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Sioux Falls Citizen Input: Some Suggestions

Carnegie Town Hall Signs
Rick Knobe/KSOO Radio

Everybody’s time is valuable. What people have to say is important.  There are two current examples of problems with citizen input in our community.

One comes from the Sioux Falls City Council,  the other from the local legislative coffees, sponsored by the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters,  and other well known local organizations.

I chaired City Commission meetings for ten years, and acted as moderator at those legislative coffees several times. I hope that experience will be helpful as I offer solutions.

Both input problems are easily fixed with some attitude adjustment on the part of the listeners (elected officials) and the speakers (local citizens).

Every situation and issue needing discussion is different. I don’t like a “one size fits all” citizen input policy.

In order for citizen input to work to the benefit of both sides, it takes a willingness to listen and a willingness to articulate your point in a rational, calm, and brief way. A skilled moderator can help.

In my opinion time limits only serve the interests of the elected official, and “moderator only” approved questions protect and further isolate us from each other. Those barriers are not good for the citizen, elected official,  the importance of the issue, or our chosen system of governance.

On the citizen side, I know you want to be heard. However, rambling stories about being born in a log cabin you built yourself, never ending sentences, and only negative comments will not serve you, or the issue well.

Also, if what you say has already been said by others before you, walk to the podium, state your name, and say, “I agree with the points made by (fill in the blank)” and sit down. You don’t further your cause by repeating what has been said. In fact, you can irritate the folks you want to understand your position and come to your side. Multiple people saying the same thing IS BORING.

I believe this is the bottom line: people want to be heard; people want to be respected; dialogue is better than monologue.

Pretty simple stuff. However without it, our system begins to crumble. Take a look at Congress. There are cracks forming in the systems here too. Hope those in power and control don’t allow those cracks to become chasms.

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