Friday, March 9, 2012

What's Happening at City Hall?

The city council has decided on a new city clerk. Soon they will be picking their new legislative person as well. They have picked an outstanding person for City Clerk. I have worked with Hogstad during my entire career at the city and you will not find a more dedicated, committed individual to run the city clerk's office at Carnegie Town Hall. She spent the majority of her career in the city clerk's office and comes to the job with significant knowledge and expertise in managing the official records of the city. She has spent the last number of years in the City Attorney's office overseeing the liquor license application process - a process that used to be in the City Clerk's office. I wonder if that function will be transferred to the City Clerk operation when she gets appointed? She has extensive administrative experience but no management or supervisory experience. She loses her civil service protection in this new position and becomes an at-will appointive official. At least she will have bumping rights back into civil service if she gets fired, unlike Owens. Although rumor has it the mayor would like to get rid of that bumping provision in city ordinance.  It will be important for her to seek out advice and counsel regarding her new “executive and supervisory” position or she could surely find herself in a political firestorm with those 8 city council members and a mayor. I wish her well in her new position.

We just learned that the city has lost a very experienced and talented person – Erika Beck – in the planning/economic development field. Beck was the most avid and vocal cheerleader of Downtown. She understood the value of partnerships and building consensus, and she was good at it. She was directly responsible for administering the city’s tax increment finance (TIF) program, property tax abatement programs and the facade easement program downtown. She was very involved in Downtown development activities including managing the core redevelopment efforts for the city. What a loss for the city and for Downtown Sioux Falls. Her shoes are going to be very hard to fill. I was always of the opinion that Beck represented the future of the Planning/Economic Departments. I hope someday she has the opportunity to come back to the City of Sioux Falls in an appointive leadership capacity.  

The administration is ready to issue some of the bonds for the new event center. These bonds were to be authorized the end of January and it is now middle March. I suppose we should be thankful we haven’t incurred the debt yet. I just remember how the mayor told us how crucial it was to get this on the ballot in November and get this thing moving because construction costs are increasing every day. It is interesting that just the tax exempt bonds relating to $104 million of the entire cost will be issued first. The remaining bonds will have to be issued as taxable and will carry a higher interest rate due to the sponsorship plans with private entities. The citizens were told in November 2011 that the actual bond amount was to be $115 million plus the cost of insurance, capitalized interest and the $9.5 million debt service reserve. If the total cost goes over the $115, what happens then?

More than 500 people turned out at two public hearings regarding the railroad relocation project. People are not happy about a new switching yard near Brandon or the routing of trains from downtown out to the southeastern part of town between 57th and 69th streets for a siding alternative. I am not sure what we really learned from the mayor’s press conference. Did he heed the concerns of the people? It sounded like he did and that the southeast alternative is not acceptable to him. It just wasn't said very clearly. People need to remain vigilant on this issue and pressure city officials to come to a reasonable outcome on this project that moves this project forward while not sacrificing the southeast residents and the east corridor of Sioux Falls. I wrote each city council member a letter regarding my position on the Canton side alternative and the negative impact to southeastern city residents and the eastside corridor of Sioux Falls since I was unable to attend the public hearing. I heard back from every council member except Councilors Entenmen and Karsky. I guess those two don't feel it is necessary to acknowledge communications from city constituents or let me know their position. Their silence indicates to me a lack of concern and an arrogance that they are not accountable to the public.

The multiple water main breaks in Sioux Falls this past week were troubling. It seems we don’t really know what the cause was for these multiple water main breaks. Was it the draining of water from a water tower or was it an indication of crumbling infrastructure? Water and sewer infrastructure and maintenance needs are financed by user fees. Let’s hope this is not a window into future problems because it will mean costs go up and when costs go up, our fees go up. It will be interesting to hear from city officials as to why this happened and what the solution needs to be. Let’s hope the electronic and print media stay on top of this development and give us a follow-up story/stories.  

The really big news is the reprimand handed down by the State Open Meetings Commission yesterday for violating open meeting laws when it fired City Clerk Debra Owen last year. I would venture to guess that most people who understand the working of city government knew that action was a violation - everyone except our city attorney that is. Four city/state attorneys from other SD jurisdictions clearly saw it differently than City Attorney Pfeifle. Everyone makes a mistake, but this is a big public one for someone responsible for providing legal advice to city elected officials. This doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the City Attorney's office.


  1. Karsky and Entenman have never answered my emails either. Arrogance is one word for it - I have others.

  2. You have to be persistent with those two. There is one constituent, I know of that has got thru to both of them, and they have been either arrogant or ignorant when she has talked to them (you can figure out which is which). In Jim's defense, he spent a month long family vacation in Mexico, so he has to be brought up to speed. And from the looks of the FB pictures, he didn't let his bum knee get in the way of building sandcastles on the beach with his grandson. I heard they built a model of the EC, but before they could snap a picture the tide took it away . . . oh the irony.

    Would agree Jen, Beck was a valuable asset to the city, but even if she had to take a pay cut, she is in a better place.

    The water main break had me a bit concerned also, but not surprised. I will say it for the 100th time, Munson neglected infrastructure, now we are playing catchup. If there is one thing I would never blame Huether for is Munson's follies. I blame Munson for ignoring the basic needs while spending tax dollars on rock and wood thingies at McKennan Park.

    As for the the open meetings violation, no surprise. I often chuckle when people talk about 'progressive politics' or 'progressive candidates' or 'moving the city forward' none of this happens without TRANSPARENCY. Spending my money on club sport arenas is not 'progressive' telling me why the city clerk was fired is. The 1st Amendment is pretty cut and dry, and I don't think it has ever mentioned hockey.

  3. Mycho Huethler needs to be replaced, stop this man before he invades Poland.

  4. Erica Beck..another talented city employee who has left city employment. You can't help but think she left because of the current administration. Wish her the best of luck because she is one talented lady. The city is the loser here.

  5. Don't be so quick to blame Munson for the "neglected" water mains. Multiple water mains don't all just break at once from neglect. Water mains are under pressure, sometimes that pressure spikes for various unforeseen reasons. Believe me, it wasn't neglect.

    As far as Munson's follies, at least he didn't saddle the city of Sioux Falls with $186 million dollars of debt so we could pack in 2800 people for a Skillet concert. Huether's follies will last a lifetime.

  6. I find it disturbing when the good mayor continues to tell us city government should be run the same way as First Premier Bankcard. He did it again yesterday at his whisk and chop indoctrination session. That's kinda scary considering First Premier Bankcards pedigree. I suspect Deborah was fired for not playing "ball" when huether, entenmann, karsky, erpenbach, rolfing and aguilar had their event center bats in their hands. Huge difference between hitting a beachball on a t-ball stand, and a hardball thrown high and tight and right. Speculation I know, but as taxpayers should we not at the very least know why? She's still fired and we still don't know why. They're hiding something.


  7. I will never forget that September day in 2011……..

    Waiting for almost two hours in the room outside the Council Chambers………….

    along with several other citizens, the Argus Leader and KELO to hear the fate of a well-respected, high profile city employee.

    Finally, when the Council went back into public session to announce their decision, I was shocked at not only what had just happened, but the way in which the entire process was cloaked in COMPLETE SECRECY!!!!

    Then to hear later that evening that the media had been removed from Carnegie.

    Sioux Falls….. All of this took place in the people’s town hall…………your town hall!!!!

    And, this is why what happened at the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission meeting last Friday is so important to every citizen!

    Now, today, to read in Sunday’s Argus Leader quotes from our city’s leader, Mayor Mike Huether………..

    “The Council cares about transparency as much as I do. They’re not trying to hide anything.”

    He also said the Commission’s action does not cast doubt on his own commitment or the Council’s to open government.

    He went on to suggest the personnel ethics followed in the corporate world with regard to the sensitive matter of firings should trump open government laws.

    So, what exactly is our Mayor saying……

    that his personal opinion should trump that of the members of the South Dakota Open Meeting Commission, who BTW, voted 4 to 1 to reprimand the City of Sioux Falls.

    “It doesn’t happen in private business, and it sure as heck shouldn’t happen in city government either,” he said of bringing public scrutiny to employee terminations.

    He went on to urge Council members “who want to spend all their time being negative and find crap in our city to stay away from me.” Although, he did not name Councilor Brown, this is who he is referring to. It is Brown who has suggested that City Attorney David Pfeifle be fired for his legal recommendation that led to the open meeting complaint.

    As a citizen of the United States and a resident of Sioux Falls, I say that all of you………

    Mayor Mike Huether

    City Attorney David Pfeifle

    Councilor Sue Aguilar

    Councilor Kenny Anderson Jr.

    Councilor Vernon Brown

    Councilor Jim Entenman

    Councilor Michelle Erpenbach

    Councilor Greg Jamison

    Councilor Dean Karsky

    Councilor Rex Rolfing

    are responsible for what happened on that dark day in the people’s town hall!!!!!!

  8. Munson actually has Huether beat in the bonding department. I believe, Munson racked up $190 million in debt during is admin.

  9. It's his first year bro. Give it time.

  10. Munson racked up more debt then ALL of the previous mayor's combined, and now Huether is on his way to double that. How does that happen? Business acumen.

    1. That's what Republicans do!!!

  11. I don't get how Entenman can say that Pfeiffle did everything right, when it's pretty clear to the open meetings commission that he didn't. Best advice at the time?, well you've opened the City up to at least one lawsuit, what does that tell you?

    That's as asinine as the Mayor telling the Moose Lodge they hit the jackpot on their building with the Events Center vote, didn't the Ethics board rule that nothing will appreciate out there, so obviously no conflict of interest for Entenman? The Moose is across the street, so who's lying now?

  12. These people don't care if they lie. All they are worried about is their ass at that particular moment and telling you what you want to hear for their agenda. The Moose Lodge hit the jackpot? Yeah - you bet, and I'm going to win the PowerBall too! Thankfully 42% of us don't buy into this bullshit.

  13. I attended both the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission meeting and this week’s Council Informational meeting.

    As everyone now knows, the Commission voted 4 to 1 to reprimand the City of Sioux Falls.

    South Dakota’s open government laws may be ambiguous, but for anyone who listened to the seven attorneys debate this specific situation, the decision was clear-cut. The seven attorneys were:

    Five attorneys on the Commission

    Jon Arneson representing the AL

    SF City Attorney David Pfeifle.

    What I found most astounding about the Council’s Informational meeting was David Pfeifle’s insistence on continuing with the same argument based on a 1990 Attorney General’s opinion that he had presented to the Commission.

    City Attorney Pfeifle, did you not understand that Jon Arneson and the AL prevailed!!!??

    WHY did Pfeifle continue to insist that he was right, when he knows that the Commission will be rendering findings of fact and conclusions of law disproving his argument!??

    This is about arrogance not accountability!!

    I hope that Councilor Vernon Brown will follow through with his statement that he is going to ask for a vote of “No Confidence” at the April 2nd Council meeting.

    How each of the eight councilors vote that day will tell the citizens of Sioux Falls whether or not they accept accountability for the reprimand from the South Dakota Open Meetings Commission and will make perfectly clear what their stand is on open government and transparency.