The Importance of Voting

Ok, let’s get right to the point: There is no justification for only 12.7% of registered voters turning out for our recent election. Two weeks of early/absentee voting and 12 hours of voting on election day provide plenty of opportunity to vote.  Since I’ve taken to public shaming, I have received several excuses from people about not voting. Here are a few:

Allender says no excuses

You’re right, it is an excuse.  But not a good reason. First of all, who are “the people”? Just you? You and a couple of friends? If you are not voting because you are not getting your way, then you don’t understand how democracy works. Think about it this way: the majority of voters DO get their way. Their candidate wins; their ballot issue wins; and winning for them has never been easier because people like you stay home. If you are discouraged at the way government works then I guarantee the wrong thing to do is give up: that is NOT the way our country was founded.

Didnt want anything

Again, who is “we”? And as far as doing what “they” want, “they” were elected by the majority of voters to make decisions on your behalf. If you disagree, isn’t it your duty to become involved?

bad time for people

Perhaps there is more to the story, but if your response is to withdraw rather than engage, then it doesn’t matter. Imagine if your teenage child told you what they wanted, but you, acting under your authority as a parent knew there was something the child was not considering… would you try to explain? Would you do what is right over what is popular? Would you be willing to make a decision that affects, at least temporarily, your relationship with your child? Or, would you take the path of least resistance and give-in? Leadership can be hard – that’s why most people don’t want to subject themselves to unjustified (and mostly anonymous) criticism.

Starting next week, there will be a great deal of media coverage on the Civic Center plan so I won’t go into that specifically, but I will tell you this: There is always more to the story.

Our government, whether national, state, county or city, is made up of people put in those positions by other people. If the government doesn’t operate to your liking then congratulations – you and I have something in common. If you choose only to complain, yet do nothing to improve things, then you will never be satisfied.

 

 

 

 

Why Consultants are Utilized

Good government requires the people being engaged and ready to hold public officials accountable. The following question was submitted to the Rapid City Journal’s “Two Cents” column.

two-cents-consultants

The City of Rapid City as well as most other municipalities in America utilize professional contracts for architecture and engineering services for a number of reasons.

1. Consultants have the resources to get the jobs done in a reasonable time.  Due to a general and varied workload, City staff members do not have the ability to dedicate a solid work day or work week to complete specialized projects.  In addition to managing multiple projects, City staff is continuously responding to questions and requests from customers such as citizens, business owners, other agencies, other City departments and elected officials.

2. Consultants have specialized expertise.  It is not cost effective for the City to employ staff that has the expertise in designing complicated projects such as a Government Building, a Street, a Swimming Pool or Dam spillway replacement that are rarely constructed.  In addition, the specialized computer systems and software necessary for such specialized projects would be very expensive to maintain.

3. Consultants have industry knowledge.  One example is the recent utility rate study contract awarded to a national engineering firm, HDR Inc. This contract was awarded based on their experience in performing this type of work to published standards. These standards are in place to make the rate structure legally defensible.  They also continuously work on rate studies across the country so they are very efficient in what they do and provide a best practice or industry standard perspective.  It would be nearly impossible to have City staff members gain the knowledge base and experience in conducting this type of study and have the support staff available to accomplish this study in an accurate and professional manner and in a reasonable time.

4. Consultants offer a non-biased professional opinion without being politically influenced. The City’s customer, the people, deserve objective evaluation of important issues that if left up to the local political environment may face short-cuts or alterations that could threaten public health and safety.

To answer your question Mr. anonymous question-asker: Yes, the Mayor and Council are paid to make decisions, and they do. Based on the enormity of some decisions and the potential risk to the community, some decisions cannot be left up to elected officials.

You may be interested to know that in 2016 the City of Rapid City spent nearly $500,000 less on consultants than in 2015.  Another $400,000 reduction is expected in 2017.

As for task-forces, virtually all of them could be avoided…if we didn’t care what the people felt about important topics facing our City. (see the first sentence above).

 

 

 

 

Civic Center Fix Won’t Defund Streets

two cents photo 4-1-17This recent submission to “Your Two Cents” is from a writer who believes the Civic Center Arena proposal (not yet presented for consideration) will take much needed funding away from street repairs. The writer is incorrect, but not without basis.

The proposed replacement of the Barnett Arena, rejected by voters in 2015 caused a whirlwind of rumors and false information. Once out, these rumors became the common theme of communication surrounding the proposal. One such rumor, was that street or other infrastructure repairs would be placed on hold for a number of years. Anyone hearing that rumor had reason to question the City’s ability to fund such a project as the $180 million arena. I won’t try to correct the last proposal’s issues but I will share a preview into the current, yet incomplete proposal: (1) No money designated for street improvements will be used to fund modifications to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, and: (2) Taxes will not be raised to fund the modifications. The funding will come from 50% of the current “Vision Fund” tax collections which is a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. The fund has contributed to many community projects ranging from swimming pools to parks to soccer fields. This fund has not traditionally been used for streets and was originally used to build the Civic Center. We have received a debt service projection for scenarios including repairing or replacing the Barnett Arena, each with annual payments of $6.5 million or less. There is much more to come on this subject.

Finally, the writer speaks of a “$25 million shortfall” to fix our streets. This phrase came from a City Council meeting during which Councilman Jerry Wright presented a report on the status of infrastructure funding and concluded that we were $25 million behind in achieving a realistic repair and replacement plan. No one can disagree with the report from an engineering or technical standpoint, but the overall goal of perfect streets is something needing more discussion. Without doing any real math on the subject, it seems pretty clear that in order to raise an additional $25 million for streets and infrastructure without raising taxes, we would have to eliminate parks and pools, all recreational operations including golf courses, maintenance of bike trails, eliminate the library, sell the Civic Center, de-fund code enforcement, risk management, community development and much of the Planning Department and strip our police and fire departments to the bare minimum, not to mention ending funding to all arts and other community assets that exist to enhance our community and its members. Then, voilà! enough money to pursue perfect streets!

Street and infrastructure funding is a concern in Rapid City, just like it is in every city in America. Rapid City will continue to fund street repairs and is actively looking for ways to divert funds from lower priority programs as one means of doing so. In the meantime, see the pothole or crack in the road as money spent on other important community needs.

Citizen input is needed, but uninformed criticism cannot help solve this issue.

98 Cents Worth

Steve DeskIt seems everyone is wiling to give their two cents worth these days. Most times, that’s exactly what it’s worth. There are 98 more cents worth that should be heard from time to time, so stay tuned.

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