Letters Watchdogs needed

To the editor:

I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of Neil and Lynette Melby in remaining actively involved in keeping a watchful eye on the city council and, more specifically, Mayor Kozak. Their dedicated service to the community is important to anyone who believes that citizens have rights. For example, when the city council illegally refused to allow a public vote on the Chestnut Street project, the Melbys spent their own money for legal action to protect the public's right to vote on citizen referendums. The importance of that action became evident when the city council accepted a citizen petition for a public vote on the city hall project. The city council had learned its lesson and the right of citizen referendum was preserved.

Mark Dahl recently criticized the Melbys for keeping a watchful eye on the city council and, more specifically, Mayor Kozak. As both a council member and a citizen, I have watched Roger Kozak in office. To my dismay, I have learned that Mayor Kozak does need watching. I have seen Mayor Kozak make public statements that I knew were not correct.

Among other examples, his testimony during the Chestnut Street trial was impeached. When Neil Melby disclosed that fact to the public, Mayor Kozak said Neil was lying. I was in the courtroom during the trial, and Neil was the one who correctly described what occurred at trial.

Indeed, Mayor Kozak's statements to the public and his sworn testimony to the court were in direct conflict with one another. I am personally disappointed and deeply saddened by Mayor Kozak. I have lost my confidence in him.

I thank the Melbys for their time and effort on keeping a watchful eye on the city council and the mayor. I only regret we don't have more citizens who are actively engaged in questioning and evaluating the policy decisions adopted by the mayor and the council.


Frank Slagle


Let's work for positive solutions

To the editor:

I want to thank the Plain Talk for implementing a policy that permits a person to have an opportunity to review and respond in the same edition to "Letters to the Editor" when allegations against individuals and/or groups are being made. Such a policy will allow readers to hear both sides of a story and will permit them to base their conclusion on a balanced presentation of the information.

I will not take the time nor consume the space in this edition to address the individual Chestnut Street issues that Mr. Frank Slagle again raised because that detail has all been provided in previous editions of the Plain Talk. Rather than just repeat what has already been reported in the past, I will attempt to focus my remarks on where I believe our concerns are today.

Mr. Slagle states in his letter "As both a council member and a citizen, I have watched Roger Kozak in office. To my dismay, I have learned that Mayor Kozak does need watching."

I find it very unusual that Mr. Slagle would make such a statement. As a former member of the council I would think that he would want to be a champion of the democratic process and would be the first to explain the nuances of our system. It is a well-known fact that in our aldermanic-manager form of government, the mayor is only one vote of nine. However, by virtue of the fact that the mayor is elected at large, it is the mayor's responsibility to represent the majority opinion of the city council and work to implement decisions that are made by the council. It would be totally inappropriate and unprofessional for the mayor not to work towards implementation of policy that has been approved by the majority vote of the members.

To continue, I must say I was very surprised to read the letter from Mr. Slagle regarding the Chestnut Street project. I believe we are all very much aware of how much the Chestnut Street topic was discussed some 12 to 18 months ago. There was much written and much said about both sides of the issue.

In addition, there were two referred votes by the citizens before final resolution was reached. In the Feb. 21, 2003 issue of the Plain Talk, Mrs. Lynette Melby stated in an interview "it is time for healing and time to let voters decide the fate of the Chestnut Street project."

At the conclusion of all the activity, I wrote a letter to the Plain Talk for the April 11, 2003 issue and included the statement "Let's all move forward from here and concentrate our energies on making Vermillion the best place to be."

I think everyone is very much aware of how far apart Lynette, the city council, and I were on the Chestnut Street issue. And yet, during the voting and when all was said and done, Lynette and I stepped forward and asked everyone to do what we can to end the bitterness and to begin to move the city forward.

It would be my hope that Mr. Slagle (and others who continue to harbor such intense negative feelings about the past) would pause and take a look at where we are today and reconsider their present actions. I would hope that they would make every effort to join Lynette, the city council, and me as we try to find peaceful solutions to issues that are before the city.

It is true that it is unlikely that everyone will always be in 100 percent total agreement. However, just because individuals express different opinions, that should not be a reason to divert our attention and energy away from the issues and towards finding ways to attack and harm individuals who are doing nothing more than expressing their own personal views.

Freedom of speech is a cherished right that has been afforded each of us for many years and we should all respect everyone's freedom to exercise that right. Think of how much good could be accomplished if all the negative energy being expended to tear things down were to be redirected towards finding positive solutions to the challenges before us today.


Roger L. Kozak, mayor

City of Vermillion

City out of compliance

To the editor:

This communication is for the entire population in the city of Vermillion and The University of South Dakota community.

The university and the city have made signed proclamations to encourage the historic preservation of assets created by the people now in their graves. The purpose is to honor living and the dead. Seventy buildings have been demolished since the time I came here in Jan. 1, 1993 that I know of.

The city of Vermillion has adopted laws that it is required by the same laws to administer in a professional, legal, and transparent manner. The city has been out of compliance all the while.

Many groups have come before you on many occasions knowing this is the only public forum they can afford. They do not know that if you do not correct the grievance within 10 days they may simply go to the judge's chambers and request a hearing.

The council assuming the duties of a board of adjustment has not yet learned the scope of those duties. The law, as I have read it many times, implies how important it is to operate, at times, with the special knowledge of an "Architectural Board of Review."

The Zoning Ordinance 474 tells us that the city council and the county commissioners may select four people each to be that board of adjustment. However, the city council has decided to assume all those duties themselves.

The problem with this arrangement is that the council listens to someone without adequate credentials to be a building inspector. The skill to explain why a building detail needs correction is necessary. That officer must follow the rules in the Uniform Building Code, and Zoning 474.

Last November 2002 the city code enforcement officer was successful in getting a court order to abate a nuisance at my home and sculpture gardens. That court order became a demolition of $20,000 in replacement costs of historic preservation materials and temporary shelters permitted in a building permit that I purchase from the city.

I have been left with an $80,000 recovery cost. The court believed the city official. The taped meetings of the council show a very different story.

Matthew Williams


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