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My Huether endorsement draws blistering criticism

by Greg Belfrage

My column endorsing liberal Democrat Mike Huether for mayor of Sioux Falls didn't sit well with some Republicans last week. I knew it wouldn't, but I don't regret my decision.

Huether has been extremely unpopular among local conservatives because he's a liberal Democrat who has openly supported President Obama. I certainly don't share those values.

I was blasted in a column late last week by Pat Powers, the author of a very popular local politics blog called South Dakota War College. I poked at Pat recently on an unrelated topic and this appears to be Pat's way of poking me back. Fair enough.

There appears to be confusion because I've criticized R.I.N.O.'s (Republicans In Name Only) in the past.Apparently, I'm a R.I.N.O. because I'm supporting Huether (a Democrat) for mayor of Sioux Falls. There were comments from some of Pat's readers who were in agreement.

Unfortunately, the analogy doesn't hold up. My criticism of R.I.N.O. politicians has been that they say one thing and then do another. They make promises they don't keep.

However, Huether has actually kept his campaign promises. He did the things he said he would do. If only more Republicans did the same!

Admittedly, you may not find me to be very conservative when it comes to local government. I often support large public projects that I feel will benefit the community, such as the Denny Sanford Premier Center. I'malso in favor of spending money on conveniences like snow gates, which I feel will improve the general quality of life during winter, especially for seniors and the disabled.

That's not to say that I am in favor of unbridled local spending or raising taxes. I strongly opposed the city council's recent decision to collect the full two cents of local sales tax. Citizens in Sioux Falls are taxed enough.

The confusion for some may lie in the fact thatI'm a strict conservative at the federal level. I believe the federal government only has those powers specifically enumerated by the Constitution. All other powers reside with the states.

The problem I've noticed with many conservatives is that they incorrectly apply these federal constitutional principles to local government. For instance, some think its wrong for local government to be spending money on any entertainment facility, like a public swimming pool.

I disagree.Cities and municipalities are well within their rights to spend money on such public amenities. Parks, rec centers, libraries, ball fields, convention centers, museums, swimming pools and events centers all contribute to the local quality of life.

Some think this belief is somehow at odds with my conservative philosophy. It isn't. I don't see how anyone can logically apply federal constitutional restrictions to local governments. Local and state governments were, by design, given extremely broad authority by the founding fathers. Local governments are also far, far more accountable to the community for their decisions than the federal government.

As I read through the comments of those criticizing me (Republican) for supporting Huether (Democrat), I couldn't find a single reason for their scorn other than party label. Not a single person has yet to articulate to me how Huether's liberal political ideology has negatively affected Sioux Falls.

Critics can't point to a single instance where Huether raised taxes... because the mayor can't raise taxes. That's the role of the city council.

Critics can't blame Huether for spending too much money... because the mayor doesn't appropriate money. That's the role of the city council. They tell him how much he can spend.

The city council, not the mayor, sets public policy. The mayor carries it out.

Huether is the city's chief executive. Unlike the president, the mayor isn't ruling via executive orders.In fact, Huether rescinded the illegal executive orders of the two previous Republican mayors that prohibited firearms on city property. Those Republican mayors weren't displaying very conservative values when they signed a very liberal executive order. By the way, I openly opposed that illegal firearms ban for years.

Huether also hasn't violated the city charter. However, the previous Republican mayor did when he illegally spent money on Phillips to the Falls that had not been appropriated by the council.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain how Huether's liberal political views have led to higher taxes or more spending in this city. I'm still waiting for someone to explain how Huether's liberal views have prevented him from displaying effective leadership over the past four years or led to the loss of personal liberty. Huether's support for Obama certainly didn't prevent him from repairing roads at a record pace or winning public support for a new events center. Perhaps someone can explain how Huether's views slowed clean up following last spring's ice storm?

Their biggest criticism is that Mike Huether is the state's leading Democrat. As a caller to my show pointed out last week, Senator Tim Johnson might take exception to that comment.

This is precisely why Sioux Falls has tried to keep city races non-partisan. Because for some... all thought processes stop when they hear the word "Democrat" or "Republican".

It's been suggested that I'm supporting the mayor because we've become friendly over the past few years. Others think I've been manipulated. If you've listened to my show over the years and yet still think that poorly of me, there's nothing I can say to convince you otherwise.

I shared my experiences with the mayor last week because there have been a lot of attacks on Huether's personal character. I'd wager most of it is coming from people who have had no first hand interactions with the mayor. They're simply repeating something they've heard from someone else.

My comments last week were only meant to illustrate the kindness and Christian character I've personally observed in Mike Huether during his first term.

As some of you have heard me mention, my family has seen an incredibly difficult time these past few years. I've had children hospitalized multiple times and they're facing some big challenges. You may recall that I've asked on the air that you pray for me and my family.

The mayor is also aware of my family's hardships. He responded with thoughtfulness and genuine Christian concern. I remain very touched by it. And if that earns mockery and scorn from Pat Powers, I'm glad to accept it.

As with all of my observations, you are free to take them or leave them. I'm simply sharing what I've seen.

I have supported Mike Huether because I believe he's the right man for this job. I'd not elect Huether to state or federal office, but he's been a tremendous mayor for this city. He's been far more effective than the Republican who previously held the office.

I don't agree with Mayor Huether on every issue. Believe me, he's well aware of it. If the time comes when I feel the mayor should be called out for his actions... you can count on me to do it.

Greg Belfrage ( @belfrageshow ) is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.