Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

Secret Meetings?

Are public notices in newspapers a waste of money? Sometimes.

As you know, I am big on open government, and public notices are important;

A bill that would allow South Dakota’s 17 largest cities to publish their public notices such as meeting minutes online instead of in the local newspaper was defeated in committee on Thursday.

HB1167 would have allowed cities with populations of more than 5,000 to publish their public notices on their websites, freeing them from the current requirement that notices be published in the local newspaper.

Rep. Greg Jamison, R-Sioux Falls, the bill’s sponsor, said the state’s larger cities are already posting their notices online, as well as broadcasting the meetings.

HB1167 “makes it so it doesn’t have to be in the newspaper,” Jamison said. “That’s the big difference here.”

While I agree alternative methods should be ‘explored’ I do agree with the SD newspaper industry – to an extent;

Justin Smith, an SDNA lobbyist, said that having a third party print the notices ensures that the government “cannot come back later and change them.”

In his work as a lawyer, Smith said, he has at times needed to check on notices published as far back as the 1950s.

“There is forever a record of that information,” Smith said. “1167 would destroy this permanent archive.”

While their arguments are fine and dandy, the issue I have with the way it is now, is that it has to be in a ‘paid subscription paper’ and the problem with our local paper is that they print it on a weekday (not as many subscribers) and in 4-point type. It should really be in the Sunday Paper in at least 6-8 pt type so people don’t have to get out a magnifying glass. I also don’t see a problem with it being in a weekly shopper that doesn’t have subscribers, it may get MORE readership. Right now, the government entities are subject to when the newspapers decide to print the notices, and that isn’t right either. Just Sayin’.

Cameraman Bruce; Ask your city government for transparency

Let’s load up the Parks office with requests for DVD’s of the meetings;

The mayor’s veto rationale has an interesting twist; he admitted the meetings are recorded and currently available if the public asks for them. So, I recommend all citizens of Sioux Falls request DVD recordings of all city boards and commissions meetings not currently posted. The mayor says they are available, so let’s all ask for them, as Argus Leader reporter Joe Sneve has done. Confirm they are furnished free of charge, just as they were furnished to Sneve.

Transparency in government would be significantly enhanced by a new ordinance providing for video recordings of city department board meetings archived online. The absence of such a policy serves only to reinforce a perception of a veil of secrecy over the Sioux Falls administration thwarting the citizen’s right to know what their government is doing.

Transparency is NOT a slippery slope, in fact it should be an easy hike in the country side.

Hey Stupid! Transparency is for us, NOT for you.

Not sure if you watched the bizarre testimony from Parks Board members and the ‘Patsy III’ at the city council meeting last night, but they certainly don’t have a clue what open meetings and open government is about. One of the reasons I chose NOT to testify last night is because I knew it was going to be ludicrous display of ignorance when it comes to transparency in government, and they did not disappoint.

Besides Councilor Erpenbach claiming the board members will be berated in videos because she has been (to tell you the truth, I have never attended a Parks Board Meeting, and only know the names of two of the members, and the videos we have posted so far has never questioned the discussion of the members, but more the actual parks staff).

But the Parks Board Members made it about ‘them’ in their testimonies. Besides the fact I found it a bit ironic that the same people who say they are afraid of talking in front of public cameras, stood in front of cameras at a public meeting to tell us they are scared of those cameras, they missed the entire point of recording the meetings. It is for their benefit protecting them from decisions they may make from bad advice of staff. And if you don’t think Parks Staff can cook up a good BS casserole, just watch the advocational sessions before the pool vote, where they concocted more stories then you can shake a dolphin at.

But it is really about something bigger. Serving the citizens of this great city on a volunteer government board should be taken seriously, and just because you are not elected, you are appointed by an elected official (the mayor) and open and transparent government should be of highest concern. In fact a simple question on the board application form could be added, “Would you be comfortable with being recorded during your meeting proceedings?” If you answer NO, then guess what, you don’t get the job.

Open government isn’t about THOSE who serve, it’s about WHO you serve, the public. And we have a right to know how our money is being spent, whether that is advisory or not. This is our government, we own it. It seems very elitist to me that a board member may think they are so important due to their ‘volunteerism’ that they don’t have to tolerate open and transparent government or any kind of oversight. I would say to those who want to serve that are opposed to those basic democratic ideals to simply not apply and take up a membership in Toasters.

As for the mayor, as an elected official to VETO this, well that’s just plain stupid. And if he decides to run for higher office, he will be reminded quite often of his intolerance to transparency.

Government Secrecy in closed settlements serves no one

Ellis says something I try to bang in people’s heads all the time, it’s your money, you are the boss;

Put aside the corruption issue. It’s a matter of good government. And good government is about understanding who the boss is. And the boss is you, the taxpayer.

YOU pay the money that gets secretly negotiated away in these confidential settlements to who knows who for who knows what. It’s YOU, the taxpayer, who pays the salaries of the public officials who negotiated the confidential settlements. They work for YOU, not the other way around. And besides the potential for abuse, confidential settlements also allow government officials to hide their incompetence from you, the employer. What if the government is negligent in some matter? They can hide it from the taxpayer with a confidential settlement.

You can bet that when Jamison’s bill gets its hearing, the defenders of this practice will argue that confidential settlements give local governments leverage to negotiate better deals. That they save taxpayer money.

They can say it all they want. But you know what they can’t do? Prove it.

That has been my argument for ages. They tell us it must be secret, but they can’t tell us why. Because if they did, a lot of them would be in jail.

Mayor Huether only concerned about transparency when it comes to him

Howdy Doody lays it down!

Funny how Mike only cares about transparency when it comes to him,

The council’s reasoning on the Parks Board ordinance is transparency, but Mayor Huether says, that’s what’s missing from their decision to donate the Ice and Rec Center.

“Where have been the work sessions on this and the meetings with the public or even the meetings with the executive branch of government,” questioned Huether.

But, of course once again, he stretches the truth. The Glory House idea was first raised this Summer by councilor Starr, then in October he told city directors he was serious about the matter, but they just ignored him. The mayor tries to claim no one tells him anything, ironically it is always things he is opposed to. See a trend?

What is the cost to follow the Mayor around with a camera?

Theresa Stehly mentioned on B-N-B show this morning that she requested the amount it costs to follow the mayor around with a camera for press conferences and Listening & Learning sessions. The finance director could not give her a solid number saying they really don’t keep track (in other words buried in the CityLink/Media budget.
Huether fancies himself as a great and prudent businessman. He has a director of finance (Turbak) who pretends to know what he is doing controlling the town’s cash. This director of the cash doesn’t know the cost of videoing the mayor’s events?
An astute businessman would know how much it costs to:
  1. buy all the equipment needed
  2. send a guy out with a camera
  3. return to the office to upload
  4. store the recordings
  5. how much it costs to replace the equipment as it wears out
They both complain about the cost of recording but had no idea how much it would cost? This proves how bad the city finance system is when they do not understand the basics of cost centers. This is actually a very easy number to generate. To a real cost accountant, this could take minutes to figure out. As for a guy who has worked in the media business for over 20 years, if I had to do a quick educated guess, just to record the press conferences and L & L sessions, it would be well over $100,000 a year. This does not include the entire CityLink budget OR the independent contract hosts like Madeline and Jolene.
There is a strong belief the lack of recordings is not a cost issue or to protect the board members. This effort to stop recordings is to protect city staff from being recorded giving bad advice the board members have to follow. There is no attempt to protect the members only city employees. Our videos show this time and time again.

Mayor Veto’s recording meetings. Calls transparency a ‘slippery slope’

Yup, like a grumpy old man, our mayor of all he sees says, “stay away”. Keep off the grass. Wash behind your ears. Don’t park there. Shut up when I enter the room. Bow before me. I am in charge, do not question me. Like a President of 40 years ago, Yup, like a grumpy old man, our mayor of all he sees stay away. Keep off the grass. Wash behind your ears. Don’t park there. Shut up when I enter the room. Bow before me. I am in charge, do not question me or my authority.

We now have a Sioux Falls City Council able to question everything and does with regularity. There are things happening in city government the people want to see. The citizens have for quite a while. Due to the way our city charter is set up, we have little choice but accept the authoritarian “take or leave it” way of the leader.

His veto of the publication rules for Park and Recreation Board meetings is another slap in the face of all citizens. He is saying, “things are going well for me, keep out”. These fine citizens have done what Don Kearney and I want so leave them alone.

Nowhere in the discussion have we citizens said the board members have done anything wrong. We just want to be able to see their deliberations. Cameraman Bruce has been to several meetings and seen how it works. Like the other board meetings he has been to, not much happens there not controlled by the department “advisors”.

Maybe the January 24, 2017 veto decision by the mayor was more to protect the advisors than the members?

Mayor Huether uses the power of veto to finally prove once and for all he is vehemently against transparency in government

I have been beating this drum for 7 years. Huether is extremely anti-transparent, he has proven it time and time again. He used the power of the VETO pen today to prove it. He had a very weak argument that these committees are volunteers and didn’t sign up for this? First off, you do have to sign up to get on these boards and committees. You have to fill out an application, you have to submit a resume, then you have to be vetted not only by the mayor but the board itself. So there is a process. If you WANT to be on these boards, you have to do a little work to get there. And secondly, I only want honest and open people serving on these advisory boards, not secretive.

He also calls recording these meetings a ‘slippery slope’. It’s a slippery slope to prohibit recording board meetings.

Anybody who argues against recording these meetings, are what they are, fascists.

Recording Parks Board Meetings is for the PUBLIC’s best interest not the board members

A letter writer says it best, when Parks director Kearney tries to pull excuses from his butt;

I affirm the Sioux Falls Council’s decision to require the video programming of the Parks Department Advisory Committee meetings for the benefit of the public. Director Don Kearney’s rationale to prohibit the recordings of the meetings stems from the government bureaucracies’ weak mindset that they can control what is in the best interest of the citizens.

And further more, we don’t want weak or ignorant people serving on these boards;

Most public servants have the courage, faith and the confidence that the process is needed and that all citizens should have the opportunity to participate and be informed of actions of all government activities.

I have suggested the meetings be recorded at Carnegie instead hopscotching all over town;

In this instance, the Parks Advisory Committee meetings could easily be changed to an alternate time and day to allow more access and public participation opportunity.

As I told a city official this weekend, ‘We ARE singling out the Parks Board because they are important, just like the Planning Commission. They should be honored we care what they are doing in these meetings and proud of the decisions they make instead of hiding in a break room at the zoo.’