Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rapid City (SD) Alderwoman Bonny Petersen Responds To RC Mayor Sam Kooiker's Post Dated 6/27:

I can’t let Mayor Sam Kooiker’s remarks on your June 27, 2014 post stand uncorrected.  As a council member, I can assure you that the Mayor knows why the appointee wasn’t confirmed and it had absolutely nothing to do with his heritage. 
The Mayor knows the real reasons the vote was no, he knows it has nothing to do with heritage, yet that is what he suggests.   He attacks two council members to divert attention from the real facts-- that the selection process was adequate until it got to Mayor Kooiker.    Once there, Mayor Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence.   Let me repeat, Mayor Sam Kooiker and only Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence.   He chose to ignore information that eight of us could not.  He can say whatever he wants and point his finger outward, but the fact remains he made a mistake.  The eight no votes were a no to a bad decision; it was not a vote for a preferred candidate.  We knew that the Mayor could bring in someone from outside the state and we were willing to accept that over his appointee. None of us took our vote lightly.
We all make mistakes and it would be nice if the mayor would accept and learn from his mistakes, instead of turning to his counterproductive methods, of attacking others.  Until I read his comments in your blog, I had always held out hope that the Mayor was capable of becoming upright in his techniques, that he would learn that his personal attacks are not good for the city. 
 Prior to the vote, I anticipated there was a high likelihood that Sam Kooiker would use the appointee’s race and heritage as a means to attack the council.     Seeing him now actually use it, only confirms that Mayor Kooiker is willing to use race as a tool to get what he wants, whether for an appointee or revenge.    This is disrespectful at best and dangerous at worst.   
Now his words have spread across the state, the impact to the council, though significant, is minor compared to the impact on our community.  Our city has real race issues without making them up for political gain.   We have police out on the streets twenty-four hours a day and the last thing they need is our Mayor claiming governmental racism, when he knows it had nothing to do with the vote.  He betrays our community by using race as a political weapon.   He undermines the huge efforts made throughout our city every day to alleviate the effects of racism.  How do these comments influence those that already feel disenfranchised or businesses looking to move here?
After serving with the Mayor for 4 years and working closely with him while in leadership for two years, I have noticed he uses predictable and unproductive methods that you have seen in his comments.   When he detects disagreements, he launches attacks and accusations against people that reflect a different view or that he perceives as a political threat. He brings up totally unrelated facts and throws them out there in hopes they will stick.  He is too ready to throw people under the bus for his political goals, whether they are his own citizens, employees or council members.
He takes advantage of situations that require confidentiality and the council can’t or won’t divulge information that would contradict what the Mayor says because it could end up in a lawsuit.  He will shine the light on one part of a story that supports his claims, while knowing if the complete story was illuminated it would say something entirely different.   Example of some situations that could require confidentiality and force council members silence are issues involving our employees, claims against a Mayor or council members, lawsuits or whether or not a council member actually asked for his legal fees to be paid.
The negative methods that Mayor Kooiker clings too and has mastered so well are the reasons the majority of the council no longer trust or respect him.  Is this the fault of the individual council members?   I think history clearly shows there is something about the way Sam Kooiker conducts himself that alienates people that work closely with him. (It is not his causes—many of us support his causes--it is his techniques.)  Not playing well with others is fine until it undermines the city---and Sam Kooiker pointing to racism on this vote though predictable is beyond disappointing-- it is outrageously irresponsible.
John, Even though the above needed to be said to reflect an accurate picture of what truly happened, I agree with the Mayor that there are things to celebrate.   Coming in as a nurse wanting to serve her community, but not really connected to movers and shakers in the city, I didn’t really know what to expect.  As I end my service on the council, I have more faith in our government than ever.  Our council members come from all walks of life and bring different life experiences to the table.   Overall, they truly desire what is good for the city.  Each decision is based on that and only that.  I have read speculations about 6 – 4, pro-Kooiker and anti-Kooiker or Establishment and Outsider, but I don’t see it that way.  When a diverse group does their homework, and weighs that against their life experience and what they have heard from their constituents, their votes will naturally come together and differ at times.  There is no sinister plot, council members seldom talk to each other off the dais.  Rarely do they know the votes before they are cast. This is encouraging because the council is an important part of the checks and balances that work to do what is right for Rapid City. I will forever be thankful that I was given the honor to serve and I will forever do what I can to protect the city.
Bonny Petersen


  1. Unfortunately, hatred, racism and discrimination is alive and well in Rapid City. I am sure that some members of the City Council think that big improvements are and have been made, but as a member of the North Rapid Native community, I can tell you that there are few people in our community who would agree. If the Council did not like the Mayor's choice, they should have taken time to expand the search for a new Police Chief who has a proven record in working towards ending racial profiling by the police department. The statistics from the Pennington County Jail, the Juvenile Service Center and the South Dakota State Prison show that there continues to be a disproportionate number of Native Americans and other minorities incarcerated. One young man I know, who works evenings at a local business, is stopped by police approximately 3 times per week as he walks home from work around 11:30 pm. He wears his uniform and name tag to show the police he has just finished work. His story is common in this community. If we are going to make real progress in this area, I suggest that Native people be brought to the table to discuss their everyday realities with community leaders. Robin Page

  2. Is the previous reply anonymous, or from Robin Page. I do not like replying to someone who has not put their name on what they write, but if there is a name, I have a reply.

    Stanford Adelstein

  3. I believe it's Robin Page, Mr. Adelstein, as she is a follower of this blog and would probably disavow a post that had her name attached to it, as does the above, if it weren't hers. Not positive, of course, but I have no reason to believe that it was written by anyone other than Robin P.

  4. To Mr. Tsitrian and Mr. Adelstein: The comments were indeed posted by myself, Robin Page. For some reason I have only been able to post as "anonymous" but include my name at the end to make it clear that I have posted the comment. I look forward to any response that you may have. Thank you! Robin A. Page

  5. This is a serious issue. Municipal government in Rapid City has systematically ignored if not dismissed accounts like those accounted in this blog. This ignorance and dismissal is true of both "liberals" and "conservatives" on the Council. Rapid City's image is not good. This has been true long before the controversy regarding the appointment of the Chief of Police. That image has not been improved by that controversy. Assessing blame is not productive at this point, but every single council member and former council member needs to avoid their political indignation and contribution to divisiveness, and address Rapid City's unsatisfactory image. Most of us know that perception can become reality. I'm not sure that our present and former council members understand that.

  6. Robin and Wayne-- thanks for your comments. I have just sent Robin's comments to the new Police Chief, Mayor and council leadership asking them to devote more resources to this issue. Hopefully Mr. Adelstein can help bring people together because this is more than a city issue. Efforts are being made to improve the judicial system, but obviously it is moving way too slow and you are right that not enough is being done. Unfortunately, governments move slowly and it is hard to convince all involved that it is worth investing the resources to change things or even how to accomplish change. In the past, many efforts have been made with little actual progress. The meetings should resume though because new people bring new ideals. Robin, the council can't choose the police chief, they can only confirm an acceptable one. So it would be up to the Mayor to find the person with the proven record you suggest and I agree it would be wonderful. It would be impossible for the council to keep vetoing appointees until the perfect one arrived, by design we need to take the first acceptable one. I have confidence that Karl will work to improve relations. He has an impressive resume and has the heart. The bigger issue as Wayne suggest is the council making it a priority and buying into the fact that changes need to be made. That is where it would be great if the Mayor brought forward changes in his budget with this as a priority. Council rarely tells the Mayor no when he request items in the budget---- it is harder for individual council members to add items to the budget. Thank you for stepping forward. Bonny Petersen

  7. "Robin, the council can't choose the police chief, they can only confirm an acceptable one" is an interesting comment because in fact the Council did choose the Chief this time. Based on your response, you are saying that Lt. Diaz was unacceptable, because that is what you say is your criteria. Unacceptable? Rapid City's Common Council found a candidate with minority ties unacceptable? For secret reasons?

    Chief Allender, for whom I have the utmost respect, did in fact devote exhaustive efforts to this issue. I am certain that our new Chief will also devote substantial efforts to this issue. Unless and until our elective body also devotes substantial efforts to this issue our city image will be in need of improvement.

    It was suggested that the council defer the decision for a week. That suggestion was ignored. For that matter, I have yet to see any Council member even acknowledge, one way or the other, a respectful comment from the public. (Like--I" hear what you say but I disagree and here's why.") Perhaps everything could have been sorted out in a week. Right now it looks like the Council wanted to rub someone's nose in it.