Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

UPDATE: Using Entertainment taxes for private entity setting a bad precedent

I first want to say I support finishing the State Theatre, I have actually helped with some charity fundraisers for the facility through ZombieWalk and SF Roller Dollz. I think it is a worthy cause and I applaud Denny Sanford for giving money to the goal of completion. But I think that is still the direction the theatre should move in, private donations for a private facility.

Using entertainment taxes sets a bad precedent, as I pointed out yesterday, and I will tell you why.

Seven years ago, former city clerk Debra Owen won an open meetings case over how her termination was handled. During the proceedings, City Attorney David Fiddle-Faddle argued his case based on the opinion of a former attorney general. 4 of the 5 attorneys who sat on the Open Meetings Commission contended that an ‘opinion’ of an AG is NOT case law, so it did not apply. When Fiddle continued to argue based on the AG’s opinion, one of the panelists asked David cynically, “You do understand that the opinion of a AG is not the same as case law? Don’t you?” The crowd in attendance let out an audible giggle. The commission determined that you have to base your arguments on tried case law, not opinions.

The City of Sioux Falls is trying to say they can spend the entertainment money on a private entity in the form of promoting the city based on a opinion of the AG in 1984. But there is NO case law. In other words, the city could be sued if they try to set this precedent. Even if I supported giving the State Theatre MORE tax money, which I don’t, it should come out of the CIP not the entertainment tax.

Listen to Allison Weiland talk about the State on Jon Michael’s Forum

In other news, Cameraman Bruce attended a luncheon today talking about open meeting laws, 3 of the panelists were former State Legislator Dave Knudson, Argus reporter Jonathan Ellis and Jon Arneson (Argus attorney). They all contended that the most recent open meeting laws that Knudson helped write, said that if text messaging or emails during a public open meeting are being used, that correspondence can be used in a court case. So council, if you were smart, you would put the phones and email chatting away during the meetings.

Should ‘ALL’ Sioux Falls City Councilor emails be considered confidential?

I have been of the opinion that city correspondence should be public record unless it is addressing legal counsel, personnel or discussing possible legislation.

City councilors have been sharing discussion emails with the media and this blog for well over a decade. Since the council’s email and use of it is taxpayer owned property, there really isn’t any harm in sharing discussion emails with the public, I would even argue it is our right to see it.

Lately there has been some internal discussions on the council whether or not sharing discussion emails is appropriate. Not only is it OK it is essential to open government and seeing what our council is doing. This is also a reason why texting during the meetings should not be allowed. Any correspondence during these meetings, whether through a text or email should either not be allowed by ordinance or shared with the public since it seems to be a part of the public hearing.

It’s hard to ‘Leak’ confidential information to the public if it’s NOT confidential to begin with.

Events Center Campus Survey is government overreach, but that’s just one example

There is nothing wrong with online surveys. If you are willing to give up some form of security to help marketing companies make a little extra money, that is your bizzo. But when government hires a private company to do a survey that requires a name, address and phone number, then we have issues;

Today, Mayor Paul TenHaken’s Events Campus Study Group launched a public survey to gather input from the community on the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center Campus.

Available at siouxfalls.org/ec-survey, the short survey asks for input on the current status of the campus and looks for feedback on potential improvements. Survey respondents will be entered into a drawing to win one of many $25 gift cards.

One of the other key questions is if you are a registered voter. None of this information is pertinent unless the city and the marketing company (Lawrence & Schiller) needs to collect data on you as a registered voter. Remember, Mayor TenHaken is serving his first term in elected office of any position, he has a long political life ahead of him (I hope not). L & S also does political consulting for a wide range of candidates across the state. This kind of voter data would be very valuable to both PTH and L & S. It is also not needed. Simply marking a box saying your are a SF resident should be good enough for this survey.

But this isn’t the only place the city is gathering data on you. They are also doing it with the phone app for reporting potholes and other issues. They are also doing it HERE on the city website and HERE on the GIS website.

They have also gotten away from posting really any video on the city’s main website and very few in YouTube. They have been basically using FB as their main source to getting out information. Besides the fact that some people don’t use FB, it goes back to not having to have a ‘login’ to access public information. They can also track you via FB.

The Brexit campaign to leave the EU used FB to manipulate the vote. It is under a massive investigation because of complicated UK laws that deal with voter protections. Using FB to collect voter and citizen data isn’t some fairytale.

There is absolutely NO reason a citizen should have to have a login to get public information. Public information should be available for FREE and without sharing your identity.

While I could go into several constitutional reasons why what they are doing is wrong, the bigger question I have is ‘WHY’ collect the data? Why does the administration and certain people within city government, and now apparently private companies, think they need our home addresses, names, phone numbers, age, email, voter registration? What does that have to do with a dying ball field?

This is a ploy to collect as much data as possible on us to manipulate future elections. It’s very Karl Rovian and certainly in PTH’s ‘wheelhouse’.

DON’T sign up to receive data. Don’t fill out these surveys. And if the government comes knocking on your door, tell them they need a warrant.

Surveillance is everywhere, but not to keep ‘us’ safe

Isn’t funny how government puts this stuff up to protect themselves from us;

“There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras now deployed in the United States shooting 4 billion hours of footage a week,” reported Popular Mechanics 10 years ago. Five years later,according to The New York Times, “there were 245 million professionally installed surveillance cameras around the world.” Today, five years later, they’re talking about 30,000 spy cameras in the city of Chicago alone.

The Cameras Everywhere craze came to full bloom after September 11, when fear of the “other” transformed into fear of everything. This fear was fed and nurtured through the oppressive onslaught of cynical politicians and ratings-hungry news networks. Recently, however, cities have begun to flip their own high beams at the eyes that never blink.

“In 2013, Seattle police installed surveillance cameras and a network that could track wireless devices throughout downtown,”reported The Seattle Times in February of 2018. The network “had the potential to track and log every wireless device that moved through its system: people attending protests, people getting cups of coffee, people going to a hotel in the middle of the workday…. After unwanted publicity, they turned it off. Now the city is paying $150,000 to physically tear it down.”

Sioux Falls City Council continues to chip away at open government through little battles

I was reminded of proposing a total transparency ordinance a year ago after talking to a city councilor yesterday. I was trying to tell them that while the little battles over open government have been slowly chipping a way at transparency, it is much more like going two steps forward and three steps back. I suggested that they propose a total transparency ordinance, and if it fails, keep bringing it back with tweaks until it does. Let’s face it, the city council has had over a year to come up with a permanent solution. I think they should ALL work on this together, first in a working session, operations committee and city council informational.

Right now all we have seen the past year is a back and forth game of what should be transparent and what should not. I have said in the past that there has never been a government body in SD who has gotten in trouble for being too transparent, so open it up and put it in writing (in the charter).

I guess we can continue to have the school yard fights over registration fees and book club meetings, but the council should really be looking for a semi-permanent solution to fixing transparency and communication, because until that happens, I’m not going to listen to the whining anymore.

Is the Events Center Campus Book Club skirting transparency?

The first two meetings were several hours long with Bruce’s camera present. A foot soldier attended the 3rd meeting yesterday, it was a whopping 25 minutes long. This person got the feeling that the group is now meeting in sub-committees privately to avoid being transparent in the bigger picture. It will be interesting to see their final decisions come out of nowhere with no prior discussion (at least one out in open).

It seems the more we scream for transparency, the more they go underground.

UPDATE: California city has 4 public hearings on 5G before telling city council ‘Hold for now’

UPDATE: Notice Sioux Falls isn’t on this list? Hmm?

Hey, Paul, TJ and Erica, this is what transparent government looks like when the Feds have a cattle prod up your rear;

Amid concerns that federal mandates usurp local authority, the fight for control over the hardware that transmits wireless Internet has reached an impasse in Fairfax.

After the fourth public hearing before the Town Council this week — this one lasting more than three hours — council members said they need more time before adopting new regulations for the installation of wireless antennas used for the high-speed network called 5G.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Mayor Barbara Coler said after the Tuesday special meeting. “After we released our draft ordinance last week, we received a lot of public comment [Tuesday] that we needed to consider and review.”

How many public hearings did we have (that were NOT official readings in official meetings) before we let 5G roam free in Sioux Falls? ZERO.

I will say it again, you can only have open and transparent government by actually practicing open and transparent government.

If you have to tell us how you are being transparent, you likely are missing the a mark

I have often argued if you want to be transparent in government, OPEN up everything except what is not allowable by law like personnel issues and pending litigation and let the public tell you if they are getting too much information – which is highly unlikely.

While Mayor PTH has made some strides in transparency, most of it happened because of pressure from the public or the city council, but let’s review;

A few weeks into my tenure, I directed that all available audio from the Parks and Recreation Board meetings be posted on the city’s website. This had been opposed in the past. Beginning in 2019, we also began recording video of these meetings.

I commend the mayor on this decision, but this ball was already rolling when councilor Stehly pushed for this in the last administration.

I initiated changes to the Council’s consent agenda — the list of contracts for goods and services the city enters into that require Council notification and approval.

This was also something the council (and public) requested. And I will agree, it is much better.

I am also easy to reach by the public. I hold regular office hours for the public and meet with community stakeholders and citizens on a daily basis.

While this may be the case, having a security officer at city hall because someone stole a can of Coke out of the mayor’s reefer isn’t exactly a show of transparency. If the mayor is concerned about his security, he should talk to the State Legislature about banning firearms in public government buildings. I also think having ONE main phone number for the city with a switchboard will be helpful, something the mayor says he is working on. This is WAY overdue.

And why do the bureaucrats always have to split community stakeholders and citizens? As in “I hold regular office hours for the public and meet with community stakeholders and citizens on a daily basis.” Aren’t we are all citizens or at least all stakeholders?

This week my administration launched a Community Dashboard to provide the public and media with key performance indicators that are easy to access and simple to understand.

The data or Community Dashboard is worthless if you do not know the cryptic file naming scheme, in other words, it needs work. I have never understood why Sioux Falls doesn’t have a simple website like the City of Omaha. Notice the department tabs on the left hand side of the home page. When you click on them they give you more contact information and a search engine that assists you in what you are looking for. It seems the city’s IT department is making things more complicated by creating a portal that doesn’t really work. Break it up into departments and let people search from those tabs.

While PTH has made some strides in transparency, it has been from the pressure of the council and public, for example the Event Center Campus Book Club meetings. Those meetings would have never been open unless there was pressure from councilors Starr and Stehly.

I challenge Paul to open everything up and then deal with the criticism from too much transparency, I can pretty much guarantee he will hear NO complaints from the public, the REAL stakeholders in this government.

Open Government is paramount, because it is OUR money

We all know the truth, Mayor TenHaken and his staff were forced to open up the Events Center Campus Book Club meetings because councilors Starr and Stehly are sticklers about open government. God Bless Them!

So in a ‘sour grapes’ move I’ve been hearing they had their first ‘Open Meeting’ in the crowded old commission chambers instead of Carnegie. They supplied about 2 chairs for the public for a 3 hour meeting. Staff was rude, and several city employees were burning up the time clock ‘hanging out’ in the meeting.

This is NOT open government, this is obstinance.

Many people in government, conservative, liberal or whackadoodle don’t believe government should be open. They think things get done ‘faster’ when we shut r’ down. While this may be true, it usually doesn’t turn out well for the public. It has been proven time and time again open government prevents fraud, corruption and saves taxpayers money, but all those arguments aside, only one thing matters; We OWN this government, we have a right to see what is going on, it is OUR money.

I have told people if Sioux Falls city government sided on openness I wouldn’t have to have a blog. The fight gets tiresome sometime, because it’s always the tired old predictable things that happen under closed government.

Why must we fight for something so hard that is so easy? You promised transparency Mayor TenHaken, NOW is the time to deliver.

Events Center Campus Book Club meetings NOW open to the public

Funny how these things work. Councilor Stehly and Starr put out a press release announcing a press conference today at 1:30 to discuss a resolution opening the meetings to the public and then a mysterious email never shared with the council magically appears; (Copy of proposed ord: Events Campus Meetings RES )

An email from the event center group’s co-chairs Dan Statema and Jeff Eckhoff to Mayor Paul TenHaken said that the group had voted at their first meeting on Feb. 27 to allow the public and media to attend the rest of the meetings.

“We see no harm in having interested parties gain the same education we are as we progress through this process,” the email read.

Do you really think the public is that naïve TJ? Really? The only harm would be leaving the meetings closed, which is still on the table;

The email said the group would like to retain the ability to meet privately if “nonpublic” information ever needed to be shared, but said he did not expect the need to arise.

When it comes to a grouping of public buildings there is no such thing as ‘nonpublic’ information. Bucktooth & Bowlcut tried that approach with the Denty’s siding debacle, it blew up in his face. The only information that can be withheld from the public in closed door executive session has to do with pending litigation and personnel. Since this volunteer group wouldn’t have access to that kind of information anyway that means ALL of the meetings need to remain open. I think this is just a sneaky way of heading off Starr and Stehly to convince them there is NO NEED to pass the resolution, but I still think they need to so they have some insurance in case they try some back door deals. A statement in a supposed email about a supposed vote in a closed door meeting doesn’t cut the mustard.

“Our stance all along was ‘we’re not going to force you guys to meet in public if you don’t want that,'” Nelson said.

“They’re not in a decision-making role,” Nelson said in January. “We want to make sure we have the most open and candid conversation possible.”

Hey, TypeOver, when it comes to OPEN, NON-PARTISAN government, that isn’t up to you or volunteers on a task force committee. The meetings MUST be open to protect the public’s best interest and to have the best OPEN and HONEST conversations, there never should have been a ‘choice’ in the matter.

I would advise councilors Starr and Stehly to push ahead with their resolution to ensure the meetings stay open. I think the administration, especially Deputy COS, TJ TypeOver looks especially foolish for proposing closed meetings to begin with. If someone on the task force was uncomfortable with open public meetings, you pick someone else, it’s really that simple. So now we have to go thru a bunch of steps about supposed votes and emails, resolutions by councilors and excuses from Mayor TenHaken’s staff when we could have just done the right thing to begin with. See folks, this is what happens when you try to keep secrets from the public.