There are some Democrats out there who think Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether is just peachy. I suppose if the former bank executive were running against Dennis Daugaard or Kristi Noem or Mike Rounds, I'd have to think about voting for him.
But I might have a hard time pulling the lever for Huether, because sometimes he comes across as a hair-splitting jerk. Consider Mayor Huether's appearance at the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum on Friday, March 14. Jennifer Holsen notes that after evading a question from Bruce Danielson about the city's selective effort in educating people about ballot measures, the former bank executive rather snootily shot down a comment from a fellow Democrat about government not being a business:
Audience member: Government is not a business. It was never made to be a business, it was never made to be run by a business. Businesses can do things behind closed doors. Businesses can be [inaudible]... Businesses can fire at will without any excuse or obligation [inaudible]... Government is not a business.
Mayor Mike Huether: And guess what: I never said that it was. You weren't listening strong enough. I never said... I said... we will run government LIKE a business.... I said we should run government more and more LIKE a business. That is exactly right. I've seen the trails and tribulations fo being in government and how different it is than [sic] business. I've seen it. I understand it. I understand that you've got more checks and balances. It takes longer. But where we can run government more and more like a business and ultimately get more and more things done, I think that we should [Sioux Falls Democratic Forum, 2014.03.14].
No, Mayor Huether, the woman in the audience is listening plenty "strong", as am I, as is anyone else who hears your rhetoric and concludes that you think you should run City Hall the way you ran Premier Bank.
Read Mayor Huether's campaign website. He doesn't position himself the way he momentarily pretends in his "you're not listening" response. He doesn't emphasize that government is different from business and celebrate the checks and balances of democracy (and notice that even when he talks about the differences, he seems to address them with disdain—oh, woe, the delays and inefficiency of checks and balances!). He looks for every opportunity to emphasize the need for more business-y practices in City Hall to justify keeping his all-business brain in the Mayor's chair.
Mayor Huether won't win this argument or justify his put-down of a constituent by putting like in a bolder font. It's like when I hear some political friends tell me that Democrats need to run more like Republicans—tack center, drop the Affordable Care Act, don't speak up for abortion rights. When I respond, "But we are not Republicans!" I am not saying that my interlocutor said we are Republicans; I'm making the point that running like Republicans is fundamentally incompatible with our nature and our goals.
In saying, "Government is not a business," the woman in the audience was not attributing a quote to Mayor Huether. She was attributing a mindset, a misguided, pro-corporate mindset. In snarkily semanticizing, Mayor Huether reinforced the woman's point, that he is committed to a mindset that is anti-democratic... and anti-Democratic.
Of course, Sioux Falls voters' only other choice for mayor is a Republican businessman. Can anyone tell the difference?