Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

Mayor TenHaken implementing an Executive Order that benefits bureaucrats over citizens

In Paul’s latest fiddling with his extreme hatred for transparency, he changed an executive order which basically shortens up the time the public knows about an ordinance change, YET requires the council to give more advance notice to city directors about their intentions.

Once again Paul is nosing around in the legislative branch and telling them how they will legislate. While I’m okay with giving the city directors more time to mull over changes, we should also be extending the time citizens know about an issue.

I also think that this should be a decision made by the city council, NOT by executive order.

The city council doesn’t work for city directors and the mayor, they work for the citizens, this is why we elect them. But it has been evident, almost since the Home Rule Charter was founded that the city council does the bidding of the mayor and directors and has never turned down an opportunity to put more rules, more fees and more taxes on the citizens. I implore anyone who can show me when the city council has deregulated/eliminated ordinances or cut taxes and fees since this form of government was implemented in the 90’s. If you can, I’ll buy you a beer (or two).

This is the problem with the form of government we have now in Sioux Falls. It is setup so the directors form policy while the RS6 approves those policies that benefit the banksters and developers in town, while more regulations and taxes get levied on the rest of us.

This ‘little change’ is just another way of hiding city business from the citizens. And what it really is about is a deep hatred for sunshine and openness in our local government, and like covid, it will be hard to cure this deep sickness at city hall.

Sioux Falls City Council Operations Meeting full of some very dark proposals including killing public input

The City Council had its Operations Committee meeting in the dark of the morning Thursday at 10 AM. I wonder why there was NO public input? Trust, me, this was done on purpose so the public could not attend, especially with some of the crap they were proposing. Once again, like the mayor, the majority of the council, the RS6 now, HATE transparency and openness, it is at the core of their very dark agenda for the city.

The meeting started out with a proposal for more per diem money to the council for logo wear city council apparel. I think right now they receive around $50 a year and they want to increase it to $150 per year. What confuses me is that they could just buy each councilor a simple magnetic name badge (for around $15 bucks) that they could wear on any piece of clothing, heck, buy them two. Just another example of how they waste taxpayer money on something they don’t really need.

I found it interesting that CountCilor Alex Jensen wasn’t wearing city logo wear but a First Premier pull over, nice touch. Reminds me of when Jim Entenman was wearing his Harley Davidson shirts to council meetings. Got to get in that shameless promotion yah know. Also, we can’t forget the thousands of dollars that were funneled to Alex’s campaign thru his employer’s upper leadership and various mischevious PACs. You better wear the damn shirt Alex!

Another change is for the consent agenda. They want councilors to give a 24 hour notice to city hall if they are going to pull something from the consent agenda so the city director/manager responsible for that item can come to the meeting to answer questions, because their time is valuable or something. Nutzert rambled about wedding anniversaries and kid’s birthday parties. Because, when you make a 6-Figure a year salary from the taxpayers of this city you shouldn’t be bothered for 5 minutes to answer a question about city spending when you should be a Chucky Cheese with your kids. Puhhhleese. There has always been this consistent argument, that I knew would gear up after the RS6 was installed, that city employees personal lives on a Tuesday night are somehow more important than the public’s business. They know they have an expectation to come to these meetings, and like I said, they get paid a hefty chunk of change to do so. If you can’t make it because of an important family event, ask someone from your department to fill in. This seems like a responsibility of the director in charge of that department instead of the city council.

They said city councilors don’t have to give the notice, but if they don’t there is no requirement for the director to show up. So basically it is a ‘Pass’ for the very people who are supposed to be serving us (because you know, they get a paycheck to do so).

I have often argued that the consent agenda should be read at the meeting, and after it is completely read by the clerk, items can be pulled. That’s true transparency.

During the meeting, non-committee member, councilor Brekke chimed in from the podium and suggested that the mayor’s office started giving informational meeting updates like they used to, but ended suddenly. We all know why, because of his simmering hatred towards transparency. Just look at the Covid press conferences, vanished, while our numbers are spiking.

The meeting got more interesting with a move to eliminate open discussion at the beginning of the informational meetings and renaming it council comment or report. Basically they can comment about something they are working on, but NO policy discussion, they once again blamed time constraints even though there is NOTHING in the city charter about time constraints or time limits at meetings. If a meeting runs to long, they can recess and come back at another time. Heck the Board of Ethics recessed twice over Greg Nutzert’s ethics hearing. This is a way of keeping more policy decisions from citizens. Disgusting.

The best was at the end of the meeting when, ironically, during open discussion CountCilor Jensen suggested moving public input to the end of the council meetings and eliminating public input on 1st readings. Oh, he was very soft and careful how he presented it, but it was clear when he said something about doing ‘business’ first, what he meant. Councilor Nutzert quickly chimed in and said he would assist him on it, but they may have to take an all expenses paid trip by a right wing partisan hack group to come up with a plan (I jest). I have often argued you put public input first because the public’s opinion is much more important than the business of the council, you know, the people who fund this government and come on their own time to do so. A business coming for a rezone or license is part of an expense of doing business and has little to do with the issues and policies of this city. Citizens should always be at the forefront of local government. I knew this was going to happen when Theresa left, and they have the votes to get it done, so it will probably happen. While I will do my best to fight it, unfortunately this is what happens when a majority of the council has this fascist view of transparency. Total Darkness.

Democracy Dies in Darkness, this is an example of the sneaky games being played during this time by local boards and governments

I knew it would not take long for something like this to rear it’s head during this time of a crisis and social distancing;

A plan to separate the Tri-Valley School District by building a new school to handle overcrowding is once again causing controversy between residents and school district leaders. 

Parents and residents say a recent decision by the school board to build a $10 million kindergarten-only school in Crooks, miles from the current school in Colton, was done without transparency and without the chance for a public vote. 

They say the school board and administration took advantage of a time when no one could attend the school board meeting April 13 in person to voice their opposition because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The board meeting was conducted through Zoom, a video chat messaging system many have relied on to interact with others without risking exposure to the coronavirus in the meantime. 

A select few in the community who can afford the tax increases and want a new school took it upon themselves to pass something literally in the dark of the night knowing there was strong public opposition to the decision. The best way to quiet this opposition is by eliminating them. While legal (and I would go so far to say that is questionable) it definately lacked ethics and integrity and was at best a sloppy parlor trick.

But don’t be fooled by this ‘one’ instance. I have been following and taking note of several things our own city government has been doing behind the scenes. All the puzzle pieces are not in place yet, but once they are, I will be revealing the blatant sloppiness and ignorance our own city has been up to. Right now they are trying their hardest to keep these things tied up in a closet with a sock in their mouth, but that can’t last much longer, and it’s only a matter of time before it spreads like a virus at packing plant.

I will keep you posted, and several others in the local media have been also keeping tabs.

While none of it really shocks me, it will prove once again, when the cat’s away, the mice will play. Our local officials are taking full advantage of this crisis to put a death nail in transparency, and it makes me wonder how they sleep at night.

Belfrage misses the point of releasing the TenHaken voicemail

You can hear the discussion. She did have a defender during his segment.

I will say this first. I don’t like how this has been going. In fact I think everyone involved is acting horribly, I do agree with Belfrage that it is a little out of control. I wish people on both sides of this issue would just respect each other’s comments and opinions. They are all elected by the constituents, you are NOT going to agree with each other all of the time. That’s okay. That is how good government gets done. Having disagreements is healthy, also having open, transparent meetings to discuss these disagreements is healthy. Do people’s feelings get hurt? Sure. That’s what they call ‘making the sausage’. So I hope they all can just apologize to each other and move on. Including Theresa, the mayor and several other councilors.

But let’s look at the FACTS, just for clarification;

Belfrage first talks about how Stehly posted on his FB page about the issue over the weekend and he was upset about it. A couple of things I would like to fill Greg in on;

• Facebook and the internet is 24/7, 365 days. It doesn’t shut off when you are not blabbing on the radio.

• His FB page is his show’s FB page. He claims he is part of the media. While that is a stretch, it is true.

If someone is posting a comment on your FB page that is part of your show, there is NOTHING irregular about it. In fact, if a local politician wanted to post an issue there, that would be the appropriate place to do it. If this would have been a personal page, he would have a right to be upset, but it wasn’t.

The second issue is the whole point of posting the voicemail by Paul wasn’t to show he was ‘mean’. He wasn’t mean, he was actually calm and respectful. The point is that the mayor LIED. He made this comment on FB after Stehly said she had the VM;

‘There are no mean emails, voicemails, or the like here.’

Yeah, once again it wasn’t ‘mean’ but a voicemail does exist. That was her point. Instead of calling Theresa, or emailing her to ask to hear the VM, he just automatically denied it existed. That was the entire point folks.

Did Theresa probably go about it the wrong way? Yeah, probably, but as I have told people, I don’t control how Theresa operates. I can ‘try’ to give advice (I have told her several times to get the f’ck off of FB and start a blog instead so she can moderate the commentary a little better, or HAVE no comments at all, just make it informational in nature).

So what is the ‘bigger’ lesson here? Some people in city government don’t get along, we see it every week in the smirks and commentary at the city council meetings. Not sure that will ever change. Some of them simply don’t like each other. The mayor himself vowed to make sure certain people get elected to the council next time around. Theresa isn’t on that list. Sorry, I don’t have a secret VM confirming that, but unless you have been under a rock the past two years you can see that is pretty obvious.

I’m begging all elected officials in city government and local and state government to get off of Facebook and talk to our actual faces. That would solve a lot of problems. Transparency in government will always win the day.

Why does Sioux Falls struggle so much with open government?

Many in the media are wondering why Mayor Paul doesn’t hold regular press conferences where the media can ask questions. Sorry folks, have to head to my kid’s soccer game.

I have often argued that this should be one of the easiest things our local government officials do – open the books! We already have the laws in place that allow government in South Dakota to open the books as much as they want to, with only a handful of things that are not allowable (and are clearly defined).

It often baffles me when I watch the video above or hear a local official say this (Sioux Falls City Councilor Erickson is referring to a conversation she had on Wednesday with Mayor TenHaken about communication);

“Help me understand this. Where was the communication breakdown, and how can we do better for you guys (city councilors)?”

I mean, if you have to ask, you are apparently either NOT fit to lead, or acting naive on purpose to hide things. I think it is a little of both.

When leaders fail at the simplest of tasks, it clearly shows they are NOT prepared for the job and should resign.

I drive past the Mayor’s office every weekday going to work (about 7:45 AM) and again going home (about 4:45 PM) and it is always dark. Why do we need city hall security for a mayor that doesn’t show up to his office?

UPDATE: Using Entertainment taxes for private entity setting a bad precedent

I first want to say I support finishing the State Theatre, I have actually helped with some charity fundraisers for the facility through ZombieWalk and SF Roller Dollz. I think it is a worthy cause and I applaud Denny Sanford for giving money to the goal of completion. But I think that is still the direction the theatre should move in, private donations for a private facility.

Using entertainment taxes sets a bad precedent, as I pointed out yesterday, and I will tell you why.

Seven years ago, former city clerk Debra Owen won an open meetings case over how her termination was handled. During the proceedings, City Attorney David Fiddle-Faddle argued his case based on the opinion of a former attorney general. 4 of the 5 attorneys who sat on the Open Meetings Commission contended that an ‘opinion’ of an AG is NOT case law, so it did not apply. When Fiddle continued to argue based on the AG’s opinion, one of the panelists asked David cynically, “You do understand that the opinion of a AG is not the same as case law? Don’t you?” The crowd in attendance let out an audible giggle. The commission determined that you have to base your arguments on tried case law, not opinions.

The City of Sioux Falls is trying to say they can spend the entertainment money on a private entity in the form of promoting the city based on a opinion of the AG in 1984. But there is NO case law. In other words, the city could be sued if they try to set this precedent. Even if I supported giving the State Theatre MORE tax money, which I don’t, it should come out of the CIP not the entertainment tax.

Listen to Allison Weiland talk about the State on Jon Michael’s Forum

In other news, Cameraman Bruce attended a luncheon today talking about open meeting laws, 3 of the panelists were former State Legislator Dave Knudson, Argus reporter Jonathan Ellis and Jon Arneson (Argus attorney). They all contended that the most recent open meeting laws that Knudson helped write, said that if text messaging or emails during a public open meeting are being used, that correspondence can be used in a court case. So council, if you were smart, you would put the phones and email chatting away during the meetings.

Should ‘ALL’ Sioux Falls City Councilor emails be considered confidential?

I have been of the opinion that city correspondence should be public record unless it is addressing legal counsel, personnel or discussing possible legislation.

City councilors have been sharing discussion emails with the media and this blog for well over a decade. Since the council’s email and use of it is taxpayer owned property, there really isn’t any harm in sharing discussion emails with the public, I would even argue it is our right to see it.

Lately there has been some internal discussions on the council whether or not sharing discussion emails is appropriate. Not only is it OK it is essential to open government and seeing what our council is doing. This is also a reason why texting during the meetings should not be allowed. Any correspondence during these meetings, whether through a text or email should either not be allowed by ordinance or shared with the public since it seems to be a part of the public hearing.

It’s hard to ‘Leak’ confidential information to the public if it’s NOT confidential to begin with.

Events Center Campus Survey is government overreach, but that’s just one example

There is nothing wrong with online surveys. If you are willing to give up some form of security to help marketing companies make a little extra money, that is your bizzo. But when government hires a private company to do a survey that requires a name, address and phone number, then we have issues;

Today, Mayor Paul TenHaken’s Events Campus Study Group launched a public survey to gather input from the community on the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center Campus.

Available at siouxfalls.org/ec-survey, the short survey asks for input on the current status of the campus and looks for feedback on potential improvements. Survey respondents will be entered into a drawing to win one of many $25 gift cards.

One of the other key questions is if you are a registered voter. None of this information is pertinent unless the city and the marketing company (Lawrence & Schiller) needs to collect data on you as a registered voter. Remember, Mayor TenHaken is serving his first term in elected office of any position, he has a long political life ahead of him (I hope not). L & S also does political consulting for a wide range of candidates across the state. This kind of voter data would be very valuable to both PTH and L & S. It is also not needed. Simply marking a box saying your are a SF resident should be good enough for this survey.

But this isn’t the only place the city is gathering data on you. They are also doing it with the phone app for reporting potholes and other issues. They are also doing it HERE on the city website and HERE on the GIS website.

They have also gotten away from posting really any video on the city’s main website and very few in YouTube. They have been basically using FB as their main source to getting out information. Besides the fact that some people don’t use FB, it goes back to not having to have a ‘login’ to access public information. They can also track you via FB.

The Brexit campaign to leave the EU used FB to manipulate the vote. It is under a massive investigation because of complicated UK laws that deal with voter protections. Using FB to collect voter and citizen data isn’t some fairytale.

There is absolutely NO reason a citizen should have to have a login to get public information. Public information should be available for FREE and without sharing your identity.

While I could go into several constitutional reasons why what they are doing is wrong, the bigger question I have is ‘WHY’ collect the data? Why does the administration and certain people within city government, and now apparently private companies, think they need our home addresses, names, phone numbers, age, email, voter registration? What does that have to do with a dying ball field?

This is a ploy to collect as much data as possible on us to manipulate future elections. It’s very Karl Rovian and certainly in PTH’s ‘wheelhouse’.

DON’T sign up to receive data. Don’t fill out these surveys. And if the government comes knocking on your door, tell them they need a warrant.

Surveillance is everywhere, but not to keep ‘us’ safe

Isn’t funny how government puts this stuff up to protect themselves from us;

“There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras now deployed in the United States shooting 4 billion hours of footage a week,” reported Popular Mechanics 10 years ago. Five years later,according to The New York Times, “there were 245 million professionally installed surveillance cameras around the world.” Today, five years later, they’re talking about 30,000 spy cameras in the city of Chicago alone.

The Cameras Everywhere craze came to full bloom after September 11, when fear of the “other” transformed into fear of everything. This fear was fed and nurtured through the oppressive onslaught of cynical politicians and ratings-hungry news networks. Recently, however, cities have begun to flip their own high beams at the eyes that never blink.

“In 2013, Seattle police installed surveillance cameras and a network that could track wireless devices throughout downtown,”reported The Seattle Times in February of 2018. The network “had the potential to track and log every wireless device that moved through its system: people attending protests, people getting cups of coffee, people going to a hotel in the middle of the workday…. After unwanted publicity, they turned it off. Now the city is paying $150,000 to physically tear it down.”

Sioux Falls City Council continues to chip away at open government through little battles

I was reminded of proposing a total transparency ordinance a year ago after talking to a city councilor yesterday. I was trying to tell them that while the little battles over open government have been slowly chipping a way at transparency, it is much more like going two steps forward and three steps back. I suggested that they propose a total transparency ordinance, and if it fails, keep bringing it back with tweaks until it does. Let’s face it, the city council has had over a year to come up with a permanent solution. I think they should ALL work on this together, first in a working session, operations committee and city council informational.

Right now all we have seen the past year is a back and forth game of what should be transparent and what should not. I have said in the past that there has never been a government body in SD who has gotten in trouble for being too transparent, so open it up and put it in writing (in the charter).

I guess we can continue to have the school yard fights over registration fees and book club meetings, but the council should really be looking for a semi-permanent solution to fixing transparency and communication, because until that happens, I’m not going to listen to the whining anymore.