Saturday, August 02, 2003

By way of Instapundit I found this blog on South Dakota politics.

The Gazette scooped me on my own story. Today's edition reported that "several" (actually three) City Council candidates approached me about moderating candidate interviews that will air on Community Channel 7. They are concerned that Mayor Chuck Tooley, who is supposed to moderate, might be biased against certain candidates, especially those of a non-Democratic persuasion. The article inaccurately reported that I hadn't talked with Tooley or with Channel 7 officials. I hadn't talked to Tooley but I had talked to Lynne Turner Fitzgerald at Channel 7, although I may not have made this as clear as I thought I did. This morning I followed through with an e-mail to the mayor; if he doesn't check e-mail on weekends, I will give him a call in a while.
The candidates provided me with an e-mail from City Councilman Dave Brown, a former chairman of the Republican Central Committee in Yellowstone County who complained to county Election Administrator Duane Winslow that the mayor shouldn't be conducting the interviews. He alleged that the mayor had shown bias in the past by appointing Peggie Gaghen to the council over Leon Pattyn, a Republican precinct committeeman. He also noted that candidate Cliff Hanson has twice run against Tooley for the mayor's job. "I do not have a problem with the interview by the Gazette or other media," Mr. Brown wrote, "but it should not be presided over by the Mayor, a Democrat activist who in my opinion has shown bias toward Democrat candidates."
I have no particular interest in this controversy. As a general rule, it's probably better not to have a sitting council member conduct public interviews of aspiring candidates. Even if the interviews are perfectly unbiased, the incumbent remains open to the allegation. Under this set of circumstances -- limited time, large field of candidates, predetermined list of standard and fairly basic questions -- it's hard to see how the mayor's decision to fill this role could cause much of a problem. Still, as I told both the mayor and Ms. Fitzgerald, I would be willing to conduct the interviews if either of them thinks it would help.

I'm also asking the mayor about the selection process for the new city administrator. I just find it interesting that the Gazette praised the selection process that the council used to pick acting Administrator Kristoff Bauer for the full-time job. The process, so far as I could tell, was almost identical to the process the school board used to pick Superintendent Rod Svee, but the Gazette editor and Gazette lawyer Martha Sheehy formally protested the school board's process.
Maybe I am missing some crucial difference. When in doubt, report. So that's what I'm trying to do.

Gazette reporter Jan Falstad's superb reporting about Touch America has helped fuel speculation that the company's collapse might be blamed on something more sinister than mere stupidity. Can smart people really make this many bad choices? Or was there some deliberate effort to run the company into the ground, impoverish shareholders and put the proceeds into the pockets of a few top dogs? Sounds incredible, but this full story hasn't nearly been told.

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