County Government 101
October 21st, 2009
County Government 101
There isn’t enough going on with Hyperion to talk about this week, so I thought you might enjoy my education with the county government and dealing with bureaucracy at the local level. Now bear in mind that these are the folks who make decisions on the budget, set mill levees for your portion of the money to support the townships. Collect money for fines, school boards and all that other good stuff. Now just try to talk to them all at one time during a meeting. Unless you make arrangements ahead of time to get on the “Agenda” it ain’t gonna happen. It was during the 2006 legislative session in Pierre when many of the county commissioners [Sioux Falls and Rapid City] that they couldn’t get any business done because there were too many interruptions. The legislature in their infinite wisdom came up with this cockamamie rule. “The commission sessions have a short time of public input before the meeting is called to order where in the public can speak. It could be 5 minutes, 10 minutes or whatever. When the chairman calls the meeting to order, that’s it. Unless you are on the agenda you might as well go home because you are no longer allowed to speak. Kinda like when we were kids in school and had to keep our mouths shut unless we were called upon. Well now, it is SHUT UP! Now get this, In Union County this isn’t a period of dialogue with the commissioners, this is where you get to speak. They sit like stone men and cross their arms, look at you and smile. If you ask a question that would require a response, the answer that you will get is “this is not a question and answer time, this is your time to speak. We don’t respond during this period. We will listen to your input, take down your information and will respond if necessary. (Nobody writes anything down or responds, but this is your time)
If you have a bitch, which I often do, you must get on the agenda at least 24 hours in advance and you will get 15 minutes to actually get responses, usually just from the chairman, but they can speak. (Usually it’s only the chairman) And when you are done they say thank you very much for your input sir/ma’am and that is the last that you will hear anything about the subject. Let me give you a perfect example of the commissioners in action. In July of 2008 I got on the agenda and spoke just before the States Attorney’s timeslot at the meeting so he was present. I gave my spiel about the need for a decency ordinance in Union County in preparation for influx of migrant workers to the area. I gave them an outline with all the things I thought would be necessary to get this done. The states attorney said this would take at least 2 years because of all the problems Sioux City had with theirs and he wanted to make sure he got it right the first time and would stand up to legal challenges. Ok I guess if that is how it works, that’s how it works. A year goes by and nothing, so I bring the original letter back to the commissioners (I’m on the agenda by the way) and make my pitch again. This time it is “thank you very much.” End of session. Two weeks later I wasn’t on the agenda but I signed up for public input. (You have to sign in) I stood in front of the commissioners and told them that since the air permit was passed these workers could come in anytime and begin construction and that we desperately needed to have this ordinance on the books, and passed a copy to each commissioner present. This time I get a nod from the chairman and that’s it. Now this is going on a year and a half and nothing has yet to be brought to the commissioners in like a draft or anything like that. Nothing, nada, zip, zero. I was told you have to be patient with things like this because they are really busy. This is just one example of how your government works. It isn’t just this item, I’ve been going to practically every meeting for almost 3 years and it is like this at every meeting. I was on the agenda for the 1st of October, when all this brew-ha-ha started on the county signs. I made a formal complaint against the Union County Planning Director. I spoke for over 5 minutes and when I got done and asked for a response, here is what commissioner Karpen had to say. “It is out of our jurisdiction. You have to deal with this through the board of adjustment; it is out of our hands. (Kinda like Pontius Pilot washing his hands at the crucifixion of Jesus.)
I went to the board of adjustment on the 1st when they were meeting. When they adjourned as P&Z and went into the board of adjustment, before they finished their motion to adjourn I said “excuse me I have a letter to present to the chairman.” I was told I was not on the agenda and could not speak. I usually try to keep my cool at these meetings because I expect that, but I could not even present the letter. I bet my blood pressure went up 50 points. My face got so read I thought I was going to start bleeding, and Dennis sat there and grinned. So now 30 days later I am on the agenda and we get to discuss this. This folks is what your elected officials are doing at the county level. Can you imagine what it is like at the state and national level? This is the end of lesson 101 folks. Thank you for your kind attention. Next week we will talk again about Hyperion, but in the meantime, keep those cards and letters coming.
Your honored Servant