City Council members Greg Neitzert, Pat Starr, and Theresa Stehly talk with Public Affairs Director, Jon Michaels, about snow plowing, the no-smoke proposals, and many ideas they brought back from a national convention of city officials in Pittsburgh. Theresa Stehly liked some cool traffic speed indicator signs, budget ideas and an interesting public checkbook on-line.
It was refreshing to hear councilors talk about transparency in government, especially when it comes to the city’s budget and bank account. For a moment, I wondered if these were Sioux Falls city councilors 🙂
Besides people shooting themselves over a meth deal in Sioux Falls these days, we have another epidemic, speeding in residential areas. If I hear one complaint more from residents about crime, it is people who speed through sensitive areas (mostly school zones). There is a solution, and it is quite effective, and rather inexpensive. Small towns across South Dakota have been using solar powered flashing speed signs. Not only are they pretty frickin’ handy, they can also be moved quite easily using a bracket system.
Councilor Stehly is pushing for ‘testing’ these signs. She was voted down during the budget process, but she tells me that she is still pushing for them. Like snow gates, Theresa won’t give up until they are implemented or at least tested.
Our chief traffic engineer responded to a series of questions from Theresa;
From: Hoftiezer, Heath Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2016 10:52 AM To: Stehly, Theresa <TStehly@siouxfalls.org> Subject: Responses to Speed Trailer Questions
1. You indicated that we are using the speed safety signs on poles within school districts only. The city currently does not own any for residential areas.
That is correct, so far we have limited usage to School Zones.
2. We talked about the areas that are high complaint areas. Right now, how often do we put the speed trailers out. How many speed trailers do we have and how long do you let them sit in an area? How do you decided who gets to have the speed trailers?
There are three speed trailers that are moved around to different locations on a weekly basis from Spring thru Fall. A list of speeding complaint areas that is generated by calls to Police, Public Works, City Clerks, Mayors Office and received CRM’s is used to determine where the trailers are placed.
3. We talked about the speed trailers we currently have sticking into the roadway. It is also my understanding that they are bulky and labor intensive to move.
Depending on location on narrower streets the trailers can influence traffic quite a bit due to protruding into the driving area (this can be good and bad). The trailers generally take up a parking spot in order to be placed so they are not able to be placed at locations that do not have parking. It takes approximately one day for a person to pick-up and deploy the three speed trailers that the City currently has.
4.You seemed to view the addition of pole mounted solar speed signs in notorious complaint areas as a possible benefit for our community. You said you would appreciate it and they would be used if they were available.
That is correct. We have explored the concept of what you are proposing a couple of years ago and our biggest concern was what the expectation would be for relocation timelines. The 3 month rotations that you were talking about would be reasonable to work with.
Please let me know if you need anything else.
Heath R. Hoftiezer, P.E., PTOE • Principal Traffic Engineer City of Sioux Falls
Stehly also got an estimate from a traffic control company;
ESTIMATE FROM: Radarsign, LLC
Price estimate for 10 solar 400 speed signs for Sioux Falls South Dakota.
Dimension 4ft 5ft
Signs 10 $–3,595 per sign $35,950
Postage 160 per sign $1,600
Traditional speed limit sign $25 per sign $250
Customer Discount -$5,000
Total cost $32,800
Easy to Move
Tracking information available for $ 250 per sign / $2,500
This past Tuesday, 4 city councilors decided to attend election parties of their designated parties. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Selberg, Erickson and Neitzert attended the GOP bash while Pat Starr made his way to the weeping room at DEM party headquarters. Starr opted out of speaking at their shin-digs, but Neitzert and Selberg made a brief statements and Erickson was the emcee at the GOP event. Like I said, nothing wrong with supporting your party even if you serve on the council as a supposed non-partisan. But I wondered why councilor Stehly did not attend the GOP event after being invited by Erickson.
Stehly told me she believed in staying non-partisan as a councilor, though she belongs to the Republican party and believes in a lot of their values, “Hey, I represent Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents on the city council. I don’t need to get myself tied up in party politics. We need to care about others and treat them with respect no matter what political party they belong to.”
While I understand the argument of singling out individual businesses, (FFL 1:20:30) I believe these councilors had a right to take a personal look at a business that is making oodles of money while using tax dollars on a high number of police calls. And for disclosure, besides the three councilors, there were 4 citizens present watching what was going on. Since the license renewal did pass 7-1, this was more of a warning to Wiley’s that we are watching. I also found it strange that Erickson didn’t have an issue with the police calls, but just a few short months ago she took them to task over smoking violations. Ironically, I checked out that situation Friday night. What Wiley’s essentially has is a smoking room with it’s own bar and very large doors that open up to an outside heated patio. Basically a 4-season room for smokers.
I am very proud them taking a stand, especially Pat and Greg for standing up to the mayor and councilor Erpenbach. If anyone should be embarrassed, it should be her.
Yeah, I know, you never thought I would agree with Mr. Brown, did you? We will get to that shortly, but first with councilor Theresa Stehly’s idea of having separate legal council for the city council;
The distrust, she said, stems from conversations with City Attorney David Pfeifle in which she was told she was vulnerable to ethics violations if she continued to speak out against city-backed initiatives, policies and projects. She said those comments were made in an attempt to stifle her efforts to generate public opposition to the city administration building and a Terrace Park improvement project that the city’s historical preservation board put a stop to earlier this year.
“The agenda and wishes of the mayor are coming first,” she said.
Many would argue that another attorney would cost us more money, not the case at all. They could easily move one of the 6-8 attorneys that already work for the city over to the city council position. You wouldn’t have to hire anyone new. I think we should have learned our lesson when we fired an incredible city clerk (Debra Owen) and had to hire 3 employees to replace her. Not only did Owen do all 3 of their jobs for a lot less then the unqualified city clerk is doing now, she also had a law degree and advised the council on legal issues (one of the reasons I think the city attorney broke open meeting laws to get her fired).
In 2012, after the council voted to fire former City Clerk Debra Owens during an executive session, the city was brought up on open meetings violations in front of the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission.
I was at the meeting where the city attorney attempted to Fiddle Faddle his way through violating open meetings laws. He looked like a fish out of water and was chastised by almost the entire board of very seasoned government attorneys. As I said above, whether he is qualified or not, the council had excellent legal representation with Owen, who also championed transparent government. I have often been puzzled why it took three positions to replace her, and I still don’t know what these guys do besides making power point presentations and stamping official election documents with a blind fold on.
However, making the office of city attorney an elected position would alleviate perceptions that the city attorney is beholden to the mayor, he said.
“You know who hires and fires if you’re the city attorney,” he (Vernon Brown) said. “But should the city attorney be elected? Because then there’s some accountability besides to the mayor.”
I have suggested this in the past, making the city attorney an elected position would be excellent.
As for how Stehly has been treated, I haven’t been privy to those conversations, but there are some obvious missteps by the city attorney that reveal his vindictive nature towards councilor Stehly, for instance shouting from the crowd to stop her while she is being gaveled by Rex Rolfing. We know where David gets his marching orders from, that is obvious from how Debra Owen was fired and how he handled the siding settlement;
Former council chairman Kenny Anderson Jr. said there were times during his tenure that he felt outside counsel would have benefited the City Council.
When the city attorney’s office was negotiating the Premier Center siding settlement, the council was mostly kept out of that process and had to defer to Pfeifle throughout the process.
“There were times I felt we should have had a second opinion. I don’t disagree with Councilor Stehly on that,” he said. “I would say one good discussion point would have been the contract that the mayor and administration signed with the parties in the event center and where the money was placed as part of settlement.”
If you don’t think David is keeping things from the public and the city council, all you need to do is look at his track record and his loyalty towards the mayor. When he became the mayor’s personal attorney during an ethics hearing because the mayor couldn’t walk a 100 feet to defend himself, is another prime example.
Either way, I believe city charter has changed now so that the next mayor will have to have the consent of the city council before appointing a future city attorney. Spring of 2018 can’t come soon enough.
I was excited to step into a role on the council where I could use the resources of our city government to better serve our people.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. I have been told by our council leadership and our city attorney that I should not talk to the media, that I should not advocate for citizen issues, that I now work for the city and I should never criticize my boss, the city. One of the most disturbing comments that was made to me was:
“Don’t let the tail wag the Dog.”
Some have said that I should just discard these comments. But when you have the power and threat of the city attorney’s office coming at you, it is hard to defend yourself. I have had to get my own attorney to be an advocate for me and my rights to speak up for the citizens of Sioux Falls.
Something needs to change. The city council as a legislative branch needs their own attorney, separate from the executive branch (the mayor’s office). We need checks and balances to keep integrity and transparency in all that we do as a city. We need to have an open discussion to discuss what the public wants and expects from their city council. I want to assure the public that I will always work for their best interest.
What most people don’t understand, there is a whole other side to what has been happening to our councilor, a side the Mayor and his administration doesn’t want you to see. Because while Stehly works on helping the average citizen get a fair shake, and the county concentrates on keeping us safe with building a new jail, our mayor fiddles around with crying at an indoor pool.
The shadow of secrecy continues to creep and the council’s action in the Stehly incident is just the latest worst example.
City Attorney David Pfeifle has refused to answer questions at to the legal justification of this secret session. This is unacceptable. Pfeifle is a public official and as such answerable to the people, which in this case is Argus Leader Media.
There is no place in a free society for the secrecy and subterfuge currently engaged in Sioux Falls city government.
It must stop.
First off, thank you Pat for writing this column, though I don’t agree with your digs at Theresa (surprised he wasn’t able to work in some Staggers digs in to). As I have said, this kind of bullying and intimidation has been going on for a long time. Kermit comes to mind, and ironically the AL has chimed in encouraging the bullying against him. Funny how these things work.