What The Hell Is Going On in Harrisburg?

For some reason, all forms of government these days absolutely detest the idea of open government. They want to do as much of their work as possible behind closed doors, with absolutely no public oversight besides ghost-written soundbites designed primarily for future campaign ads or TV news programs.
Our federal government is as secretive as it has ever been. Our executive branch has had a “just trust us” attitude since the moment they arrived in office, and have fought all demands for information regarding meetings with other lawmakers, lobbyists, and even their own staff. Just a few days ago, they issued an order barring the Secret Service from making visitor logs public.
Congress is no better. Much of their work is done in secret, closed-door sessions that until the last election didn’t include any input from the minority party. Quite often bills were completely re-written in the middle of the night by the Rules Committee, or are handed to representatives just minutes before vote. That’s one of the methods that allowed many controversial provisions of the Patriot Act to become law.
If secrecy is good enough for national politics, it must be just fine for the locals. The Governor’s office has battled with the state’s media ever since Janklow was in office, and our dim-witted Mayor’s term has been embroiled in many controversies regarding secret meetings and fund-raisers.
One would think that the supposed non-partisan nature of school boards would ensure that openness was a necessity. School systems generally thrive on the input of both parents and students. Yet the Harrisburg School Board has been embroiled in controversy for the last couple of years, and the primary issue is the lack of communication between certain school board members and the populace that elected him.
I’ve tried my hardest to understand exactly what is happening in that growing community, and nobody seems to know…or at least is willing to tell the whole story. I’ve heard a few allegations of family members and friends of school board members getting preferential treatment in acquiring school system jobs. I’ve heard a few tales of an overbearing school board micro-managing every move of the high school principal and staff. Yet it’s impossible to get real details to support these allegations.
What we do know is that over the last two years a number of teachers have left the district in response to the school board’s actions. We also know that it took a pep rally-ish demonstration last year to convince two administrators to remain on the job for another year. Most importantly, we now know that an extremely well-liked principal will not be returning to the school district that he has been a part of for 27 years.
This decision went down Monday night despite a standing-room only crowd that had gathered to attempt to sway the school board’s decision. They simply didn’t matter, as they were not allowed to speak. Even those listed on the night’s agenda as speakers did not get their turn.
Instead, the school board voted to go into a secret “executive session” to discuss the future of Keith Huber. After an hour of deliberation, they returned to vote 4-1 against Huber and immediately adjourned. No further discussion or explanation occurred. Obviously, the crowd was not happy, and they let their feelings heard as these chicken-shits sneaked away into the night.
Yet there may be future repercussions from the school board’s actions. The state’s open-meetings law allows “executive sessions” to occur only if there is “pending litigation”. When asked by a TV station immediately after the meeting if there were any legal issues discussed, Board Chairman John Loos admitted there was none. Attorney Todd Epp has already filed paperwork with Lincoln County States Attorney Thomas Wollman and SD Attorney General Larry Long asking for an investigation.
Knowing the way our state operates, it’s unlikely that Wollman or Long will do anything beyond holding a press conference. But it’s time that the people of Harrisburg take matters into their own hands. Why not recall these ass-clowns? There’s got to be some way for the people to reclaim power. One way to fix this mess is information – can we finally get some detailed data on exactly what Jon Loos, Dan Hensch, and Ron Albers are doing to create such bad blood?


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