Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

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.

Prochoice Protest today 3-8 PM in Sioux Falls

There will be another rally today (July 1st) in front of Kristi Noem’s campaign office at 18th and Minnesota. They do have a permit this time and are working with the SFPD on the event.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Police Chief Thum holds presser immediately after Pro-Choice rally

UPDATE: The ACLU confirms that you don’t need a permit for a protest, just don’t jump in front of cars;

The ACLU of South Dakota notes says though that protesters do not need a permit to protest on sidewalks or streets. Communications Director Janna Farley said that does mean that marchers can’t block or impede traffic in doing so.

“You don’t need a permit to march on streets or on sidewalks, as long as the marchers aren’t obstructing car or pedestrian traffic.” Farley said.

I was impressed that Thum decided to have a press conference last night after the rally last night. It’s a step forward for transparency.

I had heard nothing about the rally until I ran into a couple of people yesterday afternoon telling me they were going to a pro-choice rally at Lyon Park. I never guessed that it would draw more than a couple dozen people. One person who attended told me late last night that he guessed around 1,000 folks were at the rally (he worked in public safety for over 20 years and knows how to count large crowds). That number was verified by Thum this morning on KELO AM.

The rally was organized thru private messaging and the police were aware ‘something’ might happen.

I am all for protesting and upholding 1st Amendment rights.

Where it gets ‘murky’ is what the city ordinance says about events like this;

ASSEMBLIES, PARADES AND PROCESSIONS

§ 96.180 DEFINITIONS.

   For the purposes of this subchapter, the following definitions shall apply unless the context clearly indicates or requires a different meaning.

ASSEMBLY. Any block party, demonstration, rally, gathering or group of 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, having a common purpose, design or goal, upon any public street, sidewalk, alley or other public place, which assembly substantially inhibits the usual flow of pedestrians or vehicular travel or which occupies any public area, but does not rise to the definition of a special event.

PARADE. Any scheduled walk, demonstration, procession, motorcade consisting of 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, having a common purpose, design, designation or goal upon any public place, which does not comply with normal and usual traffic regulations and controls.

SPECIAL EVENT.

      (1)   Any of the following activities involving 25 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or a combination thereof, open to the general public taking place on public space that involves a temporary and exclusive use of public space involving a substantial deviation from current legal land use or legal nonconforming use and may include, but not be limited to:

         A.   Amusements or carnivals;

         B.   Entertainment;

         C.   Music by way of sound amplification;

         D.   Dancing;

         E.   Dramatic or theatrical productions;

         F.   Festivals;

         G.   Parades;

         H.   Runs, walks, triathlons and bicycle races or rides that will not comply with the normal or usual traffic regulations or controls or are likely to impede, obstruct, impair or interfere with free flow of traffic;

         I.   Any activity involving the sale of merchandise, food or alcohol;

         J.   Any activity making use of structures not already present on the public space such as stages, booths, canopies, awnings, risers, bleachers, fences, partitions, stands or similar constructions; and

         K.   Any activity taking place on public space that may require for its successful execution city services to a degree significantly over and above that routinely provided under ordinary circumstances, as determined by the special events committee.

SPECIAL EVENTS. Shall not include the use of public space by governmental agencies acting within the scope of their authority.

SPONTANEOUS EVENT. An unplanned or unannounced coming together of persons, animals or vehicles as described in this section, which was not contemplated beforehand by any participants therein and which is caused by or in response to unforeseen circumstances or events and which is neither a parade nor as assembly, as defined in this section.

(1992 Code, § 38-133) (Ord. 70-87, passed 8-31-1987; Ord. 55-03, passed 6-16-2003; Ord. 39-12, passed 6-19-2012)

Cross-reference:

   Definitions and rules of construction generally, see § 10.002

§ 96.181 PERMITS AND EXCEPTIONS.

   (a)   Permit required; assembly. No person shall conduct, manage or participate in any assembly without a valid permit or outside the provisions of a permit as provided in this subchapter.

   (b)   Permit required; special event. No person shall hold, sponsor, aid or cause to be held a special event without a valid permit or outside the provisions of a permit as provided in this subchapter.

   (c)   Exceptions. The provisions of this subchapter shall not apply to or affect funeral processions.

I am not sure that a spontaneous rally loosely organized thru private messaging classifies as a planned event. I certainly don’t believe a protest or rally needs to have a permit if they are gathering in public places. I think that is a violation of 1st Amendment rights. However, I do agree with Thum that once you start blocking streets it is no longer a rally on public property. Remember, the SFPD does not make the rules, the city council does and they have to enforce them.

I would advise anyone who plans a rally like this in the future to stay out of the street, it doesn’t help your cause when police have to drag you off the street. I think it was only a handful of people who were arrested and MOST of the people at the rally stayed on the sidewalk.

As the authoritarians go on their march in DC to turn our country back 100 years you are going to see a lot more events like this.

Prior Restraint at the Sioux Falls City Council meeting

The city council meetings are ran by the chair. Normally that is the mayor who only passes the gavel if he has a conflict, wants to speak on an item or has to cast a tie-breaker vote.

The chair has the ability to stop a speaker or interrupt a speaker. In normal circumstances that would be if someone goes over time limit, is cussing or makes physical threats towards the chair, council, city staff or anybody really.

What the chair SHOULD NOT be doing is stopping or interrupting speakers because of the content of their input, this is prior restraint;

In First Amendment law, prior restraint is government action that prohibits speech or other expression before the speech happens. .

When a speaker is making a point during public input, they have a certain amount of time to do so. (3-5 minutes) during that time it may be the case that a speaker builds a narrative that may have nothing to do with the item they are addressing but telling a story to make the case about the item on the agenda. But that doesn’t even matter. As long as public input is addressing the body about government it doesn’t matter if that narrative is about sewer pipes, teddy bears or hurdy gurdies.

In other words it is extremely inappropriate (and unconstitutional) for the chair to cut off or redirect speakers unless they are in violation of decorum that I wrote about earlier.

Lately the Chair (Mayor) of the meeting has been in that habit of trying to redirect speakers if he doesn’t understand or doesn’t like the narrative they are using to build their case. He did it a couple of times Tuesday night and has done it in the past, this is prior restraint and he has been made aware of it.

When former councilor Brekke was on the council she had a long conversation with the city attorney about it, and he seemed to conclude it was just a difference of legal opinion. It is NOT a difference of opinion, it is a violation of Free Speech and the 1st Amendment.

A couple of years ago when I was scolded by the mayor while giving public input (I think it was when I called him a hypocrite . . . several times) a former security officer told me later about the incident that he had NO intention of arresting me or making me leave because I was well within my constitutional rights. I think he said, laughingly, “Calling someone a hypocrite is NOT a physical threat, It’s not even a curse word.”

The scary part about this is that if someone wanted to file a legal complaint against the city because of the chair’s action, they could, and it could be a very easy prosecutable offense. I would never do that, because I am very capable of sticking up for myself and swatting the chair’s interruptions away like flies but it can be very intimidating to someone who has never addressed the council or understands what prior restraint is. In simple terms, it’s bullying.

Somebody asked me after the meeting why does he do that? I guess I could give a hundred answers, but I think this will suffice;

Authoritarian; favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.

Some citizens have expressed to me they are disappointed in how supposed non-partisan city government has become so partisan. I don’t see partisanship at all, all I see is Authoritarianism, and it is like a rabid dog.

Sioux Falls City Council Candidate Merkouris will not protect your right to Public Input

The Sioux Falls Election is bringing out the best of the worst, including this endorsement of taking away citizen rights by City Council candidate and preacher Rich Merkouris was expressing in 2018. 36 Citizens who gave impassioned Public Input on June 12th, 2018 were wrong? They are according to Marshall Selberg and Rick Kiley. The Mayor and 4 Councilors are saying “Stay away from our meetings, quit interfering!” We’d like to say, “Good Bye!” The Mayor is being encouraged to shove our civil rights up our backsides by the TenHaken best friend, Rich Merkouris. The City Council candidate Merkouris who doesn’t want audits of the millions of dollars he has received from the city coffers? Yup.