Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

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.

The Sun may shine a lot in Sioux Falls, but dark clouds loom over our government offices

dark-sky-wallpaper

It’s Sunshine Week, or at least that’s what our local newspaper is telling us. They have been having fun setting up ‘scenarios’ when it comes to closed government in our state and city, but scenarios are not necessary, our closed government is all around us and not something to pretend about;

City of Sioux Falls

– The city council and public still have not received a contractor list of who built the Events Center. The council has been asking directors and the mayor for this list for almost two years.

– The Event Center siding consultant report has still not been released to the public or the council. In fact we have been told very little with the year deadline for a resolution looming in August. Officials with SMG and the city building department have said that the building is ‘water tight’ and the bent up siding makes the building look ‘interesting’. What will be ‘interesting’ is to see who will pay to fix the mess.

– Nobody is quite sure how many developers have been denied TIF applications (by the mayor’s office) over the past 27 months. Speaking of TIF’s one wonders if the mayor is picking winners and losers based on his personal investments with developers? Good luck finding out, the mayor doesn’t have to disclose his development investments with the public.

-The city council was asked to vote on the ambulance contract without seeing the scoring procedures or criteria and essentially created a monopoly in the city limits with little transparency in the process.

-We have NO idea what is going on with the RR relocation project, a project that will potentially cost Federal taxpayers $30 million dollars.

-While a proposed indoor aquatic center gets smaller and gets more expensive there has been no word as to why and where all the amentities promised before the election disappeared to AND we still don’t have and MOU on the Quit Claim deed from the VA, but the city attorney says he is ‘working on it’.

Minnehaha County Commission

-Besides the fact the appointment process for John Pekas’ replacement was behind closed doors, the appointee comes into question, Jean Bender, wife of major Sioux Falls developer, Michael Bender, and conflicts of interest. Especially after the joint city council and commission recently denied a CUP for a solar development farm that Mr. Bender and his group were appealing. Jean was not in attendance to the meeting, but one wonders about future zoning issues concerning her husband’s business? This isn’t like a county sheriff’s wife is running a city owned café, there is a heckuva a lot more at stake here then ice cream cones and turkey wraps.

Sioux Falls School Board

-Now that they have the future Superintendent list down to six finalists, the public still is not able to vet the finalists in a public forum. This coming from a school board that only listens to the public when a referendum is threatening them or if they are getting death threats. And even with the looming election they are skating on thin ice with state election law by promoting opposition to the late start date using teachers and administrative staff during business and school hours which is against state campaign laws.

As you can see from these ‘few’ examples, there is no reason to setup scenarios of the lack of transparency. It’s very dark in Sioux Falls, and the sun isn’t coming out anytime soon and neither is the truth.

Appalling Lack of Transparency in Local Government lately

I know what you are thinking, not any more than usual in South Dakota, which really doesn’t have that many laws protecting the citizen’s right to information, heck, and even if government is found doing something wrong our recourse with ethics law is non-existent.

So that best I CAN do is point out the latest assault on South Dakota Democracy and lack of transparency;

STATE LEGISLATURE

SB166 was ‘tabled’ after Sen. Corey Brown ‘claimed’ people were cursing at pages. I guess my question is “Why were they answering your phone anyway?” But the worst part about the situation was that several people showed up last Friday and sat through hours of pointless testimony so they could speak about the bill. But Senator Brown didn’t allow it, he felt there wouldn’t be an ‘intellectual’ conversation about it. Yeah, the two main opponents of the bill who showed up to testify were former state legislator and current Minnehaha County Treasurer Pam Nelson and Sioux Falls Petition Queen, Theresa Stehly. I have a feeling Brown feared an ‘intellectual’ conversation. (Bob Mercer wrote and interesting article about the I & R process: I&R History – Bob Mercer

SF SCHOOL BOARD

I really think they strive at looking more ridiculous by the day. For years parents and teachers have tried to work with administration and school board members on a school start date and have been IGNORED. Now all of sudden after thousands of signatures have been collected and the measure being put on the ballot, the school board wants to ‘compromise’.

This isn’t the first time the school board has pulled this (sick leave graduation, pledge of allegiance and substitute teacher pay come to mind).

You look foolish, childish, hypocritical, out of touch and quite ignorant. Morrison’s comment today in the Argus Leader says it all when he exclaims, “It isn’t transparent enough, apparently.” You think? DUUUUUHHHHHG?!

Let voters decide in April because after wasting 5 years of their time trying to work with your body they have decided it is easier to collect 6,000 signatures and have an election.

MINNEHAHA COUNTY COMMISSION

After 29 applicants come forward to apply for the empty commission seat to be appointed, the county administrators (non-elected) picked the five finalists (for the commission) and shred the applications. Then the county commission picks (in private) the appointee and votes for them in a poorly publicized public meeting where no questions from the public were asked. It was the worst display of closed government I have seen with the county in years. If I was Commissioner Bender I would be embarrassed of how I was chosen.

SIOUX FALLS CITY COUNCIL & MAYOR

I know, where to begin on this one? So I will narrow down to three;

-We have no idea what is going on with the EC siding. Who will pay to fix it? Will it get fixed? Nothing. In fact every time they do release a little information about the project, they go back on the promises made.

-Ambulance service provider contract. This has been handled so poorly I think the whole process should be scrapped and start from the beginning. If you have a little free time before the meeting tonight to approve the contract I suggest googling some names involved with the selection committee, Paramedics Plus, Fitch, etc. etc. It is so insidious you would think we chose a Hueterrite colony to run our ambulance service.

-The indoor swimming pool cost overruns. Besides being lied to over and over again about the project, starting before the election, there are a ton of unsolved mysteries here. Has the VA given the city an MOU about using the park for indoor aquatics? How do we plan to pay the levee bonds back in a few years since we are using the Federal repayment for the ‘cash’? If I was a city councilor I would vote against the cost overrun based solely on the lack of transparency. Why vote for a budget that you have been lied to about?

As a citizen and a blogger I will continue to watch my local government, but with them all misbehaving, it is getting harder every day to keep up with the secrets and rumors.

UPDATE: If you were following the live tweets from Huether’s YPN luncheon today, he makes some interesting statements about people who question the transparency of the city (click to enlarge) he also talks about the Super Walmart that WILL be built on the Southside of town.

mayortweets

When transparency is not applied

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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.

 

Open Government in SD? LOL! (Guest Poster)

Just got done rereading Randall Beck’s open government committee article under Ellis’ byline in the Argue Endorser and it made me chuckle. We at South Dacola have been real interested in the open.sd.gov website lately. Who wrote this? Under whose guidance? With the results we see, why bother? It kind of reminds us of putting lipstick on a pig.

Was it worth it?

The reporting / contracting agency is responsible for up-loading their contracts and expenditures when and if they want to.  Just go look for a company, law firm, or medical firm you know is doing business with the state.

Try to find the contract and the terms.

How do these outfits get paid? And how many of these companies (individual owners) are donating to the same old yahoos getting elected to run our state every year?

Look for contracts – payments the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, Governor or any other office out of Pierre. You will be hard pressed to find anything out there.  So much for the phoniness of ‘open’ SD government.  With all the legislative hearings without contract questions, no-bid contracts, hidden contracts, Governor’s club arrangements and other special deals reported out of Pierre we at South Dacola want to be able to trust something out of Pierre. But you know what they say, “You can only get the shit so shiny when you polish a turd (Pierre).”

What is missing from the Governor’s open government task force? Private citizens.

This list is a joke.

While there are some members that will be strong advocates of open government, they will be drowned out by other members. And like I said above, where are the private citizens? I guess we are not important enough to be concerned about open government.

I underlined the members that are truly laughable. One of them, the SF city attorney, was even reprimanded for violations of open government;

  • Diane Best, assistant attorney general, Office of the Attorney General
  • Dale Blegen, publisher, De Smet News
  • Jim Bolin, state Representative, Canton
  • Dave Bordewyk, general manager, South Dakota Newspaper Association
  • Pat Butler, managing editor, Rapid City Journal
  • Jonathan Ellis, journalist, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
  • Jason Gant, Secretary of State
  • Tena Haraldson, director of communications and media relations, University of South Dakota
  • Joe Kafka, press secretary, Office of the Governor
  • Maricarrol Kueter, executive editor, Argus Leader
  • Shawn Lyons, executive director, South Dakota Retailers Association
  • Jack Marsh, president and chief operating officer, Al Neuharth Media Center, University of South Dakota
  • Al Novstrup, state Senator, Aberdeen
  • Bob O’Keefe, deputy state’s attorney, Davison County
  • David Owen, president, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Dave Pfeifle, city attorney, Sioux Falls
  • Wade Pogany, executive director, Associated School Boards of South Dakota
  • Sara Rabern, public information officer, Office of the Attorney General
  • Bobbi Rank, assistant attorney general, state Department of Education
  • Mark Roby, publisher, Watertown Public Opinion
  • Lisa Rothschadl, chair, South Dakota Open Meeting Commission
  • Greg Sattizahn, director of policy and legal services, Unified Judicial System
  • Yvonne Taylor, executive director, South Dakota Municipal League
  • Kevin Thom, sheriff, Pennington County
  • Seth Tupper, editor, The Daily Republic, Mitchell
  • Tony Venhuizen, director of policy and communications, Office of the Governor
  • Waltner, Tim, publisher, Freeman Courier
  • David Wiest, deputy secretary, state Department of Revenue
  • Bob Wilcox, executive director, South Dakota Association of County Commissioners
  • Steve Willard, president, South Dakota Broadcasters Association
  • Susan Wismer, state Representative, Britton
  • Diane Worrall, executive director, South Dakota Association of Towns and Townships
  • Terry Woster, public information officer, state Department of Public Safety

 

Misc.

I have a few tidbits I wanted to share, so I thought I would just throw it all into one post.

MUSICAL PRECINCTS

I sent this email out today to the entire SF school board, Minnehaha county commission, SF City Council, city clerk, county auditor and mayor. I have already gotten two responses that are very positive;

Normally I do not email my elected officials, especially the entire city council, the county commission, the school board, the mayor, the city clerk and the county auditor all at once, but I did a recent post about the ‘musical precincts’ this city continues to play with elections and the mass confusion it has on voters. It’s time you all sat down in a room and figured out a standard already, this has gone on long enough!

As soon as most of them get back to me about it, I will do an indepth post about it.

LATE FILINGS

Ellis blogged about the supposed investigations the SOS’ office is going to conduct AFTER the election (yeah, that makes a lot of sense);

Secretary of State Jason Gant said his office will begin investigating a number of campaign finance violations as soon as Tuesday’s primary is concluded.

“We will begin investigating Wednesday morning,” he said while touring a polling place at Hawthorne Elementary in Sioux Falls.

Some groups have not filed required campaign finance reports, even though they’ve sent out flyers. Other committees have sent out illegal mailings that do not include the appropriate disclaimers.

“Tomorrow we are full steam ahead on working out those issues,” he said. “If they are not filing, we’re going to find out.”

I have often thought instead of fining late filings (of candidates) they should just leave their names off of the ballot. If you file late, you lose your opportunity to run. To heck with silly fines, if you can’t follow the rules you don’t get to play the game. As for the PAC’s I think you should revoke their status.

ARE EMAIL’S OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS PUBLIC RECORD

Ellis also blogged today about his battle with city hall over public records from an administration of ‘one of the most transparent’ mayor’s ever 🙂

“The law includes data, data fields and e-mail in its definition of public records, and it lets citizens bring their own devices to a government agency to make electronic copies. Georgia thus joins a growing number of states that explicitly open electronic communication to and from government officials to the public.”

I’ve written before about how backward South Dakota’s open record laws are. Many states make emails among government officials public records. South Dakota is also the rare state in which police reports aren’t available to the public. Oh, and mugshots.

As for data fields, I’ve been fighting to get the names of data fields used by the city of Sioux Falls in a database since December.

Ellis makes a good point. Why can’t we see emails? It would put rumors to rest about how involved the mayor is in local politics and his supposed quest for higher office. As for the data fields, I know what this is about, but I will let Ellis break this story, that is if he gets the data.

 

 

 

 

Why the rule change? Just follow the open meeting laws to begin with.

(IMAGE: KELO-TV screenshot)

So let’s add another layer of rules that the city attorney can find a way to wiggle out of;

In the future, the City Council will have to name an employee and the action being taken against the employee. Pfeifle says going forward, city leaders intend to be as open as possible.

Wasn’t that what you were supposed to do to begin with?

Open Meetings Commission member, Brenner, loses in the SD Supreme Court

(Image: KELO-TV screenshot)

If Glenn Brenner’s name doesn’t sound familiar, it should. He is a member of the SD Open Meetings Commission;

Douglas Rumpca of Rapid City sued Pennington County State’s Attorney Glenn Brenner, saying Brenner stole the affections of his former wife, Kellie Rumpca.

Not only is he for open meetings, apparently he is for open marriages 🙂 To be honest with you, I think this law is silly. If your wife leaves you, that is her decision.

As for Brenner, it is important to note that he is the only member of the OMC to vote against the rest of the commission on the recent decision about the SF City Council in reference to the Debra Owen issue.