If Rapid Creek doesn’t wash the ballot boxes away, Rapid City voters will pick their mayor for the next two years today. How are the media voting?
The Rapid City Journal issued a wimpy Sunday-edition endorsement of incumbent Mayor Sam Kooiker. RCJ mentions allegations of racism and anti-Second Amendment inklings against challenger Steve Allender without trying to get to the bottom of those allegations. (On the Second Amendment, those allegations are absurd; Allender dings extremists on both sides of gun issues and takes a practical view of the need for certain firearms in civilian hands even has he acknowledges the Second Amendment) RCJ likewise fails to weigh the argument offered by Allender that Mayor Kooiker is hindering business. RCJ weakly defaults to mere “experience” and tells readers to vote for Kooiker, even though Allender can argue that he has 29 years of experience working for Rapid City compared to Kooiker’s 13 years.
Rapid City blogger John Tsitrian is as ambivalent as the RCJ. Tsitrian says he’ll vote for Kooiker, but he’s not telling anyone else to do so. He’s gotten the sense that Kooiker is “more into consolidating power and the cronyism that goes with it than delivering the best government he can.” Yet, like RCJ, Tsitrian rejects Allender for a lack of specifics on economic development… or, as Tsitrian more colorfully calls it, dodgeball:
…Allender has proposed no specific measures that he would bring to bear on manufacturers with the intent of getting them to expand or locate here in Rapid City. In his ChiefsView blog of a couple of weeks ago, Allender just says, “I intend to be involved in finding the areas where improvement is needed and to work with others to make that improvement.”
This comes across as world-class dodge-ball to me because Allender is effectively saying he doesn’t have a clue but intends to figure it out after being elected by getting together with people that, unlike him, know something about the subject. Same goes for his critique of the City’s permitting process, much discussed here, but with no clear identification of its problems or its fixes, just a frequent comment to the effect that we first have to admit there’s a problem and that he’d unclog city hall and “evaluate existing processes” in the hope of giving Rapid Citians more value for their dollar.” As with his hectoring of Kooiker’s handling of manufacturing growth, Allender gives us vagueness and no indication that he understands the problem he claims to exist. More dodge-ball. I need better than that to consider him for mayor [John Tsitrian, “I’ll Vote for Kooiker, But I’m Not Endorsing Him,” The Constant Commoner, 2015.05.31].
Tsitrian mentions the combat between Kooiker and Allender on race relations only glancingly, saying Mayor Kooiker’s criticism of councilors Charity Doyle and Bill Clayton for “well-known biases” is a ding on Kooiker. RCJ dismisses the discussion of race relations as a distraction from “other topics that are more in line with the mayor’s duties, which is to run an efficient and effective city that provides economic opportunities and strives to improve the quality of residents’ lives.” Hmm… I would think an honest discussion of race relations would have a lot to do with what a mayoral candidate would do to improve the quality of all residents’ lives.
Lakota Country Times editor Brandon Ecoffey thinks race relations is a voting issue. He says Rapid City’s Native American voters have a greater stake in this city election than previous elections because of what he sees as a stark difference between Kooiker and Allender on race relations. Ecoffey says Mayor Kooiker’s agenda “contains the model way of incorporating minority populations into city government,” while Allender’s approach to race relations “would have fit in with the Ferguson, Missouri police department.”
Conservative Christian exclusivist Gordon Howie peers into town from the ranchero and says he’d vote for Kooiker if he could. Howie offers no specific reason for his vote, but alongside conservative Rip Ryness’s Facebook assault on Allender, Howie’s gentle pitch reminds us that Kooiker has some in with the radical conservative crowd on which Allender has not apparently capitalized.
The most vigorous voice for Allender online is former State Senator Stan Adelstein. In a Friday post, Adelstein praises Allender for his leadership experience. He praises Allender for telling voters where he stands on the school opt-out issue (Allender is voting yes, with sadness, on that issue today), then in the next breath praises Allender for not telling voters where he stood on the Civic Center remodel before that March vote. Adelstein blasts the radical South Dakota Gun Owners’ misrepresentation of Allender’s support for the Second Amendment.
Adelstein then whacks Kooiker with detailed critiques of the mayor’s management skills and honesty. Among signs of bad management, Adelstein cites high turnover among department heads, big projects not advancing, money wasted on the failed Civic Center proposal, partisan politicking in county commission races, and botched handling of the appointment of a new chief to replace Allender in 2014. On honesty, Adelstein alleges that Kooiker has turned from seeming integrity during his first couple years as mayor to misrepresentation of Allender’s positions and his own positions to cling to his office.
We should know before bedtime tonight whose priorities in evaluating the candidates prevail.