UPDATE: Democrats to hold 1st Forum of State Chair candidates

The Brookings County Democrats will be hosting a forum for all of the candidates for State Democratic Chair this Saturday, at 1pm, at the Brookings city library.

The Six  Candidates are: John Claussen (my choice), John Cunningham (my 2nd choice), Paula Hawks, Tom Cool, Allison Renville & Ann Tornberg.

Here is the video from today’s forum;

Posted by Brookings County Democrats on Saturday, February 9, 2019

I’m a credentialed journalist of ONE

In South Dakota, you can get a badge for almost anything!

As I have stated before, there is no credentialing of journalists in South Dakota. You can certainly belong to the SD Newspaper Association, you can also work for a TV station or newspaper in which you collect a paycheck. You can also have a degree in communications and journalism. But in SD, there is NO organization that will give you credentials.

I find it ironic that a state legislature and governor’s office find it necessary that you have credentials to carry a pen, but you only need a holster to carry a gun.

Their misunderstandings between the 1st & 2nd Amendments are astounding.

City of Sioux Falls HR Director blows smoke

Of course, it is NO surprise that Bill Da’Toole is trying to downplay the corporate like pay structure of city management and directors;

The city says it hires independent consultants every eight to 10 years to make sure it’s recruiting top talent. The city doesn’t want to lose employees to the private sector.

What is NOT mentioned is that those consultants study the wages of the minions in city government (union employees). They do NO studies on director or upper management (non-union) salaries. But somehow Bill tries to tie that study into upper management;

“We’re not Microsoft,” said the city’s human resources director, Bill O’Toole. “We can’t pay at the very top. We’ve gotten very, very practical at how we do this, and we think we do a very good job.”

First off, while the city has many talented employees, trust me, no one in upper management is Microsoft material. Secondly, Microsoft is a private, for profit corporation that in no way runs like a city. So yes Bill, the city isn’t Microsoft, so why are some directors making corporate like executive wages?

He says it isn’t so. Oh really?

So, how do salaries vary over time?

“Every position has a minimum and a maximum,  whether it’s a city director or somebody governed by one of the labor contracts,” said O’Toole.

With good job performance, there are typically nine steps to get from that minimum to that maximum.

“For the first five steps, you’re eligible for a merit increase annually,” said O’Toole. “Between steps five through nine, it’s every 24 months.”

That’s interesting, because many NEW directors get hired at the SAME amount as their predecessor was getting paid when they left the position. It has happened numerous times. When the last city clerk left after around 20 years of service, the new Clerk got her outgoing salary. He isn’t a certified city clerk either.

The city seems to pay their directors like the corporate world; not based on experience, but who you know, not what you know.

Mayor TenHaken’s office sends out bizarre photo to advocate for the closure of Elmwood Ave.

You can’t make this stuff up. The mayor’s office sends out the above photo to the city councilors to advocate for the closure of Elmwood Avenue. Saying this;

02-08-19 Update: Mayor Paul TenHaken stated that Erica Beck, Chief of Staff had sent an email to council outlining the administration’s analysis of the street vacation request. The administration supports the vacation, and is not obligated to be neutral. The Crippled Children’s Hospital and School was built in a corn field and predated the neighborhood.

Their argument that they were their first is ridiculous. First off, zoning laws have changed numerous times since the hospital was built. The neighborhood has also changed. The hospital and it’s ownership has changed names at least 4 times since it was built. On top of the that, the current facility plans to sell within 5 years with no idea who will move into the facility (though the rumor is Sanford wants to snatch it up).

While I disagree with some things in our current zoning laws, street closures should NOT occur because someone or some entity with the most money wants it closed. It should be based on what is best for the neighborhood, which is obvious, keeping the street since Elmwood is the only street in that neighborhood that goes all the way through.

But I have an even bigger issue with the Mayor’s office trying to advocate for a private business and influencing the council’s vote before they have the appropriate hearing. This is what happens when your Deputy COS comes from a right-wing partisan-hack background that doesn’t understand how non-partisan, municipal government works. If PTH wants to veto it after the fact, fine, but him and his staff are not acting ethically in this matter, and it’s a damn shame.

Rep. Haugaard hates the petition/initiative process because he says ‘Direct Democracy’ doesn’t work.

Haugaard said this, this morning during the legislative coffee; “Direct democracy doesn’t work.” I about fell out of my chair laughing. Once again, another state legislator makes a ridiculous statement NOT based on facts.

First, let’s look to direct democracy in our state. Many of the greatest changes in state law have occurred due to initiatives, some of the worst changes in state law have occurred in the state legislature. I could go thru a long list of examples, but you know what I am talking about.

As for internationally, the Swiss people have had ‘Direct Democracy’ for decades and it works and is very popular. The Swiss people vote on laws 4 times a year and voter turnout is around 50% over the past 30 years (Americans are around 50% over the same time period in national elections). A recent poll shows 65% of Swiss people are satisfied with their government (Americans are at about 58% but another 61% want to see ‘significant changes’). On top of that the Swiss people have one of the highest standard of living in the world. Switzerland rates #2 in the world for per capita wealth.

I challenge Mr. Haugaard to tell a Swiss citizen that “Direct democracy doesn’t work.” They would certainly disagree. Not only does it work, it lifts people up in more ways then you can even imagine. Leave the petition/initiative process alone, it’s not broken and it works extremely well. Our state legislature, not so much.

SD Dem Party finally(?) decides how state chair election will go

From the top down;

Candidates for Chair,

Earlier this week the SDDP Executive Board met to discuss election procedures for officer elections on March 23. The SDDP Constitution does not indicate how the election must be held so the EBoard discussed multiple options before settling on the system below.

Each candidate will have 1 minute for nomination and 3 minutes for a speech. The vote will be cast with paper ballots with the top 2 voter-getters moving on to the final round of voting. If one candidate receives 50% in the first round we will not move to the 2nd round. We will break for a 10 minute caucuses period to whip votes before returning to a final vote.

The Eboard wanted me to run this system by you before it is sent out to the State Central Committee. If you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sam Parkinson

Executive Director 

South Dakota Democratic Party

There is still some debate between candidates about how long they will be able to make their case for the seat. Some of the candidates think 10 minutes would be better. We will see.

Noem trusts founding fathers on gun ownership but NOT on hemp production

Maybe if Noem would do a little historical civics research she wouldn’t be so scared of Hemp;

Gov. Kristi Noem is asking lawmakers to shelve efforts this session to allow the cultivation of industrial hemp in South Dakota.The Republican governor said in a Friday statement that South Dakota isn’t ready for production of industrial hemp. Noem says questions remain about enforcement, taxpayer costs and effects on public safety.

Noem says officials need to see federal rules once they’re issued and decide if hemp is as “promising as they say it will be.” The governor’s office says the crop isn’t currently authorized for growth in South Dakota.

First off, industrial Hemp has little to no THC in it. There is NO need for ‘enforcement’ of a crop that doesn’t produce an illegal drug. As for public safety, Hemp is usually considered a very safe crop because it needs little to no herbicides and pesticides. It is very hearty and virtually grows on it’s own in almost anywhere. I find it a little ironic and hypocritical that Noem takes the words of our founding fathers on the 2nd Amendment, but doesn’t trust them on Hemp production, a major cash crop for them and a product that was farmed up until WWII. Please Kristi, grow a brain.

UPDATE: New Innovation Director ‘Motivated’ by bloggers

I almost had a little tear in my eye when I read the below FB post by Jason Reisdorfer, the newly anointed Innovation Director with the city. He also believes God helped him get the job. It’s always important to thank the ‘Big Guy’.

As for getting things done, not thrilled about 5G, but that had more to do with lining Thune’s pockets and the Feds FORCING on us! Hopefully a Democratic Congress will do a full investigation of how the telecoms are screwing municipalities on the deal.

UPDATE: I was hoping Jason is motivated to start filming the Parks Board meetings as he told me he was working on a solution, and it looks like Jason and God made it happen: WATCH HERE.

Why does the Sioux Falls Planning Department continue to advocate for private development?

There is a whole host of reasons why public employees SHOULD NOT be advocating for private business, but that is a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down tonight. But one of the biggest reasons is because I am paying their wages and they should be looking out for the best interests of not only business, but citizens and the city as a whole.

I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise that the Planning Department is advocating for private development when it comes to the street vacation of Elmwood, they have been doing it for years and learned it from the master, Steve Metli. As the old joke goes, there are three types of zoning in Sioux Falls, C-1, C-2 and C-Metli.

During last Tuesday’s city council meeting (during public input at beginning), the neighbors brought up their disappointment in the Planning Department advocating for the street vacation, they also pointed out that Lifescape doesn’t plan on staying for more than 5 years, Elmwood is a main thoroughfare AND the safety of the kids is NEVER compromised because the bus pulls right up to the building to pick them up.

But it didn’t stop the city from sending this letter;

(Click to enlarge)

Today, COS and Part-Time Mayor Beck sent out an email talking about all of the benefits of the street vacation. It’s so long I wondered if Neitzert wrote it? Here are some highlights;

We are also recommending support of this right-of-way vacation for neighborhood and community-wide reasons:

• City staff have long supported neighborhood preservation.  This includes the preservation of our core community institutions.  It is unfortunate that this right-of-way vacation request has perpetuated the perception that this is a LifeScape vs. the neighborhood issue, when in reality, LifeScape is an anchor in this neighborhood and has been since they broke ground in a corn field on the outskirts of Sioux Falls in 1948.  (Please see attached photo of the groundbreaking event for LifeScape, then named the Crippled Children’s Hospital and School).

• While balance has been and will continue to be important between commercial and institutional growth and adjacent residential housing, it is critical that we look at the macro of these situations and what is possible with and without investments like that of LifeScape’s.  City staff will continue to work diligently on the ‘preservation’ of neighborhoods so that we do not see continued need for new areas in which public investment is required for ‘revitalization’.

• Our core institutional campuses are vital anchors to not only their neighborhoods but our community as well.  Through their growth and success, our entire community flourishes.  Please know that these folks are at the table, hand in hand with us ready to re-invest into our housing stock and we are looking forward to bringing those ideas to you in the very near future.  They know firsthand how challenging workforce growth is and the key to that often lies within the realm of housing.

• Our team also believes that the challenge associated with on-street parking and the overall safety concerns for clients and employees of the LifeScape campus are not isolated to LifeScape as a business but to the site as a whole.  An attractive, well-maintained and safe property is just as important today as it will be 5, 10, 15, or even 20+ years from now.  The overall parking demands and traffic safety challenges related to the campus will not suddenly be alleviated should LifeScape determine to move elsewhere and another business occupy the space.

Next steps:

• Our Planning staff has reached out to the three neighbors adjacent to the future parking lot.  This effort has been made to ensure that there is dialogue between the neighbors and LifeScape with respect to our landscaping standards versus specific needs of the three adjacent neighbors.

• Our Engineering staff is hosting an open house on Monday night, February 11 to discuss with neighbors that could be impacted by the right-of-way vacation, why the administration is not in opposition to the request.

• Our Planning and Engineering teams will be in attendance on February 12 at the Council meeting to present the request, along with our analysis into the traffic impacts from the proposed right-of-way vacation.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards;

Erica

Erica L. Beck

Chief of Staff to the Mayor, City of Sioux Falls

As you can see, there is strong language that the administration supports the street vacation. They should not be taking sides. You could almost argue there are pros and cons on both sides. It is NOT the job of the city, it’s employees, the mayor’s office or city councilors to advocate one way or the other. Their job is to make a decision based on what is best for the citizens. It is pretty obvious that closing Elmwood would not be good for the residents, but I guess it is their fault for not requesting a C-Metli rezone.

Kooper Caraway featured on State of the Unions Podcast

Kooper Caraway, president of the Sioux Falls AFL-CIO was featured on yesterday’s episode. Listen HERE.