Argus ED board chastises Mayor TenHaken’s storm communications

Unless you having been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, it was pretty obvious the TenHaken administration screwed the pooch on communicating to residents the city’s roll in storm cleanup. The ED board asked some of the same things I was wondering;

When the 2018 mayoral race came down to the choice between a reporter and public policy advocate on the one hand, and the CEO of a successful digital marketing agency on the other, it was reasonable for Sioux Falls citizens to expect an era of clear communication from City Hall no matter the victor.

Now that Paul TenHaken earned the office and has faced his first significant crisis, with tornado and flood damage putting leadership at a premium, the verdict on communication is somewhat muddled.

How do you run a supposed successful internet marketing company and not know anything about communicating and messaging? I have argued with people it is because PTH hired really smart people, but didn’t really learn anything from his employees. There have numerous studies and books written on how attractive, tall, people are more successful simply because they are attractive and tall. It also goes back to who you know. I told someone once that if Kristi Noem looked like Rosie O’Donnell she wouldn’t even been able to be elected dog catcher. What we are witnessing is highly attractive people with extremely low IQ’s ruling us. We have become a society obsessed with image. This is why PTH and Noemless wear trucker hats, as a political prop to show they are getting their hands dirty. I’m not so easily fooled, and neither is the ED board;

Messaging from the city regarding cleanup efforts in the tornadoes’ aftermath, while equally swift, was less coherent. A series of staggered press releases as to which debris and branches the city would remove – and which tasks would be the responsibility of property owners – seemed like a work in progress rather than a well-articulated rollout. The disagreement of public officials and citizens on social media regarding how much city government should be doing further eroded clarity.

Getting out in front of issues with unambiguous information goes a long way toward mitigating uncertainty and unhappiness among those a government serves. Homeowners want to know exactly where things stand as they assess timber-lined lawns and twisted branches; telling them that volunteer forces may (or may not) be coming to help does not help them rest easy.

Cameraman Bruce brought this up after a BNSF train derailed under the viaduct missing one of the pylons by a couple of feet. What would have happened if it did hit the pylon? What if it was hazardous materials like ethanol or fertilizers instead of corn? We were told that the city has a ‘plan’. But apparently we saw the city really doesn’t have a plan when it comes to tornado cleanup. You would think a seasoned city director like Mark Cotter would have been able to pull out a 3-Ring binder out of his desk at about 11:45 that night and said, “Here’s our plan Paul, I recommend we follow it.” Instead PTH turned this into a volunteer effort like we were raising a Huetterite Barn.

And it wasn’t like an atomic bomb dropped on us, it was a tornado, something we were actually warned about days in advance could happen that night. Where was the 3-Ring binder? Apparently it was replaced with a Dutch Mafia Bible.

The ED board didn’t finish at storm cleanup, they brought up budgeting for the Cult Officer, and as several friends and I have pointed out after Jen Holsen’s rant about the position, doesn’t it look like PTH is throwing his HR department and directors under the bus by saying they are NOT doing their job?

TenHaken argued that his private sector experience has shown him that city HR isn’t up to addressing employee culture because they’re too busy with payroll and interviews to improve the work environment across departments. If so, that could be a reason to evaluate and overhaul an ineffective department – or some may call it a compelling case for creating the new position. But the fact it took a tiebreaking vote to move the issue forward is proof there was more clarification and communication needed.

And finally, the ED board addresses that age old question, can government be run like a business?

Relevant questions have arisen from these disparate situations: Can all private sector initiatives can be usefully mapped onto running a municipal government? How much budgetary muscle should city leaders use in responding to natural disasters, or should they abdicate to volunteers or partnerships? How much should city government organizationally be mimicking the private sector?

No, because business and government have different objectives. But there is one thing we learned that helps us to understand why both are NOT the same, (good) businesses actually have prepared plans when disasters strike, because if they don’t, they go out of business. Government officials just hide in their garage and hope the problem goes away.


#1 "'Extremely' Stable Genius" on 09.21.19 at 6:38 pm

“There have been numerous studies and books written on how attractive, tall, people are more successful simply because they are attractive and tall.”

Yep, he’s just a Thune, Jr.,. And how many times have I said that? It’s also what I call “Kardashian Politics,” too. Especially through their use of social media, because politicians like this offer nothing but a form of leadership that does not go beyond a reality television presentation and an image of accomplishment.

Do you remember the video by the mayor after the council approved $1.5 million for the State Theatre? That was merely the mayor trying to look like something was being accomplished; and as if that appropriation was equal to an events center, a new administration building, and or an aquatic center. I would even allege that this mentality fosters much of the interest by the mayor and his fellow open collar taupesters’ interest in building a new ball park and tearing down the Arena. It’s leadership through building things just to build things so as to keep our minds as citizens off of the real issues like roads, schools, and a wages in this town, while giving the impression that our current political leaders are getting things done.

Sadly too, it is a political ploy often used in less democratic countries like North Korea or Ceausescu’s Romania and should not be used anywhere in America and especially not in good old Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In fact, as I write this, there is still a big piece of metal debris on my neighbor’s lawn on South Lincoln Avenue. It most likely came from the Pizza Ranch roof. It lays on both sides of the “Red Line” and hasn’t moved since the tornado, but you would think that the city would at least bring out a cutting torch and remove the metal that lays on their side of the “Red Line,” wouldn’t you? But for that to happen, there would need to be a real storm/tornado plan, wouldn’t there?

Many had hoped that the “internets” were going to strengthen our democracy – and there is still hope that they eventually will – but for now, it has sadly allowed a new type of political leadership to evolve which lacks substance, but it does entertain you as you come in from your house from time to time to relax for a little bit as you clean the debris from your home’s yard on your side of the “Red Line.”

( – and Woodstock asks: “‘Red Line?’….What’s that?….It sounds like some kind of Commie example of an ‘Orient Express,’ don’t you think?”)

#2 Moses6 on 09.21.19 at 8:54 pm

May ten fingers has proven he likes to spend money like to hire another employee.Give me the news reporter I bet she is more fiscal than mayor ten fingers and former slick Mike.120 grand to hire another fte, what a joke,

#3 rufusx on 09.22.19 at 9:15 am

Come on man – central planning is for Communists!!! This is conservative ‘Murika – where it’s every man is Free – I mean – is on their own.

#4 "'Extremely' Stable Genius" on 09.22.19 at 4:00 pm

“This is conservative ‘Murika – where it’s every man is Free – I mean – is on their own.”

Unless you need $1.5 million for a theatre, $27 million for a railroad yard, or an additional $6 million to fortify an unnecessary ramp.

As far as “central planning,” well, any one can plan. The question is: How good is the plan and was it executed?

#5 coltar.the.barbarian on 09.23.19 at 12:38 pm

How the the hell in all of that is there not a single mention of the sirens not going off???

#6 Chief "Red Line" Enforcement Officer on 09.23.19 at 8:53 pm


Did you see the KELO story last night, where Sirenless Haken and KELO worked together through a story to claim that the sirens are only meant for those who happen to be outdoors? Then KELO went on to try to sell their storm radio in that story as well. It was incredible.

The Sirenless Haken Administration’s attempt to try to spin the thought that sirens aren’t for citizens indoors is shameful. I never heard Sirenless Haken make that claim initially at his first press conference concerning the storm in the early morning hours of 9/11, but after the fact, he is sure trying to spin that position.

So let me get this right, we have this elaborate siren system in town, that is only designed for outdoor people. Well, if that is the case, then what about all of the people who were outdoors in the areas where the sirens didn’t work? What is the Sirenless Haken Administration’s position on that reality?

We have had this siren system in our town since 1971. I was in Mrs. Knowlton’s 5th grade class at Laura Wilder, when we were first educated on this new siren system that year. We were also educated, at that time, that the city on a monthly basis – at 11AM on the first Friday of each month – would test the sirens and do this continuously on the first Friday of each month indefinitely and a practice which they still do to this day.

In fact, the first time they were tested, we waited for it to happen, while in class, and could hear them indoors. Not to mention, that over the years, I have heard the sirens multiple times during storms, while being indoors. So the notion that this is some kind of “outdoor siren” is ridiculous and Machiavellian in nature, and most likely something drummed up by some overpaid political hacks within city hall….. #GiveMeABreak

#7 Sirens? on 09.24.19 at 9:52 am

The Steve King northwest Iowa and surrounding areas were proud of their sirens going off several times of the day.

The noon whistle let everyone know it was time to eat, the emergency whistle let all know to show up for the fire but the evening whistle had another purpose.

The imposition of Jim Crow laws created something called “Sundown Towns” where signs were posted that told “colored people” they had to leave town by sundown. If there were “colored people” residents, they had to be in their homes or risk being arrested for being out after curfew. A small town I spent a great deal of time in had the 10:00pm siren to make sure the “curfew” was adhered to.

Those sirens could be heard in any storm like the Sioux Falls sirens have been heard for many years inside out homes. The mayor can’t shake his pack of lying statements. Why doesn’t he just admit he allowed screw-up to be holding important offices and let us move on with the learning experiences.