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Mayor TenHaken responds to Sioux Falls City Councilor’s State of the City Address criticism

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A Sioux Falls City Councilor is raising concerns about the way Mayor Paul TenHaken is promoting his State of the City address. That address will take place Wednesday morning at 8.

On Tuesday, Councilor Pat Starr sent a press release saying the 2022 address is a “campaign event masquerading as an official duty.”

Press Release: City Councilman Patrick Starr releases comments on the confusion created by...
Press Release: City Councilman Patrick Starr releases comments on the confusion created by Mayor Paul TenHaken's 2022 City Address(Patrick Starr)

“What I wanted to do was make sure the citizens of Sioux Falls understand that the State of the City address is actually a special meeting of the Sioux Falls City Council,” said Starr.

Traditionally, the address has been held at Carnegie Town Hall, in front of the council, but ever since TenHaken took office the event has been held at various locations such as Southeast Tech and the State Theatre, without issue.

“I don’t think that there is any legal or ethical issue with this whatsoever, it really just comes down to a preference,” City Councilor Greg Neitzert said in response to Starr’s news release.

Starr’s largest concern is that the administration has “created disorder” regarding who is allowed to attend by asking attendees to RSVP to the event by March 4.

“My real concern is that if the public wants to attend they should be able to,” Starr said. “There are no strings that you have to pull or anything that you have to do to show up for a public meeting.”

While Neitzert doesn’t suspect any ill-intent from the Mayor’s Office, he does understand why someone could think they’re not welcome to the event.

“You would really have to know state law to know that you have a right to attend something that’s held by the city, so I think it’s a fair confusion,” Neitzert said.

The administration responded to Starr in a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“It is unfortunate that Councilman Starr is attempting to create an issue where there is none,” said Erica Beck, Chief of Staff to Mayor Paul TenHaken. No one from the public, including the Councilor, have reached out to our office with confusion regarding this event.

“Holding the State of the City address outside of Carnegie Town Hall is not new. In fact, since Mayor TenHaken has taken office, we have not held the address in Carnegie, which Councilor Starr would be familiar given his attendance,” Beck said.

This year we are holding the address at the Convention Center to increase attendance capacity once again, allowing even more residents the opportunity to engage in City government. Our team has been exceptionally clear in our communications for this event, stating that it is free and open to the public. As with any event, seating is of course limited.

As with previous years, the event will also be available for the public to view via livestream on the City of Sioux Falls’ Facebook page. For those unable to attend the event or participate live, the address will be available for replay on social media and will be rebroadcasted throughout March on CityLink.

“We are excited for Sioux Falls to experience the 2022 State of the City event and we will continue to seek innovative ways of reaching more people in our community,” Beck said.

City Councilor Greg Neitzert agrees, from a legal standpoint.

“There’s nothing illegal about this but I think it costs some extra money and it might cause a little confusion, so I would prefer it’s at the Council Chambers,” Neitzert said.

Even so, Starr does not approve of the optics.

“I think that, at least, the marketing materials he sent out really misconstrue what the rules of the meeting are,” said Starr.

As for the State of the City Address, that will go on as scheduled Wednesday morning.

It will be available to watch on dakotanewsnow.com and the Dakota News Now App.

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