Entries Tagged 'Mayor TenHaken' ↓

My names Mayor, hear me roar!

Last night at the city council meeting the mayor looked directly at me after I left the podium and laughed when no one answered my question. I was asking why the attached documents for two separate items were identical online. He thought it was funny and when I questioned him about it on the other agenda item I said, “Was it funny Paul?” He responded, “My names Mayor.” (FF: 27:00)

Also notice how he tried to cut me off, because he has NO FREAKING CLUE WHAT PRIOR RESTRAINT IS.

If this was a one off, I would understand, but lately I have noticed that not only are directors, attorneys and clerks making mistakes on the agenda (dates incorrect, grammar errors, financial errors, fee errors, attached documents, etc) but they are being resubmitted to the council for corrective action. Last night there were several items from the planning office that had to be corrected for incorrect fees being charged.

Apparently this is a laughing matter to the one running the administration.

“The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.

I have said many times that the city is on cruise control because we have an ineffective leader at city hall. I get it, people make mistakes, we are all human, but isn’t it ironic that an administration who wants to shorten the meetings by starting them early and limiting general public input to the end of the meetings is actually making the meetings longer because they are consistently correcting mistakes.

While they certainly know how to run winning campaigns, they have NO clue what to do when they win.

Sioux Falls City Council Budget Hearings

In the first city council budget hearing for 2022 there are some curious slides in the presentation. The meeting started at 3:00 PM, and the Chair, Councilor Soehl said that the cutoff time was 5:20 PM and if the council cannot get their questions in before that time they can reach out to department heads on their own time. The problem with that is that the public will not hear the questions and answers since there are NO ordinances that says this kind of communication should be shared with the public. It is also curious because the council has been told on several occasions that they are NOT allowed to contact department heads without permission from the mayor’s office, which is well within the charter guidelines. If the council has questions, they should be in a public forum and not behind closed doors. The solution would be recessing the meeting at 5:20 and allowing more questions to be asked in a public forum at a future meeting.

Let’s first look at per capita debt;

While I do not contend that ‘city debt’ is probably spot on, this does NOT include residents of Sioux Falls Minnehaha and Lincoln County debt, or school district debt which includes the Harrisburg and Sioux Falls debt.

This slide was actually GREAT NEWS;

I have known for a long time that the city’s turnover is extremely low, which is fantastic! I know many former and current city employees, they all tell me it is a great job, great benefits and competitive pay. I have always pushed back that city employees are fishing for a job in the private sector. The above slide proves otherwise. Working for the city in the public sector is a wonderful career and the stats prove it. Nobody is jumping ship for better opportunities. The administration has created a crisis that does NOT exist.

The mayor is proposing some strange new positions;

I have said that I do not oppose this position, but I need more details of what they are going to do. The city has always had a person in the planning department that is the contact for arts, but now they think they need a full-time person. This is probably coming from the Bloomberg foundation, many cities have these type of positions. It is how they are applied and what kind of decision making authority they have.

This position really had me curious;

The funny part about this is that the position already exists, it’s called THE MAYOR! The mayor should be the person pushing special projects, that is literally their job! The mayor has plenty of support staff to assist them with research, they don’t need another deputy mayor.

Joe Kirby critiques Sioux Falls city government on his new blog

While there are many parts of the Home Rule Charter and Strong mayor form of government I don’t like, Joe’s perspective on its current status is spot on;

We intended that the city council would be a strong partner of the mayor. The council is a part time, legislative body with control of the purse strings. As the city charter says, “all powers of the city shall be vested in the city council.” We thought the council would provide the long-range policy guidance needed to complement the mayor’s focus on daily operations. While many incredible people have served on the city council over the past thirty years, it has never quite performed as we intended.

The council sometimes seems to lack a strong, separate identity. All too often, it has done little more than rubber stamp the mayor’s proposals, both good and bad. That has occasionally created big messes, such as the ugly and incomplete Village on the River project in downtown Sioux Falls.

That project was rushed through the approval process without much transparency or chance for public dialogue. Some city council members and many citizens raised good questions about it. A pause would have been appropriate, and perhaps likely if the council had been able to do its job right. Instead of the promised fifteen-story building housing two hotels and a bunch of retail, we are left with a homely seven story parking garage with an unclear future.

Oh, but it gets better, he brings up why we don’t need the mayor chairing meetings and breaking ties (a tie vote would result in failure of an item);

Another related problem with the city government model we put in place is that the demands on the mayor can sometimes be too great. Some mayors have told me the job can be overwhelming, especially when they must run city council meetings after a tough day at the office. Given all that, I think I know what would fix these problems.

We went too far in our effort to ensure strong, centralized leadership by the mayor. We failed to adequately separate the executive and legislative functions in city government. Of course, the mayor is the city’s chief executive. Unfortunately, we also provided that the mayor chairs city council meetings and even casts the deciding vote on ties. In short, the mayor has a large measure of control over the council. All things considered that was a mistake.

He outlines why it is important to separate the council from the mayor’s office;

Separation of powers provides necessary checks and balances on power. In government it is a tried-and-true way to avoid the pitfalls of an individual or group exercising too much power. Can you imagine the President having the power to run congressional sessions? Or the governor running the legislative session? Of course, that wouldn’t work well for federal or state government, just as it doesn’t in our city.

Based on what we have seen, I would amend the city charter to separate the executive and legislative branches of our city government. I have proposed this idea a couple of times to the charter review commission, but they aren’t interested. Inevitably, those who are part of the system aren’t motivated to rock the boat. As they say, “you can’t fight City Hall.”

Yeah, the CRC isn’t big on doing anything. Those meetings are a graveyard of good proposals.

I hope Joe continues blogging, and I hope he brings a petition forward to let voters decide if we should make these changes. Now is the time to take the mayor’s power away and return it to the council.

Another Event Center Campus Committee, another study on the dusty shelf

I’m trying to figure out why we didn’t do something about the last study?

“We were getting ready to launch a market study to look at what’s the right sizing and scaling,” said Shawn Pritchett, director of finance for the city of Sioux Falls.

“Unfortunately with COVID, the market disappeared entirely, and there was nothing left to study.”

True. But why not just pick up where the committee left off? Why, once again, reinvent the wheel?

“You have to have the right type of expertise and professional experience to give truly meaningful outside perspective,” he said.

So are you saying the 1st committee didn’t have that? Not sure how a bunch of bankers and doctors are going to be much different?

When you look back on the first term of the administration, it’s hard to figure out what was accomplished accept a bunch of studies thrown in the garbage and a revolving door of directors at city hall. How do these people get elected and re-elected. Baffling.

Mayor TenHaken’s Budget Address

During his address today there were a couple of interesting tidbits;

• He is proposing hiring an Art Specialist. He didn’t give many details but it sounded like a full time position. While I am somewhat supportive, (I think this idea has been floated by Mayor Huether and maybe even Mayor Munson) as someone said to me tonight, it seems like more of an authoritarian move to control the arts advancement in Sioux Falls (tourism). Not sure if I see that, so I will keep an open mind about the job duties. I think this will be a controversial addition and there may be dissenters on the council. I remember when TenHaken asked for a cultural officer and she quit. He may have a fight on his hands.

• Paul said there will be an announcement soon about a TIF being granted for an affordable housing project. Like the Art Specialist there were few details. I have felt that TIFs for affordable housing is a reasonable use of them, but I want to see if the TIF will benefit the dwellers or the developers.

While the meeting WAS posted in advanced on the city website, the PPT was not included. When the meeting started there was NO link to the live feed on the city website for at least 10 minutes at the beginning. Fortunately, Dakotanews was streaming the meeting on FB with their own cameras. I just find it ironic that Mr. TechNology was so concerned about his PPT being posted in advance they had to delay the live feed so it would NOT appear until after the meeting started.

Mayor TenHaken walks out of the Council Meeting during public input to Tweet

Ironically, PTH had nothing to do with this move. This was recommended by the Public Transit board last month and was actually in partnership with a recommendation from former SF School Board President Cynthia Mickelson after I texted her on November 20, 2021. Cynthia reached out to Councilor Soehl about it and I never heard a peep until last week when it appeared on the agenda.

I’m happy they are moving forward. Many former board members have told me they have been working on this for around a decade.

UPDATE: Mayor TenHaken’s PAC dumps $17,500 into Dr. Sarah Cole’s Campaign

Bought and paid for.

That was my argument all along with Cole’s candidacy. A person who hasn’t bothered to vote in a local election the entire time she has lived here (another story our incredibly inept local media never touched). It’s one thing for the mayor to endorse a candidate running against an incumbent, it’s whole other ball of wax to dump this amount of money (after the final financial disclosure before the election) towards the challenger.

You have to be one major bitter, vengeful, vindictive person to go above and beyond to eliminate an incumbent, who ironically voted for almost 99% of the mayor’s policies.

Notice how the listing of the PAC is also improper (it should be Next Generation Leadership PAC). It is also concerning that the PAC itself has yet to file their July financial report. Yesterday at 5 PM was the deadline.

You will also notice that Cole spent almost $23K on advertising and over $5k on consulting. Ironically, Rich Merkouris almost spent the exact same amount on advertising. Cole never voted in a municipal election before. She never raised her own campaign funds and it appears she had little to do with running the campaign.

UPDATE: I did find the PAC’s filings on the SOS website. The original filing was in May and an amended one in June. It is pretty clear that the entities and individuals who gave to the PAC knew exactly where the money was going;

City of Sioux Falls Innovation Director jumps (the rudderless) ship

This is the 2nd Innovation Director that the mayor has appointed that has quit. The council was informed on June 30 that he ‘resigned’. Chief of Staff and part-time mayor, Erica Beck will be the interim director.

I find this ironic since just 2 weeks ago I reminded the public at a council meeting all the directors that have quit working for this mayor, you know, the guy ‘building a team’.

I have no idea why he quit, and to tell you the truth, I don’t care. I can’t give you one single bullet point of what he did while being in the position.

The Future of ThuneHaken

It may be a running joke in the comments section of this blog, but lately I have been hearing from Democratic and Republican political insiders that the GOP money machine and other operatives are setting Mayor Paul to be the next senator from South Dakota.

I would assume that Dusty Johnson would run for Governor in 4 years and Paul would run for Rounds seat (assuming he decides not to run).

When I first heard this well over a year ago from a Democratic party rabble rouser, I just laughed, but it seems the chatter in both political parties is at a deafening level.

I think it all become much more clear today when I was sitting on Phillips Avenue watching the 4th of July parade and Mayor Paul came by with a big old truck emblazed with his campaign logo like he was running for something. He is. The US Senate.

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.