too which David responded, “That’s the OTHER David Billion”.

While I have known about Dave’s departure for quite a while, there hasn’t been much media about it. Mostly because no one is talking. Hopefully this latest stint last night will give at least one of the ‘David’s’ to talk. But even if they do what media source in town is going to risk losing advertising? Even when KELO did the story about it last night, they called Dave ‘A former employee’ then stated his name.

Just another fun night at Carnegie. Lots of laughs, lots of gaveling and lots of confusion.

The Vote YES campaign offers weak excuses about their disadvantages

Before we get to the Whaabulance party going on in the Vote YES campaign, I want to clarify something for voters.

If you vote NO on Tuesday, that means you support school starting after Labor Day. That vote also means you will TRULY get a school start date change.

If you vote YES on Tuesday, that means you like the calendar just the way it is, and there will be NO changes made. There seems to be this myth floating around out there that if you VOTE yes there is a chance of a compromise. I can almost guarantee that will NOT happen. The school board has already said they would not look at it seriously until after the vote, and there is nothing in writing. In fact, only one school board member, Kent Alberty has said he supports a compromise, but doesn’t speak for the rest of the board. Don’t kid yourself, whoever wins on Tuesday, one of two things will be clear. The calendar will remain the same, or it will change to after Labor Day. Let’s not muddy the waters with what ifs.

As for the campaigns themselves, I have been watching both of them very closely. It seems the Vote NO campaign has raised money, they have organized, they have put up yard signs, they have done a mailer and they have done print ads. They have also participated in several forums.

The Vote YES campaign has depended on students to get out their message, have raised very little money, and have really just whined about being hamstrung by state law. This is where I will come in and say “Poppycock!”

When I addressed the school board about state law concerning campaigning and the use of public funds and property I never once said that teachers couldn’t campaign. In fact, the way I look at it, teachers have 16 hours a day Monday-Friday and 24 hours a day, Saturday and Sunday to fully practice their 1st amendment rights and campaign for the YES vote. State law hasn’t prohibited the teachers from organizing, raising money, knocking on doors, talking to friends and neighbors or even holding public informationals, that would be a direct violation of their 1st Amendment rights, and they know it, or maybe they don’t?

State law is pretty clear. You can’t do it on the taxpayer’s dime, that’s it. But I have heard a lot of whining by their side that they have been somehow hamstrung by this law. That is just a bunch of boloney. It almost seems like teachers don’t think they should have to campaign for their cause unless they are getting paid, and that is unfortunate. Or is it that NOT all teachers support the early start? I have talked to several who are looking forward to the longer summer and voting NO. So let’s be clear, nothing has prevented teachers from campaigning on their own time, and some have, and I commend them. But to claim they are being hamstrung by state law is a stretch.

At the end of the day, the choice is simple on Tuesday. If you like the way things are, VOTE Yes, if you want your kids to enjoy summer more, VOTE NO.

This isn’t rocket science folks.

When transparency is not applied

Not quite the Mexican Hat Dance, but close
Recently we have seen major issues across our city, county and state when it comes to the correlation between the lack of transparency and corruption, and still many unanswered questions. Heck, as I mentioned in the last post, the mayor of Sioux Falls said at Rotary today he wants to dispel those rumors. Well the first step to recovery Mike, is admitting you have a problem, oh and finding a higher power (check your sleeve).
In just a short period of time we have had these issues;
• Failure to release Benda’s death report putting a cloud of suspician over EB-5. I have often felt this is the linchpin to the EB-5 scandal. While they constantly are blaming the dead guy, they are not letting us see how he became dead.
• The Events Center siding, lack of reports to the public and the temporary occupancy permit. This is a quagmire. Why has the contractor accused of wrongdoing freely came forward to tell their side of the story while the city has remained silent?
• Minnehaha County Commission NOT releasing the names of the 29 commission applicants and planning to interview the 5 finalists in private, two of which have blatant conflicts of interest. While there are qualified people on this list, it would be nice to see who all applied, or at least make the interviews of the finalists VERY public, and better yet, let the public ask questions.
• MED-Star not being chosen as an ambulance service provider as a result of a questionable consultant’s bias report to a committee that met behind closed doors. The selection process should have been open to the public. And while ambulance service doesn’t cost taxpayers, we should be concerned with who is providing us this important service, and if favors are being handed out.
• Lack of audio, visual, testimonial, officer identification or forensic evidence in the Tuthill shooting incident. The public has not been told one single thing. Are we in danger? Would be nice to know.
• Tribal money missing. I can’t even wrap my head around one of the poorest area’s of the country missing millions of dollars in aid money.
• The Sioux Falls School board interviewing future superintendent applicants behind closed doors. This of course is no surprise. Propaganda Queen Homan and her staff have always made a great effort to remain non-transparent throughout her tenure. I can guarantee she had a hand in this. What amazes me is that not one single school board member has an issue with it. While I can understand keeping most of the applicants secret, I do think the public should be able to vet the finalists in a very open and public interview. But of course, this is coming from the same school board that would only reverse a decision after having death threats issued against them.
Now let’s all say the pledge of allegiance, while wearing blind-folds.


Mayor continues to politicize the Jesus Snowplow issue

Man, this guy really doesn’t get the whole ‘Freedom of Religion, Establishment Clause’ thingy;

Mayor Mike Huether’s office was informed yesterday that the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty was planning to acknowledge the City of Sioux Falls and also Mayor Huether in a news release issued today. This relates to the City’s Paint the Plows program, which uses student artwork.

“Sioux Falls is becoming more and more diverse every day, and that is something we celebrate here. We value diversity and differing opinions. Everyone is important in our town,” says Mayor Mike Huether.

Here is the acknowledgement;

This year, inspired by the good cheer and common sense of the Mayor Mike Huether of Sioux Falls, we are bestowing the city of Sioux Falls the (momentary) Ebenezer award but promptly toasting the mayor.

Sioux Falls was our #1 contender for the Ebenezer award after it notified a private school that the city snowplow blades its young students had labored over and decorated would be repainted and censored. Why? Because the students had decided to celebrate the season with—gasp!—artwork celebrating the religious nature of Christmas.

The city, which had previously accepted religious art, momentarily lost its way when one lone atheist claiming to be part of the Siouxland Freethinkers filed an informal complaint.

The irony of this is that the Mayor is using city resources (Website, IT and Communications public employees) to applaud an award from a Religious Organization that promotes religious liberty (infiltrating government with theocracy). He demonstrates he still doesn’t understand the US Constitution OR the Establishment clause, and further uses tax payer resources to promote a specific religious view.

Mike, if you want to brag to your friends at church or to your co-workers about the award, go for it ‘Mr. Wear My religion on my sleeve’ but stop using tax dollars to promote Christianity.

I just finished reading American Lion, the book about President Andrew Jackson, here is passage from the book that I think Mayor Huether should read;

A third early president—Andrew Jackson—was similarly convinced that the Establishment Clause prohibited presidents from declaring a national day of prayer. Though a devout Christian, Jackson was prepared to veto a proposal by Senator Henry Clay to declare a day of prayer and fasting. His veto message would have explained that, although he personally was convinced of the “efficacy of prayer in all times,” the Constitution “carefully separated sacred from civilian concerns,” and accordingly he believed it his “duty to preserve this separation and to abstain from any act which may tend to an amalgamation perilous to both.” Jon Meacham, AMERICAN LION: ANDREW JACKSON IN THE WHITE HOUSE 207 (2008) (quoting draft veto message). Once his opposition was made known, the proposal died without the need for him to veto it. Id.

Using Winter Wonderland as an example for separation of church and state


As I was pondering the snow plow issue and all the crazy letters to the editor of people defending the violation of the establishment clause (because, you know, none of these people would be willing to paint Jesus Christ on the sides of their vehicles, well within their 1st Amendment rights, but defend it on government property). It reminded me of a discussion about what to name ‘Winter Wonderland’ when first proposed during the Munson administration. I remember there was a brief discussion when naming it, I think one of the suggestions was ‘Christmas at the Falls’. Not sure who got involved (City Attorney?) but I fondly remember someone within city government recommending it takes on a generic term not associated with a religious holiday. Smart move.

So what does this have to do with Jesus plows? It seems there are people who are intelligent enough about Constitutional law that work for the city (or worked for them at one time) to know you can’t cross that line while using tax dollars. So Huether shouldn’t act so surprised that this has become an issue. Of course, Huether knew nothing about local government or history of it until he started to run for mayor. History isn’t his strong suit.

As for the display itself, While I think it is a great idea, I think it could be done differently. Other cities do similiar displays but they have businesses volunteer the expense and labor and use it as an opportunity for teambuilding around Christmas. Workers and their families of the businesses that donate volunteer their time to set up the display then the city foots the bill of the electricity. They do have sponsors, but city employees do all the set-up. In fact, mostly public works department workers from the forestry division begin assembling the display starting October 1st. Which I find ironic in itself. One time when I questioned the city about project TRIM and why the city’s forestry department just didn’t trim trees that residences couldn’t reach in the boulevard, they replied, “We don’t have enough staff or enough time.” But taking almost two months to put up Christmas lights, plenty of time for. Just imagine how many trees could be trimmed in that same time period?

Once again, the city proves it’s priorities towards citizens and the law.


Argus Ed Board: Paint over Snowplows

First, I would like to say that I like this new and improved ED Board, they are not pulling any punches.

Secondly, I do understand the right to your opinion and freedom of expression. I will defend anyone to create art, but please, use your own canvas, not my tax dollars to promote your opinion.

As for the ‘art’ argument. What the Lutheran school kids painted on the plows ‘WAS NOT’ art. They simply copied a popular image from the internet. That’s it. It is one thing to say ‘artistic expression’ it is a whole other ball of wax to ‘plagiarize’.

With that being said, there are two great lessons here. First, the obvious, promoting religion on government owned property is unconstitutional. I expand on it during the council meeting public input (FF:6:18).

Secondly, copying someone else’s ‘art’ or ‘design’ is also a No-No.

But I think the Argus Ed board states it very well;

Obviously, there should have been clearer guidelines on the types of messages that would be acceptable for the art project in the first place. Someone in the city should be assigned to review the artwork before it’s put on public equipment for public display anyway.

Would there be no oversight to what community groups might paint on park benches or city streets during a beautification project? Or on city buses, for that matter?

Well there are guidelines, the city has them for private businesses in the sign code, and they must be followed. There is also a volunteer commission that is called the Visual Art Commission that approves public art and the use of public art. They should weigh in on these guidelines.

We trust the city is working to clarify the parameters of this project to avoid future problems.

But recognizing this unique conflict and removing the religious messages would not have meant denying the Christian beliefs displayed.

It would have reinforced the notion that governments can’t favor one religion or belief set over another.

Exactly! It really is that simple. But instead we have a mayor who has to politicize EVERYTHING! Sometimes Mike, we just want you to make a fair and just decision, not take sides.

Have Coke and a Smile


UPDATE: Compromise on Snowplows?

They are going to use a disclaimer. Sorry, but this won’t hold up in court. Huether give it up.

Here is a copy of the letter the attorney from Freedom From Religion Foundation sent to the city attorney: Freedomfromreligion

As you can see, he states several cases that show this is unconstitutional.


A little inspirational reading for the mayor (click to enlarge):




Heck, with a snowplow like this, the snow would melt at impact!

As any intelligent person that understands the US Constitution and 1st Amendment, and Jon Arneson would know, you can see where this is headed;

Arneson believes having those painting on city property puts the City into a corner where, by law, it would be seen as an endorsement of religion. He says U.S. Supreme Court rulings dealing with religion and government over the past 30 years support that.


I guess we are supposed to hear a resolution today from the city, I suspect if we don’t hear one by the weekend, that the city decided to quietly paint over the plow blades. We will see. I did notice it is already circulating the national news that our Mayor is Constitutionally inept. There was a blurb about it in the USA Today.



UPDATE: Mayor Huether proves once again he doesn’t understand the US Constitution


Triple-M doesn’t realize the Lutheran School doesn’t own the snowplows, we do, the taxpayers, while they can practice their ‘freedom of expression’ on government owned property, they cannot promote a particular religion (it really is that simple). If they want to paint privately owned school property, more power to them;

But Huether seemed adamant that the plow blades wouldn’t be removed.

“We are not going to be painting over those plow blades. We will not be painting over them unless I get some Supreme Court case that says that I have to,” Huether said.

Heuther is also reluctant to suggest changes to the “Paint the Plows” program for fear of trampling on the First Amendment rights of participating schools.

“That’s one of the things we’re struggling with,” said Huether. “How do we move forward and still allow people to have freedom of expression?”

Mr. Huether may just get his wish. Watch for the ACLU to be all over this. I also suspect the NCAC may jump into this. So now the mayor is willing to waste tax dollars on Supreme Court cases because he doesn’t have a clue about our US Constitution. How did I know he was going to take this stance?

During the recent informational today, Staggers was defending the plows, calling it a ‘political issue’. No Kermit, it is a Constitutional issue. It is one thing to ‘express’ yourself about a season (winter) and it seems all the other schools figured it out, it is entirely another issue to be disguising ‘artistic expression’ with a ‘Biblical message’.

Also, last I checked, artistic expression relates to somewhat original ideas, there was nothing original from stenciling already existing designs. Someone else also expressed to me we may be opening up ourselves to copyright infringement laws with Coca-Cola.

I will give city attorney Fiddle-Faddle credit, he told councilor Staggers that it was a ‘legal’ issue, and it is, a Constitutional legal issue. And Fiddle should be well-versed in them, he has plenty of case law proving the city doesn’t understand Constitutional law.