The Mayor spoke at the March 14, 2014 Democratic Forum at the VFW. Bruce Danielson, Chairman for Citizen's for Integrity, was at the forum and during the Q&A session and asked the Mayor why the 3 Charter Revision Commission ballot measures were not part of the city's educational forums.
For those of you who don't know who or what the Citizen's for Integrity is, it is a group of Sioux Falls residents who started a petition drive on February 8th because they believe the city has stepped over the grey line of "education" into "advocacy" and says the Supreme Court has ruled advocacy with the use of tax dollars is unconstitutional. Danielson has become very visible, attending council meetings and the city's educational forums.
The city's news release dated February 27, 2014 announced they would host 8 public meetings regarding 4 ballot questions to be decided during the April 8th municipal election. For those of you who don't know, the four ballot issues the news release is talking about are: Spellerberg Aquatic Center, Snow Gates, Commercial Zoning at 85th and Minnesota Avenue (Walmart), and the Shape Places Zoning Ordinance. It said the public meetings would include video presentations and time for Q&A. The news release went on to say the videos have been approved by the City Attorney's office to be strictly education so that the voters can be more informed when they go the pools - an obvious reference to Citizens for Integrity.
Danielson caught the VFW exchange on video and posted it on YouTube, here for you to review. In summary, the Mayor responded to Danielson that you have to find common ground, some compromise and some common sense and the ones that got the most attention by the people of Sioux Falls, the ones they wanted and brought to the ballot process, are ones that get the benefit of the education process. When Danielson pursued a follow-up, the Mayor tried to call on someone else telling him he might not have liked his response but he answered his question. Danielson pursued again and the Mayor responded, "Where do you stop?"
Where do you stop? The question should have been, Where do you begin? The Mayor has got it wrong on this issue and it has only given fodder to the Citizen's for Integrity group who is challenging the city on their "advocacy" versus "education" campaign and rightly so. The news release works so hard to convince the public that it's strictly education and yet doesn't include all the ballot measures/issues that the voters are going to facing in the ballot box on April 8th. Instead, the mayor cherry picked the issues the public challenged their official action and collected enough signatures to refer their official decisions to a vote of citizens.
Education and advocacy is a fine line and the city has always struggled with what to do on referred ballot issues. It is certainly a legal issue and one that the City Attorney's office has weighed in on over the years. Where was the City Attorney on this one? Clearly, if you want to be believable on the "education" aspect of your actions, you should be including ALL the ballot measures being brought before the citizens for the vote on April 8th. At least your "education" position would be more believable and sincere.
For the Mayor to say he had to find common ground, compromise and common sense is a head scratcher. What the heck does that mean? There is no compromise or common ground to be had on this issue. Common sense would dictate that you "educate the public on ALL issues, not just the ones you are being challenged on. It makes it look like you are using the "education" process to advocate for your position on those issues where your official decisions are being challenged by the public.
Then some woman told him that government is not business and was never meant to run like a business. The Mayor responded by saying - guess what? I never said it was, you weren't listening strong enough. That was followed by a very large groaning sound from the audience.
This administration is it's own worse enemy. Cherry picking how or what to educate the public on is not a good idea and the Mayor got caught on this issue in a very public way.