Spring abounds with irony: Brookings malcontent Pat Powers gripes about my candidacy for the Aberdeen City Council. (By the way, we drew ballot position this morning: I got top spot; incumbent Laure Swanson got the #2 spot.)
“Isn’t there a residency requirement?” Powers wheezes, engaging in his usual specious blog-title-question-mark strategy to create the implication that a public figure is up to something bad without having to deliver the evidence that supports that accusation. He doesn’t bother to look up the actual residency requirement for any municipal officer, SDCL 9-14-2, which says that candadates for municipal office must live in town for at least 90 days before the election.
I took up residency in Aberdeen the night of February 2. I registered to vote in Brown County on February 3. The city election is June 2.
Yet Powers, who is not a resident of Aberdeen, is already soliciting campaign contributions from his audience of non-Aberdeen readers to influence this Aberdeen election. You tell me who the non-resident interloper is, trying to tell us Aberdonians what to do with our town and our vote.
(6) Watch those addresses: if your signer lives in a “first-class municipality”—i.e., a town with 5,000+ population—your signer can’t give you a P.O. Box for address. Your big-town signers must give a street address or some physical description of where they live. This rule applies only to signers from Aberdeen, Belle Fourche, Box Elder, Brandon, Brookings, Huron, Madison, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Spearfish, Sturgis, Vermillion, Watertown and Yankton.
(10) As long as the information requested in all six boxes of each signature line is provided, Secretary Krebs won’t get on your case if your signer prints on the top line and signs below, or flips date and county (which they do!).
(12) I mentioned this, but it bears repeating: Every petition has two sides! Print double-sided! Secretary Krebs will reject stapled, taped, or glued sheets!
(19) You need to send all notarized petition sheets to me, because I have to submit them all under a single affidavit to the Secretary.
(22) If you have a local election coming up, you cannot circulate petitions at the polls! State law says you have to stand at least 100 feet away from the polling place. Watch your step, and respect democracy!
You’d think unchecked power would have more appeal. Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic) and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes) commanded a Republican supermajority in the Legislature, theirs to corral into all manner of anti-democratic, corporate-colonizing policies. Neither faced unruly Democratic House counterparts from their home districts.
The departure of arguably our two most powerful Senators suggests the job doesn’t offer much to keep people around. Lederman and Rave are perhaps manifesting more quietly the frustration that Senator Phil Jensen expressed on the last day of Session at the Governor’s dominance of the Legislature.
And as Rave and Lederman step aside, they open the door for Governor Daugaard to appoint two more replacements (bringing the total to ten) who will owe their legislative careers to his grace. Anyone ready to question the proper separation of powers yet?
Allender “retired” from the Rapid City Police Department last year at age 52. He says he has always used air quotes around “retired.” Allender felt 29 years on the force was plenty, but he saw “retirement” as an opportunity to clear his head, enjoy summer with his family, and think about how best to re-engage with the community.
“Retirement” has also been an opportunity to pay attention to swingsets. Allender says his neighbors have a broken swingset, and it drives him nuts. Seeing himself as a builder and fixer, Allender says his attention naturally gravitates toward things that are broken and people who need help. Once things are running smoothly, he says he tends to lose interest and seek out the next broken system that needs fixing. (Neighbors, open that gate, and Steve will be right over with his tool belt!)
Allender has chosen to return to public life with this run for mayor because “I can do better” than the current mayor, who has “underachieved for the past two terms.” When I asked what is broken about the city’s swingset, Allender first mentioned the potential kept locked up by inherent flaws in Rapid City government. He said two-year terms for the mayor and councillors limits long-term planning. Allender says the Council gets nothing concrete done during the six months before each municipal election. Mayor Kooiker vetoed longer terms in 2012; Allender says he’s open to any plan that would lengthen terms.
Allender says the city lacks a coherent communication strategy. Allender says the current city newsletter is a mishmash of matters great and trivial. The city’s website is a click-heavy mess with no unifying communications strategy or integration of social media. Allender says city officials don’t communicate well because they aren’t thinking like entrepreneurs and telling stories as if they were selling.
Allender says he would overhaul city communications by getting employees to adopt the mindset that they are indeed selling something (information, confidence in city government, what have you). He would define the city public information officer’s mission that way he defined that job for the similar position he created in the police department. Seeing a decline in journalism since 2005, Allender says he sought a PD PIO with a journalism background who could do the work mainstream reporters are not in covering city affairs.
One hard story for any Rapid City PIO or mayor to tell is the story of race relations in our gateway to the Paha Sapa. Allender says Rapid City clearly has a racial divide. Previous efforts to address that divide (Allender mentions “forced” cultural awareness training for city employees and hasty public forums) have not succeeded. Allender says he gets the impression that any time the city tries to bring groups together to talk race, the folks an the White side are always different, while the Native side are always the same ten or twenty activists. Allender contends that those activists do not full represent the 8,000-some Native Americans in Rapid City. Allender suggests that “reconciliation” is actually “off the table” in Rapid City because the Native side says the injustice runs so deep in our occupation of the Black Hills that nothing short of a rectification of all Fort Laramie Treaty issues can set things right, and the city, says Allender, can’t do anything about treaty issues.
Bridging this cultural gap will require actions more profound than anything the current administration does in Rapid City. Allender says gestures like hanging Native American art in the mayor’s office and wearing Native American clothing “tokenizes” Native Americans. Allender says the city’s initial response to the American Horse School/hockey/beer incident in January leapt too far ahead of the facts and unduly gave credence to charges of racism not supported by any facts beyond social media posts available at the time. Tokenizing and raising false hopes only makes it harder to achieve real equality.
Allender offers no magic race relations solution. He does advocate bringing interested citizens together in a room without any politicians to work independently on a list of actions to help race relations.
Allender says city politics are holding back economic development. He says Rapid City has earned a reputation for a negative political culture where in-house spats prevent the people’s work from getting done. Allender says Rapid City can’t count on the beauty of the Hills alone to bring good jobs; councillors and the mayor have to start working together and really selling the city to entrepreneurs.
Allender sees a lot of bolts loose on the Rapid City swingset. He must now convince voters to open the mayor’s office door and bring in his toolbelt.
I’m reviewing my file on Kooiker and working on an interview of the incumbent. Stay tuned!
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission actually cut Keystone XL opponents a break yesterday. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe told the PUC that TransCanada has been dragging its feet in responding to requests for information:
Rosebud Sioux lawyer Matthew Rappold said his request for access to TransCanada safety records was filed Feb. 20. TransCanada produced 34 documents on Monday afternoon.
“Three days before our testimony is due,” Rappold said.
He asked the commission how he could be expected, under those circumstances, to prepare testimony that is due Thursday.
Commissioners Chris Nelson and Gary Hanson didn’t hide their opinions that the Rosebud Sioux had been put at a disadvantage.
The PUC gave the Rosebud Sioux Tribe eight more days to file their documents. Other intervenors requested extensions as well, but the PUC said Rosebud was the only group who documented the delays justifying more prep time. TransCanada appears not to have pushed back against Rosebud, but, as Mercer reports, TransCanada did say other intervenors have been slow or uncooperative.
Keystone XL gets its evidentiary hearing before the PUC on May 5–6.
NPR’s Laura Sullivan is back on the South Dakota beat covering the ongoing Indian foster child scandal. Listening to NPR just now, I learned from Sullivan that federal Judge Jeffrey Viken ruled last night that the Seventh Circuit Court, the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, the state Department of Social Services, and has regularly violated the rights of Indian children and parents by denying them proper due process in foster care placement hearings required by the Indian Child Welfare Act. Judge Viken finds…
In 77 of 78 cases, hearing transcripts make no mention of the ICWA affidavits that DSS asserts it gave to parents to inform them of their rights and the charges provoking the state’s effort to take their children.
Judge Jeff Davis rattled through a standard script in this 48-hour placement hearings and advised Indian parents they didn’t need to get a lawyer.
“Judge Davis and the other Seventh Circuit judges presiding over 48-hour hearings (all jointly referred to as the ‘Seventh Circuit judges’) never advised any Indian parent or custodian they had a right to contest the state’s petition for temporary custody during the 48-hour hearing…. The Seventh Circuit judges never advised Indian parents they had a right to call witnesses at the 48-hour hearing. The Seventh Circuit judges never required the State to present sworn testimony from a live witness” [pp. 18–19].
Judge Davis bears liability for this policy of discrimination, because no state statute compelled him to rule the way he did in these placement hearings, and the other defendants bear liability because they acquiesced to Judge Davis’s practices, creating “the appearance of regularity in a highly irregular process” [p. 27].
Provide parents with adequate notice prior to emergency removal hearings
Allow parents to testify at those hearings and present evidence
Appoint attorneys to assist parents in these removal proceedings
Allow parents to cross-examine the state’s witnesses in the hearings
Require state courts to base their decisions on evidence presented during these hearings [American Civil Liberties Union, press release, 2015.03.31].
Too many Indian children and parents have been denied their rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act, perpetuating the ugly tradition of Western war against Native culture. Let’s hope Viken’s ruling stands and protects more Lakota families from our imperialism.
You know, I thought the youth minimum wage might be the harder of the two referendum petition drives that we are starting today. But at least two city commissions think that setting the minimum wage a buck lower for youngsters than for adults is a bad idea.
Levsen says people in Aberdeen have asked him if the city will pay teenagers the new youth minimum wage.
“My response was as mayor I wouldn’t want to see that because I thought the voters were very clear that they wanted everybody to get $8.50,” Levsen said.
…Levsen calls the resolution a matter of principle. He also wants it to drive policy as the minimum wage increases along with inflation.
“This wouldn’t have any affect now because I think everyone’s making $8.50 or more now,” Levsen said. “But I think it’s important to establish the concept that as a city government and as a significant employer of people under 18, we are not going to discount the salaries of those people just because they’re younger than 18″ [Erich Schaffhauser, “City of Aberdeen Discussing Youth Minimum Wage,” KELOLand.com, 2015.03.30].
The Aberdeen City Council postponed action on the resolution until next week, so that (1) a couple absent councillors and join the discussion, (2) the city can check whether they even need a resolution to set a minimum wage, and (3) legislators can weigh in to explain the rationale for the youth minimum wage.
The same discussion was taking place down the road in Huron, where their city commission took up HR coordinator Pat Schmidt’s recommended wage ranges for Huron’s summer part-time positions. Concessionnaires, street crew, sports and arts and crafts assistants, lifeguards—Schmidt says they all should get $8.50 minimum. Nowhere does the summer wage proposal advocate taking advantage of the youth minimum wage. A friend in Huron tells me the commission approved these wage ranges, because Huron knows a thing or two about being fair.
“Really, we haven’t looked into it at all. Here at Parks and Recreation, our wages are higher than the minimum wage, and the youth minimum wage doesn’t really impact us much,” Kelby Mieras with the Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department said.
Many of the over 400 jobs for the Parks and Recreation Department have wages starting around $9.50 on up, trying to keep up with a city that requires a competitive wage.
“We’re in a competitive job market and we’re all looking for good, qualified employees to represent our organization as well. Wage does play a part in that,” Mieras said.
…Sioux Falls City Council member Michelle Erpenbach… says that even though there is a new law on the books, she hopes that the City doesn’t look at this as a reason to discuss new wages.
“I hope that we don’t have that conversation because I think that Sioux Falls is better than that. I think that Sioux Falls is at a point in our development where we understand that individual power, that individual value of each of those people that’s working for minimum wage regardless of their age,” Erpenbach said [Jared Ransom, “No Major Impact to Many SF City Jobs by Youth Minimum Wage,” KELOLand.com, 2015.03.30].
Yes, Sioux Falls, you are better than that. So are you, Huron and Aberdeen. Keep an eye out for our referendum petitions so you can ensure that all of South Dakota is better than that.
Kea Warne from the Secretary of State’s office sends me an interesting update on petition law. Apparently, circulators can sign their own petitions!
I was of the impression that I could not witness my own signature, somewhat like how I cannot second my own motion. But Ms. Warne says she cannot find any statute forbidding circulators from including their signatures in the twenty lines on their sheets. Just remember: you can only sign once!
I’ll update my petition circulation guide accordingly. Happy circulating!
Meanwhile, what don’t we tax? Carbon. Karl Gehrke interviewed economist Yoram Bauman yesterday and learned for us that Vancouver, BC, implemented a carbon tax a few years a go and now is enjoying one of the healthiest local economies in Canada. Bauman said that if South Dakota taxed the burning of oil and coal (and whatever nasty crap comes out of the smokestacks at 3M in Brookings), we could replace half of our sales and use tax, or maybe our contractors’ excise tax.
Bauman says it makes sense to tax undesirable activities, like pollution, and leave untaxed, or at least tax less, desirable activities, like building homes or coaching baseball. Our Governor and Legislature continue to pursue the opposite of sense.