Ah, the Fourth of July, when we all come together as Americans with a shared love of country and dedication to our common cause in building a free and democratic community...
...unless you're in Rapid City, in which case the mayor and city council members continue to throw rocks at each other. Last week, Mayor Sam Kooiker said that racism may have driven council members Charity Doyle and Bill Clayton to turn down his first choice for Rapid City police chief. Now council member Bonny Petersen takes to John Tsitrian's blog to say the mayor is unjustly and divisively playing the race card to distract from his own inability to lead:
The Mayor knows the real reasons the vote was no, he knows it has nothing to do with heritage, yet that is what he suggests. He attacks two council members to divert attention from the real facts—that the selection process was adequate until it got to Mayor Kooiker. Once there, Mayor Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence. Let me repeat, Mayor Sam Kooiker and only Sam Kooiker failed to do his due diligence. He chose to ignore information that eight of us could not. He can say whatever he wants and point his finger outward, but the fact remains he made a mistake. The eight no votes were a no to a bad decision; it was not a vote for a preferred candidate....
The negative methods that Mayor Kooiker clings too and has mastered so well are the reasons the majority of the council no longer trust or respect him. Is this the fault of the individual council members? I think history clearly shows there is something about the way Sam Kooiker conducts himself that alienates people that work closely with him. (It is not his causes—many of us support his causes—it is his techniques.) Not playing well with others is fine until it undermines the city—and Sam Kooiker pointing to racism on this vote though predictable is beyond disappointing—it is outrageously irresponsible [Bonny Petersen, quoted by John Tsitrian, "Rapid City (SD) Alderwoman Bonny Petersen Responds To RC Mayor Sam Kooiker's Post Dated 6/27," The Constant Commoner, 2014.07.03].
Alas, Petersen doesn't tell us the real reasons for the council's rejection of Lt. Elias Diaz as police chief. Petersen says she cannot tell us, since council members are legally bound to keep personnel matters confidential. She says the mayor takes advantage of that confidentiality to throw mud at council members that they can't wash off with the confidential truth. But she does contend that playing the race card makes it hard to deal with real racism in Rapid City:
Our city has real race issues without making them up for political gain. We have police out on the streets twenty-four hours a day and the last thing they need is our Mayor claiming governmental racism, when he knows it had nothing to do with the vote. He betrays our community by using race as a political weapon. He undermines the huge efforts made throughout our city every day to alleviate the effects of racism [Petersen, 2014.07.03].
You won't find Mayor Kooiker and Councilor Petersen sitting together at the Independence Day concerts at Main Street Square this afternoon. But before and after the hot-dog-eating contest at 3 p.m. (not during—it's impolite and bad strategy to talk with your mouth full), feel free to discuss with your neighbors the causes and extent of the division between mayor and council and among different groups in Rapid City... as well as what can be done to bring those opposing parties together to sustain a functional community.