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Huether: Government Not a Business, Just LIKE a Business

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?


  1. PNR 2014.03.17

    "But we are not Republicans!"

    We say the same thing when told we should take positions advocated by the Democrats - affirm the ACA, drop abortion, etc. - "But we are not Democrats!"

    vive la difference

  2. larry kurtz 2014.03.17

    PNR is the definition of RWNJ.

  3. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.03.17

    "Of course, Sioux Falls voters' only other choice for mayor is a Republican businessman. Can anyone tell the difference?"

    Well, he is not offering to give the extra money collected in the city's share of the SALES tax back to homeowners as that Pub is. Why would any politician ignore half the voters, the renters? Why not give it back to the voters by repealing the city's share of the sales tax on groceries. that way everybody who has paid in gets a share of the rebate.

  4. Rorschach 2014.03.17

    Mike Huether is the best mayor Sioux Falls has had in my decades-long memory. He is getting things done for Sioux Falls. Nobody is going to agree with any politician 100% of the time.

    The alternative to Mike Huether is an intensely negative guy who wants to buy votes for $37 each on average by taking city sales tax money and handing it out to property owners based on the value of their property. So if you own a fancy house, you get more than $37 of sales tax money. If you can't afford a house you get none of the sales tax "rebate." It's a typical Republican take from the poor and give to the rich scheme. Hopefully Sioux Falls isn't going to buy into that nonsense. I suspect Mike Huether will be re-elected handily, and Sioux Falls will be the better for it.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.17

    There's the problem I'd face, R: Huether may be better than a Republican wealth-upward-redistributionist, but that doesn't make his own arrogant bull any easier to swallow. Can you guys just keep him in Sioux Falls so the rest of us don't have to vote for him?

  6. Mike Quinlivan 2014.03.17

    I have been a Democrat since I registered to vote at age 18 in Tracy, MN. As I have grown older (32), I have seen people switch parties, and the "zeal" of the converted has always worn on me. This whole purity test, corporate-dem junk is crud, simply put. Jamison is an ass, an entitled jerk. Yeah, Mayor Mike rubs people the wrong way; so what? He has been in charge of people at a bank, and he knows how to get things done. You have to push people hard to move an organization forward. Mayor Munson, Mayor Jack White, etc. seemed to forget that. To bring jobs to a town you have to play patty-cake with some of the bad guys. That's politics; and something many of my wonderful Democratic brethren seem to forget. I know for a fact he was active for an extremely long time in the state party before he ever popped his head up to run for office. He's paid his dues.

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.17

    The gist seems to be, "An icky person can be a good politician."

    I can agree with that.

  8. Joan Brown 2014.03.17

    Karl, you beat me to it. I absolutely can't stand the man. he gets things done, however, only for the well to do. He hasn't done anything for the low income, seniors or disabled. There are a lot of us that won't be able to set foot in the Event Center because of the cost of tickets. Of course there are a lot of us that can't afford to even attend a movie. There again, even for the people that can afford to do things, in the senior and disabled categories because of lack of transportation. The Mayor's voice sounds like a smarmy sales man and when he talks he waves his arms around like he is trying to fly. Too bad he doesn't take off into the air.

  9. larry kurtz 2014.03.17

    'Karl Whethers' is PP by any other name.

  10. Mike Quinlivan 2014.03.17

    Mr. Whethers,

    Was FDR a Democrat? JFK? Both came from families so rich that they never had to work a day in their whole lives, excepts in their political aspirations. That did not make them any less a Democrat, or less great in their accomplishments. Am I comparing Mayor Huether to these guys. No; just pointing out, that at least he worked for his money.
    Secondly, I would like a Mayor, a Representative, anyone actually, who knows how the market actually works. How to actively engage those who are economic drivers, and believe in a proper role for government to be involved in this. This is Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz stuff. Look at the amount of income-based housing going up around town, the repairing of roads that Munson ignored for years.

    Lastly, no one forced people to sign up for a First Premier Bank Card, just as no one forced people to sign up for Citibank or HSBC cards, all companies that the Mayor worked for. I willingly go without credit cards, as I actually read past the "0% for the first 12 months" part. I forget, where in the City Charter does it state that a Mayor must not engage in capitalism, or hold the burden for all adults who have, as individuals exercised their free will to apply for a credit card they could ill afford to have?

  11. Karl Whethers 2014.03.17


    So doing marketing for one of the worst loansharking businesses in the United States is inadmissible as far as you are concerned?

    And you are correct, the poor do not need to sign up for First Premier Bankcard, but many have few options. When Mike got in bed with First Premier he voiced his opinion: screw the poor. Nothing like an honest days work of reaping that 79.9% interest rate off of the poor folk. Hey its a liven'!

    And what of Mike’s wife getting in on TIF projects?

    Our man Mike is a Democrat on paper only…

  12. Mike Quinlivan 2014.03.17


    Yes, I would say it is inadmissible. Did he set the rates? Was Steph Herseth not a Democrat when she voted against the credit card interest limits?

    I didn't know that there were jobs that were Republican or Democrat. Interesting. Please enlighten us as to what we may do for a living Weatherz. A doctor? No, poor people can't afford the bills. A manager? No, that exploits excess labor capital that belongs to the worker!!! An oil driller? Please, think of the environment, not about feeding your family.

    I invite you, "Karl" to join the real world. If Heuther were to be anything on paper, it would be a republican. Democrats have no power in this state. That fact that Mayor Heuther choses to remain one speaks a lot about dedication to a party and an idea. Hell, my old landlord Steve Hildebrand, a democrat through and through, worked with crazy pants republican Annette Bosworth on some stuff. Is he a Democrat on paper also?

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.17

    I think there is a moral aspect in everything we do. I think becoming terribly wealthy in work that takes advantage of those with less intelligence, experience or more desperation is immoral.

    The world is full of ways to make a comfortable living without causing someone else pain. I have a credit card from my credit union. Interest is 8.9%. It's not going to change. Previously I banked with Wells Fargo. I had a good job, worked hard, paid my bills, put money in savings, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, life insurance, 401k, etc. Then I became ill.

    I couldn't work for a full year, had catastrophic medical bills, and have not been able to work at my vocation full time since. Wells Fargo wiped me out and pushed me all the way into bankruptcy. They did that by piling fees upon fees so that I became overdrawn by more than $2000. The original amount was $39. My credit card went past the limit and interest exploded to 34%.

    What Wells Fargo did to me is no different than what they've done to a few million other American citizens. Premier Bank Card does the same thing. The exploding fees and interest rates are not designed to create a comfortable living for the people who work there. Nor is it to pay a decent dividend to stockholders. The goal is to pay employees the least amount possible, make value grow, and obscenely reward executives.

    The means and the end are both immoral.

  14. Mike Quinlivan 2014.03.17


    Did your illness fall under the requirements needed for the Family Medical Leave Act?

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.17

    No Mike.

  16. Rorschach 2014.03.17

    And so it was, Deb, that the Nobel prize is financed by the invention of dynamite and the sale of weaponry used to kill people.

    Many would consider T. Denny Sanford's method of amassing a fortune to be unsavory. But someday, that fortune may result in a cure for juvenile diabetes. That arguably ill gotten fortune is currently being used to build clinics in Africa, China, and yes - here in the U.S.A., and may save countless lives.

    Contrary to your claim, Deb, Premier Bankcard provides employees with a comfortable income, and not just executives. Premier is not a big box W store or a fast food M restaurant forcing employees to rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Your experience with health issues and debt is unfortunate, Deb. Bad things happen to good people, and that will always be the case. But the question at hand is who would be the better mayor of Sioux Falls - Mike Huether or Greg Jamison? The answer to that question is clear to me.

  17. Mike Quinlivan 2014.03.17


    That stinks; it really does. How such a serious injury could not fall under FMLA in this day and age is puzzling to me. My 22 year old sister in law died of cancer last year. She complained of pain in her knee multiple times, yet the doctors at Avera Queen of Peace in Yankton said it was nothing to worry about. Until, however, a mass of malignant tumors formed around her artieries and almost killed her. Oops. Is that Averas fault? Or the CEO of the Queen of Peace hospital. No; it is not logical to blame those in an industry where people die for every death or misdiagnoses. How is it any more logical to blame Mike Huether for the abuses of an industry that has been engaged in such behavior long before he came along.
    Regardless, the sins of Wells Fargo do not make Mike Huether a poor mayor. And that was the discussion.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.17

    Rorschach, I appreciate the reasonable tone of your comment.

    It seems that you're referring to a trade off. If good things come from bad, does that make the bad okay?

    I don't think that's the question. Let's take Bill Gates as an example.

    He has contributed $billions to very worthy causes. That's good. But . . .

    What if Gates had doubled the pay for the folks who manufactured the discs Microsoft software was sold on? And the people who packaged them for sale. They were paid the very least amount possible. If they had been paid better, what contributions might they have made?

    Gates sold computers cheaply to poor people. If he had charged only what he needed, rather than as much as he could get, maybe those people could have bought their own.

    We'll never know the answers to these questions because he didn't do it.

    REI is one of the most successful outdoor sports outfitters in the world. It's a co-op that pays employees well. Common Roots is a popular cafe in Mpls. They pay their staff $3 over minimum and they are successful. Thrivent is a world wide financial services company. They pay their CEO $800,000 total compensation. Another big financial services company here compensates their CEO $92 million.

    My point is, draining every cent possible from a businesses' customers, is not the only way to do business. It is an immoral way to do business . Further more, it is not good for an economy and the people who live in it.

    Finally, if Huether is an "impoverish 'em" kind of businessman, he's not a good mayor.

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