Things have been pretty quiet here on the Forum. I've been out drumming up new business for Sanborn Advertising. And Bob is, well Bob is Bob. He'll be back.
So, let's take a year-end look at how our fair city is doing.
MAYOR SAM KOOIKER
Kooiker took the helm of the Good Ship Rapid City after defeating incumbent mayor Alan Hanks. He was sworn in on July 5, after a contentious race. Hanks had told voters that he had balanced the budget for years without tapping the reserves. It turns out, he'd been tapping reserves for some time.
Kooiker was immediately faced with a budget crisis. And, he and the new council responded admirably.
His next task was to fill a vacancy at the head of the city's public works department. That position was filled with Terry Wolterstorff, a former city engineer in Gillette and Belle Fourche.
In today's Rapid City Journal, there is a story about how the city has reduced the number of executive sessions, but that the city continues to use executive session as an excuse to do the city's business behind closed doors at a higher rate than most South Dakota communities.
It's a start. And, I've no doubt that the mayor intends to make further improvements toward transparancy in government. He has done much to keep city residents informed. The Decorum Forum has been on the City's Press Release mailing list for some time. Somebody in former mayor Jim Shaw's administration took us off. Mayor Hanks' administration sent press releases that were usually designed to enhance Hanks' campaign.
Kooiker's administration has kept us up to date on every city meeting, it's agenda and even last minute changes to those agendas.
Monthly updates on the city's financial condition are designed specifically to keep the city informed.
He also is cutting costs, beginning with his decision to drive his own car. He exchanged Hanks' 2010 Chevy Tahoe for a 2007 Impala, which is used only for official business. The Tahoe was given to the Police Department as a patrol vehicle. He's making a lot of small cuts, that will in the long-term make a difference.
Kooker amended the travel policy to not allow per diem requests unless there was an actual expense. And he reinstated a policy requiring council approval for trips costing more than $5000 per person or department.
He declined a free membership to Arrowhead Country Club, asking that it be given to The United Way. (The country club was insulted and declined to extend the invitation to United Way.)
He instituted extended operation hours for primary city department offices.
He's taken steps to update city employees on business that affects them and has sought to increase employee involvement, while increasing morale.
Kooiker also has established a polling place in Lakota Homes, providing easy access to the polls for previously disenfranchised citizens.
Kooiker was also faced with the loss of two Rapid City police officers and a third who was severely injured. The mayor handled the tragedy with elegance and style.
Kooiker remains committed to increasing the water supply line to the airport and to moving the Jackson Springs and Mountain View water projects along in an effort to assure the city has adequate clean water into the future.