Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

Councilor Stehly sends out Postcard on Public Input

UPDATE: Mayor TenHaken’s compromises to the City Council on Public Input

UPDATE: Mayor TenHaken will be on Lalley at 4 PM today to talk about compromise.

Paul is offering these compromises to Public Input, and as I understand it they will be on Tuesday’s agenda for amendments;

A compromise will show unity and leadership by you as council and I would encourage you to bring forward an amendment or new ordinance as follows:

  1. Public input stays in the current spot on the agenda.
  2. Provide thirty minutes for general public input unrelated to first and second reading of items.
  3. Three minutes of allotted time per speaker during public input.
  4. The meeting chair has the discretion to allow first time speakers and those who speak infrequently to approach the podium before those who are frequent public input speakers.
  5. Public input will be encouraged on first readings of ordinances. This should not extend the length of meetings as it will likely cut down the time of input on second readings and shift it to first readings, plus public input is often for first reading items.
  6. Cards will be available for the public to provide written comment in case there is not enough time for them to approach the Council or they would prefer to write the council rather than publicly address the group. The meeting chair shall direct these individuals to use the cards as needed and provide their contact information. Contact cards for the Council should also be available for constituents to contact them.
  7. Electronic presentations using the Chamber audio/visual equipment will no longer be allowed. If citizens need a visual for the Council, they may distribute paper copies not exceeding 11×17 inches in size.

Most of it I don’t have an issue with, except #7. But that isn’t the real problem here, the real issue is not having a public conversation about it.

The Sioux Falls City Council needs to look in the mirror

The Sioux Falls City Council wants to point out that some people from the public are disruptive, unprofessional and disrespectful at the council meetings.

Really?

While that may be true, they should take a good look in the mirror. Before TenHaken took the helm there was backroom negotiations leaving several other councilors out of the process, in the open meetings there was often public shaming of fellow councilors from both sides. The chair himself would often cut off councilors or tell them they out of order (when they were not). Than there was the threats of ethics violations, etc, etc.

Trust me, while the public watching the meetings whether in person or on TV, they see this. We hoped with the new administration that some of this would end, NO more backroom deal making, NO more fighting at the meetings. It hasn’t.

Some have suggested to me since the Tuesday meeting that maybe instead of just making rules for the public,  maybe there should be some rules on how the council treats each other at the meetings. It certainly lacks decorum. Not only is a lot of their actions uncalled for, some of it may violate open meeting laws (cutting deals via private phone conversations and emails without including ALL of the council in on the discussion).

I will say that some of the ideas about a compromise are worth taking a look at, but the process to come up with these compromises is not above board. The council really needs to either defer, or better yet, kill the current proposal and go back to the drawing board. This starts with having an open conversation in a working session hashing out the details. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have the public be included on a discussion about public input in the open? I think so.

We have had enough of ramrod negotiations by the previous administration and his team of council rubberstampers. In fact, many times the council meetings got contentious because of this awful way of governing. Mayor TenHaken needs to demand that the council drops the current backroom conversations going on right now and move this out in the sunlight, otherwise we have accomplished nothing but maintaining the status quo.

Stehly and Starr on Jon Michael’s Forum about Public Input

You can listen HERE.

As I understand it there may be some amendments to the proposal on Tuesday, ultimately leaving it at the beginning of the meeting with some other restrictions. At this moment that train is still moving, so I would prefer not to elaborate.

Gotta love Stormland-TV’s version of this topic. Thirty-Seven people talked Tuesday night about public input. Out of those people, ONLY 2 supported changing it, and both are former public/government employees. So guess who they interview? You guessed it, the TWO who wanted it moved, oh, and they threw in June Staggers to make it look fair.

Make no mistake, the Media wants this moved to the end so they can make their 10 PM news deadline.

UPDATE: Please come and testify tomorrow night about public input

The Sioux Falls City Council will be addressing moving public input to the end of the meeting. While this is certainly a conversation we should have, it should not be done in the form of a proposed ordinance. There should have been a real public conversation about this. Why? Well I wouldn’t be opposed to some changes, but we never had that conversation.

16 years ago when they made the change to move public input from the end to the beginning of the meeting ALL 8 councilors voted for the change. (We will get video of that meeting in the morning to review – Thank you to City Clerk Tom Greco for expediting that for us). The argument at the time was citizens shouldn’t have to wait through long meetings. What has changed since than? Absolutely nothing.

By moving public input to the end, some have argued other people should have to wait also, like those receiving proclamations and awards. Wouldn’t that be fair?

My suggestion for changes would be moving public input to the same spot as the county does, AFTER consent and alcohol licensing and before regular business. I would also suggest we put public board appointments to the beginning of the meeting also so they don’t have to wait.

We are NOT naive, we know why some councilors are pushing to move it to the end, they don’t want to hear from the public, and when they do hear from us all the important business will be done and the news cameras will be gone saving them from any embarrassment that public input would bring up.

The chair has the power, and nothing will change after July 1st state law change, to address those who are disruptive during public input. They can gavel them and stop their testimony and ask them to sit down or leave. We have security at the meetings for a reason. Mayor TenHaken needs to assert his power and duties and act when people are ‘lacking decorum’.

As I have stated before, the regular old citizens fund this government, our ‘business’ at the council meetings is the MOST IMPORTANT and that’s why we should go first. They saw this 16 years ago, it still works and is not broken, leave it as is with some minor tweaks and let’s move on with more important things like flags and baseball stadiums 🙂

UPDATE: Councilor Selberg LIES in TV interview

First let’s address the hypocrisy of his reasoning;

There have been a few instances recently of vulgar outbursts and profanity. Councilors are reconsidering not how public input is conducted but when.

“We’ve had recently everything from four letter words to f-bombs and everything else,” says Councilor Marshall Selberg.

ONE person called the FORMER mayor names. ONE PERSON. Besides the fact that the former mayor is no longer chairing the meetings, and when he did he would taunt and laugh at commenters, changing the rules for EVERYBODY because ONE person had an outburst is a horrible way to govern. Ironically, the former mayor’s first secretary quit because she was offended by HIS use of ‘F-Bombs’ so frequently.

Selberg goes on to flat out LIE about what goes on in the meetings;

Public input is one of the first items at every meeting. Selberg says it can take up to nearly two hours at times creating a long wait for those who are at the meeting to be recognized or receive an award.

Public input has NEVER lasted two hours and awards and proclamations happen FIRST THING after the pledge of allegiance. They can leave immediately after that and DON’T have to stay for public input unless they choose to. Most leave and never hear public input. But it gets even richer;

He adds that children are sometimes present, and public outbursts take away from the “family friendly” environment.

Ironically most of the time the children that are present are brought there by parent council members who know EXACTLY what goes on in these meetings. They know first hand how controversial they can become. And secondly, as for Boy Scout troops, they are there to learn about government and how sausage is made, I think it is an incredible civic learning experience for them to hear people exercise their 1st Amendment rights. There is NO place in the charter that requires a council meeting to be rated ‘PG’ and that statement in itself is so ridiculous, maybe Selberg should resign based solely on his ignorance of the democratic process. A lot of blood, sweat and tears have been shed to make our country the greatest in the world, it wasn’t accomplished by reading poems about puppy dogs.

Contact you City Council about concerns;

MAYOR PAUL TENHAKEN

tel:605-367-8800

JANET BREKKE (AL)

Phone: 367-8808

Email: jbrekke@siouxfalls.org

CHRISTINE M. ERICKSON (AL) | CHAIR

Phone: 367-8818

Email: cerickson@siouxfalls.org

RICK KILEY (SE)

Phone: 367-8102

Email: rkiley@siouxfalls.org

GREG NEITZERT (NW)

Phone: 367-8109

Email: gneitzert@siouxfalls.org

MARSHALL SELBERG (SW) |VICE CHAIR

Phone: 367-8819

Email: mselberg@siouxfalls.org

CURT SOEHL (CE)

Phone: 367-8110

Email: csoehl@siouxfalls.org

PAT STARR (NE)

Phone: 367-8809

Email: pstarr@siouxfalls.org

THERESA STEHLY (AL)

Phone: 367-8806

Email: tstehly@siouxfalls.org

Sioux Falls City Councilor Selberg moving forward with ‘Huether/Rolfing’ memorial ordinance

That’s what I am calling the proposed ordinance Tuesday Night (Item#9 – 1st Reading) to change the order of the meeting agenda so public input is at the end of the meeting. The irony of it is that Public Input became a ruckus because of the lack of respect and decorum Huether and Rolfing showed to the commenters. Often laughing at, heckling, or making cry baby speeches at the people who would come up and speak truth to power. They were incredibly disrespectful and arrogant, than they wondered why someone would call them an SOB? Go figure.

They are trying to change the rules because of ONE person’s actions. But in reality, that is just an excuse they are using. The city has been embarrassed time and time again because of the input from citizens at the council meetings;

• Walmart on 85th

• Copper Lounge Collapse

• Oak View neighborhood

• Events Center Siding

• Administration building

• Downtown noise ordinance

• Poorly negotiated RR redevelopment deal

. . . and the list goes on.

This isn’t about one person’s potty mouth or a disenfranchised veteran, this is about stopping public commenters from pointing out important issues in our city. Some of the best solutions to problems and awareness comes from the people who come and bring public input. That is why the former mayor and certain councilors hated it so much.

I asked Councilor Neitzert in a text today how he would vote on the first reading (he seems to be the deciding vote) he gave me a line about coming up with a ‘pros and cons’ list. I told him it would be hypocritical of him to support this, especially since he used public input many times as a citizen and ran on transparency in government. Pushing citizens to the back of the line is certainly NOT a PRO to open and transparent government. I’m just hoping Greg sees the light by the time Tuesday rolls around. Besides, transparency was the #1 issue in this last election. Moving public input to the end of the meeting wreaks of closed government.

Either way, I will remind the ENTIRE council once again why this would be a very BAD idea to change.

• It has worked well for 16 years. I remember when Munson was mayor there were several nights when public input got a little heated. Dave wasn’t shy, he dropped the gavel and told you to sit down. That is what a GOOD leader/chair does, they take control of the meeting and situation. You don’t change the rules for the majority because a tiny minority has a potty mouth. TenHaken needs to be a leader and instead of supporting this (I hear he does) he needs to take control of the meetings. Maybe before Tuesday he can get some tips from Munson on that.

• The family friendly argument is a joke. I didn’t know a government meeting was like an episode of the Brady Bunch. Besides, let’s talk family friendly. Was it family friendly to approve going into partnership with a developer who’s contractor caused the death of a worker? Is that what you mean by family friendly? I am way more offended by that than if a person says SOB at a meeting.

• What the heck has Councilor Marshall Selberg done in 2 years? Besides voting on developments that benefit his employer without recusing himself (conflict of interest) he has contributed NO legislation. So his first order of business is to push through anti-dissent legislation? Wow! He really has NO CLUE about public service.

• As I mentioned above, half the problem with public input solved itself when Mike and Rex left.

• I have also argued that this will actually make the meetings longer, because people will show up for public input and start to comment on all the agenda items. If you have 4-5 people from the public speaking for 4-5 minutes on every agenda item, the meetings could get very long. And once you get to public input, they could let you have it again about the decisions that were made that night. Do you really want to end your meetings that way?

Finally I will say what I have said to the council a thousand times already – the citizens own this government, not the banksters and developers and mega-plex hospitals. The public should have the first opportunity to speak at meetings and the rest of them, who are essentially benefitting from the city either financially or otherwise can wait. Besides, like standing in a long line at the courthouse to get your license plates, waiting until the end of the meeting for public input is another form of taxation. Everyone else in the room (councilors, mayor, directors, city employees, bar owners, developers, etc) are getting paid to be there, we are not, but we are funding the operation that’s why we get to go first.

Public input is NOT broken, it just needs to be handled better by the chair, someone who is willing to gavel and put people in their place when they use potty mouth or ramble about what happened to them in 1973.

Leave it as is!

CONTACT the council and mayor’s office and tell them how you feel.

I know that Selberg, Kiley and TenHaken support this. I think that Erickson and Soehl MAY support this. Brekke, Starr and Stehly DO NOT. So far Neitzert is undecided.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Council Vice-Chair Selberg proposing ordinance to move public input to end of meeting

UPDATE: Apparently Selberg is proposing this because the meetings are supposed to be family friendly;

“They’re getting a show that’s not very family friendly sometimes,” he said.

Makes you wonder how ‘family friendly’ the Continental Congress was? What a putz.

So the first action/legislation of new Vice-Chair Selberg is to tell the public their input doesn’t matter. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to elect him vice-chair. He is proposing the first reading on June 12th to move public input to the back of the meeting, Councilor Rick Kiley is expected to support the measure to get it on the agenda.

As I have mentioned in the past, this could seriously backfire on them if they pass this. You could get citizens sitting through the meetings and commenting on every single item. Than at the end of the meeting chewing out the council for some of the crappy decisions they made throughout the night. If you think the meetings are long now, just wait.

But what makes this even more egregious is that there hasn’t been a public discussion about this. They just had a working session about public input and NO one brought this up, in fact Councilor Neitzert specifically said he did not want to talk about it – obviously he knew about the proposal. The rumor is that Mayor TenHaken is pushing this behind the scenes and getting Lloyd Companies Realtor Selberg to do his dirty work.

I also believe the developers are behind it. I think after Lloyd Companies got their asses handed to them over the failed apartment land deal on 6th street they saw the power of public input and how it can squash their devious plans.

Councilor Theresa Stehly said this to me about the action, “It’s an assault on citizens free speech rights. A direct action to suffocate and annihilate the citizens voice at council meetings.”

UPDATE: Sioux Falls School Board has questionable Executive Session

The school board met at 2 PM today (video above) to discuss the Envision Task Force Draft report. The meeting was posted as a 2 PM start meeting, but when people arrived they noticed the agenda changed to a 1:45 PM Executive Session before the meeting started.

First off, most of the time Executive Sessions are at the end of meetings not at the beginning. Secondly they have to state SDCL that it is an executive session, that is 1-25-2(2);

Executive or closed meetings–Purposes–Authorization–Violation as misdemeanor.

As you can see, besides stating SDCL numbers they must tell the public on the agenda the ‘purpose’ of the session. While they don’t have to state what/who will be discussed, that is the whole purpose of an executive session, they must say the topic or purpose. For example, pending litigation, student issue or personnel issue. They did not state the topic and took no action in open. This could be a possible open meetings violation.

Once the 2 PM meeting started they went straight into the draft report. Some interesting things occurred.

At 32:30 a member of the public, Michael Wyland asked where the document was that outlines the 30 member TF’s individual priorities and how the ranking was done. No one produced the document.

Other things that were stated was 70% of the people who will vote on the bond issue DO NOT have children in the school district.

TF Chair Vernon Brown bragged about the how nice it was only a $2 a month tax increase. This hasn’t been fully explained yet either how that will compound over the 10-25 year loan span except that there may be a lower capital outlay levee promised to offset that tax increase. No idea what that will be either except that they will model it after the 1997 school bond.

Super Maher stated that while staff can share FACTS about the bond issue they cannot encourage people to vote for or against the bond. This is questionable because they haven’t been sharing all of the FACTS so far, so I have a feeling the FACTS they do share will be cherry picked.

He also went on to say there is a private community group interested in promoting the passage of the bonds but wouldn’t say who it was. My guess it is probably involved with the Chamber, but not sure.

Finally, Maher said that while the $190 million will be for the construction of 3 schools, $40 million of that is for ‘TLC’ of existing schools.

UPDATE: I guess the School District’s Financial Director, Todd Vik mentioned that they would try to use super precincts in the proposed September 18th election. I missed that, but a reader pointed it out to me. I’m still researching whether they can do that in reference to Federal Law and disenfranchising voters.

I’m getting very nervous about how they are going to sell this to the community. Like I said, I support public education, we need new schools, I get it. Where I get troubled about the proposal is the details of what the money will be spent on and the lack of documents from the TF supporting why we need to do this.

This proposal will be doomed if they don’t start sharing ALL of the information with the public. Government works best when it is open and transparent, this proposal is already on shaky ground.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert believes we should ‘control’ salary data information

Well, I will give Greg credit on one thing, before he made the above statement, he admitted he would probably be criticized for it. Well, here comes your criticism.

During the informational meeting, Neitzert said that the recent compensation study done by the HR department should not have been released to the public ahead of time (before HR could explain it in an informational). Ironically, they haven’t released the full report (about 200 pages). Which IMO makes the presentation even more confusing, as several councilors pointed out. There wasn’t a breakdown of different departments (except that our Police and especially Fire Department are compensated well above other cities our size) and that Directors and Management (non-union) employees were left out of the study (which also confused some councilors). First off, that is because this study is for collective bargaining with the unions, which is the excuse HR Director Bill Da’Toole used for not releasing the full report to the public yet (if you give it to the public and unions at the same time what is the harm?) Secondly, management and director pay is pretty much determined by the mayor, and some goofy formula the HR department comes up with, which in turn makes it really up to the Mayor. That is how Former Mayor Coors Light & Olives was able to give corporate/executive like raises to his directors including ‘spiking’ the Finance Director’s pay by $16K before his retirement. I agree with councilor Stehly, city managers and directors are well compensated in our city compared to other cities.

But back to ‘controlling’ the salary data. First off, as I have had to remind our prestigious city council and past mayor, we own the government, the citizen taxpayer. We pay the wages of city employees for services they provide to US. It’s not the other way around. Talking about city employees salaries in a general sense when it comes to job description and not by name isn’t some top secret affair, especially after we paid $65K for the report. Besides, city employee’s salaries are listed HERE on the city website BY NAME (DOC: 2018-Wages), these are also not a top secret, because once again, we pay those wages.

The HR department should have just released the FULL report yesterday before the presentation, not only to the council, but to the unions, the public and the media, all at the same time. There really isn’t any excuse to ‘control’ salary data, it’s not like this is a Events Center siding report.

So Far, Sioux Falls City Council falls short on transparency promises from the campaign

I can’t speak for TenHaken and his office yet. We haven’t heard anything from 9th and Dakota, of course there has only been one official meeting, and tomorrow’s city council meeting seems to be some hold overs from the former administration.

Sometimes hearing NOTHING is a good thing, sometimes it is not.

But when it comes to the city council it seems business as usual. The city council, who has complained about the former mayor’s transparency hasn’t opened their books up either. The city council posted their informational meeting agenda on Friday and as of noon today there is still no supporting documents on what those presentations will be.

I’m not sure who is responsible for the agenda of the informational but my guess would be the Clerk’s office and council’s operations employees. Of course it wouldn’t be entirely their fault either, they take their marching orders from the city council.

There is also nothing top secret about the three presentations, there would be no harm in posting the supporting documents ahead of time.

Transparency was the #1 issue in the last municipal election, but was our city government listening?