Wednesday, April 9, 2014

More of the Same for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, America

The results are in and the citizens have voted. The mayor didn't get a mandate but he did get a victory so congratulations are in order. Snow Gates, no outdoor pool at Spellerberg, new zoning ordinances and a Walmart at 85th and Minnesota - Sioux Falls is moving on. I am excited about what may occur at Spellerberg Park. Decade old zoning ordinances will be put to rest and we shall see how developers and residents get along in the future. For a Republican State that thinks there is too much government, we vote in snow gates that will cost more and slow down snow removal - just because we don't want to shovel snow on our driveways - go figure. Politics create strange bedfellows.

I am excited about Christine Erickson joining Michelle Erpenbach on the City Council. Rex Rolfing - sigh! I hope we see an engaged City Council that doesn't become a rubber stamp for the administration the next four years. Regardless of the outcome, citizens don't feel they have been listened to and no one on the Council should forget that.

I am not scared about what's happening in Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls has been robust and vibrant for decades. It's growth is phenomenal and it's civic and business leaders have been engaged and shown leadership. I don't see that changing. Personalities are big in politics. While I am not a fan of the personality of the newly elected mayor and how he treats people who don't agree with him, the majority of citizens who voted yesterday seem to like this bulldozer, so bulldoze away, mayor-elect.

You haven't seen anything yet! Why does that scare me and make me feel sorry for the internal workings at City Hall? Time will tell. When bullies get encouragement, they puff up and become monsters. Let's hope Sioux Falls, South Dakota, America weathers the second coming.  Good luck to the Mayor and new City Council. "Sioux Falls, South Dakota, America - you haven't seen anything yet!"




Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Mayoral Election

Jodi Schwan wrote an insightful column in Sunday's ARGUS LEADER about the economic development possibilities, or lack thereof,  in the Sports and Entertainment District surrounding the Denny Sanford Premier Center. 

This article goes to the heart of the mayoral election this Tuesday and the future of Sioux Falls. There is no doubt that Mayor Huether made good on his campaign promise to build an event center. The problem with this achievement is it's short sightedness for the economic development future. I wish I could tell you how many times various persons have told me that this mayor does not believe in long term planning. The building of an event center in a wasteland of economic development is proof of that lack of commitment to long term planning for this city. The expediency of getting his campaign promise checked off his mayoral bucket list has left us with an entertainment venue that has nothing around it. The city has to prop up a hotel at Elmwood Golf Course to make it look like something is actually going to happen out there on a new stretch of 6 lanes of roadway with no businesses to turn off on.

Rhetoric has been this mayor's strong suit these past four years. Goodness knows, we have had more news releases and news conferences than most of the last few mayoral terms. Not all of it has been bad, some of it has been newsworthy, some of it has been self serving white noise and braggadocio.

Here's what I remember about the incumbent's first term as mayor:
  • Taking credit for road construction that has been the heartbeat and soul of the five year Capital Improvement Plan for decades. 
  • Being dubbed the downtown revivalist when Downtown SF is probably in the worse shape it's been since former Mayors Hanson and Munson took on Downtown revitalization years ago.
  • Money in the piggy bank comments when money in the reserve fund has been the norm, not the exceptional happening in the last four years.
  • The bullish economic boom enjoyed in Sioux Falls that has been bullish the last twenty years, not just in the last four years.
  • Taking credit for cheap airfares and the introduction of Frontier Airlines that had been in the works before the first term of this mayor even began.
  • The destroying and firing of city directors employed or retained as career professionals and turned into a political patronage system with the loss of some outstanding city directors and not being transparent about why they were no longer employed in his administration. They resigned, good people, I didn't really fire them.
  • The campaign talk about the wonderful city employees on his team these last few months when they were not even on his horizon or speech the first 3 years of his term. Oh, he did talk about those rich benefits city employees enjoyed when he addressed the Downtown Rotary Club his first year in office.
  • Casting a dim light on ethics and an appearance of impropriety by investing in real estate that gets TIF funding from a department directly supervised by the mayor and approved by the city council.
  • Petition drives galore - snow gates, indoor/outdoor pools, railroad switching lines clogging neighborhoods and traffic patterns, a Walmart on four corners of the city, development plans, spending issues, sweeping zoning ordinance changes. A restless and unhappy citizenry.
  • A city charter revision commission that decided it didn't need to work transparently and publicly in front of the citizens because they were being criticized for their work.
  • Choosing to not reappoint some city board members under a cloud of heavy handedness and retribution for not doing his bidding.
I could probably come up with more items but whew, this is enough to help me make a decision next Tuesday. By the way, I don't give two hoots about whether someone is a Republican or Democrat. All I care about is that the person is someone I have confidence in leading this city the next four years. And yes, the likeability factor means something to me too. So does humility, character, and honesty. A genuine, not fake demeanor, a sincerity that comes across as genuine and a commitment and respect for long term planning and a recognition and respect for the importance of city employees that is not just a convenient platitude to get someone through the next election.

I support Greg Jamison for Mayor. I encourage you to vote Jamison for Mayor on April 8th.




Saturday, April 5, 2014

Superficial Republicans and Democrats

I am amused by the politics in the mayor's race this year and the crying foul that has taken place over the Minnehaha County Republican Party's flyer regarding the incumbent mayor's political persuasion. It is amusing because this state is full of Republicans who vote party line without even a thought as to the qualifications of some of the people running for elective office in this state. The word Democrat is a dirty word in this state and the people who are declared Democrats are viewed as big spending bureaucrats who don't understand how government should be run and are ridiculed at every juncture.

Yet, the crying foul and shame on you rhetoric over the republican flyer has many of the elitist and so called loyal Republicans running for cover. People are declaring I am a Republican but I can't support this and since it's so heinous, I must support Huether. What poppycock!

The fact is those redder than red Republicans were probably hiding their allegiance to that blue Democrat Huether all along and this flyer has now given them the almighty, holier than thou stance to say I don't condone this behavior and I have to show my disgust by voting for the poor misaligned Democrat. Poppycock again!!

When the city charter was voted in back in the 90's, I made the comment that local government was going to become partisan, just give it a couple election cycles. I predicted that the director/department head group would become political appointees instead of remaining career professional positions. It has come to pass, no thanks to the Minnehaha County Republic Party. It has come to pass, more so than in the past, by the incumbent mayor. Personally, I think there are a lot of Minnehaha County Republicans masquerading as Republicans when they are really Democrats because it's just not socially acceptable to admit democratic leanings and get elected in this state.

If you are now saying you are not voting for Jamison because of the flyer and are voting for Huether, you are the very superficial voter that has always existed in this state. All this flyer has done is give the mayor the venue to continue his woe is me, people are so mean to me personna. And all of you who are jumping on the band wagon calling this shameful and disgusting are superficial voters without a thought as to what party you call home.

You want to know what is disgusting? Meaningless rhetoric that moves the dialog away from the real issues and dumb voters who can't see the forest for the trees. Republicans with businesses and big money have saddled their horses up to Huether because the almighty dollar rules, not their party allegiance. So everybody just get off your high horses and vote for Huether or Jamison because you believe in what they say they are going to do for this city, not because they are Republican or Democrat or because some silly, petty flyer came out and your sensibilities all of sudden got slapped. Your superficial party allegiance is showing and it's not complimentary to your convictions.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Women Running for Office

There are plenty of articles on why women don't run for political office. A study by the Brookings Institute says women don't like the rigors of a campaign. Women don't get recruited to run like men do. Women have less freedom to balance work and family obligations with a political career. Women are less likely to feel qualified to run for office. Women don't perceive a fair political environment. Who knows why more women don't run for political office. There are plenty of men running for political office that aren't qualified to run. Whether the political environment is fair or not is debatable.

Running for office requires money and if you don't have some political connections or help, financing a campaign is going to be tough. I would think that is a problem for both men and women. There are 4 women in the local election this year, two are running against one another in the central district and the other two are running for the at large B seat and the southeast district seat. I hope we see 3 women on the council at the end of election night next week.

I think it is harder to run for an at large seat than it is running for a district seat. Running city wide is a big challenge, especially if you are running for the first time. Christine Erickson is running against Denny Pierson for the At Large B seat. Christine doesn't fit the reasons cited in the Brookings Institute study on why women don't run for political office. She's figured out how to balance work and family obligations with a political career when she served in the State Legislature.

I have spent some time with Christine and have come away with the opinion that she will be a good asset on the City Council. She comes to the opportunity with little baggage and preconceived notions. She knows what issues are important, to both her and the citizens she wants to serve. I must admit that I have a special bond for the Ericksons and their extended family. I have known her husband, his siblings and his mother for decades. That alone is a huge endorsement for me. But I know that people need to know more than that to vote for Christine Erickson.

She is a confident, well spoken woman. She has a clear vision and she is committed to serving this community.

Christine is committed to Sioux Falls:
• Small business owner
• Involved mother of three boys
• Thrives on collaborating with others to find workable
solutions

Christine will fight to:
• Improve and maintain roads
• Eliminate irresponsible government borrowing
• Make government smarter and more sensible
• Promote economic development and good paying jobs

 Check out her website to find out more about her. I encourage you to vote for Christine Erickson on April 8th. She will serve this community well and will bring a new and fresh perspective to the City Council.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Is the Mayor's Job Too Tough?

Incumbent Mayor Mike Huether and challenger City Councilor Greg Jamison spoke at the Family Heritage Alliance Luncheon on March 27, 2014. I had never heard of this organization. After listening to the audio of the mayor's comments at this luncheon, I decided to go look at FHA's website to see what this organization was all about. I did so, because I found the mayor's comments and his delivery of those comments rather strange and out of the ordinary from his usual presentations.

I understand politicians who pander to their audience. Every politician does it. It's like red meat to the masses. I am one of you, really I am. Personally, I don't like it because it seems fake and dishonest to me. These kinds of actions play people for fools. There are plenty of gullible people out there who will believe anything these days. If you doubt that, look on social media and see what people post from any far leaning left and right organizations that twist information and push people into a partisan frenzy. You see it at the national level but you don't expect to see at the local level. Family Heritage Alliance (FHA) is about as far right as you are going to get in South Dakota.

The mayor seems to be quoting scripture although he doesn't reference actual scripture in his comments. At times it seemed like he was describing himself to the group.  When he said, "But do remember, that I, your very present helper, am omnipotent" I gasped because I thought he was talking about himself. No way anyone would actually call themselves omnipotent which means having complete or unlimited power; having virtually unlimited authority or influence.

Emotionally long pregnant pauses. Strange commentary. Playing to a captive conservative leaning audience. That's politics, even at the local level these days. I guess it works but I have to wonder who is really behind the curtain. I wish politicians would just wear the same clothes all the time. Pretending must be exhausting.  He  feels persecuted, the job is so tough.  Let's relieve him of his anguish and his tears and vote for Jamison.






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Freebie at the Expense of Neutral Journalistic Reporting

We are starting to see more campaign ads on TV these days because of the upcoming municipal election. It is the norm for an election cycle. Local television stations have a delicate balancing act during this election cycle between reporting news that is public information and reporting news that includes a public interest's regarding a specific candidate.

Last night's story on KELOTV regarding cheap tickets brings the subject up for debate. Let's remember that the airport is separate entity governed by an airport authority, separate and distinct from city government. It is not a city department.  It is not under the administrative jurisdiction of the mayor. 

The story lead with the statement, "When he was elected in 2010, Mayor Mike Huether said one of his top priorities was to bring down the price of airfare out of Sioux  Falls.Four years later, that's happened, for some destinations." It continued with this statement, "The airline business has changed changed considerably since Mayor Huether took office calling for lower fares. He helped bring Frontier Airlines into the city. Frontier offered lower prices to the West."

The story did get Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director on camera for a brief statement and it did include a statement from a travel agent but it continued with the airport cheerleader, Mayor Huether. The piece concluded with, "Huether believes as long as people continue to choose to fly out Sioux Falls, the airlines will come. But if you work toward it, if you devise a plan, if you execute the plan then ultimately yes, I think we've got a really good chance to make that happen, Huether said. " 

Why was a candidate for the mayoral position featured in this story about cheap airline tickets? I get that he is the current mayor, but we are in the middle of a local campaign. Was including Huether in a story about the airport's achievement in increased boardings and cheaper tickets important to the completeness of the story? I'm not sure you could tell the difference between publicly important information and information that projected a mayoral candidate's purported achievements.

I don't think of our local 6 o'clock news programs in the same light as I view cable news. I expect neutral reporting of local news. Including Huether in this story limited the independence of KELO's reporting on the story of cheap tickets when they used him as source of information during an election campaign where he is one of the candidates. 

During this election cycle, the incumbent mayor walks a fine line between being mayor and being a candidate. The blame does not fall on Huether in this case. He was handed a golden opportunity and he took it. He got a free campaign ad. The story was written on behalf of a mayoral candidate who just happens to be the incumbent who just happens to be a cheerleader for cheap airline tickets.

The story would have been more credible if it had just been about cheap tickets and the airport and actually featured the person who actually runs the airport and who should have received credit for the good things happening at the airport. Just once I'd like to see Dan Letellier get some credit for what's happening at the airport. Afterall, he is the executive director who runs things out there.
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Oh, and when I see a campaign ad, I don't want to see it reported by a journalist.





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Government by TV

Are you a C-SPAN watcher? Do you turn on CitiLink and watch the City business happenings right in your living room? C-SPAN is marking 35 years of live coverage of the House of Representatives this week.   "It's probably the worst thing that happened to the Congress," Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, declared in an interview with USA TODAY. He goes on to say that he thinks the television coverage has contributed to the polarization between parties today.

That's partly true, I suppose. If you are a political junkie of any proportion, you have multitude of news outlets on TV to satisfy your interest. Add in the FOX NEWS, MSNBC, CNN, etc. and you can bombard your senses to eternity and never really know what is reality and fact.  

Let's be clear, however. FOX and MSNBC are not televising news. They are televising opinions and commentary. C-SPAN is televising actual official meetings of government in action without commentary.
Is what we are seeing on TV good government or is it the theatrics of elected officials pandering to their base? I'm not sure that is any better than the blathering we listen to on FOX or MSNBC, but it is certainly better than no information at all.

I have to admit that I was a strong proponent of expanding the city's cable channel decades ago. We had a cable channel and we weren't using it. The city had a unique opportunity to bring government to the people. Broadcasting official city council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, board meetings was a new idea and frankly not everyone wanted it broadcast in such a public way. The public might actually see the emperor with no clothes on, so to speak. Others embraced the concept and that's where theatrics comes into play. It doesn't matter whether you are a municipal, county or state elected official or whether you are a member of Congress, playing to the camera gives you a license to act and play to the audience. And it is done every day.

So how do we poor minions determine what is real and what is fake? The fact is we don't know. My answer to that is to watch all of it to form my own opinion. The reality is a lot of the public chooses one outlet and takes what it hears from one source for fact and that's how polarization between parties and harsh discourse is created and sustained.

Government needs to see the light of day. We need to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are millions of people who love to watch government in action. There are millions of people who watch nothing and pay no attention to what government is doing. I side with turning the lights and cameras on government, even when I know elected officials are just pandering to their base and not demonstrating good public policy for all. Because without TV, elected officials are hiding behind the curtain and when you hide behind the curtain bad things can happen to us minions.

Perfect? No, but it's better than total blackout and ignorance.