|Kooiker v. Allender|
Kooiker By A Nose
Meantime I was extremely put off by the last round of elections when Kooiker started robo-calling in favor of partisan candidates for county offices. I detailed it here, calling it an obvious effort to build some sort of political power base connecting Pennington County to Rapid City, and was happy to note that the voters saw through it, trouncing the two candidates in favor of the vastly more experienced and qualified incumbents. All that incident did for me was to develop a state of suspicion about Kooiker's motives and a sense that he's more into consolidating power and the cronyism that goes with it than delivering the best government he can. I don't like it, and if he wins I'll stay all over him on it.
At the time all this was going on I was so disgusted with the mayor that I told myself I'd vote for any reasonably competent candidate that would run against Kooiker this year. At first I thought Steve Allender would fit that bill, as "competence" is perhaps his most identifying character trait. Certainly his management record as Rapid City Police Chief has been a strong endorsement of his abilities. But as time wore on and the need for some specifics about how he'd deal with the challenges of the mayor's office emerged, Allender came up short. It's one thing for a challenger to criticize the status quo and call for a change--it's altogether another to lay out some specifics about what the challenger sees in need of repair and his plans to address those needs. Allender simply has not given me a blueprint that would give me a sense of how his administration would be constructed. His critique of the condition of the Rapid City economy (and my counter-critique of his assessment) is well-documented in this blog, but for the purposes of the point I'm making, let's assume that his view of the wretched state of Rapid City's economy is a valid one. Allender correctly says manufacturing has fallen off considerably since the recession, before Kooiker was elected in 2011. He faults Kooiker for having achieved meager if any results in bringing manufacturing back up to pre-recession levels. Yet Allender has proposed no specific measures that he would bring to bear on manufacturers with the intent of getting them to expand or locate here in Rapid City. In his ChiefsView blog of a couple of weeks ago, Allender just says, "I intend to be involved in finding the areas where improvement is needed and to work with others to make that improvement."
This comes across as world-class dodge-ball to me because Allender is effectively saying he doesn't have a clue but intends to figure it out after being elected by getting together with people that, unlike him, know something about the subject. Same goes for his critique of the City's permitting process, much discussed here, but with no clear identification of its problems or its fixes, just a frequent comment to the effect that we first have to admit there's a problem and that he'd unclog city hall and "evaluate existing processes" in the hope of giving Rapid Citians more value for their dollar." As with his hectoring of Kooiker's handling of manufacturing growth, Allender gives us vagueness and no indication that he understands the problem he claims to exist. More dodge-ball. I need better than that to consider him for mayor.
So now I, like probably a lot of people in this town, am tasked with making a tough choice for mayor this week. My decision to vote for Kooiker the incumbent has two dimensions. First, I know him and his style and am willing to give him the edge for experience. Second, I believe that he's learned the hard way that confrontational politics are a lousy way to run this city. Having robust disagreements is one thing, antagonizing his opponents by calling them names and taking his disagreements with them public is no way to get business done, and I expect Kooiker to have reached that state of enlightenment by now.
As to Steve Allender, he's young enough to have a brilliant future in local government, win or lose, and I expect to hear from him frequently and decisively as big civic decisions get made.