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Politics

Rapid City Mayor Shines Light On Correspondence

allender_speaking.jpg
SDPB

The mayor of Rapid City is sharing copies of the official correspondence between his office and the city council with local media outlets. Steve Allender is a first time mayor, and former Rapid City police Chief.  He says he hopes the move will increase public participation.

Those who champion open government call this a rare move that is good for transparency.

 

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender says he will try this experiment of sharing his official correspondence for about half a year, to see what results, if any, it produces.

“Better government, I hope,” Allender says.

An official with the South Dakota Newspaper Association, David Bordewyk, says Allender’s actions are welcomed by the advocacy group.

Bordewyk says South Dakota law provides protections against public scrutiny of communication between officials...

“It’s quite well known among government entities, government officials, that they are not required by law to provide public access to any of their correspondence, whether it be a written letter or even an email that they write or receive from their official business as a public official. So, it’s the norm in South Dakota, among government officials that their correspondence is confidential.”

But fighting against South Dakota’s transparency laws isn’t quite why Mayor Allender is making some city documents available. In fact, he says the state’s disclosure laws are right where they should be.

Allender says he’s more interested in opening up a dialog. He says some issues, like the use of extra money city has set aside for infrastructure development, needs more input from an engaged public.

“In the age of communications, when it appears that we would be a society that’s over communicating, which is probably true, we’re just not communicating about the things that are important, from the perspective of a government official. So, the reasoning behind opening the vision funds for public projects. There’s a good rationale there in my opinion, and that comes and goes on a city council agenda.”

Allender says much of the content of his letters now open to the press involve measures that may come up on the council agenda in the coming weeks.