Belle elections are coming up this spring after a dramatic last couple of years.  Being that we’re all human, our city government isn’t perfect, but I believe they’ve gotten a lot more structure and put more effort into developing a budget that works and doesn’t keep raising our taxes.  In essence, they’re putting more effort into actually working for The People they represent rather than themselves and their buddies.

I’ve also noticed our tax dollars getting put to work for us by being invested back into the community by updating all of our parks and getting projects done that had been on the back burner since 1996 (Nope, that’s not a typo, either), as well as saving up (instead of more debt for us to pay off) for a new police department. They did all of this while cutting taxes by $100,000.

Seeing all of these updates that make our town more inviting, beautiful, and like our city actually cares about how it looks has made me wonder: where has all of our money been going for the last 20-30 years?

I’ll admit that this is admirable work after decades of complacency by former councils and mayors and I appreciate what they’ve done so far.

I was asked the other day who I’d vote for when it comes to who’s running for mayor: Randy Schmidt or Randy Sowers?

For the first time in my years of being able to vote and never missing a chance to vote, I’m at a point where I don’t know if I’ll vote in the mayoral election.  I don’t feel either of them have earned it.

Before I go on, I want anyone reading this to remember this is only my opinion. I’m not trying to sway your vote either way.  I’m just sharing my thoughts as just another voter in this world of local politics.

While those on the council have done a good job working to get Belle back on track, which includes both Randys, there’s 2 missing pieces that would make our city government the best government in the state.  I believe those pieces are healthy communication initiated by them to their constituents, and upholding the rights of The People over upholding the egos of fellow city councilmen/officials.  I’m not saying it’s only them, either.  I’ve noticed this is a common and accepted behavior by almost everyone in government towards taxpayers.

When it comes to communication, I’ve noticed that for decades, our city government would talk about something they wanted to do concerning an ordinance and it would cause a lot of drama, and hate and frustration would come from both sides.  I’ve tried to suggest ways of better communication in order to avoid this situation that would lead to forging a healthy and trusting relationship between taxpayers and our city government, but our city government didn’t seem interested about it, so I’ll share my ideas here:

I believe that the first step to developing a healthy relationship with constituents as a public servant would be to have a social media account(s), which majority do anyway.  However, many don’t when it comes to the Belle Fourche city government or, if they do, they don’t take advantage of the amazing tool it can be for them to engage constituents in an efficient manner.  If I was a public servant, I’d use my social media account to inform those I serve of how the government works, how certain parts of it are set up and the ideal way they should all work together.  Some things I’d talk about could be:

  • Funds
  • The city checkbook
  • How the city makes the budget
  • Go through the Capital Improvement Plan and what we can expect to see
  • WHAT ARE: ordinances, the capital improvement plan, etc anyway?
  • Upcoming ordinance discussions
  • Brainstorming sessions the council has to help keep improving our town
  • What does a city councilman, a mayor, a finance officer, a city admin, etc actually do?

The social media accounts could be fantastic because they’d offer a level of transparency that I really don’t see very often by many in government.  I was also concerned how much this idea was fought against by those in my local government because they’ve been made to be afraid of utilizing it by government attorneys, it seems.  If any of them have a social media account, it’s not being used to its fullest potential.  I believe that if they were, it would be one major way that current city officials could prepare those who may be interested in serving their community in that capacity by teaching them in this form.  It would give people the confidence to get involved and actually be ready to go, more or less, from the first day because they would be able to follow the processes and have it explained to them by someone doing it, who was willing to talk about it, explain, take questions, and do it objectively rather than try to keep people in the dark.

So far, the only person I’ve seen do this to an extent is city councilman Clark Sowers.  He uses his social media account to share things such as when there’s extra branch pickups after storms and tax rates to show how the city went down while the county and school went up.  These at least make a great start.  Following incoming Ward 3 city councilman Don Elliott’s page, I have a feeling he’ll probably utilize his social media account in some form as I described here.

My last concern is how the city council as a whole has failed to uphold the First Amendment rights of The People when it mattered most.  I’ve personally experienced being cut off and berated, which is illegal since it violated my First Amendment rights, while I tried making a public comment by a city councilman, yet no one in that room said a word while he did it.  I had another city councilman call me to berate me and bully me for talking about that situation and how that councilman treated me in my social media group with other taxpayers.  On top of that, the city council falsely accused my husband and I of seeking favoritism from a councilman for the business my husband worked for, yet they did no investigating whatsoever and never questioned us to see if it was even true (it wasn’t, by the way).  I did nothing wrong in each of these instances and I was well within my Constitutional rights the entire time, and nobody in the city government, including the mayor, the police chief and the city attorney, spoke up in defense of the Constitution while a taxpayer’s rights were blatantly violated by a public servant.

This kind of behavior and how no one in the local government did anything to protect our Constitutional rights that they took an oath to uphold and defend, along with their refusal to try something new that would actually benefit them and probably make their jobs easier, has given me pause and leads me to where I am now: no one has earned my vote.  They didn’t defend my rights to speak, my rights to express myself without being punished by my government through false accusations and intimidation tactics, and they’ve still done nothing to make it right.  They still will choose to protect each other when it really matters. And to this day, nobody on the council has done anything to rectify the situation by offering any kind of apology.

On top of this, they will observe even more terrible behavior by those in the county government and will still remain silent and seem to “go along to get along” rather than ensure the Constitution and our rights within it are upheld.  What makes me sad the most is I respect most of these people and see them as William Wallace saw Robert the Bruce: he saw Bruce’s potential as a fantastic leader and told Bruce he’d follow him if only Bruce would stand up and fight for The People.  I’m still waiting on any of them to stand up for The People.

A person who will earn my vote is one who has the ability to think for themselves, ask pertinent questions so they know the full scope of their job and exercise the checks & balances that exist but are rarely used to hold government accountable.  I want a person to represent me who will also ensure my Constitutional rights are upheld no matter what, especially when those rights are violated by fellow public servants. I want someone that isn’t afraid to speak up.


                                                                               Constitutional Rights > Egos


So far, I haven’t seen anyone in our city or county government put Constitutional Rights before egos.  Therefore those in the mayoral race haven’t earned my vote.  I question their motives for running, their abilities to make their vision for Belle happen, and what their vision is in the first place.  Due to their lack of action when it comes to defending Constitutional Rights that we legally have,  I don’t believe they’re the leaders we hope they’ll be, but rather two sides of the same coin.


I say this all but, again remind you: Belle has still turned a big corner compared to where we were a few years ago.  I just hope we can keep making things better and stay on the path we’re on now that could eventually lead us to a bright future.


May the best man win the election!