Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

Local Governments across the nation are limiting public input due to MAGgots

This story in WaPo addresses something I have been seeing across the nation;

Across a polarized nation, governing bodies are restricting — and sometimes even halting — public comment to counter what elected officials describe as an unprecedented level of invective, misinformation and disorderfrom citizens when theystep to the microphone. As contentious social issues roil once-sleepy town council and school board gatherings, some officials say allowing people to have their say is poisoning meetings and thwarting the ability to get business done.

This tired old excuse comes up all the time especially at our local board meetings. I have told commenters as along as you are addressing the body as a whole and are NOT threatening physical harm, you can speak about whatever you want to;

In Rochester, City Council President Brooke Carlson said one of her primary concerns is making sure meetings remain welcoming to people of all viewpoints and identities. The council’s once-monthly limit on commenting has helped, she said, though it did not please regular speakers.

“You are supposed to be servants of the people,” one, Othelmo da Silva, told the board, according to a video of the meeting. “You should be here to listen to us for as long as you need to, because we are technically your bosses.”

That is a view shared by Barry Sanders, a city council member in Taunton, Mass. Last fall, the council briefly suspended public input after a speaker chastised a council member by name over a dispute that began on social media, violating a requirement that comments be “respectful, courteous and not personal in nature.” Sanders opposed the suspension.

“That’s what the First Amendment speaks to: the right of the public to have their grievances heard. Not the right of the public to say nice things about their elected officials,” Sanders said.

I am not opposed to complementing elected officials but the public comment portion of the meeting should be for bringing up concerns in our community. If you want to say something nice send them an email, text or card (you know that thing you used to put in an envelope with a stamp).

There are people in this community and those who sit on the dais that believe our community is so well run and safe they are surprised that someone would dare to show up to the meetings and question what they are doing. Just off the top of my head I can give you several issues these bodies need to tackle, including homelessness, affordable housing, wages, violent crime, public transit, food deserts, and the utter lack of open and transparent government.

There seems to be a fear if the public knows to much, they are dangerous, and now they are treating the City Council the same way by only giving them a few days to approve a 100% cost overrun. There is a reason governments ramrod projects and it isn’t because they are champions of transparent government, they are likely hiding the devil in the details.

If you truly want people to stop coming to public input, instead of banning it, make our city, county and school governments more transparent. It’s hard to bitch about something that is right in front of your face.

UPDATE: Augustana closes interfaith room for food storage

UPDATE: I figured once Herseth-Sandlin got wind of this all things would go back to normal;

Augustana spokeswoman Jill Wilson confirmed the meeting was canceled, that the students will get their room back and that Sandlin intends to call such a meeting to meet with students on the interfaith space in the future.

The interfaith leaders also suggested Augustana send its senior executives for training in religious and cultural sensitivity, and said the university should have handled the sacred items with due respect.

The students should be applauded for doing the right thing and contacting the media about the situation. Shedding light on injustice can open many doors.

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Augustana can do what they want to. They are a private college. But in light of the recent crying over drag shows at SDSU and long hair at O’Gorman you kind of wonder what the true motivation is behind closing the room;

After contacting several administrators, we were told that the Interfaith Room was removed to give Sodexo, our dining service, more room. 

The Interfaith Room in the Commons has served as a place to discuss and learn about a variety of religious traditions, as well as to provide all students with a sacred place to pray and worship, regardless of their religious background. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, Sikhs, Agnostics, and Atheists have visited the space and contributed their perspectives and experiences to the campus community. It is a crucial part of the faith infrastructure on campus, one that cannot be replaced.

In my early 20’s I was a volunteer DJ at Augie’s radio station, KAUR. I remember how the University handled that closure, after a few protests they moved forward.

I am not sure of the outcome of this situation, but I find it a bit alarming that a private university that should embrace all faiths in essence are turning their backs on students of different faith.

And it isn’t about money. Augie has spent millions on their sports programs (something that has very little to do with religion or faith) and if they have this kind of money, I’m sure they can find another room to accomodate the students.

I think the closure of the room without any notice are grounds for non-Christian students to file an internal discrimination complaint. It would be different if the students were fighting to implement a new room, but to take away something this important without notice to the student body is troubling.

Sioux Falls Mayor TenHaken’s Administration oblivious to transparency

The one thing PTH has NOT kept secret; his total disregard for open and transparent government.

You would think after the failures of the bunker ramp due to the lack of financial transparency they would have learned something. Nope;

The city won’t say if or how many developers have expressed interest in buying or leasing the unfinished downtown parking ramp on 10th Street.

“Ultimately, this is how we set up the process,” said Dustin Powers, community development coordinator for the city.

Dustin, just who is this ‘WE’ you speak of? It certainly wasn’t the public that requested this process, or the legislative body, the city council. Maybe it was the mayor’s COS, who is a former executive for one of the largest developers in the city and state. Her former employer has ‘mysteriously’ received millions in tax breaks, land deals, TIFs, etc. since she was appointed. Are they on the short list? We will never know.

It’ll be a lot of behind-the-scenes work until the city chooses a potential buyer/lessee and makes that information public.

Yup. And once again we have learned nothing about the benefits of open government.

This looks familiar

If you follow my rants on here and at city council meetings, you know my thoughts on limiting public input by the chair of the meeting and prior restraint.

Well, what do we have here? A chair of a city council meeting trying to talk down public commenters, except this time, they are suing;

As I have mentioned in the past, as long as you are addressing the body about policy and government they cannot shut you down.

Here are some highlights from the suit (PDF DOC);

Mayor Owens frequently uses her authority as Presiding Officer of Eastpointe’s City Council to suppress dissent and criticism by interrupting and shouting down members of the public who criticize her or raise subjects she finds personally embarrassing.

At one point in the meeting, the city attorney even intervenes and tells Owens that public commenters are free to say what they want to.

I have argued for a long time that the city council and it’s chair (Mayor TenHaken) have been violating citizens 1st Amendment rights when it comes to public input and trying to shut them down (while huffing and puffing, sucking on candy and calling commenters losers).

I will be watching this case closely . . .

Minnehaha County Commission votes 4-1 to move Public Input to the end of the meetings

During regular public input at the beginning of the meeting several citizens spoke out about moving public input, including myself.

It was the last agenda item on the meeting and during that discussion they voted to move it to the end but did take Barth’s amendment to leave it at 5 minutes instead of 3. He was the dissenting vote.

I reminded the MCC that this was the public’s time and the word DISSENT is in the 1st Amendment.

UPDATE: Minnehaha County Commission joins City Council’s attempt to limit public input

I saw this coming when people concerned about election integrity and opposition to the CO2 pipeline started showing up to MCC meetings;

But having those comment sessions at the beginning of meetings delays other work. And members of the public who are at a meeting for a specific item have to sit through lengthier public comment sessions.

The new policy, which hasn’t been adopted yet, would also reduce comment from five minutes to three.

(See Former Mayor Mike Huether’s 9 minute public input at the MCC meeting as a private property owner)

They of course are using the tired old argument that the ONE person asking for a rezone has to wait through public input, as if the public’s sentiments are not important.

“When I started, we didn’t have a time constraint,” Commission Chairwoman Cindy Heiberger said. “People rarely came to talk to us.”

That has changed, particularly in recent months with people who doubt the county’s election integrity.

Besides lowering the time limit to three minutes, the new policy would forbid speakers from using electronic recordings in their presentations, and paper handouts would have to be handed out in advance.

The reason people rarely show up to the meetings is because you have them at 9 AM on a Tuesday morning when common folk are working, it has very little to do with people being HAPPY with county government, they simply don’t know what you do because you conduct your business in non-opportune time slots and take days to post the replay of the meeting.

Commissioner Jeff Barth, who is soon to be retired from the commission, said the status quo has worked “pretty well” in his two decades as an observer and member of the commission.

“The fact that there has been some abuse in recent times isn’t a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he said. 

But that is what authoritarians do. When a couple of supposed bad apples show up and actually DISSENT the government their first reaction is to squash that dissent. The Sioux Falls City Council literally changed their public input policy because ONE person called the mayor an SOB, guess what, that person still comes and speaks at the meetings. You accomplished nothing except disenfranchising the rest of the public who have legitimate dissent.

As I have told the council in the past, general public input isn’t for birthday announcements and back patting it is to make our representative government aware of issues in the community. Sometimes those issues don’t have cute names like ONE, 52 or 437.

The more you limit the public to express themselves the more out of touch our government becomes.

South DaCola welcomes The Dakota Scout

There has been some speculation out there that I may be competition with the new media coming soon in Sioux Falls. Hardly. Even I know that what my blog offers is mostly my editorial view on what is happening in local government and my enduring fight for transparency, common sense, and good government. I even hope to assist them in any way possible.

I am thrilled that Jon and Joe are launching an alternative to the hospital, food truck, developer welfare crazed local media.

Almost every day I see our local media miss the big stories that effect local governing.

During and after the last local election there were two big stories out there about Councilor Dr. Sarah Cole that not one single media outlet in Sioux Falls would cover;

• Before she voted for herself, Cole had NEVER voted in a local election even though she had lived here for almost 10 years.

• She received $17,500 from Mayor TenHaken’s PAC as a campaign donation.

It has always amazed me when I will hand a story to the media on a silver platter they do nothing with it. I hope Jon and Joe don’t fall into this pattern.

Recently I was reading comments on social media about how our local officials don’t listen to constituents and how we need to make them listen to our concerns and needs. This is true, I have been doing it for 16 years and have seen many positive changes in Sioux Falls due to my diligence and the diligence of my readers but what really needs to happen is there needs to be a full court press to change the makeup of these bodies which means getting the public involved with local elections, not just voting in progressive candidates but volunteering for their campaigns.

The regular Sioux Falls constituent is getting clobbered at the ballot box because of low voter turnout and the massive amount of money being thrown at candidates by the ruling elite. It is unethical and dark.

I’m hoping The Dakota Scout starts to uncover how this dark money has turned our local government bodies into impractical, ignorant, rubber stampers that virtually do NOTHING for the everyday citizen in Sioux Falls let alone hear anything they say.

I wish them luck! Telling the truth about things can be a very lonely place sometimes, but it is always rewarding.

Minnehaha County Commission denies public input on CO2 pipeline

Besides the fact that the commission gave the green light for the pipeline to move forward (4-1 vote, Barth dissented) they also told the attendees there would be NO public input because the chair said it ‘wasn’t a public hearing.’ Ok, what the Hell would you call a public meeting with a posted agenda item? A church potluck?

14) Consider a Temporary Zoning Ordinance on Gas and Liquid Transmission Pipelines

They did follow state law by allowing general public input at the beginning of the meeting, but you are NOT allowed to comment on agenda items. I would encourage attendees to file an open meetings violation against the commission for denying them their 1st Amendment Rights and the use of Prior Restraint by the Chair. Barth asked for public input and the chair said they have pretty much heard enough thru phone calls and emails. So are those emails and phone calls going to be posted online so people can see those conversations?

Did the SFPD need to don Riot Gear at last week’s protest?

I would like to start by applauding the folks (whoever they are) that organized last week’s successful abortion protest. They did it without a permit and thru private messaging. And while a handful of people got arrested, it is quite an accomplishment to pull off a protest of 1,100 people with NO injuries and NO damage to public or private property.

That is a what you call a successful protest.

We have already determined that the group did not need a permit. They were well within their constitutional rights. But what about the street incident?

I have spoken with several protesters about what really took place and why those folks were in the street to begin with. A couple of them have had experience in public safety for over 20 years and several others have been protesting since the early 70’s. They know how civil disobedience can be achieved successfully without anyone or anything getting hurt.

For the most part they said police officers were doing a good job controlling the crowd even without advance notice. The police decided they needed to move the large crowd to Lyon’s Park which required them to close 14th street. THE POLICE CLOSED THE STREET NOT THE PROTESTERS. Up until that point the crowd was moving.

Where things went awry is when the police in riot gear showed up and started forcing people to the park. One protester told me that there really was no reason to have riot gear and smoke bombs, it was just an attempt to intimidate and incite a riot.

So the next time a group of peaceful protesters show up unannounced, leave the tactical gear at the station and politely ask them to move to the other side of the street.

What our Founding Fathers said about Religion

An actual campaign slogan in 2022 (she lost, BTW)

There has been a push over the years that our founding fathers based our nation’s creation on theocracy. While many of our FF were Christian, many were not. Our foundation was actually based in Roman and Greek traditions combining democratic and republic ideals;

The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy. – George Washington

Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law. – Thomas Jefferson

The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries. – James Madison

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches. – Benjamin Franklin

Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state’… is absolutely essential in a free society. – Thomas Jefferson

I bring you these words NOT to discourage your personal faith. That is one thing that makes this country so wonderful, we have the freedom to practice our faith anyway we want to FREE from the hands of government.

This is why I get increasingly concerned when politicians from the Radical Right start to tell us Americans have lost their way when it comes to religion. Religion, especially Christianity was NEVER a part of the foundation of this country.

In order for this great experiment to move forward, we must cling to original foundation and stomp out any dogma from the radical right that our country was based on religious doctrine.