Thursday, March 31, 2011

Building a Revenue-Generator

A Downtown Events Center Will Create Good Jobs, Help Fund Sioux Falls Schools & Benefit the Entire Community by Keeping Property Taxes Down

Expanding Property Tax Revenue
Property taxes, which are the basic funding component for the schools, drawing 67% of the property tax revenue, must be a major consideration for Mayor Huether and the City Council.

The land associated with the Arena site does NOT provide the opportunity for extensive private development. A review of all land adjacent to the Arena site indicates there is very little private land available for development at the Arena. The result is a loss of additional property tax revenue that could be generated by private development associated with this $100 million public investment.

From the Sioux Falls Business Journal:
One Developer’s Perspective of the Arena Site: An Area 'Still Kind Of Limping Along' -- Doug Brockhouse grew up in the neighborhood, which has been known through the years as West Sioux. He also owns a business, Arena Storage, on West Second Street. Some of the streets are at unusual angles - such as the diagonal Burnside Street - because they were built around a huge military base. Remains of some of the barracks still are visible in the neighborhood.

Today, the area "is still kind of limping along and nothing has really ever taken flight out there," said Brockhouse, a principal with Bender Commercial Real Estate. Brockhouse doesn't envision much more development if an events center is built there. "I really don't see much growth out there because of it," he said. "I really don't." (Sioux Falls Business Journal, Dec. ’10)

Conversely, building the new events center along the river greenway at Cherapa Place will spur development in a way out city hasn’t seen since the opening of the Empire Mall. Much land has opened up for private development in the downtown area – especially along the river and in the uptown area of Falls Park. Additionally, with the re-location of the railroad out of downtown, 16 acres of prime real estate will open up for parking and development opportunities. Developers and entrepreneurs are looking for the city to spark their plans with a new events center, which will bring upwards of 500,000 additional visitors to the downtown area. Possibilities for public and private partnerships will be extensive.

Collecting More Sales Tax RevenueThe sales tax impact is equally important, and an important consideration in locating the events center is the amount of increase in city sales tax it will generate. After all, any financing will most likely be secured by sales tax revenue bonds, regardless of the location.

Recently, local television stations interviewed out-of-city residents about their preference for an Event Center. The consensus of the brief report was something to get in and out of easily. We want the center to be convenient for out of town visitors. But we must be careful to not make it too convenient --- we need visitors to see the best of Sioux Falls, have a great event experience so they come back again and again – and we want them to stay and spend money. This does two things: (1) it generates economic activity, which generates jobs, and (2) it generates sales tax revenue, which helps pay principal and interest on the bonds borrowed to build the events center.

Locating the EC on a site that allows visitors to easily flee Sioux Falls will continue to be very costly to Sioux Falls taxpayers. If the location causes SF to miss other opportunities for development, it will sacrifice economic activity, additional property tax revenue and jobs.
Source: Build It Downtown Facebook Page

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leadership, A Learned Skill

I got the following joke from a conservative friend of mine the other day. You know how jokes, etc. float around on the Internet and Facebook and go viral.  I tried to track down the source for credit but to no avail as is usually the case when you receive such forwarded stuff. Who knows if it is true or not. It doesn't really matter.  It is pretty humorous and indicative of a lot of people we probably know in our daily lives who may exhibit the same kind of "leadership" traits.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who don't listen first or get the facts before acting. Human nature, lack of security in one's self, a grandiose sense of importance, call it what you will, those traits or characteristics can wreck havoc in our daily lives and in the workplace. This joke might be an over the top, hilarious exhibition of those traits, but somehow, I am sure it will hit home to anyone who works or has worked for a boss who acts before having all the facts. Here it is:

If you've ever worked for a boss who reacts before getting the facts and thinking things through, you will love this!

Arcelor-Mittal Steel, feeling it was time for a shakeup, hired a new CEO.  The new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers.

On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning against a wall.  The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know that he meant business. He asked the guy, "How much money do you make a week?"

A little surprised, the young man looked at him and said, "I make $400 a week. Why?"
The CEO said, "Wait right here." He walked back to his office, came back in two minutes, and handed the guy $1,600 in cash and said, "Here's four weeks' pay. Now GET OUT and don't come back."

Feeling pretty good about himself, the CEO looked around the room and asked, "Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-ball did here?"

From across the room a voice said, "Pizza delivery guy from Domino's."

There were two people in my professional life who made an impact and always suggested ways to improve one's abilities. They both gave me excellent suggestions on reading material about leadership. I don't care who you are or what you think of yourself. The day you stop learning and the day you stop trying to be something better than who you are is the day your skills in the workplace stop being effective. Just because you are in charge or are the top dog, doesn't mean you know everything.

Professional speaker, author and consultant DeeDee Rapp (JourneyWorks), who specializes in communications and customer service suggested the book, The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, to me. It is an excellent book for self awareness and personal growth.

T.J. Reardon, businessman, banker and consultant specializing in identifying and developing strategies to remove obstacles limiting one's success in the workplace, suggested the following books as a training tool for the city management team back in my work days. These are excellent books and good reading as well when you are in positions of leadership in any organization. There are 4 in the series and all of them are must reading: The Five Temptations of a CEO, The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and The Death by Meeting.

Good leaders are never smart enough or good enough and should constantly listen, learn and work to improve their skills. The learning process never stops no matter how old you, what your position is in an organization, or where you are in life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MIA - State of the City Address

One of the many duties of the mayor, as spelled out in the City Charter is the duty that the mayor communicate with the city council on the affairs of the city. The City Charter states:

Section 3.03.  Mayor's duties and responsibility.
The mayor shall, at the beginning of each calendar year, and may at other times give the council information as to the affairs of the city and recommend measures considered necessary and desirable.

This duty was dubbed "The State of City Address" way back in former Mayor Hanson's term of office. It was presented every year of former Mayor Munson's term of office.  

It was an exercise of information gathering for all departments.  It was used to communicate information on an annual basis to not only the city council but to the citizens of Sioux Falls on the accomplishments and the status of affairs of the city . It was a big deal. It was considered an important speech by the mayor. It was given serious attention.

It is now March 29, 2011. I think the State of the City Address is MIA.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reel Dakota Film Society

Tonight I went to Reel Dakota Film Society's showing of the Swedish box office hit "Simple Simon" at the Belbas Theater, Washington Pavilion. I was not even aware of the Society until my niece's store, Holsen Hus, became a sponsor for this Swedish film. The theater was practically full and it was wonderful to see so many people take advantage of this alternate movie offering.

I have never been intimidated by watching a foreign film with sub-titles. I find it fascinating, actually. It is amazing how easily one adjusts to watching the subtitles and listening to the foreign language spoken by the actors. You become so lost in the story telling that the foreign language almost becomes a melodic backdrop to the story. This was a sweet and sad comedy about an 18 year with Asperger's who wanted to find a girl friend for the brother he loved and lived with. It was just a fabulous movie and I was so glad I ventured out on this cold March night.

Reel Dakota has a number of film offerings over the next 6 months and will be hosting a film festival in October of this year. Not all the film offerings are foreign films with subtitles. Actually, in April,  Reel Dakota Film Society will host the world premiere of YOU DON’T KNOW BERTHA CONSTANTINE directed by Andrew Kightlinger, a Pierre, South Dakota native and an Augustana College graduate.  Go to their website for more information on their April film offering. 

The Society is offering an outstanding opportunity for those who love to go to movies to view films that are not normally offered to the general public in Sioux Falls.  I feel fortunate to live in a community that offers it's citizens a multitude of events in the areas of  music, theater, sports, and arts. You can't say there is nothing to do here.

 Reel Dakota Film Society is a non-profit organization. Check out their website and their Facebook page. Kudos to the people who started this organization and are committed to bringing these movies to the general public.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Is the Railroad Relocation Project Still a Top Priority for the Mayor?

On November 5, 2010, I wrote a blog titled Downtown Development/Railroad Relocation Project (City Business label).  I cited the following in part: 

In the Mayor’s first Ask the Mayor segment on Citilink/Channel 16 one of his priorities coming into office was the railroad relocation project. He said, “We believe strongly that we can get that accomplished pretty quickly and we need to.  It’s money sitting out there that can help us grow jobs, grow the economy as well as get us prepared for development in downtown Sioux Falls, so let’s take advantage of it.”

Mayor Huether made another comment on the first Ask the Mayor program about not knowing why former Mayor Munson hadn’t got this done but that it was a priority for him. He said it should have been done a few years ago because it will develop Sioux Falls, develop downtown and that we needed to take advantage of the dollars by the Federal government. He said he tasked Cotter and his team to get this done.

On November 15, 2010 the mayor and staff gave a presentation to the city council in which they laid out a plan and timeline whereby the tracks would be removed by 2014.

The architect from Denver recently said  the tracks won't be moved in time for the Event Center project. Has the timeline for this project changed from the target date of 2014 for the removal of the railroad tracks?

Where are those quarterly updates promised last year? It's the end of March 2011 and nothing yet from the administration. What is the status of that congressional earmark of $40 million? What about that Environmental Assessment?  It would be nice to hear a status update from the consultants and staff on this project soon.

This railroad relocation project impacts the parking criteria related to the site evaluation for an Event Center. Between 800 to 1200 parking spaces are in question because of these railroad tracks. There is speculation of some feet dragging on this project in order to cement the parking issue for an event center location.

A lot of questions about a project that the mayor said was his top priority when he began his term as mayor. I think the good folks of Sioux Falls need an explanation on this railroad relocation project.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Women’s rights and the never ending battle over abortion.

Abortion…is there any other subject that evokes such vitriol and division in this county, in our states, in our communities and yes, even within families?  Sometimes I wish Roe v Wade would just be overturned so that this fringe of the Republican Party no longer has a bully pulpit to spew their rhetoric. 
I would venture to guess that most people who are on the side of “Pro Choice” are not in support of  abortion and would  never want to be faced with an unwanted pregnancy and the thought of ever having to contemplate such a procedure in their personal life.  
This debate, however, is about freedom of choice and individual rights for WOMEN.  It is ironic to me that this is the same group that is always citing the importance of individual freedom and limiting government intervention in our financial and personal lives and yet wants to involve themselves in limiting the individual health freedoms for women.  
This is about the rights of a woman whose body is transformed by pregnancy, the one who must labor in birth, the one who becomes in most cases the primary caregiver.   We all wish for the rosy scene of an intact family, a loving husband who provides support both emotionally and financially, but reality sometimes paints another entirely different picture. 

What is a girl to do when faced with the prospect of raising a child on her own without any support from the child’s father, from her family and yes, even the government and general public who look at her in disdain for being a single mother and berate her for being lazy, for not getting a job as she uses food stamps at the local grocery store or pulls out her Medicaid card at the clinic.  We taxpayers love to hate these freeloaders, these mothers and their babies. How do we reconcile these contradictory actions?
We look down on the poor and lower income class.  We decry the use of tax dollars for programs to help women and children.  We moan in disgust at those single women with 2, 3, 4 children with no father in the household to help out.  We sit by and do nothing for homeless families.  We decry that our tax dollars are used for education, for programs that support families and children, for school programs that provide hot meals so kids get at least one or two hot meals a day.  We don’t step up and adopt any of those unwanted children languishing in foster care most of their lives.  We don’t want to fund WIC or Head Start for the economically disadvantaged or Medicaid for the lower income class. How did we become this uncaring nation? 
People don’t want to talk about birth control, contraceptives, or give education to young people to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Families aren’t involved enough with their children providing information about risky behavior to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Goodness, half the time parents are so busy working two and three jobs to support their families; they don’t seem to even know where their kids are or what they are doing.  We give them everything, but our time and attention or an education in morals. Not every family is like this, of course, but not every girl is facing an unwanted pregnancy either. 
Is abortion the answer? I hope not.  Is abortion the alternative to birth control?  I fervently say no.  Will abortion go away after we pass all these laws to restrict it?  No, it won’t.  And it won’t go away when you overturn Roe v Wade either.  It will just be done in secret like it was before.  Let’s just go back to the way abortions were performed prior to Roe v Wade.  Let  the wealthy women who can afford them travel to where ever it is they can easily get one in privacy and let the poor women get them in the back alleys or at home with coat hanger like they used to. Let’s just kill off the mothers instead from botched abortions and infections.
The SD Legislature and Governor Daugaard did a disservice to the citizens of SD who have spoken through the ballot box that they did not support legislative action to restrict women’s rights.  They aren’t listening to the majority.
Half of all states, including SD, already require a 24 hour waiting period. I personally don’t have a problem with that 24 waiting period. SD is the first to require a 3 day waiting period and a trip to a pregnancy help center.  She must now see a physician, then a pregnancy crisis center and then back to the physician again. There is no argument that having an abortion is a gut wrenching decision for any woman.  There is no argument that counseling is important. But, this new law seems to be the personal agenda of Roger Hunt and Leslee Unruh who just happens to have a vested interest in the very pregnancy crisis center women in SD must now be sent to. 

SD is still fighting a lawsuit from the 2005 legislation passed that required a provider to tell a woman that abortion ends a human life and that abortion raises the risk of the woman to suicide.  The AG’s office won’t say how much defending that lawsuit is costing SD, citing “attorney/client” privilege. That statement is so baffling, considering it is being funded by tax dollars, OUR dollars, so aren’t we the client and aren’t we as citizens of the State of SD entitled to know how much of our tax dollars are being spent to defend ANY law that is being challenged in Court and defended by the State of SD Attorney General’s Office!!!!
Leslee Unruh, owner of the Alpha Center, says now that she got this new law passed and signed into law, her next goal is to raise money to defend it in Court.  The SD legislature and Governor passed a law for its citizens knowing it was going to face legal challenge on the premise that Leslee Unruh and Roger Hunt would find private money to defend it?  Does this not seem right to ordinary citizens of this State?
How did we get to the point where religious fanatics have somehow taken over to interfere in our legislative and private lives?  The citizens of SD have voted down these over the top attempts to project their religious beliefs on ordinary citizens and still this legislature passes more laws and the Governor signs the bill against the will of the majority populace. 

This law is a contradiction to the State's majority party position of protecting individual freedom and limiting government intervention in our personal lives.

If the legislature and the Governor believe this law is constitutional, then they should not rely on private money to defend it.  Hypocrisy and poor government at the highest level.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Ongoing Saga called Event Center

I went to the the Information Meeting on Monday, March 21st at Carnegie Town Hall. It was the first time I actually went to hear the Event Center Update Report in person. I usually just catch it online. The place was pretty much full of people which was good to see. People actively participating in their city government. I just wish people would get out and vote at city elections, but I digress.

The important people of the Event Center Update are the consultants. No doubt about it. They did a nice job. Why then do we have to start every update session with inane bullet points and comments that sound like a sermon or lecture on how it takes time, we still won't all agree, communication strengthens confidence, the city council is doing their part and providing leadership, the insatiable demand for more, we need to remain professional and respectful, we are continually learning and we are getting smarter, Sioux Falls, bla, bla, bla.

I just wish the mayor would get up and introduce the consultants and let them give their progress report. I don't think I am the only one who is tired of his meaningless introduction and endings which essentially provides nothing more than the sound of his own voice with no facts and meaningful information related to the progress of the project.

The Site Evaluation Criteria gave Cherapa the nod as the best downtown site with two problem areas: available parking and the ability to share amenities and space. The consultant looked at sites all over town including the mall area. Cherapa and Arena sites are still the best two sites after all the studies that have been completed over the years. So, I guess the people that still want the Event Center out by the interstate or out at the mall need to come to terms that those sites aren't viable for an Event Center.

The consultant said the traffic issues related to the Cherapa site have been laid to rest by the consultant. They do not believe there are traffic issues for the downtown location. All this talk about retailers wanting it downtown so they can make money is a bunch of bunk. The retailers are not the drivers of the downtown location, they are supporters of the downtown location. Sure they will benefit from the Event Center being downtown. At least there are shops and restaurants downtown in which to frequent. There is nothing out at the Arena/Convention Center. This cockimamy idea of driving in and driving out in 15 minutes is unrealistic and finally, we hear that traffic is not an issue with a downtown site.

What else did I hear at the meeting?  Well, I heard that the building, whether built at Cherapa or the Arena/Convention Center, will be comparable. The Convention Center provides additional floor space but otherwise the building built on either site would be pretty similar.  Parking will be the difference in identifying the best site for the Event Center.

Both sites require adding additional parking. Walking 5 blocks in the winter is not a positive for either site. Unfriendly walks at both sites. The Cherapa site needs 800 to 1200 spaces and the railroad tracks are a problem. The Arena/Convention Center site needs to add parking spaces as well in order to make it work. Options there are taking green space (McCart Park), maybe Legion building, buying houses, etc. in order to build additional surface parking. It seemed to me that the consultants felt the options to add parking spaces at the Arena/Convention Center were easier to solve than at Cherapa. Those darn railroad tracks.

The consultant said we need the right amount of parking on the first day it opens. Well, that just about sums up the decision on parking to me. Those darn railroad tracks. Sounds like a done deal to me.

What would happen if a major concert sold out to capacity at the Arena/Convention Center site and there were other events going on out there? I was told the consultant said it would max out parking and they would have to limit other events. That doesn't quite make sense to me. Most sporting events, conventions, etc., are booked in advance. Concerts usually get booked based on tour dates. Sometimes with not a lot of lead time. So if they get an opportunity to book a big concert and there are already events scheduled at the Arena or Convention Center are those other events going to get bumped because it would create a parking problem?

Everything you read about Event Centers is that each one has a major anchor. Who is the major anchor for our Event Center? When asked, the consultant said, the main anchor is basketball, football, hockey,  but no, they haven't talked to any of the sports teams yet. Why not? Will they come to the event center or will they stay at the Arena? When will those discussions take place? Will it happen before the public vote? Will the answers be included in the final report presented in April? If these sports teams go the Event Center, who is going to use the Arena?

Consultant says that construction costs are escalating and there needs to be continued momentum to keep the focus on a November vote. The longer this goes on, the more millions it will cost to build the Event Center. Well, we all know that this has been a long process, and the more we talk and no action the more it is going to cost. Still, rushing to a decision without all the information is not the answer either. I hate it when government moves forward on a project without thinking through all aspects. That usually costs more money too. You usually miss something big or you do something on the cheap because you didn't plan the costs right. So all you people out there who keep asking questions and slowing down the process just stop it. You are costing the project money. I guess we should just be quiet and accept what we are told by the mayor and his team, no questions asked.

Two big things are going to happen on April 18th: the economic and develoment analsis will be completed and the city will present the final report.

Councilors asked what next after that and what would the ballot look like? I had a hard time following the mayor on that answer. First I thought he said the Council would decide, then he said if they couldn't decide he would decide. I am not sure who is going to finally decide. Who knows what the ballot will look like, we just know there will be ballot in November.

And I am really interested in hearing what those short-term "nice to haves" are that conflict with longer term, more expensive needs of Sioux Falls. He says,"It is unrealistic to build a new events center for Sioux Falls without sacrifing somewhere else." What exactly are we going to give up in order to complete the mayor's vision for an event center? I think that needs to be brought out in the open, quantified, listed out, whatever so we know exactly what we are giving up to get this vision of his completed. I look forward to hearing that at the final report the week of April 18th.

I am still waiting for the financing plan. Saying the city should allocate the $3.8 million in unobligated funds from the CIP as a downpayment to the $15 million cash component of the financing plan seems like a pebble in a huge lake to me. A $100 million project and we talking about a $3.8 million downpayment at this late stage. I am thinking we need something more substantial that that little bit of information.  We've got a long way to go, good folks of Sioux Falls, to see a finance package before the November vote.

As the mayor pointed out in his slides:
  •  I know it seems slow, but hang in there!
  • Thank you for your time.
  • Good things to come, Sioux Falls! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

General Fund and CIP - Healthy Reserve Fund Balances for the Event Center?

The city's Director of Finance gave an excellent presentation on the December 31, 2010 Monthly Financial Report at the Informational Meeting on March 14, 2011.

There are two reserve funds that everybody is salivating over as sources of money to build an event center: the General Fund's unreserved fund balance and the CIP's unobligated fund balance.

The General Fund is the city's primary operating fund. It's major sources of revenue are 1st penny sales tax and property tax. Expenditures are used to fund wages and benefits, professional services, repair and maintenance, supplies and materials, utilities and other non capital costs for departments of police and fire, libraries, park and recreation, health, planning and building services, engineering, pw administration, mayor, attorney, city council, human resources, finance, central services, facilities management, media services arena, and convention visitors bureau.

The CIP (Capital Improvement Program) is a plan that lists, by department, major capital projects related to infrastructure and building design and construction. It is funded primarily by second penny sales tax.

The General Fund’s Unreserved Fund Balance started with $41.1 million balance and ended 2010 with $41.7 million. The City Council sets the unreserved fund balance target at 25%. At year end 2010, it was at 33.7% which is well over the minimum policy level. Good news for the city's financial picture and better positioned than other municipalities across this country running a deficit.

But should we start rubbing our hands together and plotting how we can use that money to fund the Event Center construction? The city better save that money because they are going to need it to operate the Event Center, if and when it is actually built in the future. To my knowledge, general fund unreserved fund balance has always been used for operating expenses and has never been used for construction projects. This money should not be used to build the Event Center – ever!

The CIP has an unobligated fund balance of $3.8 million at the end of 2010.  In yesterday's Argus Leader, Councilor Jamison said the mayor wants to set aside savings in the CIP for an Event Center.  The mayor responded by denying he wanted to set aside the money for an Event Center.

Interesting comment by the mayor considering the Finance Director stated on March 14th he would advocate putting the $3.8 million in the CIP unobligated fund balance as a down payment to the cash component figure of $15 million identified in the mayor's financing plan for the Event Center.

Let's consider this. There was zero sales tax growth budgeted in the CIP for 2010 and the mayor budgeted zero growth in 2011. I suppose it’s not outside the realm of possibility that there could be a couple more million built up in the CIP unobligated funds at the end of 2011 because of the budgeted zero sales tax growth. But what about the huge road backlog, the uncertainty of the River Greenway Project, all other projects that should take priority over this down payment of an Event Center project that doesn’t even have a formal finance plan identified yet?

The Finance Director also stated in the March 14th presentation that the city won't borrow money for anything but capital programs and would never borrow money for operating expenses. They shouldn’t use the general operating fund unreserved balance for construction of capital projects either.

Back in October 2010, the mayor identified the General Fund Unreserved Fund Balance as his source for the $15 million cash component of his financing plan for the Event Center. $25 million would come from private sources and the rest would be funded through bonds which would increase the city's debt obligation to what, we don't know yet.

The city has an outstanding debt component of $227 million at the end of 2010. 79% of the outstanding debt is for the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, water and wastewater system improvements, storm drainage improvements, Eastside Sanitary Sewer and Flood Control. There are two Quality of Life Bonds, one for the Main Library, Harmodon and Drake Springs, the other for the Greenway, Zoo, and Westside Library. The Convention Center/Pavilion Bond finally gets paid off in 2014. 

Healthy Reserves?  I for one do not think there should be any action on using the General Fund unreserved fund balance or the CIP unobligated reserves for the Event Center until the financial plan is completely and comprehensively laid out to the general public.

All this rhetoric about healthy reserves is just that, rhetoric at this point. There is too much economic uncertainty and infrastructure needs to be plotting how to spend what little increases have been achieved to date in both reserves. Oh, and the fact that there is no financial plan presented by the mayor to date for the Event Center.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's a Sad State of Affairs at the City

According to the latest article in the March issue of BIZNOW and the recent article in the ARGUS LEADER, we should be thankful that the current mayor got elected to save the city administration from their lack of business acumen all these years.

"I want my office to encourage conversations and produce results," he says, "I want people to get excited about Sioux Falls, to dream big for this city and its future." That's wonderful, I just wish he didn't portray the organization before he came to the office of mayor, as mediocre, moved too slow, didn't think creatively, didn't think outside the box, and had no business acumen.

"I come from corporate America. We always valued opinions, valued dissent. But ultimately to stay alive you had to get stuff done, make tough decisions. If you did that, you moved forward. Otherwise, you were out of business ..."  Hearing him say over and over again that he is from Corporate America is like fingernails on the blackboard.

Value dissent? I think not. From what I hear, dissent is the last thing he wants to hear. He views dissent as a negative player on his team. Here is what he says about negative players: "..if you're a coach, and you've got negative players on your team, get rid of them or they can take the whole team down. I'd rather have someone who is willing to work their tail off in a positive way in the spirit of the team but maybe isn't as talented. I'll take them any day over the big stud who is difficult to deal with, whose got nothing better to do than complain all day." Big stud? Someone not so talented, but at least doesn't dissent? You have got to be kidding me. So a yes person, with average or mediocre talent is better than someone who speaks up and challenges him.  That is an interesting way to be a leader and manager of employees. Great leaders listen to all sides of the issues to come to the best result. Great leaders are not afraid of dissent.  Great leaders welcome differing views and opinions. Great leaders don't tear down, they build up.

"In the events center discussion, sincerely we are going way above and beyond in terms of communicating with the public about this unbelievably convoluted project. But because it is so convoluted, every time we talk it creates more rumor, speculation, innuendo, posturing and politics. That's when you go, 'Gosh, how are we ever going to get this thing done?' " I guess I didn't realize that when you talk about something, communicate with the good folks of Sioux Falls, it creates all that terrible stuff. Maybe just once, he should look within the "I" of himself and see if maybe, just maybe, as the CEO (his description of himself even though his actual title is Mayor) of the city, his leadership on this project is making it convoluted.

"I really do believe I am trying to be the most transparent, available and open mayor the city has had, and the people love it.  Honestly, other government officials have started following my lead."  Rumor has it that those ordinary good folks of Sioux Falls aren't hearing back from the mayor when they contact his office. There really is no end to an ego the size of Mount Rushmore. And, who are these government officials who have started to follow his lead anyway?

I have tried to believe this mayor was going to be good for Sioux Falls. I really have. But his constant rhetoric about how fortunate we are to have his business acumen, his corporate background knowledge, his communication skills in dealing with people is wearing me down.

News flash, Mr. Mayor. The city of Sioux Falls did not get where it was before you arrived on the scene without it's own business acumen capabilities. Goals and objectives, results oriented, fiscal responsibility were all there before you were elected. The one thing you haven't learned yet is, that as a new employee, you had a lot to learn about the operation of local government.  Listening and learning about your new organization, the Charter, Ordinances, civil service rules, understanding it's culture and the employees wasn't something on your agenda as demonstrated by your actions to date. .

What a new culture you are creating by tearing down everything that has come before you because, after all, you are the only one who has all the right answers and the only one who seems to know how to get something done right.  WRONG!

"My mind is always racing. During my campaign, I had some of my most creative ideas at 1 or 2 in the morning and guess what Sioux Falls…I’m still waking up at 1 or 2 in the morning today! Only this time it’s not about my campaign, it’s about the city. I’m thinking how we can make things better, how we can do things differently, how we can capture opportunities? There are opportunities in city government everywhere I turn. This job is so much fun!" The ARGUS LEADER identified this week Sunshine Week. Guess what good folks of Sioux Falls.  The mayor is waking up at 1 or 2 in the morning, but not in Sioux Falls this week. This hardworking mayor is in Arizona for the week enjoying the sun. He's been on vacation to Mexico, a couple trips out to the East Coast, went to the Super Bowl, and now gone to Arizona. And he's only been in office 10 months. City Charter 2.04 states in part: The mayor, but not the council members, shall participate in the city's employee benefits programs which are available to other management employees... That means health insurance, life insurance, vacation and sick leave accruals. Hmm. Working man!

It's a sad state of affairs at the City.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Travel From Senior to Elderly

When I turned 60, I did not feel like I was entering the senior citizen level of my life. That same year, my Father turned 90. He had just stopped playing golf a year or two before. He stopped driving last year on his own when he came to the conclusion he was no longer sure of himself. He has been a powerful role model in my family. As he grew older, he became proud and vocal of his advancing age. He loved asking people to guess how old he was so he could tell them he was in his 90's.

Senior is a state of mind. One can be a senior and still have the vitality, drive, and mental acuity of someone in their middle years. You see them everywhere. They are me.  They are traveling south for the winter. They are engaged in politics. They are maintaining friendships and meeting for morning coffee or lunch. Some say the 60's are the new 40's. I don't know that I would go that far, but I do know that the 60's of my grandparent’s era are not the 60's I am currently experiencing.

But suddenly, something called elderly sneaks up on you. That body starts failing you in some very cruel ways, even if you managed to be fit the majority of your life. You can see it in the way the person moves. It takes longer to explain something that was easy to comprehend before. Names and relationships escape from memory. Things that were important aren't anymore and minor things become obsessions. Anger appears to compensate for confusion. No driving outside of the city limits. An absolute refusal to accept the fact that staying in a house with multiple levels and steps is just not accessible or safe any longer.

Elderly has become my father. I knew his life was advancing; after all, he is 92. But it kind of sneaked up on me until it exploded into full blown reality this month. This is a man who still played in a men's pfeifer card club and delighted in taking all their quarters. He went out to lunch every day with his wife. They shopped together, went every where together. The real change was that now she was the primary driver.  Granted, he was moving slower, but he was still participating in life.

The first subtle hint was when his older brother died two years ago and he felt afraid to leave home to go to his funeral in Moorhead, MN. Then, after many years of spending Christmas in Sioux Falls, he became afraid and didn't want to leave his home, even though I would drive to Mankato to pick them up and take them home again. His younger brother died in January and all of a sudden, I think he realized he was next and that death was coming for him. He said he was now alone. He was the last one still standing in his immediate family. He started to retreat into himself.

He got sick this month. He has never been seriously sick.  My step mother couldn't wake him one morning. Scary, because he was always up early to eat his breakfast and read the paper. The emergency room. Pneumonia and congestive heart failure was the diagnosis. That event just seems to cement what he feels is the end.

It is interesting how family members' roles change as age advances. Once a caregiver now becomes the recipient of care by one's child. I get the sense he has given up. He doesn't want to play cards anymore. He doesn't want to leave the house. He just wants to sleep. He sees no reason in going to the doctor and he rages over all those pills he suddenly has to take each day. He looked at me yesterday and said, I am not going to live until I am 100, am I? He so wanted to do that and I had to say, no Dad, I don't think you will meet that milestone. He is withdrawing from his life. 

My Dad has been blessed with a good life. He survived the Pacific in World War II and came home with a rank of Captain. He arrived home 5 years later shoving what he says was a horrible time in his life deep inside him. He got married, got his Masters and became a high school principal. Although he lost his first wife, my mother, to cancer when she was only 57, he found love and companionship again and they have enjoyed a wonderful 25 senior years together. His faith has been with him all his life and will be with him until the end.

One of the sadness and heartbreaking things that has occurred in his passage to elderly is his sudden flashback to the war. He has started to talk about it a bit, but I know that it is painful for him. He says he lost so many good men and friends. He questions why God spared his life and hopes and prays God will forgive him for the the things they had to do in the war. It breaks my heart. A good and honorable man who in the twilight of his life now seems to remember the darkest part of his life.

I am sadly resolved to this passage in my life. I pray the end of his life does not diminish how he has lived his life. I pray he does not suffer.  I will be so sad when he leaves us, but I will celebrate his life and all that he was to his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. He has touched many young people's lives all those years he was a teacher and principal. His death when it comes will be a celebration of who he was.

What more can you ask as you travel from youth, to adult; to senior, to elderly. A life well lived.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What shall we cut in the River Greenway Project?

It looks like nothing is easy when it comes to River Greenway Project. KELO TV reported that there are now hidden costs associated with this project. There is an additional $1.4 million contingency built into the quality of life bond to deal with unexpected construction issues like this. At first, the general consensus was that the mayor was going to go ahead and spend the money to do it right but based on this news story, it doesn't look like it.

The city is obligated under an agreement with the Cherapa property owner to build that segment of the greenway as it appears in the River Greenway Master Plan. If the mayor cuts costs and changes the whole concept of the master plan, it might expose the city to potential liability under that agreement. Contingency funds are for unexpected changes that come up during construction which is expected and not a surprise in a redevelopment site like this one.

There are probably some things that could be adjusted to deal with these ongoing issues but if his approach is to do it on the cheap then I think the whole thing needs to be reassessed. Costs in construction, costs related to a potential agreement liability. There are legal issues involved here. Let's hope the Mayor's "business acumen" is sharp as a tack.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cheaper Flights Out of Sioux Falls?

I just heard a rumor that Frontier Airlines is coming to Sioux Falls with flights starting in July to Denver. Wouldn't that be great if it turns out to be true?

Public Input at Standing Committees of the Council

The BID group was booted off the city council's land use policy committee on February 28th.

Here is what city ordinance says regarding standing committees:

Sec. 2-26.2.  Standing committees of the council.
The council shall establish a fiscal policy committee, a land use and development policy committee, and a public services policy committee as standing committees of the council to serve in a research and advisory capacity only.
(Ord. No. 117-99, § 5, 11-15-99; Ord. No. 121-99, § 5, 12-6-99)
Note: Formerly § 2-36.

"To serve in a research and advisory capacity only".  If that is the purpose of standing council committees, someone needs to remind Councilors Rolfing, Litz and Anderson that they serve the public. Rolfing made a motion to stop BID's presentation. Erpenbach voted no, Rolfing voted yes and  Litz and Anderson didn't vote. Rolfing didn't think the presentation was just about land use policy. He said, "It is a highly charged events center presentation."  It is a sad commentary when our very own elected council members vote to stifle public input. A rule that says an abstaining vote means a yes vote is a head scratcher. I thought abstaining from voting meant the same thing as no vote or, at the very least, meant no vote counted at all.

Appendix E of the city code of ordinances, The Preamble of the City Council Code of Ethics says:

The stability and proper operation of democratic representative government depends upon the continuing consent of the governed, upon the public confidence in the integrity of the government, and upon responsible exercise of the trust conferred by the people. Government decisions and policy must be made and implemented through proper channels and processes of the governmental structure. The purpose of this code is to establish guidelines for ethical standards of conduct for City Council members. City Council members must act in a manner that maintains their integrity and independence, yet is responsive to the interests and needs of those they represent. City Council members must act in a fair and impartial manner. City Council members must be aware of their obligation to conform their behavior to standards of ethical conduct that warrant the trust of their constituents.

Integrity, independence, responsiveness to the interests and needs of those they represent. I think that means everyone, not just those that agree with you and your agenda, Councilors Rolfing, Litz and Anderson.

I do like what former Minnehaha County Commissioner Ann Hajek said regarding this action on Facebook this morning:

"Everyone should know the Build It Downtown group did not initiate but was INVITED to present at the meeting. It was one of the ugliest displays of misplaced power I have ever seen. The committee listened extensively to a man who had violated city ordinances, and then did not allow an INVITED presentation to go forward. There was obviously some intervention by another power which thwarted the entire process. Very ugly and they deserve an apology and an invitation to present to the entire council."

I think that pretty much sums up what is going on in local government these days.