Saturday, March 23, 2013

March Madness

I love March Madness. I got the sports bug from my father. Dad would print the schedule out and keep track throughout the tournament. He would call us kids on the phone to talk about the games and if the Minnesota Golden Gophers were in the dance, all the better.

My dad is no longer with us but my sister printed out the schedule for me last week and I sat glued to the TV all day Thursday and most of Friday switching back and forth between the four channels trying to watch all the games and keep up with the scores and upsets. My sister admonished me for constantly switching between channels and I told her Dad was smiling down on me, proud that I was totally engaged in the tournament. I wish I could call him.

Having the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls is a big thing and it is exciting to watch.  The community support of this tournament cements it being here each year and when it moves to the new event center, it will be quite a show. SDSU's girls and boys basketball success has electrified the state.

I was so hoping the Jackrabbits boys were going to become the new Cinderella team this year but alas, it was not to be. It is exciting to watch the SDSU boys and girls make it to the dance each year. But eventually, they have to be more successful than just making it to the first round. I watch the strength and size of the higher ranked teams and I wonder how the Summit League teams can compete with those schools.

I think it's fine to be excited about winning the Summit League championship but eventually that is just not going to be enough, is it? I am not a sports expert, by any means, but I am of the opinion that the Summit League is a weak league when you watch this tournament.

Yes, we are proud of our South Dakota teams but just making it to the dance is no longer going to be enough. I want the South Dakota March Madness to last longer two and a half hours.

Now, excuse me, I have to get back to switching betweening four channels and adding a fifth channel so I can watch the SDSU girls at 3:15 p.m. Go Jacks!!! And Dad, here's a thumbs up to your precious Golden Gophers!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fencing in the Falls

The tragedy at Falls Park is reminder to everyone who visits the park that although the Falls are beautiful and mesmerizing to watch, it is still dangerous to get too close. It is amazing to see people roaming around down on the rocks close to the flowing water. It is downright scary to see children down there. Yet, people still do it.  Common sense does not seem to prevail with some people.

Why? I suppose it's human nature to explore and cheat disaster even when there are signs clearly stating the danger. There are always going to be thrill seekers. There are always going to be people who ignore the warning signs to satisfy their own curiosity and challenge their own well being. And there are usually good Samaritans who rise up and put their own safety above all else to come to the rescue when irresponsibility has put their own lives in peril.

It is inevitable that the city is now reviewing it's risk management procedures at Falls Park. It is the right thing to do. But putting fencing around the Falls is not the answer to the problem, it is a knee jerk reaction to a tragedy that was preventable from the beginning.

Every year, Police and Fire are called to Falls Park because someone has become stranded or, heaven forbid fallen into the water. Legislating personal responsibility is a slippery slope. Where does it begin or end?

There are signs all over the Falls area notifying people of the dangers of getting on the rocks and going to close to the water. Putting a fence around a natural habitat is like fencing in the air.

Maybe the city needs to consider hiring security personnel to shoo people off the rocks if they think something must be done. But would that require a 24 hour guard on duty? Is that reasonable?

Hysteria and over reaction must be reined in and common sense must prevail. The city must do it's due diligence and review their risk management policies at Falls Park and must make a good faith effort to minimize the risk. They are doing that,  but fencing in the Falls is just a ridiculous outcome for what is a human tragedy.

The city cannot establish enough policies to make everyone responsible citizens. Nor can they create enough policies to keep us safe. It's takes common sense and personal responsibility. Putting a fence up won't solve that. What will stop people from climbing over the fence?

Friday, March 15, 2013

City Council Public Testimony

I can remember sitting in the Commission and/or Council chambers until the wee hours of the morning because some hot button issue brought out a myriad of citizens, and sometimes employees, who wanted a chance to speak on the issue before the elected body passed an ordinance or resolution.

The City Council is grappling with that very issue as they try to craft an ordinance to stop the irritating public. Councilor Entenman states, “Things are emotional for people, and when they’re upset, they want to say it. And a lot of times, it becomes a lot of redundancy; they’re saying the same thing, but it’s coming from a different mouth, which is OK,” Entenman said. “However, you do need to have some controls, because you could go on, filibuster-type, for days.” Hmmm, being referred to as a "mouth" instead of a "person" is an interesting way to describe citizens testifying before the council. Referring to past examples of public testimony as filibuster-type exaggerates the issue.

The quality of life in our city is governed by ordinances and resolutions. When these laws are created, amended or deleted, the impact can affect citizens for better or worse. How does the city council judge the merits or importance of public policy changes unless they hear public testimony? If you are Councilor Karsky you might just have your mind already made up before you ever get to the council meeting as I heard he stated at a Council working session this week. So, no wonder they are interested in minimizing public testimony - such a waste of their time.

By the very city ordinances, public hearings are a requirement. It can be mind numbing listening to the same rhetoric over and over again, no doubt about it. But isn't that the job of the elected officials and isn't it the citizen's right to speak out? After all, it is a public hearing.

The purpose of public hearings is to give equal opportunity for everyone to speak for or against the proposed changes. When you start restricting the voice of the people, you start messing with the public's right to be heard, no matter how painful that may be to the city council.

There is already a five minute rule on individual public testimony although there is no limit on how long the public testimony, either for or against, can go on. Maybe the five minute rule is too long. Shorten it to 3 minutes per person. After an hour of testimony per pro and con group, the mayor could then say unless someone has something new to add to the public discussion, the public hearing will come to an end and the matter rests with the City Council. There is discretion today to manage those meetings, it just takes sound leadership and good judgment.

It would be nice if every citizen was a public speaker and came to the podium prepared to present their testimony in a succinct and professional manner. It would be nice if there was an organized effort on a single issue and people were chosen to be spokespersons in order to minimize repeating testimony. But that is a perfect world and public policy decisions are not always made in a perfect world.

To put a strict limit in ordinance stifles public input. All that does is make city council meetings more palatable to the elected officials while disallowing the public from providing input in order to influence council decisions or make their views known before a vote is taken.

It is a slippery slope and in the end, it just looks like the city council is trying to stifle the public's equal opportunity to speak on an issue that affects their quality of life. The council needs to remember that this is not about them, but about the public's ability to communicate with them at a public hearing required by city ordinance every time an official action is taken.

They are going to discuss it again at their April 10th Working Session. Let's hope cooler heads prevail and the Council gets back to more substantive issues that affect the community and quality of life issues instead of what affects them personally.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Love Affair With One's Self

Once again I am struck by the behavior of the leader of the largest city in South Dakota. Two separate but distinct actions/behavior occurred this week that are too unbelieveable to ignore. The first was a quote in the March 12th Walmart article in the ARGUS LEADER.

Huether said residents told him they needed more retail when he campaigned for office three years ago.

“I was committed to seeing what I could do. Thank goodness I was elected mayor,” he said. “North side, we’re getting a grocery store. North side, we’re
getting retail.”

Least we forget the fact that "Walmart considered building in 2007 in northwestern Sioux Falls but then abandoned almost all new stores nationwide when the economy faltered." Our current mayor was elected in 2010. Are we really to believe that he is the driving force for Walmart building a new store in the north end of Sioux Falls when it has been on the drawing board of Walmart's planning since 2007? They just needed to find the right location and the right economic climate. The timing is right, the SF Development Foundation owns the property. Just what did the mayor do regarding this latest Walmart plan that we should be thankful we elected him mayor to make this happen?

The second incidence of self love occurred during the final game of Summit League Championship between SDSU and NDSU. If you watched the ESPN2 coverage of the game until the very end, you were privy to an interesting shot of our mayor who was sitting directly behind the sports commentators who were speaking on live TV. There was no ignoring the antics of this person behind the commentators in the shot who was jestering and waving like a giddy college student. Oh, it's not an SDSU student who just discovered he was on TV, it was the mayor of the good city of Sioux Falls.

I suppose on the face of it, the calling out of these two latest incidents could be considered petty. That might well be except for the fact that these two incidents once again demonstrate the continued self-adulation and love affair of one's self. If only there were two of him.

My father taught me, time and again, that behavior mattered and that behavior validated character.

I don't doubt that this mayor wants to leave a legacy. I don't doubt this mayor's energy and conviction in trying to get things done in Sioux Falls. The thing is, though, he is not a one man show. Things are not happening in this community just because of him alone. He continues to demonstrate a theme of "me", instead of "we" by word and deed.  Isaac Newton has a great quote about leadership - If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants. The only giant here is the mayor himself.

In the upcoming release of the documentary, The World According to Dick Cheney, Cheney is quoted as saying if you want to be loved, go be a movie star. Feeding the monster of self aggrandizement must be exhausting. But then, if one surrounds one's self with people who gild the ego, the love affair can go on forever or at least until the next election.