Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

Sioux Falls neighbors not happy about planned homeless shelter

In case you missed this a few days ago, I did to;

Meanwhile, in downtown Sioux Falls, the Bishop Dudley House had been looking at the possibility of different temporary family housing locations.

The two partners found each other in large part because ICAP had received federal money that could be used for the former Children’s Inn building and a type of homeless non-congregate temporary housing.

While I would agree converting the former Children’s Inn site into a family transitional homeless facility is probably a good fit, the planning was not. The neighborhood is up in arms over not being brought along in the process or even told about the plans. The rumor is they are planning a petition drive to stop this somehow.

This of course is how we do governmental business now in Sioux Falls. Ramrod it through, don’t tell anyone, and after we get approval apologize for screwing up, and always remember to say, ‘This will never happen again.’

The best way to reassure crap like this never happens again is to vote these sophomoric clowns out of office in the next election, or better yet, recall them NOW!

Precedent after precedent, after precedent. When are we going to learn?

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.

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 . . .

Local Transparent and Open Government is easy

I do support 1st Amendment Rights and the freedom to dissent our government, but there are things the government can do that has very little to do with free speech. The City of Sioux Falls could put these modest proposals in place with very little capital, if any, which would actually reduce the need for constituents to dissent the government.

Some local governments have instituted some of these things;

• Livestream all public meetings on YouTube (including boards) and have that livestream on the main page with . . .

• A rolling calendar of all public meetings . . . (which we have on the council agenda page, but NOT on the main page)

• All public meetings should be after 5 PM during the work week.

• An online search engine portal of all public city documents (the city has something like this, but it is complicated and cumbersome)

• Answer constituent questions if possible during public input (the council used to do this but the practice was ended during the Huether administration).

• Have a weekly mayoral and separate council presser to answer media questions about the weekly agenda (and live stream it on YT).

• Stop limiting council debate during the meetings.

The last one is a new thing. During the past couple of council meetings there has been an effort to limit the council debate. I am not even sure where this is coming from, but it seems there now is an effort from council leadership and the mayor’s office to limit debate between councilors during first readings.

Open government is easy, and most times it costs nothing to do. I think our issues with zoning, homelessness and violent crime could be easier tasks to conquer if we just talked about them openly.

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.

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?

City of Sioux Falls Website got a little bit more transparent

Imagine my surprise today when I went to the meeting agenda page and in the bottom left hand corner when I clicked on the calendar instead of a PDF coming up, an actual interactive calendar appears with links to events.

I have known about this link for awhile but it was never linked to this page. I am not sure if it was ever linked to the website before. It was previously sent to me by a city employee.

Not sure who in the IT department or clerk’s office crawled out of the darkness and made this nice little change, but you deserve a coin, a children’s book or at the very least an atta-boy.

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.

Sioux Falls isn’t the only one struggling with Public Input issues

It seems the war on open government is being fought across the state;

Two seemingly harmless words added to a state open meetings law in 2019 have sparked a debate over the rights of citizens to publicly comment at official government meetings in South Dakota.
Those words, “regularly scheduled” were added in front of “official meetings,” launching a legal tug-of-war between public officials and advocates of community input. Some government bodies have used the language as a legal loophole in which they have denied the public the right to speak at some official meetings.

This is often the game played with these kinds of complaints. Recently a Sioux Falls citizen filed a complaint with the Minnehaha State’s Attorney about open meeting violations when Mayor TenHaken was chair of a city council meeting in which he didn’t call public input on two pulled consent agenda items. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t call the public input on purpose because it concerned a bar that was in the middle of a pending sale and if their liquor license renewal would have been denied it would have affected that sale. I cannot connect those dots yet, but once we find out the new owners, it will look a little more clear. So what happened in that case? While MSA Dan Haggar admitted that city ordinance was probably violated, he said he has no authority to do anything so he sent it to the AG’s office. The AG’s office said this was a city matter and that the complainant had to take it up with the Sioux Falls Ethics Board (you know the place where complaints go to die). She also could have hired an attorney and took it to court. I have encouraged they at least file an ethics complaint to get it on record before they throw it out (this is probably one of the most cowardly boards we have in city government). Like the two examples in the SD News Watch story, you can see the run around you get when you challenge public input and how to remedy it. There is no remedy.

I have told the city council on many occasions that NO local government in South Dakota has ever gotten in trouble for being too open.