Friday, April 9, 2010

Steve Hickey stuns group of pastors as he gives up on the abortion issue

Heh. Made ya look. Actually, he very graciously skipped the question important to him so that four candidates for Mayor of Sioux Falls had time to respond to other pastors' questions about other issues.

The lunch time forum allowed local evangelical clergy to hear candidates address matters of particular interest to Christians. For the candidates, it was a welcome respite from their by-now-robotic responses to "Whaddaya gonna do about the Events Center?"

Four of the six candidates were able to attend: Bill Peterson, Kermit Staggers, Pat Costello and Janoct Ajda. Vernon Brown and Mike Huether sent written statements along with their regrets.

The range of questions was stimulating and stereotype-busting. There were the expected questions about porn businesses, computer gambling "casinos" and the removal of overt Christian content from public discourse - but alongside these were questions of commmunity infrastructure and quality of life, candidate fiscal policy and significant concern for how to support Sioux Falls' growing and diverse immigrant population. Spiritual questions helped the candidates relate some of their formative life influences and values.

All of the candidates presented thoughtful responses when it came to the First Ammendment's guarantees of religious freedom and equality under the law for all belief systems. All extolled free expression for all faiths - including Christians - rather than a "naked public square" with only "secular" language for public discourse. Staggers, who teaches at the University of Sioux Falls, criticized public education's failure to study religion as a powerful and prevalent influence in the real world. All were 100% against any effort to impose taxes on churches.

While all agreed that porn businesses and South Dakota's abortion facility are blots on the city, all also agreed that resistance to such influences must come through moral persuasion and example. Peterson was emphatic that attempts to zone such businesses into "red light districts" create more urban problems than they solve. Costello said, "If people want Lodgenet to stop selling porn, they have to stop buying the movies." All agreed that any legal resistance to gambling would have to be at the State level, as the codes give municipalities no say in the licensing of every-corner casinos. In the most provocative language of the session, all of the candidates agreed that Pierre is "addicted" to gambling revenue, and that reducing it would result in reductions in public services.

Janoct Ajda continues as the most out-of-the-box candidate. Part street preacher, part pilgrim monk, part prophet; he doesn't stand a chance of being elected but he challenges people with values from the kingdom of God.

My favorite post-meeting moment was when my wife told Kermit Staggers to get a navy blue suit. He was in tan today and darned if Melissa wasn't right - it made him look pale. Navy would favor his hair, eyes and complexion. He said he has one at home.


caheidelberger said...

I am encouraged to read that the candidates appeared to focus on common sense solutions ("stop buying porn" -- indeed! demand is the issue, not supply!) rather than moral grandstanding. I also appreciate the apparent focus on issues that are the proper realm of city government. At the city and county level, the typical culture-war/values voters issues just aren't very relevant. Local government is about filling potholes, paying the cops, and getting kittens out of trees.

TLF+ said...

Cory - very good comment. It is always infuriating when candidates speak to (are asked to address) hot-button issues that their office will not be able to impact.

When we lived in CA, candidates for Governor were always asked about their abortion views - even though CA has "right to privacy" written into its Constitution and the Governor has no impact on the issue (it would take the overturn of Roe v. Wade, followed by the State Legislature amending the Constitution, before any changes to the state laws could even be discussed - it would take more time than any Governor would serve before the issue even presented.)

Your summary of municipal gov't is spot on - filling potholes, paying cops and getting kitties out of trees - and I think the candidates are staying to those sorts of issues pretty well.

I think the big discussion in Sioux Falls is how much (or if) the City should fund "quality of life" enhancements such as a new Events Center. A worthwhile discussion with good arguments on both sides.