Huether Says Video of Public Meetings Hurts Discussion, Promotes Online Monkeyshines

Here’s one more reason I’m glad not to have to support Mike Huether for public office in 2018. In vetoing a requirement to record public meetings of unelected city boards and commissions, the Sioux Falls mayor demonstrates his misunderstanding of logic, transparency, and citizen participation:

Before his veto announcement, Huether called such recording a slippery slope, in part, because it will discourage citizen involvement:

“We already have challenges right now when it comes to getting people to volunteer for some of these committees. We are really struggling. We have over 40 committees,” Huether tells KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage Show [Mark Russo, “Huether: Don’t Roll the Videotape,” KELO Radio, 2017.01.24].

Slippery slope? Really, Mike? (Listen to 14:10 in the KELO audio of Huether’s Tuesday interview.) Down what grim slope do we slip by expanding official video documentation of public meetings? And how have you not yet gotten the memo that “slippery slope” is usually a logical fallacy?

Mayor Huether speaks to the cameras about switching his voter registration from Democratic to Independent; photo tweeted by Sydney Kern, KDLT, 2016.12.19.
Mayor Huether speaks openly and really to the cameras about switching his voter registration; photo tweeted by Sydney Kern, KDLT, 2016.12.19.

Mayor Huether thinks recording deters openness. “If you want to really quell the dialogue or diminish it or make it less open or real, film it. Just film it. It quiets everybody down pretty quickly, and ultimately you’re not going to get the best results,” said Mayor Huether quite freely on live radio, broadcast to thousands of listeners and recorded for global distribution online (see timestamp 16:00).

If Mayor Huether is having trouble recruiting citizens to serve on public boards, he should record more meetings, not fewer. Post complete official videos of public boards doing their job, and more people will be able to see what happens in those meetings, get a feel for the issues and the process, and get interested in serving.

Mayor Huether also doesn’t think much of citizens who exercise their legal right and duty to keep an eye on their government:

…Mayor Huether says unelected members of these committees could also wind up being embarrassed by potential tinkering on the internet.

“They’ll take snippets of a video that either they’ve taken or that somebody else has taken and then they create these other things are Facebook or on blogs or whatever,” warns Huether [Russo, 2017.01.24].

Blogs or whatever? I guess I know where Messrs. Ehrisman and Danielson and I stand in Mayor Huether’s esteem.

Whatever Mayor Huether thinks of blogs and social media, he apparently holds in low regard SDCL 1-25-11, the statute passed last year with almost no dissent that says, “No state, political subdivision, or public body may prevent a person from recording, through audio or video technology, a public meeting that is open to the public as long as the recording is reasonable, obvious, and not disruptive.” If Mayor Huether won’t document public meetings, we citizens retain the right to do it ourselves.

And if he really thinks hordes of online hoaxsters will devote their time to splicing together gag reels of Sioux Falls Parks and Rec, then it only makes more sense for him to put his own camera in the meeting room, record, and post the proceedings on YouTube, saying, “Look, folks! Here’s the official video of what really happened.”

Those of us in the blogosphere know that openness and documentation are good for democracy. Mayor Huether thinks otherwise. That’s another good reason for us South Dakotans to vote otherwise when Huether asks us to make him Governor or whatever in 2018.


7 Responses to Huether Says Video of Public Meetings Hurts Discussion, Promotes Online Monkeyshines

  1. As far as I am concerned, Huether just crapped in his nest for a statewide run, to secretive. Mea culp , glad to see the light Bruce, but disgusted that he is now of the same political choice that I am, and Independent. Maybe a move to Polo would give Huether a better shot at media blackout with a great loss of freedom to those folks there.

  2. Richard Schriever

    I have videoed quite a few public meetings and my experience is it doesn’t deter from LEGITIMATE discussion and participation. What it does do is create a way to hold public officials accountable for their thoughts and behaviors. As they should be – as public accountability is the essence of their position(s).

  3. Roger Elgersma

    I have applied for ethics committee(I have an ethics degree) and they said in the paper that they wanted someone with an ethics degree. I never got a call, email, interview or any response at all. But they want sombies who do not know what they are doing other than being yes men. When they selected a committee to chose a new police assistant chief, Huether later said when that assistant chief became chief, that some on the committee did not know they were chosing the next chief. Well if they were not smart enough to consider this on their own they should have been told so they could make a better choice unless they were not selected to actually use their brain but to just rubber stamp what the mayor wanted. We do not need zombies on the committees. We need people with good ideas and good thought processes. If you keep on choosing incompetents for committees and then complain about that they did not like what that type of job was because someone came along and told them when they were wrong is simply ridiculous. At the beginning Huether said he wanted new blood with new ideas on the committees but actually he just wanted a bunch of inexperienced yes men and women. That is not good democracy, good democracy uses as many minds as possible to get the most good ideas possible to get the best job done. Not just my job done the way I want it. How selfish. Any idea why they did not want me, I can analyze and give my opinion. I also applied for the charter revision committee.

  4. It might be that having an Ethics Degree is something that is quantifiable and objective, while determining people who have ethics is subjective and dependent upon the point of view of the people making the choice.

    Now mark grudznick’s words here, as it is important; I am not suggesting Mr. Elgersma does not have ethics, only that perhaps the people interviewing him had different ones.

  5. I just do not understand the mayor’s logic. In a city closing in on 200,000 population, you can find board members to serve that would not be afraid of having meetings video recorded.

    In the year 2017 these meeting should be available to watch live on-line. In addition, we are to the point where we taxpayers should be able to participate via our electronic devices in meetings. In my opinion why should one have to go to a meeting in person to offer maybe 3 minutes of input. I should be able to give that live input from my home or wherever I’m at.

    If I can have a medical appointment online, there is no reason that I can not do the same with a public meeting.

    On a side note, how much taxpayer money was spent creating the city councils meeting room and how often is that facility utilized? I suspect most city boards could find a time to utilize this same space and the meetings could be recorded without any new equipment costs.

  6. I recorded my first public meeting in over 40 years ago. As strong proponent and actual recorder of public meetings I see many things going on in meetings never to be caught on an audio recorder. My expression is the wink-wink, nod-nod way of managing the meetings. In Sioux Falls I have witnessed many questionably legal antics not by the board members but by the city staff.

    What we are catching would keep courtrooms busy if we had the attorneys available. We decided to record selected boards and commissions after witnessing the city staff abuses. I have personally presented video recordings to our city council showing the inflammatory statements, wrong language, abuses of procedures and out right lies used to win the board votes. Our past city council didn’t care, our current city council makeup is trying to do something about the out of control city staff advisors.

    There are about 400 Sioux Falls area videos ready for all to see on youtube.com, most are categorized by meeting type into playlists. Scott Ehrisman posts on his first rate local blog at http://www.southdacola.com. To make things easier for citizens I bought a website name http://www.siouxfall.org to make it easy for all to find the videos.

    We are open government advocates and damn proud of it.

    Go see what we do, ask how you can help your community. There is nothing going to be done to make it better without you being involved.

  7. Drey Samuelson

    Cory–I agree with you, and want to thank you for noting that the “slippery slope argument” is a good example of a logical fallacy!