Monday, May 4, 2015

Watched Allender V. Kooiker Last Night On KEVN. Definitely A Contrast Of Styles, With Kooiker Winning.

    Watched what was probably the first confrontation between Rapid City mayoral candidates Steve Allender (the challenger) and Sam Kooiker (the incumbent) on KEVN-TV last
Allender Claiming He's Real
But Hey, That "D" Isn't A Real "D"
(photo from www.blackhillsfox.com) 
night.  
Moderator Jack Caudill did a superb job.  His questions went to the heart of what this race seems to be about:  a contrast in management styles between the two men.  Allender's repeated contention that Rapid City government has been stymied by the "micromanaging" Kooiker, leading to long delays in getting private sector interests the attention and speed they need to get business done probably had some merit, but needed more specificity.  I didn't like that Allender used as support the fact that he just heard from "two" businesspeople that Rapid City has a reputation for being anti-business, mainly because I could  probably find "two" people who would say just about anything I wanted to hear about Rapid City and anyplace else for that matter.  Citing unnamed sources on an anecdotal basis doesn't make much of a case for Allender's charge.  Also, Allender's contention that Rapid City has suffered economically as a result of Kooiker's leadership isn't supported by the facts that I could glean.  The challenger claimed that after adjusting for inflation, Rapid City's economic growth has been flat during Kooiker's tenure as mayor, which began when he won the job in 2011.  

     To test Allender's diagnosis of anemia for the Rapid City economy I went to the South Dakota Department of Revenue's websiteOn its taxable sales tables I and found year-to-year comparisons for Rapid City's gross taxable receipts for the period 2011-2014 and found that they went up by an average of 6.3% per year, with a high annual gain of 9.8% and low one of 4.4%. Considering that the U.S inflation rate during the same period has averaged 1.7%, I'd say there has been significant real growth in the Rapid City economy, at least as far as overall sales are concerned. There certainly are other indicators that come to play in this type of analysis, but I believe that year-to-year changes in taxable sales provide a reasonably reliable thumbnail as a measure of economic performance.
     Sam Kooiker, on the other hand, seems unduly proud of that management style of his, which I find ridiculous.  Kooiker's ham-handedly cavalier strategem of hiring a police chief last year
Kooiker's 2nd Choice For Police Chief, Karl Jegeris
You Can't Always Get What You Want.
(photo from blog.keloland.com)
by going around all the standard advise and consent mechanisms in city government was a travesty that set off a tirade of gratuitous charges and counter-charges, erupting in some harsh language and sore feelings that will probably never heal up.  That hire was scrubbed in favor of a more conventionally selected chief.  If Kooiker has a fatal flaw, one that could cost him this election, it's that he incites division and controversy, a quality he actually defended last night by claiming that strenuous debate is a means of getting good ideas put forward and that he encourages a confrontational style in both public and private meetings.  That's nutty, and there's no doubt in my mind that if he loses the election this time he'll have left behind a legacy of hard feelings and missed consensus-building opportunities.  

     There was some sparring over race relations, perhaps the most important aspect of leadership in Rapid City.  The common theme from both candidates was that outreach is a continuing goal, which is fine, though I didn't get a sense from either man that "inreach"--trying to bring more representatives from Rapid City's Indian community into the day-to-day operations of the city--is much of a priority.  I look forward to hearing more about this sensitive and compelling issue as the campaign progresses.  
     As to calling a winner after last night, I'd give the edge to Kooiker.  Allender can't sell himself on stylistic differences alone, and Kooiker's connection to a pretty decent economy during his tenure leaves him with a status quo that is an asset to his campaign and a problem for Steve Allender's.  

Addendum (added 5/11 @0623):  As Don Frankenfeld correctly notes in the comment section below, establishing public policy by a confrontational and/or adversarial group of officials is hardly "nutty" in principle.  A "team of rivals" approach has had its successes as Frankenfeld notes, so I retract the word as applied to the concept itself but stand by it as implemented by Kooiker for the reasons I noted above.    

4 comments:

  1. It might be argued, however successfully, that economic growth and unemployment are incentivized by local government and management styles; however, the number of variables involved in those scenarios are large enough to declare the assertion highly unreliable and even nonsensical. One has to ask the question; why is government influence of business prosperity even an attempted metric and what rational and reasonable roll should government play in business given the afterglow of EB-5 and the fact that the entire state of South Dakota ranks 34th in overall unemployment. Is there a proper roll for government in the business environment and if there is, precisely what is it and what is the justification for it beyond increasing the tax base that does nothing except grow government and increase stress on public resources and assets. Wherever the attention is focused the most, that becomes the driving force behind everything done. We steer where we stare! What does staring at economic development do for the commoner?

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    1. On a macro scale, fiscal--and its nonpolitical cousin, monetary--policy seems to have some impact on economic activity. Though neither is much of a factor in our small state of South Dakota, I think our inbred and cronyistic culture--that way more by circumstance than design--here in SD makes for a natural linkage between public policies and private endeavors. And anyway, as long as the candidates themselves make an issue of it, it merits attention and analysis.

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  2. From Don Frankenfeld (still don't know how to "sign" my name):

    I didn't see the debate, so I don't know the precise context in which Mayor Kooiker may have spoken about the value of confrontation. That's not a word I would have chosen, but the style of surrounding yourself with good people and encouraging them to speak their minds, whether in unison or in discord, is hardly "nutty." Lincoln more or less invented this style (with his "Team of Rivals"), and Franklin Roosevelt perfected it. Nixon and Reagan employed it to mostly good effect (remember that the liberal genius Daniel Patrick Moynihan served under Nixon), and of course our entire legal and legislative systems depend on the notion that worthy adversary contribute to truth and justice. One can argue about this, certainly, but it is unfair to dismiss it as nutty.

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    1. Much as I admire the "team of rivals" approach, its application by Kooiker has been calamitous--resulting in unnecessary acrimony and harsh feelings. Consider the eruption of claims, charges and countercharges that went public during the naming of the police chief last Summer, chronicled here in a series of posts that can be found in the June and July 2014 postings to be found on the right. I retract the word "nutty" as applied to the principle, but stand by it as applied to Kooiker's implementation of it. P.S. Looks like you've mastered the comment section--which is a challenge on blogspot. Others having troubles commenting can always e-mail a comment to me at the address on the right, highlighted at the bottom of the bio section. You can be assured that I will cut and paste it to the appropriate post and will follow your directions as to whether it should be signed or submitted anonymously.

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