Entries Tagged 'Open Meetings' ↓

Man wins 1st Amendment Supreme Court case for being arrested for his city council public input testimony

The SCOTUS opinion was just released on June 18, 2018. ONLY Thomas dissented in this 8-1 decision.

TenHaken continues to allow city employees to be hamstrung

We are already seeing the affects of the Home Rule Charter going straight to the head of the new mayor;

Mayor Paul TenHaken won’t repeal a Huether-era executive order that threatens punishment for city employees who share confidential information with the public, despite previously saying he would.

I can about imagine the line of BS he was fed from the HR department about keeping this order;

“Rather than continue the practice of having employees sign confidentiality statements, we felt it would be more efficient to place this provision in policy,” O’Toole wrote in an email then.

But confidentiality in different departments means different things, and that is why a ‘blanket’ policy makes NO sense.

Brekke, though, still believes some of the language in the confidentiality executive order is too vague, especially phrases that say city employees shall not share “sensitive information” and only when it’s related to the “business necessity” of the city.

Because those phrases, Brekke said, aren’t strictly defined, it could be causing “a chilling effect” when it comes to city staff’s willingness to share the government’s business with the public and the media.

“I still think it should be rewritten because I still don’t think it’s appropriate for government,” she said. “That might be appropriate if you work for Apple computers, and you can’t let anything leak out of your system. But when you’re working in government, that kind of policy is overly broad.”

If a full repeal is off the table, Brekke said she hopes to have more conversations with both the mayor and O’Toole about softening the executive order or better defining what is and isn’t confidential.

TenHaken said that’s not out of the question.

“There’s really been no issue with it as it’s currently set up. It’s more optics, and I think that’s what Janet wants to address,” he said. “It’s a new day and maybe we could soften it to make sure city employees are comfortable sharing information.”

If I was Brekke, I would take action with council legislation. During the campaign, the public spoke loud and clear, we need MORE transparency in government, not more of the same. But with this issue, Legacy hiring Ketchum and the fiasco with Public Input, it seems that TenHaken is just giving ‘transparency’ lip service and little else.

A charter revision dictated by a petition drive and voters may be on the horizon, sooner, rather than later.

Sioux Falls Board of Historic Preservation, June 13, 2018

Cameraman Bruce has attended many meetings of multiple Sioux Falls boards and commissions I have noticed these issues. At this point he’s not singling the Board of Historic Preservation because things are noticed in most of the meetings making you scratch your head and wonder why.

Cameraman Bruce had been asked when the Board of Historic Preservation was and where because there was no required notice of future meetings on the website (potential SDCL 1-25?). A trip was made at 2:00pm on the 13th to City Hall to check if the west entrance door was the posted with notice. No time or date stamp to notes when the meeting was displayed for the public. These notices should have a posting time stamp and a remove date (there were some really old notices still hanging on the doors).

Here were some of the things noticed in this meeting:
1. The meeting was being held in a room with a closed door, not a problem if the meeting is identified.
2. There was no notice of meeting on the door welcoming public in the room.
3. There was no website posting to conform to state open meetings law SDCL 1-25-1.1.
4. The meeting started before the 4:00pm posted meeting time, when the camera was turned on, the first hearing was well underway. The cellphone is used to timestamp the meeting start. To sync multiple cameras in confusing situations, this allows the 4 – 5 camera setups to make sense to the viewers. It just helps to know what times we have to work from. Just for Open Meetings information, this could be a SDCL 1-25 issue.
5. There was no overhead projection to show the images on a common viewing platform so the audience could see what was happening.
6. There was no ability for the members to see the images being discussed causing great confusion, watch the members struggle to understand the issues being discussed.
7. There were no handouts for the audience, another potential SDCL issue.

BTW, this was the last meeting with Tom Keller as the Chairman. He did a good job with the potentially contentious meeting the month before.

In light of the Big Yellow House issues, thinking about this and past meetings attended, how many other potential bad decisions are made because the members and audience were left confused.

Many have been asking why the new derelict looking Copper Lounge building looks so out of place downtown. Look at the brick and see how many different shades are visible. This building’s city owned facade shown in all the drawings and discussions was to be similar to the building destroyed through stupidity. We’re told the builders showed a small sample of the brick to the Board and it was accepted. Having experienced this meeting and others, one or two brick samples doesn’t begin to cover it. The process should be started to have the facade easement returned to the program. This is another situation where the process seems to be lost.

This is not to pick on anyone, especially Diane. This is just a friendly reminder to all the staff running all city meetings:
1. post the meetings timely where they are to be posted
2. post the yearly calendar of meeting dates so the public can plan
3. wait until the legally posted time to start the meeting
4. have the exhibits available for all to view
5. use microphones and sound systems so the audience can hear
6. have AV equipment available to use so all people in the room can understand what issue

How many more Big Yellow Houses are in the waiting? We’ve just finished up with an abusive, secretive mayor who controlled and hid much plus on the 13th the move to the Romantix Annex office building was started. Let’s try to start with an open attitude.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Brekke on Ethics & Open Meetings

Janet Brekke set a new standard for Sioux Falls City Council thought provoking discussion on June 19, 2018. During the discussion of the fake Public Input control ordinance Brekke had to remind the proponents and everyone else what goes into proper process. We must remember, there is nothing lost if everything is in the open following proper process.

The Selberg / Kiley fake Public Input ordinance controversy never had to happen. It was a brain dead proposal to shut off voices they did not want to hear, interfering in proposals they appeared to want hidden from us, the owners and customers of our city government.

To help everyone understand, the city of Sioux Falls is technically a public corporation run through by-laws (A.K.A. Home Rule Charter). The Home Rule Charter gives the administrators certain responsibilities and are answerable to us, the stockholders. We citizens are the stockholders of the corporation, not the special interests who pay money to have more influence or pay platting fees.

The last few years we have been teaching the public how and when they should redress their issues and concerns. This fake issue was shot down by the people, those who showed up and those who couldn’t. It appeared for the time being, the elected board of directors heard the message.

On July 3rd we will need everyone to show up again to make sure the message was received and the Council does the right thing by getting rid of the fake problem. There is other work to be done.



Just what did I talk about at public input?

There has been some criticism from councilors and from the media about the frequency of certain commenters at public input. As I have noted, I ALWAYS talk about things concerning our city. I don’t talk about state government unless it has to do with city business and I don’t talk about Federal Government. I don’t even talk about my blog or personal things like community art shows. If I was trying to get ‘publicity’ wouldn’t I be talking about different things at public input besides city business, I don’t. I attend public input not only to address my concerns with city government, but the concerns of many citizens in this community who either don’t have the time to attend city council meetings or are to shy to comment. I read the minutes of the 26 meetings I spoke at, these are the topics I covered. I sometimes address several topics during the 5 minute period I am afforded. As you can see EVERY SINGLE TOPIC has to do with city government. No carrying on about personal government subsidies or how no one listens to me. Some say you can contact your city council outside of public input. I do, I also blog about a lot of stuff that I never address at public input. I will say this though, a majority of the council WILL not respond to emails or phone calls. Sometimes city employees/directors won’t either. That is why public input is important, it is a time to address concerns, in public and on the record. This is how you get results.

Public Input (4)

Decorum of City Council

Open Government and Open Meetings (4)

Falls Park Safety review

Affordable Housing

Alcohol Licensing

City elections (8)

Trains (6)

Construction of City buildings

City Planning (3)

Sioux Steel moving

Top Ten Wins

TIFs (3)

Decibel Noise Levels Downtown

City Lawsuits

Public Ambulance & current ambulance service (3)

City Financial Reports & Budget (3)

Sanford Sports Complex

Charter Revision Commission

Municipal League

City Bonds (2)

Event Center Siding (3)

Events Center & SMG (2)

Downtown Parking Ramp (3)

City Arts funding


Washington Pavilion

Great Plains Zoo

SF Fire Department

Sioux Falls Parks (2)

City Ordinances

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.


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;




Phone: 367-8808

Email: jbrekke@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8818

Email: cerickson@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8102

Email: rkiley@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8109

Email: gneitzert@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8819

Email: mselberg@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8110

Email: csoehl@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8809

Email: pstarr@siouxfalls.org


Phone: 367-8806

Email: tstehly@siouxfalls.org