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.