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Mayor Allender Raps Legislature for Attacks on Local Control

Speaking of disempowerment by Executive pressure, Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City sounds unhappy with the state government’s ongoing effort to usurp local control. On Twitter Tuesday, Mayor Allender issued this terse critique of a raft of anti-local-control bills in the Legislature:

Mayor Steve Allender, tweet, 2021.02.09.
Mayor Steve Allender, tweet, 2021.02.09.

“The state wants subordinates, not partners,” says Mayor Allender. In one follow-up, he says, “‘Local control’ is merely a campaign bullet point” to many legislators. Mayor Allender responds to a Twitter inquiry from Rapid City blogger John Tsitrian for specifics with this list of anti-local-control bills “for starters”:

  1. Senate Bill 107: Senator Al Novstrup’s (R-3/Aberdeen) proposal to restrict municipalities’ ability to regulate mobile food service establishments (hmm… Thunder Road and Allevity must want to bring in food trucks to boost business—he’ll make his argument to Senate Commerce and Energy this morning).
  2. Senate Bill 137: Sen. Novstrup’s proposal to force state or local governments that enact any rules—like pandemic precautions—forcing businesses (like his go-kart palaces) to close or restrict their indoor capacity to reimburse those businesses for 50% of their projected revenue losses during the closure (Senate Local Government sensibly killed that self-serving proposal last Friday).
  3. House Bill 1093: Angry-dad Representative Tom Pischke’s (R-25/Dell Rapids) Constitutionally uninformed proposal to restrict municipal powers to prevent the spread of disease (deep-sixed by House Local Government Tuesday).
  4. House Bill 1136: Representative Phil Jensen’s (R-33/Rapid City) proposal to rein counties and municipalities in so they don’t do more to protect public health than the state Department of Health (bill awaits attention from House Health and Human Services).
  5. House Bill 1121: Representative Marli Wiese’s (R-8/Madison) proposal to forbid local governments from regulating homemade commercial food products (bill awaits attention from House Local Government).

Wow: and Mayor Allender hasn’t even gotten to House Bill 1094, Governor Kristi Noem’s proposal to gut municipal control over conditional use permits. HB 1094 has passed the House and now awaits Senate Local Government‘s rubber stamp.

Mayor Allender was an early advocate of strong pandemic response. Mayor Allender has required masks in Rapid City buildings but voted to kill a citywide mask rule in December when his city council failed to give clear support. Mayor Allender has criticized the politicization of public health precautions and the state’s failure to support responsible pandemic action. He has also expressed disappointment with the state’s failure to provide the timely information that would empower local governments to make good decisions on pandemic response.

Mayor Allender is no bleeding-heart urban liberal; he’s a reasonably faithful conservative, but he’s also a former cop who takes a more pragmatic, less dogmatic approach to government. He also wants his city to have maximal control of its destiny, and he recognizes that too many Republicans want to take that control away.

“The state wants subordinates, not partners”—hmm… I wonder if Mayor Allender could turn that apt assessment of the SDGOP’s agenda into a primary campaign theme….


  1. DaveFN 2021-02-11 08:50

    SD legislators are nothing but an accident looking for a place to happen. It’s carnival time in Pierre again.

  2. Bob Newland 2021-02-11 10:00

    Allender’s authority acquires a quick tarnish when one recalls that he said a few years ago that the easing of restraints on adult use of cannabis is “the legalization of criminal behavior.”

    When I asked him if the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act had been the criminalization of legal behavior, he deflected the question. Then I tried, “Was the Dred Scott decision the ‘criminalization of legal behavior?'” he got downright rude.

  3. Curt 2021-02-11 13:30

    You can add SB 177 to the list of attempts to usurp authority of local decision-makers. 177 would require all public schools in the state to permit home school students to participate without any pre-condition in any and all extra-curricular activities. Regardless of the merits of that policy, the option exists now, but the decision is left to the discretion of local boards of education. The Mayor’s comment is spot on – for the Governor and many of her loyal minions in the Legislature, “local control is merely a campaign bullet point.”

  4. DaveFN 2021-02-11 15:21

    The irony is—and I think highly of Mayor Allender–he and the Rapid City Municipal Council had the opportunity to issue a mask mandate, something Gov. Noem operating at the state level refused and refuses to do. Nonetheless, Mayor Allender broke the tie leading to tabling the mask mandate motion in Rapid City.

    Yes, I know it’s complicated politics trying to serve a vocal, ignorant and intransigent public of extreme opinions.

    That said, if municipalities have but little authority to mitigate the spread of disease as Mayor Allender indicates, some in South Dakota have at least acceded to what little authority they do have to issue what is a fairly low-level expectation that their respective public mask up in the interest of public health.

    Had Governor Noem issued such a statewide mask mandate, such would have freed the Rapid City Municipal Council and others from the difficult responsibility of doing so, a responsibility that the city council would likely been more than happy to hand over to the state, saving endless hours of ridiculous anti-mask public comment in front of the council not to mention averting threats against Rapid City municipal officials.

    Both state and municipal parties now expect a vaccine to let them off the hook. 11% of South Dakotans have received the 1st dose, and 5% have received both doses. A virus does not stop dead in its tracks at such a rate.

  5. grudznick 2021-02-11 19:19

    Mr. H, word here in Rapid City is one of the people in the legislatures from our town has come down with the covid bugs and was spraying them all over, almost intentionally. You can guess who that might be from who doesn’t show up at meetings but pockets all the big money they get for lunch and dinners.

  6. Mark Winegar 2021-02-12 07:30

    Is it any wonder that so many South Dakotans have wisely decided to invest their lives in other states?

    I now understand why everyone I met here upon relocating here from Michigan wanted to know if I was planning to stay and how they might entice their children to return to the state.

  7. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-02-12 07:53

    Rapid city, Yankton, no mask mandate?

    Stupidity spreads the virus.

    Make those 2 counties part of the 2022 Blue Wave!

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