Entries Tagged 'Triple Check the Charter' ↓

Out Damn Spot; Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission

The CRC essentially had their last slaughter today before recommending NO citizen proposals for the Spring 2022 ballot. I believe they killed 5 proposals today.

On a side note, if Mr. Kirby wants to propose changes to city government he should really do it in person instead of sending his hitman Dave Knudson who had to pause his proposal to call Joe, who I would assume is wintering some place nice.*

You can watch the massacre for yourself, but the Commission seemed somewhat giddy after the guillotine dropped, 5 times.**

The arguments were about as tired and haggard as most of the members.

Commissioner Hajek explained their job was to only look at ‘tweaks’ to the charter. How dare we assume the commission called the ‘Charter Revision’ would actually allow voters to weigh in on reasonable changes to said Charter?! The shame! They are not true pugilists just middle schoolers giving titty twisters.

They also recommended that it was up to the council to make these critical changes, and if that was NOT good enough the citizens could do a petition drive, which of course would end in a legal challenge on many fronts and never make the ballot.

I’ve seen a lot of apathetic boards in this city, like REMSA and the Planning Commission, but the CRC takes the cake as the biggest jellyfish in the group.

I ask the question, “What do you care how the citizens vote as long as that vote and proposal are legal?” I will tell you why, because of the massive conflicts of some of the board members.

I think Commissioner Hajek filled us in on the sincerity of the board when she leaned into member Zylstra and said after learning when her term ends, “Thank you! I hope to get out of here!”

*My assumption is Mr. Kirby probably suggested calling in his proposal, but that was likely nixed because during Covid, I believe Councilor Stehly suggested public input should or could be done over the phone, which was quickly thrown on the heap.

**I can’t help to boast a little since two of my proposals at least got some votes of approval.

Sioux Falls City Election, YES on A, NO on B

As people have been absentee voting, many have asked me how to vote on the amendments. Amendment ‘A’ is pretty easy to understand. Amendment ‘B’ is a little more complicated, but I will lay it out for you 1) VOTE NO 2) If this was as simple as following state law, the council would have passed this already, they did not, because it is more complicated than that 3) this would increase the number of signatures you would need to petition our city charter. It should be made easier to petition our local government not harder. This is simply an attempt to justify the questionable rules that were implemented on Triple Check the Charter. How can you apply rules to petitioning when citizens haven’t approved those rules yet? VOTE NO!

As I predicted, The Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission did very little in 2019

As I suspected from the get go, the CRC found a way to kill any meaningful legislation for the city’s April election. Oh but they did find a way to make it more difficult to petition our government;

The petitions shall contain or have attached thereto throughout their circulation the full text of the proposed charter amendment and must be signed by registered voters of the city in the number of at least 5 percent of the total number of registered voters at the last regular city election, or the number of signatures required by state law, whichever is greater.

In other words they are trying to get the voters to pass rules that they have already decided to implement on Triple Check the Charter. Yes, folks, they are applying rules that haven’t been amended yet. Isn’t that special? I also got a kick out of the attorney’s explanation on the ballot;

City Attorney’s Explanation of Amendment B:
The current language is, at times, less stringent in its requirements for charter amendment than what is required by the State Constitution. Such is not permissible under State law, which requires the standards of City charter and ordinances to be at least as stringent as State law. The proposed change, as approved and submitted by the Charter Revision Commission, would ensure that the requirements set forth in the charter for voter initiation of a charter amendment are at least as stringent as those set forth in the State Constitution, thus satisfying State law.

What they are basically saying is we MUST vote yes to satisfy State Law. My question is why aren’t we doing that already? And why are we voting on it? I’ll give you my explanation, you can vote NO on this, there is NO requirement we follow state law on this because we are a Home Rule Charter city, we make the rules when it comes to OUR elections. The SOS doesn’t run our local elections, and he shouldn’t. Don’t believe this poppycock, it is just a scare tactic to make it more difficult to petition our government in Sioux Falls and little else. They are trying to hoodwink the voters into passing this, because they know the requirement is not needed.

I vaguely remember the chair of CRC saying at the beginning of the 2019 meetings that it is the CRC’s job to make sure nothing harmful gets on the ballot that could have unintended consequences if passed. Kettle meet black.

A lot of Chicken Littles have been emerging over Triple Check the Charter

I was in amazement over the past 24 hours of all the peeps crying the sky is falling over Triple Check the Charter. Most of what is being said is pure bunk. First let’s start with KSFY’s story.

Besides the fact they mutilated the logo for the measure (eliminating the check marks and descriptive wording at the bottom) they seem to be a little confused.

‘One portion calls for the mayor to be taken off the city council and removes his tie-breaking vote. Any vote ending in a tie would fail.’ (while this part is true, it still doesn’t eliminate the mayor’s ability to VETO council action. With a VETO by the mayor, it would take a super majority to overturn the VETO. He still would have the power to stop legislation he doesn’t agree with).

‘Another item would turn city council elections into a simple plurality.’ (This was actually in the original charter until Councilor Rolfing decided to fiddle with it).

‘A third measure would require a 2/3 majority to pass any bond measure, meaning at least six of the eight council members would need to vote in favor.’ (This is actually the most important part of the amendments IMO. It would force the council to be in consensus when it comes to borrowing money and is an excellent measure that encourages fiscal responsibility of our tax dollars. The only ones that are crying about this are bond salesman).

‘It also calls for city council to develop a strategic plan.’ (That is false. There is NO amendment for that on the proposed petition. Maybe someone should tell KSFY that the word TRIPLE means THREE. Councilor Janet Brekke has proposed several times that the council come up with a strategic plan, but that is NOT a charter amendment proposal, that is just simply doing their jobs as policy makers).

KELO also posted this comment by Mayor TenHaken;

“To put that responsibility of the strategic direction of the city into the hands of eight part-time city councilors is, I think, a very dangerous thing to do,” says TenHaken in a video on his Facebook page

I am completely baffled by this statement. Why would it be dangerous for the policy makers of the city, the city council, to come up with a strategic plan? It is clearly ALREADY spelled out in charter that is it their job to create and establish policy. The petition doesn’t change this one single bit. The only thing that is ‘dangerous’ is our mayor making statements like this. It only confuses voters and is a form of voter suppression. The city council already has the RIGHT and the POWER to implement any policy or plan they want to, and the mayor can’t do a damn thing about it except VETO it. It frightens me that either PTH doesn’t already know this, or he is just flat out lying to scare citizens.

But the rhetoric gets even thicker at the CRC meeting when commission member, Ann Hajek makes this statement at the end of the meeting;

. . . however, this would be a major change to our form of government if adopted, so I think it is important for people to understand that there is some mis-information out there. So it is part of our job as the charter commission to let them know it hasn’t changed and we are in place to keep it in line . . .

As I mentioned above, the only people that are scared are the bond salesman and developers/contractors because it creates a higher threshold for bonding. Mrs. Hajek is married to lead counsel for our major bonding company.

But what I find even more ironic about her statement is that the charter, which was implemented in 1995 is just fine as is, and that the CRC’s job is to protect the status quo. It has actually changed several times since than, it just hasn’t been because of a citizen driven petition. The CRC and city council has made changes.

We heard the opposite with Shape Places. We were told several times we had to change our zoning laws because they haven’t changed since 1986. They actually were amended hundreds of times since 1986, and ironically since Shape Places has been implemented, it has been amended a handful of times to. Why? Because the city council that passed it didn’t bother reading the 400 page document before approving it. The Charter, like zoning laws, have to be updated from time to time. Triple Check the Charter is simply some ‘updating’ to the charter. Don’t listen to the chicken littles in our community who have a lot to lose ($$$) if these changes are made, while the citizens have a lot to gain in tax savings. If passed, progress would occur through a consensus of our council and within the parameters of fiscal responsibility. This isn’t ‘dangerous’ it is just no-nonsense government.

Sorry Paul, Sioux Falls City Government is broken, on many, many, levels

Just because the mayor can’t vote on the council, doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have VETO power (which I agree with).

He also spreads the GOP talking point lie about signing a petition. Signing a petition doesn’t mean you are FOR or AGAINST something. A valid petition drive means it puts it on the ballot. It just gives you the right to vote on the measure, it doesn’t mean the measure passes. They of course know that, but they continue to muddy the waters. He also says that according to the Charter the Mayor sets the agenda. This is also a ‘half-truth’. As I have said in the past, the Charter gives the mayor the power to run the city operationally and administratively. He certainly can give policy suggestions to the city council whether he sits on the body or not, but he is NOT the policy director for the city, that is the city council. He is sadly mistaken if he thinks it is his job to set policy, another reason why we need these checks and balances put in place. And one more contentious issue that PTH didn’t bring up in the video, by making up rules two weeks into the drive (especially the one about limiting circulators) it is simply voter suppression and a violation of 1st Amendment rights. The city attorney’s opinion on this doesn’t hold much water.

Is the mayor’s leadership so minimal he has to hide his comments on Facebook? Notice how he does not remind us of his previous desire to be a small government conservative who won’t waste tax dollars on bonding? He was to be the great consensus builder opening up local government to everyone? He seems to be taking on the approach of his predecessor? He seems to have forgotten the why in this post.

Paul TenHaken was live on Facebook August 26th, 2019 to say: “Some people are trying to tinker with your city government. Let’s talk about why that’s a bad idea (in addition to the many reasons below).

☑️SmartAsset – #1 City in the country for Young Professionals.

☑️Livibility – 7th best city in the US to live in.

☑️Record building permit valuations for past 6-7 years. (yet we continue to handout TIFs, tax abatements and rebates and other corporate welfare to big developers? Why?)

☑️2.5% unemployment. (and super low wages. Around 70% of South Dakotans make below a living wage)

☑️Wallet Hub – 11th best run city in America.

☑️Paid of $4mm in bonds EARLY just three months ago.

☑️TechRepublic calls us one of the top 10 cities in the country for entrepreneurs.

BTW, thanks for the tip PTH, we’re sharing as usual to our YouTube followers.

Charter Revision Commission to look at amending charter to fit city attorney’s ‘OPINION’

When I tell people our city government has gone off the rails, it is NOT an exaggeration. The city attorney and city clerk told ‘Triple Check the Charter’ organizers according to their ‘OPINION’ that only the 15 committee members could circulate the petition. BUT that is NOT in charter, it has to be approved by the voters to make that amendment, and that is what they are attempting to do at the CRC meeting next week.

So how is it that the city can implement a RULE that hasn’t been changed in the Charter yet? I don’t know. And, what if the voters don’t agree with the rule? There is a distinct possibility that they won’t.

I have maintained that an attorney’s opinion (any attorney) is just that an opinion. Unless a judge rules differently (case law) or the voters approve an amendment to the charter.

The city has already admitted that there has never been a petition drive to change the charter, in other words there is NO precedent.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Clerk trying to change the rules mid-stream

UPDATE: Did you read the last part of the story the same way I did? TJ TypeOver and Greco admit that these rules they are trying to apply to the petition have to be voted on yet by the citizens. Huh? How do you enforce rules that haven’t been ratified by the citizens yet in a legal election? Hey, Kooistra, I may not have a law degree, but last I checked an ‘Opinion’ is just an ‘Opinion.’

Isn’t it funny how these things work? Two weeks after the city clerk and city attorney gave the green light on ‘Triple Check the Charter’ they now are trying to change the rules of the game. It reminds of something we used to call ‘Family Monopoly Rules’. Depending on what family’s house you were playing at, they had their own set of rules.

It is pretty obvious they are trying to create doubt around whether the drive is legal. We allowed the unqualified/uncertified city clerk pull this crap in 2016, and we already know the games all to well. Many city officials know that if this gets on the ballot, it will pass.


City of Sioux Falls administrative staff have determined the Home Rule Charter as adopted 25 years ago is unconstitutional, as adopted.

“We have received an opinion from the city officials, who are duty bound to defend the charter, deciding they have the ability to reject sections of the Charter they do not agree with. This has never been done before, this is a gamechanger.” Committee member Bruce Danielson said “City support staff have opined new rules for our petitioning as if they have the power to rewrite state law, home rule charter and South Dakota Constitution.”

The staff’s procedural changes were emailed to the committee almost two weeks after the petition drive had started and signatures were being collected. “How can the staffers require a whole new set of rules after the process starts?” said Danielson “The organization is working with outside experts seeking guidance to find solutions to save the Sioux Falls home rule charter as written and adopted by the citizens of Sioux Falls.”

“We are continuing the legal collection of signatures based on State of South Dakota established processes due to no ordinances were adopted defining or governing this process.” added Danielson.


Triple Check the Charter’s organizing committee of 15 received a notice letter via email from Sioux Falls City Clerk Tom Greco at 4:15pm on Friday, August 16, 2019.

As required by Sioux Falls Home Rule Charter an affidavit of 15 duly registered Sioux Falls voters was filed on August 5th, 2019 informing the City of Sioux Falls the organization was formed to amend the Home Rule Charter through a petition process. The group, Triple Check the Charter, is offering to the voters of the City of Sioux Falls the ability redefine the duties and responsibilities of the City Council.

In the letter, Clerk Greco, with the assistance of City Attorney Stacy Kooistra have determined to rewrite South Dakota and city of Sioux Falls election laws and procedures:

  1. who may circulate a charter amendment petition and

2.    the number of registered voters required to sign for a signature to be deemed sufficient.

Bruce Danielson

FAQ’s about Triple Check the Charter

Many people have been asking me questions about the petition, and what it would do and why. So here are some of my answers (I will try not to editorialize.)

Q: Why are all 3 charter amendments packaged into one?

A: Originally we thought we were going to have to do 3 separate petitions, but since all three of the amendments/changes are in the SAME section in the charter, it is unneeded.

Q: What if I like 1 or 2 of the amendments but not the other ones?

A: Since all 3 of these items are in the same section, it is essential that they ALL pass or fail together. In other words, for these amendments to actually change the charter positively they have to pass together.

Q: Why change the council elections back to simple plurality?

A: Besides the fact that former councilor Rex Rolfing should have never changed it to begin with, in the original charter, it was simple plurality. It also saves the taxpayers money in expensive run-off elections, and makes it more affordable for ‘regular’ citizens to run for office.

Q: Why take the mayor off the city council and eliminate the tie-breaker vote?

A: Historically, in cities larger than 50K, who have home rule charters, the mayor is NOT a part of the council. And even in our charter, as a strong mayor, the mayor, no matter who they are, shouldn’t be involved in council business. In the charter currently it is spelled out that the mayor’s chief duty is to run the daily operations of the city, and city staff. He is welcome to suggest policy changes to the city council, but he really shouldn’t be voting on them. Currently, that is how it works for the council (the legislative/policy body of the city). City councilors CANNOT tell city staff what to do (only their staff, which consists, I believe 8 people). Why? Because they are in charge of making policy and the purse strings. This is also spelled out clearly in the charter. Even with this change, the Mayor will still have veto power (which I think IS important).

Q: What will happen if the mayor is removed from council and there is tie vote (4/4)?

A: The item will then FAIL. It will require a simple majority (5) to pass any items (unless it is judicial, etc, which requires 6 votes. Overturning VETOES also requires 6 votes).

Q: How will requiring a super-majority for bonding make passing bonds BETTER?

A: I believe, this is the most important amendment out of all three. Essentially, the first duty of any elected official is protecting the taxpayers from irresponsible spending. We saw this with the City Administration building and the Bunker Ramp. This will get the council to work harder on consensus. IMO, I think ANY bonding should get the support of ALL 8 councilors, but this is good first step.

Q: Will there be a dollar amount attached to the bonding passage requirement?

A: NO. Whether the city wants to bond for $1 or $100 million dollars, it will require a super-majority of 6 votes. IMO, I think any bonds over $20 million should be approved by voters. But this is a good first step.

Q: Will the changes be on the Spring city election ballot?

A: Maybe. Our hope is that we collect enough in time to call a special election (required by charter) in or around Dec-Feb. If it passes, the changes would be immediate.

Q: Why not just have the Charter Revision Commission put these changes on the ballot?

A: I would agree, that would be ideal instead of a long and messy petition process. But as CRC Chair Justin Smith said during last year’s CRC meetings, he feared putting anything on the ballot because it would likely pass. Unfortunately, that shouldn’t be the CRC’s concern, they should only be concerned if a proposed amendment is LEGAL or not, that is why several lawyers, including Smith, are appointed to the commission. His comments lead us to believe they have NO desire to put anything on the Spring ballot except for minor lanquage changes required by state law. I may be wrong, but I have watched the CRC for several years, and a majority of the members rarely like to ‘make waves’. I have also watched the current chair slowly build a compelling case as to why he doesn’t want to put anything on the ballot. It’s unfortunate, but like our inept state legislature, it looks like the only way to make positive change is thru petitioning.

If you have any other questions, leave them in the comment area.