Entries Tagged '1st Amendment' ↓

Happy Independence Day! Remember we are Free when we are Open and Transparent

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – Patrick Henry

“Information is the currency of democracy.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” – Ben Franklin

“Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.” – Abraham Lincoln

“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” – James Madison

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

“Secrecy is for losers.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“Sunshine is the greatest disinfectant” – Louis D. Brandeis

“Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.” – Lord Acton

Detroit’s Journal

Okay, I am taking a page from Ms. Schwan, but this column is not about her, just about my personal feelings lately. I think pride month is a perfect time to reflect on them. I love all my rainbow friends, know I love you.

For the record, I am NOT a father or intend to be, but those that are, happy ties.

Lately the right wing radio sh!t show has decided to attack ‘Woke Culture’ and we will get to that in a moment, but as I reminded friends the other night, getting rid of the ‘R’ word was a successful campaign, because it was played out well, I can’t say that for the current state of woke.

I don’t care if you are queer, had an abortion, smoked pot or ran a stop sign. The great part about America is we get to try things. Sometimes more than once.

I have to tell you that I am not confused by the ACA, BLM or the Proud Boys. I get it, but the woke culture really gets under my skin.

If you are offended maybe you should just stay home. I understand your grievances when it comes to someone saying something you are offended by, that’s life learn from it. My favorite founding father, Ben Franks said it best;

If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

I would not want to live in that world, and you should not want to either.

UPDATE: So now the Sioux Falls City Council is just deleting (censoring) the meeting videos?

UPDATE: The meeting has been fixed. Last night it was missing about the last 30 minutes.

So I showed up late to the City Council meeting last night and did public input on some items towards the end and mysteriously, that part of the meeting is missing.

I’m going to be nice, or at least ‘TRY’ to be nice 🙂

I could go on rants about open government, the 1st Amendment, the violation of State Law, etc., oh I just did.

But how is that a city with a $700 million dollar yearly budget can’t rebroadcast their public meetings in their entirety?

When I look at the city council in action it reminds me of this image;

BUELLER? BUELLER? BUELLER? HAS ANYONE SEEN BUELLER?

The sad irony is the city could rebroadcast these meetings on YouTube, FOR FREE.

Sioux Falls City Council Chair Soehl is quite the Authoritarian

The newly elected chair, Curt Soehl, has quite the authoritarian streak. Yesterday while chairing several of the meetings he kept limiting public input to 15 minutes or about 3 people. They should not be scheduling these meetings back to back and should be spreading them out over a couple of days. But this does not give him an excuse to limit public input, it is a blatant violation of the 1st Amendment in reference to prior restraint.

While I thought maybe this was just a one-time decision someone told me he pulled the same trick today at the 10:30 AM, downtown library Working Session. Hey, I get it, they don’t like open government, that’s why they have meetings in the middle of the morning at the library instead of Carnegie, but now it seems they want to limit it also to the ones that can actually attend. I have never seen so much disdain towards the public’s opinion on matters. Yes, the council hasn’t been very open for a long time, but now there seems to be a lot of openness about NOT being open. They seem to wear it like a badge.

As for the meeting itself, it was a bunch of Covid money handouts to the Parks Department projects including more tennis courts, because you know, it is such a huge sport in Sioux Falls, LOL. I am often reminded of this when I drive by the parking lot at the Huether tennis center with 2-3 cars in the lot. Wondering if we will ever get our Half-Million back.

Speaking of open government and transparency, during the working session yesterday, I found it a bit bizarre that the council hasn’t asked the very people who wrote IM26 (Medical Marijuana) to be a part of the discussion. Wouldn’t you want the very people who wrote the successful measure to help advise you on what is in it? Or do we want to just do whatever we want to (basically sitting on our hands) then come up with regulations without their input then let them sue us? Seems counterproductive to me. Not sure the council or county commission has done their research (not likely) but the national movement to decriminalize marijuana has a lot of Benjamins behind it and they take their investments seriously.

This is what you get when you have a local government that works behind closed doors, is not transparent, limits public input and does the bidding of big business instead of the work of the people. All the hub-bub about TIFs, Mary Jane regulations, zoning, etc. doesn’t mean a hill of beans if you don’t operate government in the open. As I said last week, only crooks, scammers and schemers do business behind closed doors. Add authoritarians to that list.

Jordan Peterson lays out why freedom of speech is important and uncomfortable

Sioux Falls City Councilor ‘Pat Starr Show’ wins the day

I had to chuckle about how councilor Starr successfully fought the mayor tonight about extending public input about the mask mandate, then when Pat spoke later after public input the crowd that he fought for to speak heckled him. Wow.

I often have to remind my friends, my enemies, local elected officials, relatives and others that the 1st Amendment is number one for a reason, freedom of speech is the only thing you should be concerned about. Everything else is moot.

BTW, the mask mandate failed because it was a tie and Mayor TenHaken voted it down, because he lacks leadership. Shocker.

Also, councilor Selberg made fun of Starr for taking on the mayor calling it the ‘Pat Starr Show’.

While Selberg may have invented the ‘Siouxper Hero’ award, he certainly earned the ‘Siouxper jerk Councilor’ award tonight.

Mayor TenHaken’s HATEFEST on Transparency continues with Ethics Complaint Coverups

I’m not going to mince words, this is just a blatant coverup;

But exactly how often are ethics complaints actually brought against city employees and elected officials, and for what? Well, taxpayers aren’t supposed to know.

There have been 16 ethics complaints filed with the Sioux Falls Board of Ethics since Jan. 1, 2000, according to the city’s recent response to an Argus Leader open records request.

But City Attorney Stacy Kooistra said not only could the details of those complaints not be released, neither could the roles held by those accused. Kooistra cited state law and city ordinances.

The only path to transparency on those ethics complaints is if the accused waives confidentiality.

Of those 16 complaints, only two have elected to do so.

While I don’t think there should be confidentiality to begin with, what I don’t understand is after a complaint has been thrown out, why does it remain confidential? While Kooistra may be correct that they have a right to confidentiality, I think that right ends once the complaint has been thrown out and the public has a right to see the complaint and the reason it was thrown out. I don’t think the law is on their side after the complaint has been thrown out. I believe there are two reasons why they are claiming they can do this 1) They don’t want the public reviewing the complaints that are thrown out and questioning why they were thrown out and 2) This administration has a deep, deep, deep hatred of open government, it’s almost a feverish sickness within city hall. It often amazes me why someone has such deep hate in their souls for something that is the moral, honest and the ethical thing to do AND actually saves taxpayers money.
You also have to remember that ANY complaint can be simply thrown out as frivolous if the complainant doesn’t cite the correct chapter in law/ordinance. You wonder how often this has happened? So while the complaint could have substance, it could get booted due to the ignorance of the complainant. Should the city attorney or ethics board be assisting the complainant to cite the proper ordinance? Yes!!!!

But, not only is there a DEEP HATE for open government they seem to be delusional about what an ethics indictment means;

The confidentiality of the complaints has been cited as a way to prevent their use as a weapon. Neitzert only waived confidentiality on the complaint following his successful re-election, saying there was “clear evidence of a timed and coordinated attack against my character for the purposes of defeating me in my re-election effort.”

Greg seems to be confused, because he WAS indicted on the complaint;

The board found probable cause that there had been a violation of ethical ordinances, but added that it was a ‘common practice’ for councilors to have their expenses paid for by a third party and that the City Council’s rules around such matters were broad and confusing.

The board recommended no individual sanctions against Neitzert, who was later cleared of the charge in a 5-2 vote of the City Council.

While Greg’s best buddies on the City Council dismissed punishment, Neitzert was still indicted by the ethics board and that remains unchanged. It wasn’t a political attack since the ethics board did say he violated charter. Him and the mayor accepted the gift and took the trip. A political opponent had nothing to do with that violation. In fact, to this day Greg hasn’t been able to show evidence that the complaint filed against him had any connection to his opponent. Not one shred. The only thing the ethics commission did say was he didn’t deserve sanctions since everybody was apparently ‘doing it’ even though they gave no evidence of who these other councilors or mayors that were doing it. Even though we know TenHaken has been ‘doing it’ quite a bit.

As I said from the beginning, this is clearly just a coverup. I would love it if Attorney Kooistra provided us the laws and ordinances that cover, coverups but not until he figures out prior restraint and the 1st Amendment.

Mask Mandates are NOT a 1st Amendment issue, they are a 4th Amendment issue

I often scratch my head by how little our state legislature and governor know about the US Constitution;

Governments in South Dakota, across the country and the world used mask mandates and business restrictions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some lawmakers, though, say those mitigation efforts don’t jive with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And now a bill making its way through the legislature would narrow the scope of when cities, counties and townships can make people wear masks or force businesses to close in the name of public health.

It is NOT a 1st Amendment issue, it has to do with trespassing and property rights which is covered under the 4th Amendment;

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The 5th and 14th could also apply. But I have often said that mask mandates in general are moot because the US Constitution already protects business owners from trespassers. If you have a sign on the front door of your business that says you must wear a mask and you refuse, that business can call the police and you can be prosecuted for trespassing. Those laws already exist.

I would argue that any municipal government can implement a mask mandate as long as that mandate is about private business and private property and within their 4th Amendment rights (in other words private businesses and even churches could ignore the mandate).

The 1st Amendment argument holds no water because as we saw with Trump’s Twitter ban, private business CAN limit your speech on their premises, platforms or property.

Where I would side on the 1st Amendment argument is that it would be unconstitutional for government to mandate mask wearing on their (your taxpayer funded) property.

Once again the statehouse is filling their short session with foolishness.

Sioux Falls City Council Public input about Public Input

At the meeting Tuesday night I spoke about two subjects; Covid Tourism (FF 20:00) and Prior Restraint (FF 30:50)

National Coalition Against Censorship: When Can Speech Be Punished?

American free speech advocates have consistently defended the right of individuals to engage in offensive speech, including speech which many observers might deem “hate speech.” In the wake of the riot on Capitol Hill, many critics have argued that the violence was sparked by comments made by President Trump and some of his allies, and that therefore they should be prosecuted or otherwise punished. Assuming that the violence was caused by speech, can free expression advocates support punishment for the speaker while still supporting the legal protections for “hate speech” or other offensive speech?

Short answer: Yes.

“Hate speech” laws seek to punish opinion. Punishing opinion is, and should be, forbidden. No person or group that happens to hold power at any given time should be permitted to determine what others are allowed to think. However certain narrow types of speech that go beyond mere expression of opinion can sometimes be unprotected by the First Amendment.

Why Is Hate Speech Protected?

There is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment; hence, there is no legal definition of what, precisely, constitutes “hate speech” in the United States. However, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does have a hate speech provision (Article 20), which states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence shall be prohibited by law.” As a result, many other countries have outlawed “hate speech.” Under those laws, a book by bell hooks has been confiscated in Canada for including what authorities deemed to be anti-male hate speech; Catalan protesters in Spain have been fined for burning photographs of the king of Spain; and a British citizen was convicted for exhibiting a poster after the 9/11 attacks which depicted the Twin Towers in flame and included the words, “Islam out of Britain – Protect the British People.”

As these examples make clear, “hate speech” laws permit the punishment of the mere expression of an opinion deemed offensive. That’s why such laws are unconstitutional in the United States, for the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that “the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.”

When Is Offensive Speech NOT Protected by the First Amendment?

Speech which is merely offensive is always protected by the First Amendment. However, some types of speech which are often conflated with “hate speech,” but which go beyond expressions of opinion can, in limited circumstances, be unprotected by the First Amendment.

Let’s talk about incitement to violence and harassment.

Incitement to violence, including incitement to racial violence, is not protected by the First Amendment. This is a very narrow exception; mere advocacy of violence cannot be made criminal “except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Three elements must be met: (1) the speaker must intend to cause violence, (2) he or she must intend that the violence occur immediately, and (3) the violence must be likely to occur immediately.

The distinction between incitement and “hate speech” is illustrated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Wisconsin v. Mitchell.  In that case, several young Black men were discussing the movie Mississippi Burning, which is about the Civil Rights Movement. One of the men said, “Do you all feel hyped up to move on some white people?” and, when a young white boy approached, said, “You all want to fuck somebody up? There goes a white boy; go get him.” The group then assaulted the boy, and the speaker was charged with assault, plus a hate crime enhancement. Was Mr. Mitchell’s speech “hate speech”? It’s arguable. But his speech was much more than the mere expression of opinion; it was a call to immediate violence. 

Harassment is distinct from “hate speech” because it goes beyond mere expression of opinion and targets a particular person for harm. The threshold for speech rising to the level of illegal harassment is generally quite high. Anti-harassment laws often refer to speech directed at a particular person, based on the victim’s race, religion, or other group characteristic, and which has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with, for example, a student’s educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. 

These exceptions to the protections of the First Amendment are very narrow, but they are well established. Civil libertarians and supporters of free expression–including protest, writing and art–can and should support the right to express hateful opinions, but can draw a clear line that no one has a right to incite a riot or to harass another person.   

See this primer at NCAC.org