Entries Tagged 'Open Government' ↓

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.

Is the Events Center Campus Book Club skirting transparency?

The first two meetings were several hours long with Bruce’s camera present. A foot soldier attended the 3rd meeting yesterday, it was a whopping 25 minutes long. This person got the feeling that the group is now meeting in sub-committees privately to avoid being transparent in the bigger picture. It will be interesting to see their final decisions come out of nowhere with no prior discussion (at least one out in open).

It seems the more we scream for transparency, the more they go underground.

UPDATE: California city has 4 public hearings on 5G before telling city council ‘Hold for now’

UPDATE: Notice Sioux Falls isn’t on this list? Hmm?

Hey, Paul, TJ and Erica, this is what transparent government looks like when the Feds have a cattle prod up your rear;

Amid concerns that federal mandates usurp local authority, the fight for control over the hardware that transmits wireless Internet has reached an impasse in Fairfax.

After the fourth public hearing before the Town Council this week — this one lasting more than three hours — council members said they need more time before adopting new regulations for the installation of wireless antennas used for the high-speed network called 5G.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Mayor Barbara Coler said after the Tuesday special meeting. “After we released our draft ordinance last week, we received a lot of public comment [Tuesday] that we needed to consider and review.”

How many public hearings did we have (that were NOT official readings in official meetings) before we let 5G roam free in Sioux Falls? ZERO.

I will say it again, you can only have open and transparent government by actually practicing open and transparent government.