The March 1st meeting was nothing short of illuminating.
But during the meeting, several Councilmembers were confused, in the words of Councilman John Roberts, about “what exactly did the Home Rule Task force do?” Specifically, many were under the impression that, “this task force was just going to bring forward a recommendation,” as Councilman Roberts explained during the meeting.
And according to Councilman Ron Weifenbach, “what was proposed by this Council was to come up with a recommendation.” The problem is that during the discussion, Mayor Allender Allender admitted that the Rapid City Home Rule Charter Committee had actually developed a Home Rule Charter during their time, saying “Yeah, they have a draft charter.”
The People’s Rule decided to investigate this issue and has discovered the Councilmembers recollection was generally correct, and upon further examination of the record – it appears that some of the Council may have been misled about what the intent of the Home Rule Charter Committee was actually being tasked to do.
On December 16, 2019, the Mayor introduced Legal and Finance Item (LF121119-10) to “Authorize the Mayor to Create a Home Rule Charter Committee.” Mayor Allender explained that the item being voted on, at 1 hour 8 minutes and approximately 40 seconds into the recorded meeting, stated: “this will be a citizen committee who will spend the next six to nine months investigating the option of a Home Rule Charter.” In addition, the City’s website summarized the item as stating:
“Mayor Allender requests approval to form a Home Rule Charter Committee to examine the pros and cons of the Home Rule form of government. The committee would be tasked with providing a summary of findings and giving a recommendation concerning Home Rule during the 2020 calendar year.” (Emphasis are ours)
Buried within the online agenda item, was a link to a letter from Mayor Allender to the City Council dated November 27, 2019, and within it, on page 2 under the heading of “Scope,” the letter stated that the committee would “assemble a draft Home Rule Charter, based on examples from around the state or nation; based on advice of subject matter experts; based on the guidelines from the National Civic League or other professional organizations; or based on direct feedback from citizens, to include current City Council members.”
However, two weeks prior to that, Mayor Allender had sent a letter to the Council dated November 12, 2019, where he stated that “Rapid City should assemble a home rule charter committee, charged with the responsibility of further investigating home rule as an option for Rapid City government.” Upon close examination of the letter by People’s Rule, there was no mention or suggestion that such future committee would be tasked with the creation of a charter for consideration, and in fact, the letter from Mayor Allender specifically stated he was “asking the City Council to vote during a near-future City Council meeting to establish a home rule charter committee for the purpose of investigating home rule government for Rapid City.”
Whether intentional or not, as Councilman Salamun stated, the “process and timeline has been one of the more confusing aspects,” of the Home Rule Charter Committee.
To date, People’s Rule or it’s spokesperson Jordan Mason, has yet to hear from a Council Member who has seen the Home Rule Charter, or had an opportunity to provide such feedback as was originally offered by Mayor Allender when the item was first introduced.
Currently, Mayor Allender has stated that the Home Rule Charter Committee has submitted it’s recommendation and a draft charter to the Mayor, but neither the recommendation nor the draft charter have been made available to the public at this time.