Sioux Falls Rejects Danielson Petition for Using Wrong Circulator Oath

Sioux Falls petitioner Bruce Danielson informs me that the city has disqualified every sheet of the initiative petition he submitted last week with the signatures of over 6,400 Sioux Falls voters seeking to block Mayor Huether’s plan to issue bonds to build a $25-million administration building. According to Danielson, the city finance office has thrown out the entire petition because Danielson submitted it on the wrong form.

Say what?

Danielson says he downloaded the municipal initiative petition form from the Secretary of State’s webpage for petitions. The front of his petition form has the header “MUNICIPAL INITIATIVE PETITION” as prescribed by ARSD 5:02:08:15. The back, however, has the oath from the statewide initiative petition specified by ARSD 5:02:08:07. The first rule of accepting petitions—literally, the first rule specified in ARSD 5:02:08:00—is “(1) The petition is in the form required by this chapter.” The city has thus found the technicality to allow it to toss Danielson’s petition and avoid any further unpleasantness about the city council refusing to call a citywide initiative vote in time to stop the bond sale after October 1.

But did Danielson do anything wrong that justifies thwarting the will of 6,400 real voters seeking a real vote on a real ordinance?

The two petition forms, statewide and municipal, both require a statement of the initiated measure. Danielson’s petition makes that statement and says at the top that it is a “MUNICIPAL INITIATIVE PETITION.” Both forms require signers to provide signature, printed name, residence address, city, date, and county of registration. Danielson’s circulators collected that information. The only real difference between the forms is the oath: the statewide initiative petition circulator’s oath is worded differently from the municipal initiative petition circulator’s oath. Let’s compare the two oaths side by side, with differences highlighted:

Municipal (what Bruce should’ve sworn) State: (what Bruce did swear)
I, under oath, state that I circulated the above initiative petition, that each signer personally signed this petition in my presence, that either the signer or I added the printed name, the residence address of the signer, the date of signing, and the county of voter registration, that I attest the legality of the signatures and that each person signing this petition is a resident and qualified voter of the municipality of ________________________. I, under oath, state that I circulated the above petition, that each signer personally signed this petition in my presence, that I made reasonable inquiry and to the best of my knowledge each person signing the petition is a qualified voter in the county indicated on the signature line, that no state statute regarding petition circulation was knowingly violated, and that either the signer or I added the printed name, the residence address of the signer, the date of signing, and the county of voter registration.

At some later date, I look forward to visiting with the Board of Elections to hear why the language for municipal and statewide initiative petition circulator oaths has so diverged. But for now, let’s figure what substantive difference that divergence makes in the oaths sworn by Danielson and his circulators.

In swearing the incorrect statewide oath, Danielson’s circulators still swore to the same petition meat and potatoes required by the municipal oath. They swore under oath that…

  1. They circulated the petition sheets.
  2. They personally witnessed each signature.
  3. Either they or the signers added the printed name, residence address, date, and county of registration.
  4. As far as they know, each signer is a registered voter.

They diverge, perhaps crucially, in swearing to the signers’ eligibility to sign. Under the municipal oath, the circulators “attest” that each signer lives in the municipality. Under the statewide oath, the circulators swear that “to the best of my knowledge” each signer is a qualified voter in the county indicated. But the statewide oath requires circulators to swear they obtained the “residence address of the signer,” which includes the city. In that line of the statewide circulator’s oath, circulators swear the same thing—every signer is a resident of the city that they wrote down, in this case, Sioux Falls—that they would have had they signed the municipal circulator’s oath.

The statewide oath is even more demanding than the municipal oath. The statewide oath requires circulators to say how they can attest to the legality of the signatures: “I made reasonable inquiry….” It also requires them to swear that “no state statute regarding petition circulation was knowingly violated….” That part of the oath would encompass the circulators’ obedience to SDCL 9-20-1, which allows only residents of a municipality to sign initiative petitions for that municipality, and SDCL 9-20-9, which requires circulators to “verify that each person signing the petition is a resident and qualified voter of the municipality,” and numerous other petition-related chapters and verses that the municipal oath doesn’t so broadly invoke.

Danielson and his circulators appear to have petitioned in good faith. No one tried to pull a fast one. No one lied to voters or to the city. Somehow, incredibly, two forms got mingled (transporter malfunction?), and good-faith circulators swore an oath that differs from the oath prescribed by state rule. However, the oath sworn accomplishes the same thing as the oath prescribed and then some.

SDCL 2-1-11 requires that statewide petitions be “liberally construed, so that the real intention of the petitioners may not be defeated by a mere technicality.” If the spirit of that law applies to municipal petitions as well, then Danielson’s mis-oathed petition should stand, and the will of the voters should be heard.


47 Responses to Sioux Falls Rejects Danielson Petition for Using Wrong Circulator Oath

  1. Karen McGregor

    Take it to court. A judge might look at it in a different light.

  2. I think you down play the importance of the oath and residency in the municipality requirement. Many people around Sioux Falls have an address with the city as Sioux Falls that do not reside with in the city. When most people are asked to write their address, they give what the post office tells them is their address. It may be a street with a name like Elm St or Oak Dr or 41 St and the city of Sioux Falls, but that doesn’t mean it is within the city limits.

    Does this means a court will uphold the city’s position? Maybe not, but the fault is on the petition gatherers. They didn’t do it right, and the city, or any level of government, shouldn’t say “For you, close enough.”

  3. Don Coyote

    Unfortunately the clock has probably run out on this attempt. In all likely hood the bonds may be sold before any judge could rule on it and get it before the the city council in order to schedule the special election. I hope this ugly incident damages the gubernatorial or higher office hopes of this jack wagon of a mayor.

  4. Darin Larson

    Coyote says–“I hope this ugly incident damages the gubernatorial or higher office hopes of this jack wagon of a mayor.”

    “ugly incident”? What are you talking about? Are you blaming Huether for the failure of the petition effort to meet the statutory requirements?

  5. Hilarious. At least when Mr. H goes out to try and legislate from the ignorant masses he bones up on the forms and process.

    “Sir, you used the wrong form. Invalid!” *window slams*

    I bet that was hilarious to see.

  6. grudz-you alone would be expected to laugh at the will of the people being thwarted thusly, right?

  7. Richard Schriever

    It’s possible to have a Sioux Falls address and NOT live within city limits – yes it is.

  8. Douglas Wiken

    The word chicken**** comes to mind. And it is not chicken soup.

  9. Richard Schriever

    I find it telling that Mr. Danielson is an experienced and well-regarded elections monitor. Somewhere in there is a very level head. However, in this instance, it seems to me he has allowed his emotional zeal for opposition to everything Heuther cloud his mind sufficiently to miss his own error in his fervor. JMO.

  10. Donald Pay

    Good Lord. People need a lesson in how to do this stuff. The first thing you do in petitioning is to go to the correct office to get the petition form. Why would anyone go to the Secretary of State for a municipal form? You draft up your petition and submit it for approval from the correct office. You get them to write a letter acknowledging you got the form from them and that they approved the format that you will be submitting. If they refuse to help you in this way, you sign an affidavit stating the steps you took to assure the form was correct, and documenting their refusal to assist. Don’t making it easy for them to screw you.

  11. When Mr. Pay and I agree on any issue, those of you who disagree with us have already been proven wrong.

  12. Sounds like substantial compliance to me.

  13. The reason the circulator oaths are different for municipal initiatives and state initiated measures is because there are different statutes governing each:

    Municipal

    9-20-9. Requirements for persons circulating petition–Board of elections to promulgate rules–Scope of rules. Any person circulating an initiative or referendum petition shall verify that each person signing the petition is a resident and qualified voter of the municipality. The State Board of Elections shall promulgate rules pursuant to chapter 1-26 prescribing the format for an initiative and referendum petition and its verification.

    State Initiated Measure

    2-1-10. Verification of persons circulating initiative or referendum petitions–Form and content–Violation as misdemeanor. Each person, who circulates and secures signatures to a petition to initiate a constitutional amendment or other measure or to refer legislation to the electors, shall sign a verification before filing the petition with the officer in whose office it is by law required to be filed. The verification shall prescribe that the circulator made reasonable inquiry and, to the best of the circulator’s knowledge, each person signing the petition is a qualified voter of the state in the county indicated on the signature line and that no state statute regarding the circulation of petitions was knowingly violated. The State Board of Elections shall prescribe the form for the verification. The verification shall be complete and the affixing of the circulator’s signature shall be witnessed and notarized by a notary public commissioned in South Dakota or other officer authorized to administer oaths pursuant to § 18-3-1. Any person who falsely swears to the verification provided for in this section is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    The municipal chapter has a provision on liberal construction that incorporates SDCL 2-1-11, which Cory cited, by reference:

    9-20-10. Liberal construction of referendum petition. Such petition may be made up and signed and shall be liberally construed as provided by the statute governing an initiated law.

    However, I don’t believe that “liberal construction” extends to an oath not meeting statutory requirements. Mayor Huether is not to blame here. The circulators clearly failed to obtain and use the correct form. It’s on them.

    Now, the next legislature should amend SDCL 9-20-9 to closely match the language of SDCL 2-1-10. There’s no reason that municipal circulators should have to attest to the legality and residency of each signer. It should be enough to take the word of the signers (i.e. reasonable inquiry), just like with non-municipal petitions.

  14. That looks like over 6000 felonies. Put them all in prison and take away any medical service that is available to those inmates in prison!

  15. Some people just don’t want to follow the rules or are so sloppy they fail the basics and then want to blame others. It is sad that Mr. Heuther’s big government policies will now steamroll the people of Sioux Falls but that’s what Mr. Heuther is all about.

  16. Darin Larson

    Grudz, “steamroll the people of Sioux Falls”?

    Hasn’t Sioux Falls has more than doubled in size since the last time the city built a major building for city workers? City workers are spread out like ants around the downtown area. City workers wasting time trudging around downtown in the snow for meetings is inefficient. Adapting the 300 building where departments wouldn’t fit on one floor and extensive renovations are required is short-sighted.

    Interest rates are low for the city bonds right now and construction costs generally rise through time, so no time like the present. Kermit Staggers was a great one for delaying projects until the construction costs went up substantially. The projects usually went forward–they just cost more.

  17. Mayor Dave Munson at the end of his term attempted to buy the old Midland National Life building, (the gold glass building). That fell through for reasons I don’t remember, and Avera ended up with the building. That would have made a great city hall for Sioux Falls. Huether’s plan is a long-term solution that will cost a lot of money now, but even more later as Darin says. It’s a good location, and Sioux Falls has long since outgrown its old city hall. The future of Sioux Falls is bright.

  18. Richard is very correct – Danielson is attempting to blame others for the error but ultimately he is the lone person responsible. Yet he and his supporters appear to want to blame the mayor for this mistake. This personal grudge he has against the mayor is clouding his judgment.

    Darin is also correct about the need for a city admin building. The city is leasing space all over and this is incredibly inefficient. Not only are there are lot of resources wasted driving to and from meetings, but there are issues with not being able to interact with other departments when an issue needs to be solved. We know what the current needs are and we cannot expect the city to continue to grow at a pace of thousands of residents annually with no increase in cost. The building is a huge expense, but if the alternative is to simply postpone construction and continue leasing space across the city, what is the longer term plan? I’m not sure Danielson has one.

    Can I also ask what the connection is between Danielson and the 300 building across the street that he seems to be pushing for? When he was doing his petition drive, he was using an office in that building. Did the owners offer that space to him for free or was there another arrangement? It appears there could be some bias at play here which is ironic considering Danielson is the first to call out such shenanigans when the Mayor or any member of the City Council is involved.

    All of this said, it doesn’t really matter anyway. Danielson started his petition drive too late so there isn’t enough time to have two city council meetings before the bond sale. Even if every single one of those signatures was valid and submitted on the correct form the bond sale still would have proceeded. Danielson knows this which is probably why he is making such a show of this controversy. Focus on the most recent mistake to detract attention from the first mistake.

    Danielson may try a court challenge, but if his defense continues to be that the city is to blame I doubt a judge will take him seriously. Even if they wanted to, how do we know the names on those forms reside within city limits when the circulators oath refers to a county rather than city?

    What a train wreck.

  19. Here are some of the questions that I have about the project.

    What is the value of the lot – or if the City refuses to put a value on the lot, what did they pay for it? It is not included in the 21.6 M figure the Mayor uses as the City already owns it. I have been told the City purchased the lot from former Lt. Gov. Lowell Hanson when he needed to quickly sell property, and the sale also included the purchase of Great Bear. So the cost of the building after paying off the bonds is 30M plus and the lot may be in the 2M range so the actual building cost is closer to 32M than the 21.6M the Mayor insists on using?

    Why would you put a property tax exempt building that will generate zero sales tax revenue and only be in use 40 hrs a week in downtown Sioux Falls? Is there no commercial use for a property on Minnesota Ave?

    What departments will be located at the building? The Council hasn’t been told. And if the standard for commercial buildings is 200 square feet per employee why did the city design the Admn Building at 400 square feet per employee?

  20. Rorschach – the Admn Building will not replace City Hall. It is designed as office space.

  21. Monty when people talk costs, they talk about the costs of today. If I buy a house for $200,000 I don’t run around telling people that I am paying $320,000 due to me factoring in the mortgage for the next few decades. Whether the new building is built on the proposed site, or if the 300 building was remodeled, both would require bonds and there are bond payments to make. So by speaking in terms of total costs today we can draw conclusions.

    What we do know is the proposed location has essentially gone undeveloped for many, many years. We have a park nobody uses and that has only ever been mentioned when there were people getting drunk in it. That area of Minnesota avenue is not considered prime real estate, but having a new administration building near the county building and easily accessible from a major road would be much more convenient for the thousands of Sioux Falls taxpayers that utilize the building each and every week. Location wise you simply cannot ask for a better area. It would be centrally located and near other city and county services.

    As far as size, you could ask those involved why they opted for a 80,000 square foot building. I know they do space needs analysis while factoring in room for growth. When looking at the 300 building the same basic square footage needs were considered, so I don’t think the new building is out of line with needs when factoring in room for future growth. Since this is a long term plan, they have to plan for their needs for the next few decades. It wouldn’t be a wise use of taxpayer funds to build for what we need today or even what we may need five years from now and then be back in the same situation even before the building is paid for.

    From what I gather, the discussions for this building have been going on for over 15 years and across multiple different city councils. People act as if this is something the mayor dreamt up and is pushing on his own, but that doesn’t appear to be accurate. We know former Mayor Munson saw the need and tried to purchase property but it never materialized. I have to wonder at what point would the detractors admit that we do need a new building…. what would it take?

  22. “Substantial compliance”—I like JLB’s phrase. But I also concede that could be tenuous ground in the area of petition law, where I am a known stickler. Petitioners have an obligation to get all the details right.

    For precedent, recall the Charlie Johnson case in 2012. The Secretary of State rejected Johnson’s nominating petition for State Senate due to an error on the petition form by the Lake County auditor’s office. Judge Mark Barnett said Secretary Gant acted correctly in strictly applying petition law but that Johnson still deserved to be on the ballot because he substantially complied with the law.

    Danielson tried to get the details right. He took his initial petition form to the city. A city official o.k.’ed the form. One could argue that as long as Danielson used only that city-approved form and didn’t mingle other forms in his circulating, he substantially complied with the law. To allow the city to o.k. a form for circulation and then reject it after the circulators have worked in good faith to collect signatures creates an easy opportunity for abuse and suppression of voter petitions.

  23. Craig – how a homebuyer chooses to describe the cost of their purchase isn’t my concern. And when I last bought a home the lending agreement with my bank contained information about what my total costs would be by the time I made final payment, including interest and fees. I don’t think it excessive to ask the City to provide that same information to taxpayers on public purchases.

    I know the lot has sat empty. As for the value of the lot, has the city had it appraised and offered it for sale? I understand the development action is on the “East Bank” because of significant investment the city has already done. But as some point, the East Bank is out of space, And building a tax-exempt building on the site negates the possibility of development for decades.

    And as for public use, I don’t know that the public would ever in the course of conducting business with the city use the Admn Building. You wouldn’t pay taxes or city services bills there. You might pick up building permits if the City chooses to locate those departments in the building – but as of today – who would occupy the building is TBD.

    I don’t see the upside of buying the 300 Building.

    I do see the humor in the City talking point that only fools who waste their money would rent or lease property – and oh by the way – we did graciously offer to rent/lease space to Minnehaha County.

    I understand past administrations have talked about building. I was at the April 15 meeting when the current plan was formally presented.

    Citizens aren’t anti-project, the Denny and the pool passed public votes. But the City has been way less than forthcoming when problems occurred with those projects. Like the mitigation on the siding on the Denny. And now the City intends to bond for the parking lot that was part of the failed mixed – use project downtown, before the new plan is available to the public.

    I voted for the Denny, the pool and Huether, and against snow gates. But if there is a public vote on the Admn Bldg I will vote against it. I don’t believe the city has been honest in selling this project.

  24. There is nothing wrong with the siding on the Premier Center. There never was anything wrong with it. Some people think it looks bad. I think it looks good. The city was able to recoup money from the contractor even though the siding is perfectly usable. That’s a win for taxpayers.

    The new city building is needed now and for the future. It passed the city council. Opponents started too late and screwed up their attempt to put it to a vote. Let’s git er done!

  25. Don Coyote

    @Rorschah: “It passed the city council.”

    No it didn’t. The council voted 4-4 on the bond sale and it took Heuther’s vote as mayor to break the tie.

    The council also voted 5-3 to reconsider the bond sale but that was vetoed by Heuther.

    The city council is hardly standing square behind the mayor on this issue.

  26. 5-4 means it passed, Mr. Coyote. Do the math.

  27. Don Coyote

    @Rorschah: The math is this. The mayor is not a member of the council and only gets to vote in event of ties. The council was tied 4-4. They didn’t support the bonds and without the mayor’s vote the measured would have died. Legal? Of course.

    The council did pass a reconsideration of the bonds 5-3. The mayor vetoed it. Legal? Of course. But in both cases the council was not in favor of the bond issuance. The council did not pass either. Because of the mayor’s unique powers he could muscle it through but the mayor’s support for this measure on the council is thin.

  28. Monty: “I don’t think it excessive to ask the City to provide that same information to taxpayers on public purchases.”

    Perhaps it isn’t excessive or too much to ask, but it isn’t really commonplace. Also, they won’t know the full cost until after the bond sale. So the best they could do now is offer a total range, but even then you would have some people dissatisfied because they want to factor in operational and maintenance costs etc. Thus it really makes more sense to discuss total initial costs, and frankly I give the city credit here because they included the costs up upgrading the park, improving the street, and even costs to furnish the building. If they were trying to hide the total cost they easily could have broken it out into line items and reported a much smaller number to the media about what the actual building will cost.

    Also, using initial costs allows more a true comparison with alternatives. So if they buy an existing building we can compare purchase price + remodeling costs to construction costs of a new facility.

    “I don’t know that the public would ever in the course of conducting business with the city use the Admn Building.”

    There are a lot of people who interact with the city on a daily basis. There are permits to obtain for various purposes, there are meetings with various levels of city government. Anyone who wants to re-roof a house or build a fence will need to visit them. Anyone who wants to discuss a zoning issue or someone who wants to put a garden shed in their backyard has to visit them.

    I can’t say as I go there often, but I’ve had the need to visit the city admin building at least a half dozen times in the past five years. Someone like a roofing or siding contractor might need to visit them a few times a week. So location is important. Plus, think of the many city employees who operate out of that location from inspectors or community outreach coordinators. They travel all over the city so a central location with easy access makes sense.

    “building a tax-exempt building on the site negates the possibility of development for decades”

    Yes, but the same can be true anywhere in the city. Improving or building a park would have the same argument. At some point you need to make a decision and the fact that area has been underdeveloped for the past several decades should tell us something. If the area was undergong a massive amount of development I’d agree perhaps it isn’t wise, but the only thing to have been built within a few blocks of this location in the past decade is a new Kum & Go. I guess maybe being that close to a jail makes it less desirable.

    “But if there is a public vote on the Admn Bldg I will vote against it.”

    And that would be your right, but I don’t see how this ever goes to a vote. Even if Bruce’s petition was on the right forms, he still waited too long and the bonds can be sold before there is time for a special election. I think the ship has sailed but who knows – there could be a curveball ahead I suppose.

  29. Rorschach: please read the last 3 paragraphs in this story: http://www.keloland.com/news/article/news/-1-million-settlement-reached-premier-center-siding-will-stay

    You clearly agree with the Rolfing quote of “I don’t think it looks that bad….”

    But, the City did threaten to sue to the contractors and after a year of negotiations and a million dollar settlement, taxpayers are not allowed to know which contractors paid the fine because the City agreed not to disclose that info.

    And then the conflicts of interest: http://www.argusleader.com/story/blogs/jonathanellis/2016/07/16/lame-brain-decisions-surround-new-city-building/87141046/

    I don’t trust this Mayor anymore.

  30. Substantial compliance is the proper standard in petition law. See Larson v. Hazeltine, 1996 S.D. 100. Substantial compliance means “actual compliance in respect to the substance essential to every reasonable objective of the statute. It means that a court should determine whether the statute has been followed sufficiently so as to carry out the intent for which it was adopted.” Larson at ¶ 19 (quoting Rans v. State, 390 N.W.2d 64, 66 (SD 1986)).

  31. Roger Elgersma

    Apparently some people get to annoyed when people disagree with them. I was sitting in the city library downtown Sioux Falls and the library cop came and asked me what I was doing talking at city hall. I asked which speech he was talking about since I have been there between 18 and 20 times and the last time I had talked on two topics. The cop did not seem to remember what I was talking about but was wondering what I was doing there. So rather than arguing about my right to free speech when talking at city hall I assumed he just did not know the purpose of my speech. So I told him what one of my speeches was about. About a month later he came by again when I was sitting in the library and was real curious if I had heard that the mayor had punched someone in the face at city hall for talking to much and harassing the mayor. It was not clear if the talking to much was the harassment or if there was another problem. But the cop was acting as if he was not sure if it had happened but wanted to know if I had heard. I told him that I had not but would expect that if it happened that I would have heard it on the news. He persisted till he had asked me three times if I had heard if the mayor punched someone in the face right in city hall. So finally I said that maybe he had just bumped him a little. Well the cop immediately changed his story from not knowing if it had happened to emphatically stating that the mayor had turned around and punched him right in the face. I still did not know who he had hit but after the cop switched his story I had no trust in what he said anyways but did seem to think that he might be trying to influence me to keep quiet at city hall.
    So then I went to Democratic Forum and was talking to someone I had seen there before but was not sure of his name. I told him what the cop had told me and to my surprise he pointed at his cheek and said, ‘yes, he hit me right here.’ His name was Bruce Danielson. I heard from another source that here was a law suite so I suppose neither will tell about it during the course of the law suite.
    So I went to city hall and pointed out that in the paper the city had presented it as two similar projects if they build or buy the 300 building since the prices were about the same. But they had not mentioned that one was two stories and the other six so the amount of office space is very different so that actually the price per square foot is significantly different. Also pointed out that most of the cost of the 300 building is remodeling and to remodel an office building into an office building should not cost 16 million. They could also remodel a floor per year or let half of it stay as is and continue to lease it to the present renters which would reduce the need for bonding. The cities debt has ballooned under the last two mayors and twenty some city counselors. We no longer have a triple A bond rating due to such higher debt. This is a small enough project to do with the CIP without bonding. The 300 building would satisfy the growth needs far longer than that small expensive new building would. It is also diagonal across the street from the county building so could cover their growth needs for a very long time as well.
    The cost of the parking lot where the new building is proposed was enourmous. Some group of big shots wanted to buy up land to sell to the feds for a new post office. They assumed that your tax money is spent without reason so they paid way to much for that land and then the feds said, ‘no that is way to much’ and so they had double current market value in it. Well some of them had friends in city hall so city hall paid them what they had in it to bail out their buddies and so they made it into a parking lot. That was when Munson was mayor so they had land to build back then already. But at least they saw that buying an existing office building would be cheaper. Munson may have played out his credibility by then with the Philips to the Falls outside of budget deal so may have had a harder time getting anything done by then. This is getting to long. Thanks.

  32. I was a resident of Sioux Falls for about half a decade – left in 2014. So those who dislike outsider opinions can write me off now.

    I’ve lived all over the country as well as abroad. And I’ve never seen a community where a group of do-gooder activists has fetishized the notion of citizen involvement as a way to override representative democracy more than Sioux Falls.

    The barrier for referendum and initiative in South Dakota is remarkably low. Trained monkeys can hang around a Hy-Vee in Sioux Falls and get a couple thousand signatures for just about anything. And what ends up happening is a small minority of people continually force decisions by elected bodies to special elections.

    That very process in South Dakota, one in which a scant 5% of the voting population can force to a vote decisions made by officials elected by the people of the community, borders on tyranny of the minority. It completely disrespects the wishes of voters who show up to regularly-scheduled elections and cast ballots for elected officials so that they don’t have to make these decisions themselves.

    The people behind this petition would love nothing more than direct democracy. It’d be Athens at Falls Park, where the eight people who bother to show up in the crowd at City Council meetings can make all the decisions while being splashed by the wet caresses of the Big Poo River and enjoying the smell of hot dogs being made.

    Whatever people think of Mike Huether and the current members of the council, they were all elected. They are abiding by the rules of the body that were long ago established.

    Don’t like the people representing you? Vote for different ones. Don’t like the rules? Vote for people who will change them. But these constant end-arounds – whether it’s snow gates or an indoor pool or a new arena or building a friggin’ Walmart on the south side or now this administration building – it’s the height of arrogance.

  33. Roger – first of all the “library cop” isn’t a police officer… he is a security guard. Second, if the mayor had punched anyone it would be front page news and Bruce would have had him arrested for assault immediately as it isn’t like he and Bruce are friends. The resulting civil suit could not be legally hidden, so we would all know about it.

    I believe at one point Bruce made a comment about the mayor bumping into him – perhaps he felt it wasn’t an accident, but I have never heard anything about a punch being thrown so that is just a wild rumor that isn’t worthy of repeating. Bruce records every minute he is near anyone related to the city so if something did happen he should have had it on video.

    As far as costs to remodel vs. costs of new construction it isn’t hard to believe. That is why we see so many “perfectly good” buildings torn down and new buildings built in place of them. Think about it… with existing construction you have to pay people to disassemble and gut the interiors and then pay them to rebuilt to current needs. You need to haul all of that material out of the building before you can haul new material in. They also need all new plumbing, new electrical, new HVAC, new windows and doors, repairs to the roof, and I believe there was some talk about potential asbestos in the building which means additional cost for remediation. Then you need to bring the building up to current ADA standards. When you’re done, you still have lower ceilings than would be ideal, and stairwells which are narrow by today’s standards.

    Remodeling a floor per year would be a nightmare. You would end up with a building under perpetual construction and one which would require continual disruptions to water, electric, and HVAC services. Not to mention elevators being replaced, parking lot improvements, noise, dust, contamination concerns, the need for a materials staging area and construction vehicles…. what a mess. That isn’t even remotely feasible and the resulting cost increases for such a project would more than eliminate any potential cost savings from not bonding for the project.

    If the building had historical significance such remodeling is worthwhile (the Washington Pavilion for example), but for a building built in the 70s that is simply showing its age and one which is nowhere near modern codes it doesn’t make sense. Even if the total cost of remodeling the 300 building ended up being 30% less than building new it likely wouldn’t be worth it due to an aging building which will require more repair and maintenance over its lifetime. If it wasn’t a total gut job then an existing building would make sense, but it doesn’t sound like that building would serve the needs as it has been cut up and subdivided so much of it would need to be redone anyway. There is a reason there is space available in the building and why some tenants have moved out or are in the process of moving out, and the owners know they will either need to sell the building or put some money into it. My guess is they would love to offload it to the city and wash their hands of it, because with one of their major tenants moving out soon they are going to be stuck with a building nobody wants to lease.

  34. Darin Larson

    Coyote says “The city council is hardly standing square behind the mayor on this issue.”

    Well, did you expect that the Mayor would vote against a project that he believes in? You seem to think that Huether should blow in the wind like a typical politician instead of making the best decision for the city based upon his experience and judgment and sticking by his decision. Calling this an “ugly incident” and insinuating that Huether is somehow to blame for the petitioner problems is simply petty.

  35. Darin Larson

    Monty–your link to the Ellis story makes a good point about the conflict of interest in the evaluation of the 300 building alternative, but then cites a statement by the owners of the 300 building that it could be remodeled for half the price of the new city building. Well, isn’t that as much of a conflict for the 300 building owners to be telling us what a good deal the 300 building would be?

    The 300 building was built in 1971 according to the article by Ellis. That means the building is 45 years old. I think questioning the viability of converting a 45 year old building into a long-term city administration building is appropriate. Not to mention the fact that the new building is purpose-built and designed for its intended use from the ground up.

  36. You must not have read my comment, Monty. I said I like the way the Premier Center siding looks. I didn’t say, “I don’t think it looks that bad…”. It would be plain stupid to pay $1 million or more to change something that looks good already. I’m glad the city isn’t changing perfectly functional and attractive siding just because some people would prefer a different look. I don’t like the color of the lime green city pickup trucks, but I’m not demanding that they be repainted.

    Mr. Coyote, you clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Here is an excerpt from the Sioux Falls city charter to educate you:

    Section 2.03 Mayor.
    The mayor shall serve as a member of the city council. In the absence of the mayor for purposes of city council meetings, the city council shall designate one (1) of its members as acting mayor, with the duties but not the powers of that office.

    The bond issue for this building passed the city council 5-4, as I said before.

  37. I apologize for being rough on you in the last comment, Mr. Coyote. Your comments are valuable to the discussions we have here. People educate me on here quite often. I apologize to Troy also for past transgressions.

  38. JLB, that’s a very useful definition from Larson v. Hazeltine (1996). I understand Ror’s complaint about distinct oaths, but can we contend that the statewide oath Danielson’s circulators swore carries out the intent of the statute and rule that prescribe the municipal oath?

    Once again, as in Charlie Johnson’s 2012 case and other petition situations, I am struck by the absurdity of having the SOS act in a purely “ministerial” role, having a statute that says liberal construal should pre-empt the technicalities to which the SOS must ministerially adhere, but forcing petitioners to go through the courts to obtain the result that the law intends for them to get.

  39. RPG, I do not write off outsider opinion. I do write off hyperbole.

    “fetishized the notion of citizen involvement”? We aren’t just getting our jollies; we’re doing democracy.

    “The barrier for referendum and initiative in South Dakota is remarkably low…. [A] small minority of people continually force decisions by elected bodies to special elections.” The barrier is high enough that, out of hundreds of laws passed by the Legislature in the 21st century, only six have been referred to a public vote. That doesn’t sound like “continually” putting Legislative decisions to special elections. I will assert such “forcings” are similarly uncontinual—nay, rare in proportion to referrable decisions—at the city, county, and school district level. Ditto for initiatives.

    You give us five examples in Sioux Falls. How many decisions has the Sioux Falls City Council made over that period that have not been referred or challenged with an initiative petition?

    “borders on tyranny of the minority”—kinda like Canada borders Russia, despite that big icebergy ocean in between. There is no tyranny in putting things to a vote. The voters can still shoot down anything that smells of tyranny.

    “It completely disrespects the wishes of voters who show up to regularly-scheduled elections and cast ballots for elected officials so that they don’t have to make these decisions themselves.”—Saying that giving the public more opportunities to vote, to live by laws that they make themselves, “disrespects voters” borders on nonsensicality. We do not disrespect voters by giving veto power to governors and the President. We do not disrespect the voters by empowering the judicial branch to overturn unconstitutional laws. Those powers create healthy checks and balances. In South Dakota, we have decided that we will check the republican power of the elected Legislature by reserving to the voters some democratic power to propose laws themselves and to overturn by majority vote laws passed by the Legislature. Far from disrespect, initiative and referendum deeply respect the voters and recognize that elected officials can sometimes fail to carry out the will of the people.

    “…Athens at Falls Park, where the eight people who bother to show up in the crowd at City Council meetings can make all the decisions…”—Not happening. Has never happened. Show me an initiative or referendum election that has had (8/160,000 = ) 0.005% turnout. And even if you do show me such an example, I’ll tell you those people get what they deserve. Such an example would only prove that no one is being forced to vote (no tyranny). Such an example would also motivate people to pay attention to the issues and to special election. Democracy is work.

    “don’t like the rules?”—South Dakota’s rules rightly allow us to replace those officials at the next election (or, at the city level, the rarely used recall process); South Dakota’s rules also allow us to check unresponsive legislators and institutional biases with initiative and referendum. I like those rules.

    “the height of arrogance”—I will never characterize citizens’ desire to vote as arrogance. Arrogance is saying that the people should speak up less and trust the elites—even elites who win elections—to make all decisions for them.

  40. It may be to late to do anything at this point, but yes, I think your analysis sounds a lot like substantial compliance.

  41. Well, I do love me some sarcasm, Cory. That’s true. Do I exaggerate a bit for effect? Sure. Guilty as charged.

    But that’s the thing that so many South Dakota natives miss. It’s only exaggerating by *a little.*

    When I worked in South Dakota, it was mostly in/around/with other people who weren’t from South Dakota. (This is not so unusual in many of your state’s white collar professions.) When I arrived, one of them who’d been there for quite awhile joked that South Dakota’s unofficial motto should be “where good enough is a little too good, and who are you to insist things be better?”

    I laughed, but it was more or less a perfect encapsulation of what I ended up observing in my time there.

    Cory, it’s not democratic when school officials, for example, put forward referenda that get voted down, and then keeping putting them forward time and time and time again, knowing that voter intensity will always favor them and that it’s just a matter of time before they wear everyone else down and just enough people give up for them to finally win. Democracy is not holding elections over and over until you win.

    Welcome to South Dakota’s K-12 finance strategy. Raise taxes through voter fatigue.

    Likewise, why let elected officials do their jobs when a couple of people can circulate petitions at a Target and then force people to show up at some low-turnout special election – which is precisely what would’ve happened with this administration building situation?

    Is it better to hold a few elections with higher turnout where voters can elect people whose job is to make decisions? Or is it better to allow a handful of people to constantly jerk people to the polls to vote about whatever their pet cause is? I don’t believe the latter is the reasonable answer.

    Rezoning land at an intersection? Let’s vote! Want to put new plows on the trucks? Let’s vote!

    And the thing is, if this wacky system weren’t something that South Dakotans feel obligated to defend by birth because it’s theirs, you’d all recognize how silly it is as well. Being the California of the Plains is no great point of honor. More voting does not necessarily equal better and more effective governance. Yet, your native son bias is dripping through your entire reply. Perhaps the reason South Dakota has such a messed-up system of governance is because too many South Dakotans never leave South Dakota and don’t know any better. South Dakota ranks near the bottom in percentage of residents with passports. Curiosity about the world around it? Not exactly among the Rushmore State’s strengths.

    Oh, and btdubs… in case you haven’t noticed, ain’t nobody checking any powers in South Dakota, so I don’t know what you’re seeing. You’re living in a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party of South Dakota. When things go badly in Pierre, South Dakotans respond by electing *more* Republicans. They appoint all your judges. They hold all your statewide offices, and probably will for eternity. Your state’s economy is low-wage call center, agriculture, and production jobs, overseen by a bunch of people from out-of-state who get sent to mind the plantations – just how the state GOP likes it. A unicorn farm would be easier to find in South Dakota than the middle class.

    But hey, you can circulate some petitions and then vote about whether to put that stop light in or keep the stop signs. Three cheers for empowerment, right?

    So yeah, I’m hyperbolic. But I’m also not up to my eyeballs in denial defending a system that only serves to distract South Dakotans from addressing their real problems.

  42. Douglas Wiken

    Initiative and referendum are checks on legislative power. South Dakota was probably the first or one of the first to take that step forward in an age of legislative corruption.

    City councils and school boards fail to do good investigation of multiple options. One insecure half-smart board member or mayor or school superintendent get an idea and assume the first idea that pops into their head must be the best and only option. They then behave as if any criticism of the idea is a criticism of their personhood. Rational discussion with such groups is nearly impossible.

    In addition, even if they get a good idea, they fail to produce good information to support the idea. Those are all factors for initiative and referendum. It is no coincidence that legislators are trying to make these options for voters more difficult or impossible.

  43. RPG: school officials misuse of the referral process, putting matters to repeated votes until they get the outcome they want, is a problem very different from the original complaint you lodged against citizens putting referenda and initiatives on the ballot to challenge what their elected officials do. Let’s not mingle the arguments.

    If there is a problem with elected officials calling repeated public votes until they get the result they want by wearing down the voters, I would suggest that a public vote is still better than no vote. If the opposition changes its mind or doesn’t show up in sufficient numbers to continue blocking an unpopular proposal, well, that’s the voters’ responsibility.

    We could eliminate that problem by imposing the same restrictions as we have for municipal issues, requiring a one-year cool-off period before the subject of a rejected referendum or initiative is taken up again. Statewide, we could stand to adopt Nebraska’s protection of ballot question votes by requiring the Legislature to come up with a two-thirds majority to alter the will of the voters.

  44. RPG, you can soft-pedal your hyperbole as a mere joshy rheotrical device, but that hyperbole still shows you’re getting the issue flat wrong. On the one hand, you say petitioning is offensively rampant, but on the other, you claim I&R aren’t used enough to check real abuses of power and one-party rule. You latter claim thus makes me think it isn’t as easy for citizens to exercise their voting power as you claim it is in your former claim. Are you trying to identify a real problem with I&R, or are you just venting about certain people and a certain state that you don’t like?

  45. I agree with Doug that our elected officials perceive enough of a check on their power in I&R that they want to curtail it. I&R are hard enough, as my above analysis of how rarely it is used compared to the volume of legislative decisions shows.

  46. Cory and all, I have been reading with interest the pro and con I&R posts.

    First off, our effort is not done yet. There will be more to come this week. Stay tuned.

    Few people in Sioux Falls know the historical significance their town holds in the creation of the national Initiative and Referendum processes but they will use them when necessary. Go read the historical marker in the Cathedral district, we have learned to use them to control an out of control town administration demanding we taxpayers spend money on the whims of its rulers.

    To be fair, our form of government (the home rule charter as adopted here) is designed to abuse citizen rights and it does. We have members of the City Council who brag about the abusive “strong mayor” process, where there is little control on the executive.

    We currently have a mayor who brags he is a “strong” mayor who is also deep down an authoritarian bully. Ask many people who no longer work at city hall. At this point I will neither publicly confirm or deny Roger’s above comment at this point, it is for another time.

    The petition drive just completed was accomplished in almost record time. It was an uphill battle from the moment it started. It ran into all the roadblocks an out of control elected ruler could mount when seeing unhappy peasants at the castle gate. We in Sioux Falls have seen the administration and its allies lock the gates of power to keep average citizens out unless they could pay to play.

    We are seeing ever more expensive projects forced on us without a sound plan to pay for them. This office building and other abuses of the second penny sales tax will cause Sioux Falls to suffer for many years to come. We are taking a big chunk of our street budget for the next 20 years for an unnecessary office building. Is this progress or progressive? 65% of more of Sioux Falls question this and say no.

    Our petition drive shows our town’s mistrust of it’s executive and form of government. Our petition drive was started and supported by citizens who demand a place at the table of major decisions. It is our right based on the the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors. We ask this City Council to demand a public vote on this bonding before the town wastes it’s future on an ego.

  47. Jill Gebauer

    The city officials had to know the form he was using was incorrect. Isn’t it their job, if not ano ethical obligation, to point out when an individual is using the incorrect form when they knew what the purpose of that was despite their personal feelings towards the objective of the petition? I think those who feel this matter should have been brought to the people who ultimately will pay for this expenses should unite and boycott purchasing of the bonds! Bruce Danielson, sir, if possible, please APPEAL the judges decision! Don’t give up!