Strike One: Steve Allender will be better for our community
Steve Allender should be elected mayor of Rapid City because he has the management experience and expertise to make our city run well again. He reminds me very much of Art LaCroix in the way that he will be able to relate to business leaders as well as political leaders in the community. We know that he will seek to work with the county commissioners, superintendent of schools, president of the School of Mines, and many other important, cooperative ventures in our town—just the way that Art LaCroix did. In discussion, he clearly understands the need to establish some kind of a research park, just as Sioux Falls has done with the University of South Dakota. Once we put all of these things together we can move forward, rather than teetering where we are now.
Steve has managed a very effective police force and is accustomed to supervising a large number of individuals. He provided leadership while respecting employees’ choices in how they fulfilled the policy directives that he had established. In that police department turnover was negligible, results were effective, and the values of South Dakota were preserved.
This news story is an example of how Rapid City police officers behaved with weapons drawn, compared to what we read about happening elsewhere in the county.
Here are some specific examples of the experience and skills that Steve will bring to the mayor’s office.
- Steve has been recognized many times over for his professional accomplishments, including his induction into the South Dakota Municipal League Hall of Fame in 2011—he was nominated by Mayor Kooiker.
The South Dakota Municipal League website states:
“Chief Steve Allender began with the Rapid City Police Department in 1985 as a patrol officer and served in various positions with the agency until his appointment to Chief in 2007. Allender has been an incredible asset to the force throughout his tenure and has shown outstanding courage, bravery, and exceptional leadership throughout his 26 years of service and most especially during the tragic officer-involved shootings in Rapid City on August 2, 2011. Rapid City is a better, safer community with such a dedicated and compassionate professional leading this department and guiding the city through times of peace and tragedy.”
You can view Steve’s biography here, and a partial list of his accomplishments while police chief, here.
- His past successes in collaboration will serve him well when joining with other elected officials in promoting the desires of the citizens of Rapid City. We need to have someone who will discusses Rapid City with the governor and with our legislators as well as being creative in cooperating with the Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations.
- We will always know where Steve stands as mayor and his positions will be clear. A great example of this is his public endorsement of the opt-out in order to assure education for our children. Unfortunately, Mayor Kooiker has taken no position on that issue.
- Steve refrained from inserting himself in the question of the Civic Center and left it to the voters to decide. After the election, he highlighted the need for more than just a few citizens to be involved in making those kinds of major decisions.
- Steve supports our second amendment rights. A vicious and untrue orange postcard has been distributed by a group which is not recognized by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and opposed by this NRA lifetime member. The second amendment is rooted in my life’s values—the first thing that the Nazis did before the murder half the Jews in the world—was to take away each Jewish family’s personal weapons.
The fact that Sam has this group’s endorsement is itself a reason not to vote for him. This type of attack from this group, unfortunately, isn’t new. They have unsuccessfully spread this lie against many strong leaders in South Dakota.
Strike Two: Sam is a poor manager
The present mayor, with little previous supervisory experience, has dismally filled the job of chief executive and senior manager of our city.
- There is a continual revolving door of department heads at city hall, leaving our fellow citizens—the capable people who are on the staff of the city—in a tenuous position. During his time in office six departments head positions have turned over: the head of the Library, Civic Center Manager, City Attorney, Parks & Recreation Director, Police Chief, and Airport Director.
- There is an inability to get big things done. We have been waiting for nearly ten years to complete the new parking facility in downtown Rapid City. This is a typical example of Sam’s inability to work with others, particularly on the City Council—and with any mayor when he was a councilman. While he initially supported extensions for the project as a city council member and others were passed under his administration (click here, and here, and here to see for yourself), he turned against the project in a divisive and public manner.
In November, 2011, Sam publicly called for the parking project to be re-bid—in spite of the fact that a contract was still in palace with the developer and city council members warned of potential legal consequences if they did so. When Sam wasn’t able to force the re-bid through, he pushed for a shorter deadline on the project. Then when he didn’t get the deadline he wanted, he meddled with the project’s private funding, read for yourself here. The mayor didn’t work with the council to build a consensus. Instead, he made demands and when he didn’t get what he wanted, he got on the phone and started making trouble. Sound familiar? This has become the “typical Sam style.”
- Managing money is beyond our current mayor’s ability. Not only did he waste $706,000 for a Civic Center expansion that few in the community favored, he didn’t seek input from most of Rapid City’s citizens before did it. He just went ahead and spent over $700,000 on a plan that no one asked for, except maybe a few of his friends.
- There is no apparent coordination with the county commission on anything. Potential expansions opportunities towards the fairgrounds have been discussed between individual commissioners and council members who recognize significant opportunities there, but not the mayor. No one knows exactly how to approach him in a way that would lead to a meaningful, productive conversation.
- Though the mayor’s job is nonpartisan, Sam chose to encourage two challengers to participate in a Republican primary against very capable office holders—the effective treasurer and one of the most outstanding county auditors in South Dakota. One challenger was a former city council member and one was a current city council member—and both were his buddies. One of these challengers even asked to be named as a co-defendant with Bill Clayton when he made his now infamous remarks to a local reporter—in which he, according to the Rapid City Journal, “…told or implied to KOTA TV reporter Taisha Walker, who is black, that she should go back to Kenya with President Barack Obama.” Read the full article here.
- Someone who runs for office would typically hope to be reelected based on what he or she had accomplished. This mayor has chosen to do a truly nice thing: to write personal notes to any citizen whose achievement he has noticed. While that will help encourage votes, it has very little to do with managing the assets of the second largest city in the state. His primary effort seems to be to give the appearance of someone who should be reelected. This is not the way to accomplish the needs of the community. As nice as that is, it would be preferable to deal with issues like infrastructure failures, delays of granting construction permits, and appointing three committees for a supposed Civic Center design.
- A fine young police lieutenant was embarrassed he was appointed by the mayor to a position for which he was not prepared. The council overturned the appointment 8 to 2. Sam should have been in continual contact with council members to know this was the case and that his appointment would not be confirmed.
- Instead of spending less than $20,000 to survey or even have a “focus” group to determine what the interest of the citizens would be on expanding the Civic Center, Sam spent over $700,000—nearly a three quarters of a million—to develop a “plan” that the citizens rejected by almost 2 to 1. Repeatedly, people talk about the need for infrastructure improvement—that much money would have repaired many of streets that have checkerboard and cracking, nearly invisible lane markings, broken curbs, and intersections that nearly tear out the car’s front wheels.
Strike Three: Sam has become dishonest
This last strike is raised with great sadness. Sam met with me on a number of issues when he became mayor and visited my office at least once every two weeks before I became ill in 2013. While appreciating his willingness to do so, we often did not agree; I did, however, think at that time that he showed integrity in those discussions.
What has saddened me is that his need to hold on to the job of mayor seems to have led him to outright dishonesty. In this country, running for public office is meant as taking on a position where skill and experience are focused on the citizens’ needs. The job of mayor—or any other political office—was not intended to be the person’s lifetime way of earning.
- Following a debate with St
eve, he chose to dishonestly distort the actual words used in the debate.
- In this campaign, to mask his role in promoting a greatly unpopular Civic Center expansion, he puts words in Steve’s mouth regarding Steve’s position on the Civic Center. Steve has his own position, which he has clearly shared, that doesn’t include asking for the public’s input only after $700,000+ had already been spent. Also, Sam lauding his “insistence on a public vote” is nice spin to cover poor leadership, there are less expensive ways than a $60,000 special election to engage the public—ones that would be more genuine. A survey, as mentioned above, would have much less expensive.
- He represented the Civic Center expansion as something which was needed because of an ADA complaint made to the DOJ, when, in fact, it was Sam who reached out to the DOJ. Click here to see for yourself, the comments start 54:50 into the video and at 1:08 the mayor again references his call to the DOJ local Civil Rights Office.
- There is a big difference between what is contained in the DOJ agreement and the plan that Sam tried to get by us. Look for yourself at the list of what is actually required in “Attachment A” of the DOJ settlement. You will see mention of adequate seating, access to the Barnett Arena, updates restroom facilities, and changes to entry doors. What you won’t see is the requirement to build a facility that’s too large and too expensive for our community. Of course, any of us who have experienced impairment agree completely, that we need to make updates to the Civic Center. The cost to do that, however, is significantly less than the mayor suggested.
- Do the citizens of Rapid City feel that they are being dealt with honestly by the current administration? One of the pending lawsuits against the city, which lists the city and the mayor both individually and in his official capacity, seems to raise that point. The case is still open and this blog will leave it to the courts to determine the validity or lack of validity of the case. Read and make your own decision—all of the documents linked are from the public record. While this blog isn’t about determining guilt or innocence in the case, what is worth pointing out a the theme that has emerged. People seem to meet with Sam and come away with the impression that an agreement had been made, but the agreements aren’t followed through. How many people in our community were under the impression that a promise or agreement was made, only for it to be broken?
Another interesting and important point is that the lawsuit seems to have been conveniently tucked away, by a requested postponement, until after the election.
(To view the full complaint click here, and here for the full response. Also,click here from documents linked to the February 24, 2014 Public Works meeting agenda.)
Now is the time for a change in the management of our city. This is the time to elect a mayor who has both significant, successful leadership experience and who has integrity and the respect of those who know him.
Please join me in voting for Steve Allender on June 2nd.