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Citizen's group would stifle healthy debate

by Greg Belfrage

We've all heard the old saw, "You can't fight City Hall".

Therefore, a local citizen's group wants to shut up City Hall.

Citizens for Integrity in City Government is launching a petition drive to keep Sioux Falls officials and employees from engaging the public on ballot issues.

Specifically, this group is pointing to the Spellerberg Pool issue. The city recently released drawings of an indoor aquatics center at Spellerberg Park, as well as a new outdoor facility. 

Voters will decide in April whether to build a new outdoor pool at Spellerberg. However, the city says Spellerberg is the perfect location for a new indoor aquatics center.

The release of the drawings has inflamed members of Citizens for Integrity in City Government, who are now crying foul.

Group member Bruce Danielson said at the news conference, "What are they educating us on? Things that aren't even on the ballot."

I'm going to be kind and say that, in my view, Danielson's comment is a lie of ommission. I'd like to call it a bald faced lie, but I'm too polite.

Danielson apparently doesn't want you to know that the only reason Spellberg pool is on the ballot is because the neighborhood rejected the city's plan for an indoor pool there. 

Instead of engaging the city in debate on the future of the pool, some residents immediately began circulating petitions to put an outdoor pool to a vote. Now they apparently want to hide the fact that an indoor pool is even under consideration for Spellerberg Park.

So it is disingenuous, at best, to say that an indoor pool is not a consideration.

In an effort to show why city officials shouldn't participate in informational campaigns, Danielson's comments illustrate why its imperative they do.

The automatic assumption is that City Hall can't be trusted. However, city officials don't have any monopoly on deceit. I've heard plenty of distortions and whoppers from citizen's groups over the years. I'm not finding fault with these groups, but they are usually motivated by their own interests.

It seems to me that Citizens for Integrity in City Government is most interested in a one-sided conversation, not an informed citizenry.

Residents deserve to hear as many facts and viewpoints as possible. Let them hear from everyone, pro and con, with an opinion to share or story to tell on the future of Spellerberg Park. That includes city employees, as well as elected city officials.  Let's arm voters with plenty of information.

Sure, voters don't need Mayor Mike Huether telling them what to think.

But they don't need Bruce Danielson telling them what to think, either.

They're smart enough to listen to the debate, weigh the facts and make up their own minds. 

Greg Belfrage is heard mornings 6am-9am on KELO Newstalk 1320 AM / 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com. Please follow him on Twitter.