Monday, January 14, 2013

Another Petition Drive in the Works?

Theresa Stehly has decided to exert her public muscle once again. This time she wants to change how the Park Board is organized. The Charter Revision Commission is continuing its work reviewing and considering changes to the city's constitution called the City Charter. Stehly appeared before them last week to present her proposal along with the little threat of another petition drive if they don't heed her advice.

Stehly thinks the Park Board should be established by districts, similar to how the city council is made up and she thinks it should be so stated in the City Charter. She said she is exploring which option would be best to make this change: a charter revision, a petition drive or working with the council to draft an ordinance.

Boards and commissions serve as a public voice and advisor to the administration. They have no power, nor can they adopt ordinances. The park board is not an elected body. It is an appointed advisory body. Stehly's proposal to the charter revision commission is not vision driven but an agenda driven by Theresa Stehly's agenda.

It makes no sense to single out one board in the city charter. The charter is a big tent with broad constitutional oversight. It provides an executive, legislative and administrative structure for a home rule local government. The charter speaks in broad terms about the mayor's role regarding boards and commissions.

City Attorney Pfeifle said the city charter is not the place to address this issue. Director Kearney said the process for appointing Park Board members is working so why change it. Pfeifle is right on - the charter revision commission is not the right place for this discussion. Director Kearney is also right in that the Park Board members look out for the needs of the entire community, not just one area of town.
The tendency is to pooh pooh anything that comes from Theresa Stehly. What we do know from past behavior, Stehly doesn't like to be told no. When asked by charter board member Knudson if her proposal was also directed at the planning commission, Stehly said no, she was only interested in the Park Board. Her agendas are specific driven. Normally, I'd say run for office but, she did that and she didn't win, even though it was in her own district. She has become involved in the Spellerberg Park discussion and it is not even in her own district. Has she been asked to lead another charge or has she appointed herself as the crusade leader for the Spellerberg area?
Stehly believes she has a mandate from the public because of her successful snow gate petition drive. People will sign most any petition if asked on the street. I have been known to sign a petition just to drive a discussion even though I know I will not support the measure if it came to a vote. Just because you can gather signatures doesn't mean you have a mandate on an issue.

My first thought when I heard about Stehly's latest crusade was to roll my eyes. Because ---- it came from her, again. Then I stepped back and thought, maybe it has some merit, at least for further discussion at a council committee meeting. I don't agree with her narrow viewpoint that it should only be discussed in the context of the Park Board, however. If the concept has merit, it has merit for the Planning Commission as well since both boards are recommending and advising on matters that affect the make up of the community.
It could be as simple as the mayor's office looking at applications in a different light with some consideration to broad representation in the community. You can do that without changing any ordinances. Making it ironclad and specific in ordinance might create problems filling board seats, especially if no one from a specific district is interested in volunteering to serve on a board.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Minnehaha County Republican Leadership

One wonders where all the reasonable Republicans are in Minnehaha County. They must have been out of the county when Lora Hubbel was elected Chair of the Minnehaha County Republican Party. I just finished watching the Morning Conversation with Lora Hubbel on 1/10/13.

Lora says she is not a Tea Party Republican. She says she is a conservative, christian Republican with Libertarian leanings. I just don't get it. I know a lot of local Republicans and she does not seem to fit in with the Republicans I know. How then, did she get elected as the leader for Republicans in this county?  I am beginning to think because there is a majority anyway, most of the Republicans really don't care who their leader and spokesperson is, hence Lora. Someone has to do the grunt work, I guess.

The County Republicans were awfully quiet when Lora and Manny cooked up their little scheme to take down the Chamber Legislative Coffee. After all, that organization wanted to talk about green things when she wanted to talk about red things. She used that analogy with Patrick Lalley but I think you get the picture. It's all about her agenda, not the party's agenda. Here's what Lora says about it on the county republican party website:

The Chamber of Commerce nationwide is a conservative organization but individual cities have their own personality. Ours has said that there is nothing we can do about OBamaCare and that there is no fighting it....not a typical conservative ideology. Republicans have had problems with the Chamber of Commerce Coffees since "the early 1990's when I was in the legislature." says a current PUC member.

The League of Women Voters are the sole group in charge of the event (during the coffee)...even though we pay as much to sponsor it as they do. In fact, even after meetings with the Chamber and asking why it is that we cannot pick out any questions to be asked of the legislators (we can't even look at the questions asked by the audience at the event) and why we cannot ever moderate... we have gotten no headway with them in regards to equal representation. So we voted to not sponsor this event until things change. Instead we will host equal but opposite forums at the same time and same day. When the Chamber hosts a group of legislators, we will host the opposite group...when all conservative questions are lampooned or ignored, we will welcome them.

All legislators, Conservative, Liberal, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc., will be invited and all questions will have an equal opportunity to be asked....all constituents will feel a part of the process instead of being ignored and having their ideas booed.

Please donate a bit so we can get this event off the ground (put in the memo of your check "forums" please).....Many Thanks, Lora Hubbel

KELOTV on January 3, 2013 reported: For the last several years, Republican Representative Manny Steele says he's noticed the League of Women Voters legislative coffee is too liberal. He says it's biased against the GOP.

If you go on the League of Woman Voters website it will tell you that it is a long standing non-partisan organization that doesn't support or oppose any candidates for public office. The league is well known for hosting debates and forums. Their website states: we believe deeply that the public should hear different views on the issues facing our communities and our nation. An honest and respectful sharing of ideas is vital to the functioning of American democracy.

Hubbel and Steele want to create their own forum so they can discuss their views as they see it. It's not about a sharing of ideas and hearing all sides and opinion on issues. I ask you, which forum would you like to attend if you are a person with an open mind and an interest in learning all sides of an issue in which to make an informed decision?

What has happened to the leadership of the Minnehaha County Republican Party? Where are all the reasonable and objective Republicans I know and respect in this county? The Minnehaha County Republican leadership is interesting to say the least.

Lora Hubbel's role as Chairperson of the Minnehaha County Republicans is coming to an end. The Central Committee and legislators will be voting on a new chairperson at the their headquarters on 69th Street on January 19th. This group has had strange leadership in the past. It will be interesting to see who takes over as Chairperson for the future. Someone who has respect for honest and respectful sharing of ideas would be a change of pace for this group.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tree Branches

Everybody likes trees in their yards. Trees provide good shade and they green up one's property. If a property owner decides to plant trees on their property, shouldn't they be expected to keep the trees trimmed? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know when a tree needs to be trimmed. If you mow your lawn and you have to duck in order to not get bonked on the head and whiplashed in the face, you need to trim the dang tree. If it impedes the sidewalk or the street, it needs to be trimmed.

When did we become such a lazy society? Councilor Anderson got a complaint from some constituent and now is asking for a review of the city's Parks and Recreation  Project T.R.I.M. program. City ordinance requires trees to have a 10 foot clearance over sidewalks and a minimum 12 foot clearance over the street. For arterial and collector streets, there must be a 16 foot clearance over the street.

The Parks Department has an inspection program whereby they inspect the city in quadrants. If they find trees that are not in compliance with the ordinance, they send a notice to the property owner. If the property owner does not comply, they get a second notice with more detailed information on which tree needs trimming. If the property owner still doesn't comply, they go out and trim the tree(s) and charge the property owner $150 per hour for the service. 3% of property owners don't comply. 97% do comply.

Councilor Anderson doesn't think the Parks Department is giving the homeowner enough information on which trees need trimming. He also threw out the idea that maybe the city should take over trimming trees. Director Kearney says that is is just too expensive. Darn right it is too expensive and I, for one, am not interested in having my taxes increased because someone can't trim their own trees on their property. First we can't shovel our own driveways, and now we can't seem to trim our own trees.

The City Council Public Services Committee asked Parks and Recreation officials to come before them to justify their program. Clearly, this is a program that is working. Maybe Councilor Anderson should have responded to the complaining constiuent with detailed information about the sucess of the program and remind the property owner of their duty as a property owner.

This is much ado about nothing but then making mountains out of mole hills is what politicians seem to do. Just because somebody complains doesn't mean whole programs need changing.  It would be different if Parks and Recreation didn't have a plan and weren't be responsible in managing it, but they are. They should be commended for running a program with a 97% compliance rate.

Move on, Public Services Committee.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When Saying No with No Plan Costs Us Money

It is unsettling to learn that over 14% of this state's population is covered under South Dakota's Medicaid program. That's 116,000 children, adults and disabled people. There are another estimated 48,000 people who would be added under the expanded eligibility as part of the federal health care law, slanged as ObamaCare.  South Dakota's estimated 2011 population is 824,082.

Republican State Legislators can wring their hands over their hopes being dashed by the Supreme Court when it upheld President Obama's health care initiative. What the legislature needs to do is come up with solutions on how to deal with the poor and lower middle class workers in this state who have no means to access affordable health care or insurance in this state.

Uninsured Americans cost the American health care system an additional $49 billion. Governor Daugaard believes health care decisions should be left up to each state and he doesn't want to expand Medicaid because he doesn't believe the federal government has the ability to pay for it. He has also decided that SD should opt out of the expansion of Medicaid which was one of the biggest milestones of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  

The law previously required states to cover their poorest or lose federal funding to Medicaid (federal funding covers 90-100% of the costs) until the supreme court ruling on Obama Care. Now each state can decide whether or not they want to opt out of expanding coverage to their poorest with no penalty.  The thing is, we all are impacted by this recalcitrant position of the governor.

Who does the Governor think pays for these expenses? These expenses are not free. All he is doing is cost shifting. That 14% plus population who needs coverage but can't because of the Governor's position will eventually end up in hospital emergency rooms. We all know that going to an emergency room is no way to treat illnesses that are not an emergency. It drives up costs and guess what, you and I are going to pay for it through increased premiums in our own health insurance coverages.

When you are in charge of finding solutions, as an elected official, you cannot say you are not going to do something. Because when you say that, you impact somebody else you represent. It shows you don't see the big picture and don't have a clue how to solve the problem.

Monday, January 7, 2013

When is Talk Cheap?

Theresa Stehly, chairwoman of Citizens for Snow Gates, and her army of supporters were upset last month when the City Council limited public input on the snow gate election agenda item to 20 minutes. There were a lot of people attending the meeting who wanted to publicly state their support of establishing an election date on the issue.

Public input is important but you have to ask the question, when does it become redundant and no longer provides meaningful information? After 20 minutes? After one hour? After two hours? How many people does it take to hear the same thing? It seems to me the key to public input at a council meeting is meaningful input. Two hours of listening to the same talking points over and over is not meaningful input just because it's a different person each time. All it does, most of the time, is feed the egos of those who want the limelight and take delight in calling elected officials on the carpet on TV.

There are others way for the public to provide input and give their voice on an issue. Write the mayor and your council representative a letter. Send them an e-mail. Write a letter to the editor of the local paper. Submit a statement with signatures of support at the council meeting the night the item is on the council agenda, but select key people to speak on the issue.

Twenty minutes was not enough time for a controversial issue like the snow gate election. An hour of public input would surely have been plenty of time. The city council has many items on their weekly council agenda. The council meeting is a business meeting and it is certainly appropriate to establish guidelines and rules regarding the conduct of business. The sticky question is how long must this elected body sit through repetitive public input that offers no new information on a controversial issue, just different bodies.

The pro side and the con side of every issue can say that they deserve to be heard and should not have their public testimony limited in any way. But really, is that how to run an official meeting? If Stehly had known beforehand that there was going to be a time limit, she could have organized her army of supporters and very strategically picked her strongest voices to speak that night. That's the way it should be done. She didn't get the opportunity, because the rule isn't a defined rule and is currently used at the discretion of the council leadership.

I think it's a good idea to establish rules regarding public input and publish the rules. That way, no one can cry foul and the council won't look so arbitrary in their action. When is talk cheap? When it provides no new facts or information and is just repetitive rhetoric in a different set of clothes. That's why a rule such as what will be studied by the council is in the right direction.