Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rapid City Mayor Allender Goes Public

     Rapid City's freshly  minted mayor Steve Allender took the stage at yesterday's Black Hills
Mayor Allender
So Far, So Okay
(photo from
Forum and Press Club luncheon (kudos to Bill Walsh and Steve Wesolick for organizing this most worthwhile venue).  
He gave a generally positive impression of himself.  The Q & A format was staged in Allender's favor, considering that Steve Wesolick--who announced beforehand that he'd supported Allender during last Spring's campaign--was reading a list of prepared questions that didn't put Allender on much of a spot.  Most of the questions were about leadership style and philosophy.  No knock on Wesolick--it's his forum, after all, and he's well within bounds in structuring it the way he wants to.  Just the same, it did deny the attendees, numbering around 100, a chance to see Allender get up there on his own, a hundred pairs of eyes bearing down on him, and make an uninterrupted pitch for himself and his administration's specific goals and plans.

    When Mayor Allender did get a chance to address specifics he didn't offer much.  I asked him about any plans or initiatives he had to restore Rapid City's manufacturing base to its pre-2008 recession levels.  During the campaign he'd made much of the fact that there was little if any rebound in manufacturing during the two-term tenure of incumbent Sam Kooiker, implying that he, Allender, had some ideas to engineer a turnaround.  I was curious as to what they were, but all I and the audience got was a promise to put together a solid economic-development team that would address the issue.  I don't think I missed anything, but if Allender wants to expand on his agenda with some specifics, he's welcome to do so here.  
     Rapid City lawyer Jay Davis asked about the mayor's decision to pull official notices from the Indian-run Native Sun News, to which Allender responded that it was strictly a business decision.  I got the sense from Allender that he believes running official notices in NSN is a redundant effort, considering the notices already run in the much more widely-circulated Rapid City Journal.  Though I take issue with that conclusion, the answer seemed adequate enough to me. We elected him to make these sorts of decisions and I accept this one.  But why Allender chose to gratuitously describe the give-and-take between him and NSN's editorial management after he pulled
Wesolick (L.) & Walsh
GREAT Job With The Forum, Guys
(photo from
the city's business is a mystery.  I think I've got this right, but most certainly invite correction if I'm misinterpreting Allender's narrative. Apparently a satirical and highly critical piece about the mayor appeared in NSN shortly after his decision to pull the ads, which caused Allender to complain to the editor, who responded that NSN writers are generally left alone to write as they see fit.  End of story, I would think, but Allender's unsolicited recitation of it seemed unnecessary and potentially provocative.  Allender did add that the $40k/yr budgeted for NSN is money he wants to use to hire a tribal relations specialist in the city's administration.

     Allender also fielded questions related to economic development, generally, and made the same pitch that he'd made in his campaign:  Rapid City needs to work at being an attractive center for developers and entrepreneurs. According to the mayor, nearby areas like Summerset, Rapid Valley, and Box Elder present more favorable climates for business development and expansion than Rapid City does.  He plans to put together a team of economic development experts to deal with the situation, I look forward to the creation of such a board and eagerly await the list of specifics that emerge from its deliberations on how to improve the business climate in Rapid City.
     Expecting those specifics to come directly from the mayor at this early stage of his tenure is unrealistic. It's wait-and-see time.  My general sense is that Allender will be a competent manager, though the spark of leadership isn't discernible yet.  As with everything else about his administration, we'll see if circumstances will ignite  it.  


  1. Thanks for your insights John, I believe it is short-sided to not publish official city transcripts in the Native Sun News it reaches members of our community who do not read the Rapid City Journal and increasing civic participation is essential to healing our community and moving us forward. I like Allender's straight forward style. I look forward to seeing how we can find ways to work together to continue to grow a culture for excellence in the Black Hills region and specifically in Rapid City.

  2. If is news so important to the community, the paper should print it free.