Holding ourselves to our standards

I want our readers and our state legislators to think about this for a moment.

State legislators make $6,000 a year and are generally expected to attend a handful of cracker barrels in their home legislative district during session in addition to who knows how many other public forums to face scrutiny on any issue legislators might put forth. Sometimes they’re grilled, sometimes they’re praised, but they bravely face the public. Being a legislator can be a thankless job, but imagine if instead of $6,000 they were paid $170,000, given a large staff and instead of public forums and cracker barrels, they could choose tele-town halls paid for by tax payers with pre-screened questions – and no reporters. My question is: why do we hold our part time legislators to one standard and those at the federal level to another?

Last Thursday night while visiting friends to watch an NFL game, their phone rang and it was Congresswoman Noem’s voice asking them to join in on the tele-town hall.

I haven’t been a supporter of tele-town halls since 2009 when they became popular for Democrats to use during the heath care debate in order to avoid the real thing. This article in the Argus the other day highlights the problem:

(Noem)She hasn?t held high-profile town halls, an issue she criticized Herseth Sandlin on… Noem has proven to be risk averse. She has tried to blunt that by hosting nearly a dozen telephone town halls, in which a large audience is telephoned and given a chance to ask Noem questions. Of course, the questions are screened and the process controlled. And as far as I know, the press hasn?t been given a chance to listen in… The calls have been paid for out of her office account, not her campaign account, and Democrats say they are another version of franking, the process incumbents use of sending out mailers at taxpayer expense.

I’m going to admit reading this part of the Argus article really was disappointing. Think about how we felt when Herseth Sandlin and Tim Johnson avoided holding public town halls during the health care debate. If we Republicans want to have credibility on this issue, we must hold those we support for office to the same standards we expect of Johnson and Herseth Sandlin. Few things annoy me more than office holders finding a way to avoid public discussion with voters. During the 2010 election when Noem frequently criticized Herseth Sandlin for not holding town halls, I was hoping she’d hold several of her own. Who should understand the importance of public forums offering public discourse more than Congresswoman Noem?

Noem said South Dakotans have been loudly opposed to the reform law and wanted to tell their congresswoman that. But she said Herseth Sandlin refused to hold town halls to receive input on the plan.

We have an incredible number of issues that are extremely important to the future of our country, and I have a real problem when constituents’ questions can be prescreened in calls at a tele-town hall forum that their tax money is paying for. I don’t care what party an elected official belongs to or how perfect they vote on the issues. Constituents have a right to be heard.

I’m sure it would be easier for our part-time legislators if they were to hold tele-town halls with prescreened questions, but I can’t imagine the news media or the constituents would appreciate it.

30 Replies to “Holding ourselves to our standards”

  1. Anonymous

    Totally reasonable in my opinion. Everyone regardless of party should do their civic duty and hold a town hall. Lots of elected officials hold “round tables” or closed meetings but very few actually hold a public meeting where you and I can go and ask them what they are doing about the price of gas or whatever affects the working person.

    Noem has held pine beetle meetings and flood meetings (Johnson hasn’t even done that – I will never vote for him) where we could submit a question to a staffer to be viewed before asking but when it comes to the issues of the day she has not openned anything up to the public.

    Noem will always get my vote against any dem but as Thune would say it’s TIME!

  2. Anonymous

    ANON YOU GUYS SAY ONE THING AND DO ANOTHER .Thune say he supports veterans then votes against mandatory funding for all veterans, even letting his own bill die.Said he would support ptsd funding then votes againsr Iraq veterans yes its time to get rid of all of them including your party.

  3. Anonymous

    Hey Krist is the kitchen getting hot .Lets have some of these town hall meetings I have some seniors who want to talk to you about medicare.

    1. 73*

      Then why don’t you hold a meeting with Obama since he is the only president in history to cut medicare funding and his payroll tax cut is diverting funds for current social security recipients.

      Obama is the one hurting Medicare and Social Security not Republicans. And that is one reason Noem and her colleagues should hold town halls. They could easily explain this.

      1. 73*

        $500,000,000,000 (BILLION) in cuts from medicare to help pay for Obamacare. Ask him if he is deliberately cutting retirement safety nets.

        1. Anonymous

          is it a cut in funding or is it redirected back to health care via a different name/procedure????? Please tell the truth not a half truth. If it is totally removed and never returns to hcare then he is messed up if new name/procedure something is a lie or a attempt at hate.

          1. Anonymous

            It is totally taken from the health care for the elderly and spread over Obamacare. That is why architects of Obamacare such as Tom Daschle, or was it Obama himself, said the elderly may have to suck it up and take a couple of aspirin instead of getting treatment. I guess we are just too old to waste money on.

              1. Rapid City

                Yes Obama is ruining this country! It is time for us to come forward and advocate what we stand for! I believe Kristi is more than capable of this. She is a blessing for South Dakota! Kristi you and John Thune can hold them together and push for real change in this state and country!

                1. insomniac

                  I find it odd that Obama wants to take the money from payroll tax cuts and hurt SS that way and also wants to take 500 Billion from Medicare and he gets away with it.

                  on the town hall issue newspapers should quit covering politicians running around our state for photo ops unless they hold town halls.

  4. the real anon

    I think we need more people like Ron Paul who aren’t afraid of their own ideas. People who are excited to state their case, not shy of doing so.

  5. 73*

    It’s a good point that every year I can go and listen to the legislators and ask them questions in public who represent me at the state senate or house.

    Last year our legislators took a lot of heat from the school districts at public meetings but they still did it. I have a lot of respect for those people willing to serve.

    Noem should hold 3 town halls a month and most of the people who attend will likely be her supporters.

    1. J Rae

      That would be great! Does anyone still have the Tea Party memo on how to disrupt Democratic town hall meetings that came out during the health care debate. Seems to me there was something about yelling, making people afraid, shouting down opposition….am I missing anything?

  6. Anonymous

    With the payroll tax cut looming now is the time for a town hall. From all three of our elected officials.

    1. Anonymous

      That’s good. But how does it apply to holding our elected officials accountable?

      That might apply to name calling, being mean or offensive. But my hope is that Pastor Hickey didn’t intend Republicans and others to not hold our party leaders accountable. Then this is the exact symbol of elitism that currently represents the problem.

      1. J Rae

        “…But how does it apply to holding our elected officials accountable?”

        So you’re saying that Stace and the gang’s tactics are the only way to hold the party accountable?

        Don’t forget that some of Stace’s group is questioning party members Christianity if they don’t follow their guidelines. Sorry Pastor Hickey, but those are the rules that have been laid out.

        Of course, what can we expect when the NRA doesn’t even put Christmas in their holiday greeting cards.

        1. insomniac

          I’m sick of Republicans screwing up and then pulling the Reagan’s 11th commandment card… How about we start following through on our word.

          Stace and his band of folks are good people but a little nuts. Leadership is a bunch of good people but they are a little clicky. How about they find a way to get along?

          And how about Noem finds a way to follow through on her campaign promise about holding town halls?

          1. Anonymous

            I listened in on a recent tele town hall she had and every call they took was a fluffy question from someone who was clearly conservative (as am I). She took one from a guy who was obviously a Ron Paul supporter who had concerns about the military detaining someone indefinately. But every question was conservative or a plug for her. Most of the callers were very passionate.

            Just so everyone knows I voted for her and will do so again.

          2. Anonymous

            No town hall meetings unless the party is able to ask questions. No question will be asked that could give bad lite or require a Yes or NO. 10K words that go no place is the form of the answer…….

  7. Rapid City

    I’m proud of Kristi and her service in DC but this could become an issue in the election if she doesn’t start doing these. It’s the people’s house!

    Varilek is going to be well funded and will know the issues. This payroll tax issue isn’t helping right now either. Everyone needs to pick their battles and this is not a winner. Right but not a winner.

    I don’t see how Varilek wins but people are not committed to Kristi like they were to Herseth in 2006 or 2008. If Varilek makes the case he will do well enough to get people’s attention.

    And if Republicans are serious about making real change then they will need to take the message to the people! Kristi and John Thune could go town to town and get the newspapers to cover a town hall in every major city in this state. I hope they do because they are very capable of changing public opinion.

    Thank you Kristi and John! You are true public servants!

  8. grudznick

    I’m the biggest supporter of our state legislature that there is but remember that the $6000 they get is for two months ($3K a month) plus they get a couple of hundred dollars a day for food (another $6K or $7K) and then the LRC feeds them for free almost every meal every day so they never have to spend that food money. So that’s not such a bad deal. I’m just sayin…

    I still wouldn’t do it. But it does pay well, at least to an old man like me.

    1. J Rae

      Grud, I’m thinking that $3K a month is a crappy and insulting salary. If we had them work 12 months a year that would equal $36K which is less than the national average for a new college graduate.

      Why is your mind set that South Dakotans aren’t worth much?

      1. Arrowhead

        Anyone who says legislators only work 2 months out of the year are totally living in a fantasy world. Legislators attend meetings year round and ulike DC pols they don’t get to send staff – they have to go themselves.

        It’s a 12 month job for two month of session pay.

    2. Anon

      Don’t know where that couple hundred dollars a day for food comes from….must have missed that part while I was there… darn!!

      Also, never remember LRC buying any meals…

    3. Anonymous

      No complaints due as they are well aware of pay and work days. If you do not like it do not run……………