Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Transfer of Economic Development Duties to a Novice

I think there is a lot of rhetoric and hoopla about this supposedly "new" emphasis on economic development in the mayor's administration. Why the mayor would put a novice in charge of the city's drive for economic development and take it away from experienced Planning Director Mike Cooper is a head scratcher.

In my 25 years at the city, economic development was always a priority and was spearheaded out of the planning department. The now retired Planning Director Steve Metli and his staff worked diligently with the Chamber, SF Development Foundation and Downtown Sioux Falls and the evidence of all their success is the economic growth of this city in the past two decades. The mayor acts like nothing has been done and he has come in to save the day by transferring such duties to an individual who has no planning background and no real or proven economic development experience, in spite of what he says.

The mayor says he transferred the economic development responsibilities to allow Director Cooper to focus on the bigger picture of what the city will look like. Sounds like doublespeak to me to justify transferring the duties.

I guess knowing the mayor casually for a decade means more than proven experience.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twin Sightings

In case you might not know it, I am an identical twin. My twin is 7 minutes older than me and looks a lot like me. I look a lot like her. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and feel like I am her. That sounds weird but if you are a twin, you will know what I mean. It's like looking in a mirror.

As we grow older .. and older, we are starting to look more and more alike, if that is even possible. We seem to be morphing into one. We sound alike to the point that our children don't always know who they are talking to on the phone.

You can't imagine what people say to us when we are out and about. These are people who don't know us, just random strangers. We joke about how many twin comments we will get in a day. We joke that we are freaks. People are used to seeing baby or toddler twins, but old lady twins? Twin freaks, we are becoming twin freaks.

I am not kidding, we get asked these questions daily:

Are you sisters? Then they ask, are you twins? (Ah, yes and yes. Just cut to the chase and say twins right off the bat. It's like waiting for the next shoe to drop.We know that is going to be the next question.)

OMG, I am seeing double. Are you guys twins? (Again, the answer is a yes.)

Didn't I just wait on you? (When I point to the other twin, they say, are you twins?)

Do you both have the same birthday? (Ah, yes we do.)

Do you dress alike? (Hello, we are adults and not freaks. Unfortunately we like the same things so occasionally we will both show up in the same thing and one of has to change which is very irritating for the one who has to give in.)

Did you dress alike when you were kids?  (Mother loved to dress us alike. So, yes. Sometimes, she tried really hard to treat as individuals and dressed us in the same thing but a different color. )

Do your kids have twins? (No, and they seem glad about that, much to our disappointment.)

Aren't you both cute! (That one makes us feel pubescent. What is so cute about 62 year old twins?)

Hey, are you guys twins? (This is yelled at us after they have passed by us, almost like an after thought. We can see it in their facial expressions as they come towards us, but I guess they feel safer to holler after they pass by.)

Do you like being twins? (Well, like I have a choice.)

When I see a look of recognition and then a look of confusion because I don't acknowledge someone, I just say, I'm the other one, or I am ......., or I am not who you think I am. Sometimes, I just pretend to be her. She never pretends to be me. I wonder why?

My twin says my nose is bigger than hers and of course I say her nose is bigger. I say my feet are better looking than hers and they are. I am taller than her and yet I am younger than her. She says that is only because I pushed her out first.Our mother put bracelets on us as babies so she could tell us apart. We sometimes wonder if our names are mixed up and I am really her and she is really me.

Her children are like my children and my son is like her son. We share our children and grandchildren. Our children are more like siblings instead of cousins. It is a wonderful advantage of being a twin.  We live together and joke that we get along better with each other than we ever did with those ex-husbands of ours.

When I lived out on on the East Coast, we used to send each other the same cards. One Christmas we sent each other the exact same sweater only in different colors.  We sent the exact same flower arrangement to our brother when he and his wife had their first baby. We say words at the exact same time. I tell her something and she says she was just thinking about the same thing. We have hit two separate light switches in the house at opposite sides at the same time.  Ok, maybe a little freaky, but we are not freaks, we are just twins.

We are the same and yet we are different. She is a worrier and I am not. She is neat and I am messy. She likes to cook, I like to eat out. I love the sun and the water, she is content to sit in the shade. I like people around, she likes the solitude. She likes to play her clarinet, I like to paint. She was a studious kid, I was into fun. We both love to read, love our Kindles, movies, road trips and we love our family and friends. We are the same but we are different in a same sort of way.

I could go on and on. I am glad I have a twin sister.We are very close. We are each other's best friend. I can't imagine being a single person. We joke that if we both have to go to a nursing home, we go together. We better get a double room where we will lay in twin beds facing each other, talking in our own language. We hope if we get dementia, we will still know each other.

So, if you think you see me and I am out and about alone, you might not be seeing me at all. It might be the other one. Just holler out - Which twin are you? We are used to it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yacker Tracker Flashing Green for City's No Smoking Policy

Kudos to the City for finally implementing a total tobacco free work environment and removing designated tobacco use areas.

The new policy means no smoking in city owned buildings, vehicles, parking lots, equipment, worksites, and walkways leading into city facilities. It makes sense and please don't tell me that this is a big brother thing. This is a health and wellness issue, a taxpayer cost issue, and an employer issue.

Smoking and second hand smoke can kill you, that's a fact. Yet some people continue to smoke in spite of the facts. So be it. Smoke all you want, just not here at the city. The voter majority said they wanted a smoke free environment and the city now says the same thing for its workers.

Yacker Tracker flashes green, City of Sioux Falls. This policy goes into effect January 1, 2011. Thanks for implementing a policy that makes sense and helps those smoking employees achieve a healthy lifestyle in spite of themselves and maybe reduce some of those health care costs in the General Fund.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yacker Tracker Flashing Yellow for Mayor's New Position

I have mixed feelings about the mayor's new position titled Special Projects Manager. The mayor said Citibank and First Premier have both used this type of position in their organizations. He said this position will facilitate major projects and get things accomplished in a prudent fashion. Contrary to what people think, this is not a chief of staff position. I worked for two mayors who utilized a chief of staff position and each position was unique to the desire of the mayor. This is not that.

I view a true chief of staff position to be a go-between or buffer between the mayor and his direct reporting team, in this case, his city directors. A chief of staff position does not negate the ability of a director to have direct access to the mayor.  The position works closely with directors, coordinating the mirade of administrative and operational activities that may not need the immediate attention of the mayor, thereby, saving the mayor some valuable time to work on specific and immediate action items. The chief of staff position would also coordinate information with the City Council and the Council's chief staff person.

Look up chief of staff on wikopedia and it describes a chief of staff as a behind the scenes coordinator, a position that acts as a confidant, an advisor, and a sounding board for the chief executive officer. The position works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes, works to keep problems from bubbling over to the chief executive.  A chief of staff is a primary position for the chief executive, in this case, the mayor. Former Mayor Gary Hanson used the chief of staff position in the strictest sense of the position definition. Former Mayor Dave Munson used the position more in line with a communications, public relations coordinating position.

This new position isn't a true chief of staff position.  I am glad the mayor did not call it a chief of staff because the job duties outlined in the job description clearly indicate that. The position will manage special projects, whatever that means.

What projects do you think this person will work on?
  • The Event Center project? I thought Directors Cotter, Cooper and Smith were working on this project.
  • Code Enforcement? I thought Assistant Planning Director Kevin Smith was working on that project.
  • Diversity issues? HR Director O'Toole, his HR Manager-Employment & Training and Human Relations Manager/ADA Coordinator are responsible for diversity and civil rights enforcement issues/projects.
  • Economic development projects? I thought that was CD Director Smith's job.
  • Reducing airfares? Again, another project under CD Director Smith.
  • Railroad Relocation Project? Again, Directors Cotter, Cooper and Smith.
  • Downtown Redevelopment? Another one for Director Smith.
  • The project of improving relations with certain city councilors perhaps?
I could go on and on. So what kind of projects are we talking about here?

In my opinion, a mayor needs staff to assist him/her because a mayor can not do everything alone. The job is too big. The Mayor needs personal staff support. I actually think a mayor needs a chief of staff position and a public relations/information officer position. What has been created is a special projects manager position at a good salary range with a confusing and possibly duplicating role in the organization. It will be interesting to watch what value this position will bring to the organization and what the job duties actually pan out to be. 

Hence, the Yacker Tracker flashing yellow caution light.

Monday, December 20, 2010

No Money for the Flock

I could understand saying no to the general employee groups if there was no money and the city was operating with a deficit. But that is not the case. The City is not in dire financial straits nor did they seem financially concerned to renegotiate the 3 percent per year raises these past 3 years for the Police and Fire union employees . But they diss the largest non-uniformed employee group in the city for a second straight year. Interesting.

There used to be an executive order that adjusted the mayor and city council salaries commensurate with the CPI in June of the previous year. I wonder if the mayor and council salaries got a cost of living adjustment these past two years or will get a cost of living in 2011? How about the salaries of the city council and their staff? Maybe the Argus Leader needs to dig a little deeper on just who has had cost of living adjustments  these past two years and who is going to get salary adjustments in 2011 besides that 3 percent increase for Fire employees.

Money for everything else but nothing for the people who do all the work. Just tell me that the directors, mayor, and city council and council staff aren't getting cost of living increases either. Everyone should be subject to the same salary treatment.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Love Affair with the Arena Site

I wish I could understand this love affair with the Arena site for the Event Center. The modest neighborhood property values are going to increase if the event center is built out there? Did those property values increase when the Convention Center was built out there? Nothing has increased out there. Really, who cares if hotels expand out there. There still won't be anything out there, just like there is nothing out there now. People who visit this city and stay at a hotel out there will still have drive or be bused to restaurants and shopping attractions elsewhere in the city.

When you make a side by side comparison of the businesses out at the Arena and the businesses in the core of the city, it is clear which area has the most to offer. The people who say the core of this city is dead are downright misinformed and not in tune with the economic reality of this city. The people who continue to support the arena site and say development will follow are blind to past history.

Tear out a long standing park. Build a walkway or skywalk over Russell Avenue to accommodate parking needs. Buy homes to make room for parking lots. These actions don't make sense to me.

I am to the point that almost anywhere but the Arena site is better for an Event Center. This city has so many beautiful areas and we pick the ugliest, most unappealing site in the city to build something that will bring visitors to our city. Sorry, but this site is not putting our best foot forward.

You know what they say about people and love affairs - people in love aren't thinking with their heads but with pure emotion. I want an event center. This city needs an event center. This is probably the most important economic decision the taxpayers are going to make and for something that will impact this city for the next 50 years. I won't support an event center at the arena site just for the sake of having an event center. Do it right or don't do it at all. That's my position and I am not changing my mind.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Oxymoron

Michelle Bachman has been appointed to the Intelligence Committee. An oxymoron. Don't you have to have some intelligence to be on this committee? The Intelligence community must be very worried about having to deal with this loose candidate airhead. Half the time, I am not sure she even comes from this planet. She channels her information from outer space, not from any fact source.

Kristi Noehm had been appointed to the Labor and Education Commmittee. An oxymoron. Shouldn't you have an education to serve on this committee? Does she even know what Labor is all about? No, it's not about childbirth, Kristi.

A contradiction for sure.

How About a Little Cheese with that Whine!

What is it with politicians who whine about what people say about them.  Sarah Palin says she has become more guarded in what she says because people take her words and say mean things about her. The mayor complains that what is written about him is not fair and balanced or wonders why people are saying mean things about him when he is working so dang hard.

Senator Boehnor just cries at a drop of the hat. Even Senator McConnell has choked up on the Senate floor. Senator DeMint just whines that he wants to go home for Christmas so quit putting bills before him about the people's business.

Boo Hoo - get a thick skin and quit your belly aching.  Politicians have to have big egos in the first place to run for public office. What did they think; that everyone was going to love every word that came out of their mouths?

All these people chose to put themselves out there to public scrutiny. They seem to have the type of personalities that crave attention. They want the attention evidenced by their endless press conferences, news releases, sound bites before the cameras and media interviews. But they want what is reported and commented on, on their terms. My advice is to quit reading newspapers, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Better yet, quit putting yourself out there, giving us every mind numbing little tidbit of information you think we need to know about you and your thoughts and feelings and your supposed accomplishments.

And another thing, get a diction coach. Using words like gonna instead of going to, ta instead of to, hava instead of have a, are not real words.

I have to leave now and go get a little cheese for my whine!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pass the Sick Bag, Alice

I was listening to MSNBC this morning and Tina Brown of the Daily Beast used the supposedly famous Brit saying, Pass the Sick Bag, Alice, to describe what is going on in Congress right now.  I agree with her.

Republicans and Democrats put millions of dollars in earmarks in the latest appropriation bill that is intended to keep government operating and now the Republicans saying they are not going to support any bill with those earmarks in it. Republican Senators Thune and Cornyn actually held a press conference on this subject. Thune put over $150 million in earmark requests for South Dakota. At least the Democrats own up to their earmarks and admit they want them passed. Unfortunately, they haven't got the message yet that the American people want Congress to stop adding to the debt. Hypocrisy.

The Democrats want to amend the tax bill that has passed in the Senate to add language about the inheritance tax. There is plenty of partisan politics to go around and who is being held hostage? The American people, that's who.

Republican Senators DeMint and Kyl have been in the news saying it is sacrilegious and basically an affront to the most sacred holiday of the year to make Congress members and their staff stay and work to get  legislation like the START Treaty done.  The Dems are dissing Christmas, they say, for making them stay in Washington instead of going home to their families. Forget the fact that DeMint said he wanted to read the entire START Treaty bill as a filibuster which would take not quite a hundred hours of time on the floor. Maybe if these people cared one hoot for all us "little people," they would just do what they were elected to do and quit playing petty politics for their own self indulgence.

They seem to forget that there are many Americans who work on Christmas.  Whine about not getting home to your loved ones to all those police officers, firefighters, hospital workers, and service men and women who "work" for us and our country on this most sacred holiday. These people are missing Christmas with their loved ones because it is their job to keep us safe and secure.

Like I said, pass the sick bag, Alice. The Democrats and Republicans in Congress make me sick.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Zoo Funding Shift

Complain all you want about funding the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum with the entertainment tax but this kind of makes some sense to me. I can remember when the zoo was a city department and was also under the Parks and Recreation Department, sometime back in the early 80’s. The city continues to own the land and the infrastructure.  The Parks and Recreation Department maintain the zoo grounds. The Zoological Society contracts with the city to manage the Zoo and its animals and the operation of the GPZDM. That takes money, folks.
City Director Cooper is correct to express concerns that there will be enough money to go around but I guess the GPZDM will have to accept lower than budgeted revenues if that were to occur in the future.  There is no guarantee of money either from the general fund or from the entertainment tax. The fact is the action by the City Council makes the GPZDM eligible to receive entertainment tax money, but the change won’t be available for several years anyway. The action just makes them eligible.
When I think of the Washington Pavilion, the Convention Center and the GPZDM , it would be interesting to see which entity works really hard to increase revenues, visitors, activities, entertainment, etc. Put these three operations together for a side by side comparison and see who is the most successful in bringing in money, thereby reducing their support from the entertainment tax year by year. Excellence should be rewarded with money from the entertainment tax. Unfortunately, it is usually the other way around.  The exceptional operation just keeps being told to work harder while the mediocre operation is rewarded with more money because they aren’t successful in increasing their patron and activities numbers.
I am tired of the critics who don’t support the GPZDM.  It is a wonderful facility and something this city should be very proud to promote as an entertainment venue.  News flash – it also brings in sales tax dollars.  Hyvee and Sanford have become partners with the Zoo and their continued support of the Zoo operation is a testament to how the organization is run.
The hiring of Elizabeth Whealy was a brilliant move by the Zoological Board who, despite some pretty contentious times with the city, has taken the reins and turned that facility into a gem for this city. Take a look at the numbers – more people are visiting the Zoo than ever before. It is truly a success story.  Elizabeth has built a staff of employees who are dedicated to the mission of the GPZDM and to providing an experience for families that make them want to come back time and again. A success story that deserves the budgetary support of the city because, after all, the city(citizens) own it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Petty is as Petty does!

Every time I read an Argus Leader editorial addressing the Mayor and the City Council I have to scratch my head. Sunday’s editorial takes the Council to task for their petty politics. Oh, and by the way, they know who they are according to the editorial board. I just don’t get the Editorial Board but me thinks they are drinking Huether’s personal water stash.
I agree that the City Council’s latest action in passing a resolution prohibiting the mayor from spending down the city’s reserves without council approval is a move to tighten control of the mayor, but to say there has been no attempt by Huether to change the reserve’s healthy level is a head scratcher.  Maybe the Editorial Board should start reading its own reporters’ news articles.
The mayor has stated in the past that surplus money will go into the cookie jar for the event center. His actions regarding cuts in departmental budgets and program services and going after employee pay and benefits to ensure the reserve fund continues to build a healthy balance for his EC vision is telling.  It may be a knee jerk reaction of the city council but, then the mayor has not been playing very nice with the city council despite his energetic projections on how he and the council were going to be a team and play nice together when he took office.
Since when is it petty politics to ask questions and have different views and positions on issues? The city council is part-time but that doesn’t mean they are supposed to be mute or be a rubber stamp to a mayor or gleefully clap at everything that comes out of his mouth.  Their authority rests with budget and appropriation oversight.  It may be an irritating part of this whole strong mayor, weak council form of government but what it means is the mayor and his administration must play nice with the city council even when they find it irritating to do so. It’s been a problem ever since this form of government became a reality.  Petty or not, it is a reality of this form of government.
What I do not get is a newspaper editorial board who continues to sleep with this mayor. The word on the street is they cowtow to his every complaint when their reporters don’t report his words accurately and according to rumors out there even muzzled one of their reporters at his request.  They were hard as nails on Munson when he held the office but they seem to have a little bed set up in the corner of this mayor’s office to make sure they cover him with a nice warm blanket everytime those mean council members hurt his feelings.
Balanced reporting and balanced editorializing from the local newspaper  -  is that too much to expect? If the editorial board is so intent on representing the mayor's position, maybe they should apply for that vacant chief of staff position he is holding on to in his budget. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Niece, the Entrepreneurial Viking Wonder

My niece Shelby Nelson is an entrepreneurial wonder in our family.  Actually she takes after her older brother who also has that entrepreneurial talent. Shelby graduated from Gustavus Adolphus and went to Minneapolis where she landed a very good job managing pension benefits for a world wide broad band company.  I will never forget the day she called her mother and told her that she was quitting her job, selling her house and moving home to research and start her own business.

It was any parent's nightmare, I suppose.  Spending a bloody fortune financing an expensive college education was supposed to bring career and financial growth and stability for your child.  Shelby was more interested in opening a Scandinavian store in downtown Sioux Falls that celebrated her family heritage. Home she came and she spent almost 9 months working on her business plan, getting financing and enlisting all her family members in painting a storefront, and stocking shelves.

She named the store after her grandfather John Holsen and her great grandparents Rasmus and Magnhild Holsen. Rasmus and Magnhild immigrated to the United States from Norway. Actually, Grandpa Rasmus came from a tiny village called Holsen in Norway.

He and his brothers all immigrated from Norway. Tom came first in 1900, Rasmus in 1906, Louis in 1909 and Sam in 1914. The Holsen brothers were hard workers. Tom and Rasmus worked for the railroad. Louis was a cement contractor and Sam worked for a bridge company. Entrepreneurial Holsens, all of them.

The entrepreneurial spirit lives on in the Holsen offspring.Hence the store name. Grandma Magnihild came from Jaren. They met in Moorhead, Minnesota and became parents of 3 sons, Roland, Oscar, and John.

This is a picture of Shelby and Grandpa John at the opening of Holsen Hus 8 years ago.

It is hard to believe that Shelby celebrated her 8th anniversary this past October 2010. She has become a seasoned buyer, a shrewd businesswoman and a ardent genealogist of our family heritage. To say I am proud of her seems inadequate, somehow.  She works so hard with little to no time off. Retail is tough but especially so with the economic meltdown.  However, she adjusted her business model, and worked hard to grow her customer base through loyalty, a sense of heritage and with the offering of unique and genuine Scandinavian products.

Blessings come in many forms in our lives. The Holsen brothers' dreams of a new life celebrated everyday and immortalized in a little Scandinavian store in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A dream of a little girl who grew up to embrace a strong Norwegian heritage that she learned from her mother, passed down from her grandfather, passed down by his mother and father in a new land.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Poof, the Mayor’s Event Center Cookie Jar is gone!

After listening to Monday night’s City Council meeting, it is clear to me that there are some members of the City Council, as well as the mayor, who don’t seem competent to understand the budgetary process or how it works. When the Mayor says he has the education but doesn’t understand the resolution, I have to scratch my head. Is that because this is government budgeting and not bank budgeting? I seem to recall that the mayor said there was no difference between private and public accounting and finance.
When Entenmen and Litz say they don’t understand the language, I have to ask, where have they been for the last 3 ½ months? They asked what the goal meant. Are you kidding me? It is pretty simple. A goal – the end towards which effort is directed.  Right out of the dictionary. It means to aim, aspire to, intent, etc. If you have any business experience, you know what is meant by a goal. I don’t get Rolfing at all.  He is a member of the Fiscal Committee which worked on this resolution. He was all over the place.
The resolution says:
·         the city should “aspire to” maintain a monthly cash balance of 11% of the general fund budget and by December 31 the city should have a general fund balance of 25% of the general fund budget. What is hard to understand about that, I ask you? If the monthly cash balance falls below 11% or at year end the fund reserve falls below 25%, the Mayor has to provide the Council an explanation and a plan to replenish the balance.
·         The Mayor’s proposed general fund budget’s revenues and expenditures must balance and he can’t use the reserve fund to balance the budget for a fiscal year. If he wants to use the general reserve fund money to balance his proposed budget, he has to provide a statement justifying the use of the cash reserve fund to the Council. Pretty simple to understand.
·         If the Mayor’s proposed revenues in his proposed budget are the result of an increase in fees, taxes, etc. it must be presented to the City Council by ordinance or ordinance amendment for their approval prior to the submission of his proposed budget. This something that has been required of the administration already and is not new.
The Mayor constantly touts his business acumen as a plus as mayor.  Why can’t he understand this resolution? I surmise that he understands it.  He just doesn’t like it because it ties his hands and requires him to go the Council to spend the general fund reserves.  In my opinion, he wanted it deferred so he could have time to convince other members of city council to support his position so he can kill this resolution coming out of the fiscal committee.
I do not believe that the Mayor is confused. He is a smart man. I also believe every one of the department heads understand the resolution.  Why?  Because the resolution is proposing the same concept that was passed in 2007 and is something the administration has lived with and operated under all these past years. I have to admit that I didn’t like it when it was proposed and drafted in 2007 and argued with both Rowenhorst and Colwill about the language which I thought bound the Mayor’s ability to manage his budget. Colwill and Rowenhorst were very much part of the discussion with the Council back in 2007 and were both supportive of the resolution language, much to my chagrin.
This whole thing is a ruse. If the Mayor does not understand this resolution, then I worry how he can possibly manage the huge city budget as a whole. To blame staff and say they have not adequately explained it to him is appalling. When going down in defeat, blame your staff.  That is a bullying tactic that is unbecoming behavior of a leader and the office of mayor. The buck stops with the top dog.
The bottom line is this resolution doesn’t tie the mayor’s hands, it just requires him to go to the City Council first. OK, it may be a pain, but work with the City Council, Mayor.  That is what you said you would do when you became Mayor.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Transparency Only When It Suits You.

Remember when the mayor said he was going to provide the most transparent government we have ever seen and that he is going to tell the public the good, the bad and the ugly?  I guess it depends on the circumstances.

Populous provided free consulting services to the City by conducting research on cost estimates and data on 20 other Event Centers in the country.  Now they make the short list of firms to be interviewed this week by the 10 member committee. How cozy. It may be common in the industry of architects, but that doesn't make it right. Even the executive director of the SD Chapter of the American Institute of Architects says free work is frowned upon.

There is a difference in conducting business in the public sector than the private sector. Why? Because government is funded by the taxpayer, that’s one really good reason.  If the mayor was so committed to transparency he should have instructed his staff to tell Populous, when they offered their freebie, that they couldn't guarantee their confidentiality when it came to freebies.

Come on, the mayor used the free information from Populous when he outlined his vision for the event center back in October. He didn’t acknowledge that information came from Populous as a freebie. I don’t know about you, but I assumed that staff did the research for that presentation. Wrong to assume anything these days.  Of course, if no one asks the questions, no one is going to get the full story.

Transparency, ethics, open government. Good principles to follow. Just because something is not illegal or prohibited, doesn't mean it's right. The City can do better and in this case they failed to do better.


What Has Happened To John McCain?

I have to admit that there was a time a while back when I thought John McCain was "the" man to be President of the United  States. But then he lost his way when he decided to kiss Jerry Falwell's ring to get support from the far right. When he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate all possibility of supporting him went out the window. Now he is just an angry old man.

The Los Angeles Times article published in the December 2nd ARGUS LEADER really hits it on the head. What happened to the man who gave an impassioned eulogy for Mark Bingham, an avid McCain supporter who happened to be gay. A man who gave his life for others on United Flight 93 on the morning of September 11.

Here was a man of courage who stood up and fought for others. He was gay. So what? At the time, McCain thought this man showed a badge of courage and recognized him for it.  Being gay has no bearing on one's courage or sense of duty. But does that same sentiment ring true for McCain today? No, it does not.  He doesn't care what the Secretary of Defense says or what their study says about gays in the military. He is vehemently opposed to doing away with "don't ask, don't tell" in the military.

His angry stubborn behavior is that of an old man, intolerant of the basic rights to be afforded to all human beings. We have become a nation of intolerant behavior and it sickens me.  Just talk louder and meaner to drown out the reasonable discourse. My way or the highway seems to be the mantra of the Republican Party these days.  I would ask what has happened to the Republican Party but that is another opinion for later.

Right now, I just ask, what has happened to John McCain and when will he go away?


Friday, December 3, 2010

Sports and the Augustana Vikings

I never thought I would become a follower of football to the extent that I have become one. Actually, I have always loved sports.  I spent countless hours on a soccer field starting when my son was in the first grade and it lasted all through his high school years. Club soccer when he was a sophomore meant road trips practically every weekend and even a 3 week trip through Europe playing soccer against teams in Amsterdam, Holland, Lucerne, Switzerland, Prague, Czechoslovakia, and Brussels, Belgium. You meet wonderful people when your family members are involved in organized sports. When my son graduated from high school, that part of my life disappeared and I felt truly lost.

But, then my nephews started their involvement in sports and I was off to the soccer fields, football fields and basketball courts all over again. My nephew Sam has been something to behold, however. Basketball and football at Washington High School was exciting but nothing quite compares to the football experience I have enjoyed while he has played at Augustana College.

Although I am an Aunt and not a mother of one of these athletes, I feel like I am part of a very active, passionate and fun loving parent group. I have not missed a game of Augie football since Sam started as a red-shirt freshman. Each year became more exciting than the last. A connection established with parents from all over the place and with young men who pulled hamstrings, separated shoulders, broke fingers and hands, got concussions.

This year, Augustana Football is quite unbelievable. As we head out for Duluth for the semi-finals playoff game, I am thinking I have come a long way in what I will and will not do and the discomfort I am willing to endure for the sake of the sport of football.  That means watching a game in pouring down rain, baking in the sun, freezing to death with temperatures in the teens and the wind blowing like there is no tomorrow. It means taking off for an away game when the forecast says a possibility of six inches of snow. Standing and sitting for 4 hours or more when you no longer can feel your hands or toes.

One big benefit in all this travel, is finding unique eating establishments.  My brother should be a food critic.  He is a master at searching out and finding the most unique local  places to eat when we are on the road. No chain restaurants for us. Memorable and 20 pounds later.

Off to Duluth and that fabulous restaurant we found two years ago.  It's comical when you associate towns with the eating places of past visits.  Just another adventure to go along with the fantastic game of Augustana football.

Go Augie Go!!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yacker Tracker Flashing Green

Green light to Director Don Kearney for moving forward with their greenway master plan and working on a community wide needs assessment. The city of Sioux Falls is fortunate to have a director of his caliber leading the Parks and Recreation Department. I look forward to his department's progress in continuing to enhance the river greenway downtown.  His leadership efforts in ensuring that the quality of life amenities that make this city great are evident everyday as you travel around this city. Our park system is second to none and we have him and his departmental employees to thank for that.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is a Sander and Snowplow Down My Street

So, the City wants to save money by not pre-treating our streets before winter weather hits. What has happened to the hearts and minds of the folks down at City Hall? This is South Dakota, the Northern Plains, the frozen tundra, the land of the blowing snow, one of the blizzard capitals of the Northern Plains.
Have you lost your collective minds? It’s winter, City Hall people.  You have bought all this shiny new equipment and have a fleet of trucks for sanding and plowing operations. Now you don’t want to use all that equipment under the guise of the Mayor’s new efficiency plan for city government? Just how much do we taxpayers want to pay for this public service, you ask?
I thought winterizing streets and snowplowing was a basic city service.  I guess under this Mayor it is considered a luxury.  The previous Mayor understood this basic of city service and didn’t skimp on making sure citizen safety was put on the back burner to save money.
Mr. Event Center Mayor has decided he needs to save money and has directed his Street Division Manager to cut his snow budget.  Now we are plowing streets or pre-treating streets other than emergency snow routes by complaint only?
Well, I suggest that every citizen who lives on a residential street other than an emergency snow route put the city street division number and the Mayor’s office number on their speed dial because they are going to be using those numbers a lot this winter.
If you live anyway near the outer city limits or near an open area, you are going to get drifts with the howling winds of winter. The piddley snow fall we got the other night came with 40 mile an hour winds.  You should see the snow drifts piling up on some of the residential streets.  But since there was 2 inches or less, no street plowing and no sand treating for your poor residential streets.
I am wondering since the city isn’t going to plow my street if I can get a bye on shoveling my sidewalk?  They are quick to let homeowners know they have to clear their sidewalks or fines will ensue.  Well, I would like to fine the City for their lamebrain 2010 winter snow policy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Drowning in Debt

Why is it that the Federal government and Congress cannot live within a balanced budget? Their failure to act fiscally responsible will affect our lives as we know it now and in the future.

There are some extreme measures that will have to be taken if we want to save the economic structure of the country. I do not think people understand the magnitude of this problem. People continue to go about their daily lives thinking things will be OK.

This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. It is every one's problem and every Republican or Democrat who has held an elective office these past 20 plus years is to blame for the fix we are in today. Republicans act like this all happened within the last two years. Well, wake up America! This country has been drowning in debt for decades.

The draconian measures needed to get us out of this fix are monumental. And guess who will carry the brunt of those draconian measures? The middle class, as usual, if the current Congress has its way.  This fight by Republicans to save tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% is downright unconscionable in today's budget crisis. If Congress can't deal with this one issue, how can we expect them to solve this massive budget deficit?

Military spending, farm subsidies, earmarks, employer based health insurance, social security, Medicare, cutting tax deductions for charitable giving, mortgage interest - the list goes on and on.  These cuts are going to impact everyone and our way of life as we know it.

Salary, benefit levels and perks for members of Congress should be cut first, along with the federal administrative budget. Identify waste in military spending, federal contracts, and Medicare and do something about it, instead of just talking about it. Maybe if all those politicians acted as role models and sacrificed themselves we could believe they were sincere in caring about the American people.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What are you afraid of? Sign your own name.

I listened to some excerpts of the CNN interview with President George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush. Candy Crowley was reading sections of various letters President George H. Bush wrote to his sons. It was written in the 1970's timeline and he talked about the lack of civility in politics.

It struck me that times have not changed much and maybe have gotten a little louder and meaner. Jeb Bush said the one thing that bothered him was the personal attacks  in the discourse of opinion.

Listen to talk radio, read political blogs or comments on newspaper articles, watch TV commentators and you see all of them personally attacking someone. It's OK to opine about policy and actions of others, but when the criticism becomes personal or discriminatory without basis or facts, it becomes mean, if not downright slanderous at times.

It’s too easy to spew personal hatred, intolerance and discrimination when writers are anonymous and don’t have the courage to identify themselves. Anonymity is one thing but when it is used to personally attack someone, say discriminatory things or spew untruths, it goes too far.

Is it too much to ask that people act like civilized human beings? Bullies never sign their name.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Yacker Tracker

The Yacker Tracker, a device used to lower the noise levels in schools. I’m going to apply it to things going on in our world.  Red is bad, yellow is caution, and green is good job, way to go.

 Red light flashing when ARGUS LEADER sports writer, Stu Whitney,  talks about the event center.  He gives kudos to the mayor for standing up to the downtown property owners who confuse "progress" with personal interest. WHAT?!!!! Red Light! Red Light! Red Light!

Those local business owners he insults have invested their life savings in an area that represents the beating heart of this city. They are committed and support the city's efforts in downtown revitalization and have the vision to see the positive results of future development downtown.  This, by the way, benefits all the citizens and visitors to our city, not just their own personal interest.

An earlier KELOTV/ARGUS LEADER poll hardly ended the debate on where the Event Center should be built. Building the largest economic engine for the city deserves constructive debate.

He may work downtown but he is obviously no friend of downtown. His attempt at local politics was posted in the sports section. Mr. Sports Writer, stick to sports commentary or move to the Voices Section of the paper.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful ......

- that I didn't slide into the cars parked on my street Wednesday because the city decided to save  money by not sanding residential streets and intersections.

- that the White Castle dressing my brother is making to go with the turkey won't poison me. (he did this last year much to our chagrin and it's actually quite tasty.)

- that my pug Gracie didn't break her legs sliding into the garage door after doing her business out back.

- that I have a warm coat so I won't freeze to death watching Augie play their playoff game Saturday. I give all my old coats to charities, something I encourage everyone with plenty of extra warm coats to do.

- that my nephew made it home safely from  his home in Minneapolis.

- that there are still people out there who have the vision to see the possibilities of a vibrant downtown.

- that I can still color within the lines.

- that I can find quarters to plug the downtown meters so the city can tear down that parking ramp over the river.

- that I can still afford to pay for the gas I need to put in my car.

- for my Keurig coffee maker.

- for those delicious pink cookies created by my Grandma Bergren and which my niece Shelby makes each holiday season.

- that I still have some friends at City Hall with courage and conviction who haven't deserted me even after I started my blog.

- for all those selfless people in our community who give their time and their money to those who are not as fortunate as the rest of us and who don't have the need to let the rest of the world know how wonderful they are for doing it.

- that my 92 year old father is still with us another year and can still play a mean game of cards and can talk sports better than most sports writers.

- for having a mother who gave everything for her family and continues to live in our hearts and minds even though she lost her battle with cancer 27 years ago.

- for my identical twin sister who keeps me grounded and is my best friend.

- for a son who has grown into a mature and loving man, husband and father who still loves his mother and helps whenever she asks.

- for my extended family who gives me unconditional love and many moments of pure joy.

- for the loving sound of Grandma Jen coming from the lips of my sweet grandson, Finn. He tells me I am his best friend.

- for old and new friends who continue to enrich my life.

- for every breath I take and the many blessings in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Organization Structure for State Government

I just looked at the new organization chart of Governor Elect Daugaard.  He has established an executive level committee structure reporting directly to him.  Cabinet members, who once reported directly to the Governor, organizationally, will now report directly to one of his executive committee members. The organization chart says the Cabinet will have direct access to the Governor. A cabinet member can go directly to the Governor, thereby bypassing the Governor's Executive Committee Officer?  Hmmm, sounds like a chain of command problem to me.  I thought Cabinet members were the "executive committee."

It is going to be interesting to see  the salary structure of this new layer of government .  Usually when you add a layer of management, the layer beneath it goes down in salary. I say usually, because government does not always work that way when elected politicians want their way.  Will they still be appointed? Will their salaries change downward? What will be the salaries of  this newly created executive committee?   A whole new layer of bureaucracy and a son-in-law on the payroll to boot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So what that I just got elected by a landslide!

Dusty Johnson wins a PUC second term in a landslide and then resigns to become Chief of Staff for Governor Elect Daugaard. Well good for him.  I think he will do a good job. However, I can't help but think this appointment was discussed as a possibility during the campaign.  A good strategy to ensure their person gets elected is to appoint Johnson's replacement.  Sets the person up for election as an incumbent. I feel disenfranchised and hoodwinked as a voter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lights Out!!

No money budgeted for Winter Wonderland at Falls Park in 2011. I guess Falls Park is not part of that Downtown support the Mayor talks about. How about taking the money budgeted for the unfilled staff position in the Mayor's budget and redirect that money to the Park and Recreation Department to keep the lights on?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What? Hotel Tax Not Settled?

The City Council passed a new tax on hotel rooms earlier this month that will be collected beginning January 1, 2011.  The City is collecting the tax but has no plan on how to use the money? You pass a tax with no plan on it's use?? Sounds very backwards to me.

As I recall, the discussions surrounding this hotel tax centered on a stated  objective that this room tax was to provide working revenue to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to woo visitors and conventions to Sioux Falls. I thought that was the plan.  I think it is ironic that one of the ideas is to use the money to shuttle people from the convention center to local businesses. That idea alone is indicative of the problem with adding an Event Center to the Arena/Convention Center site.

Mayor Huether has his own ideas on how the money should be utilized. In today's ARGUS LEADER he says, "I think we should think outside of the box as much as possible to again spur on economic development opportunities for Sioux Falls and drive people into our great city. One of the things that has also been discussed, even before it was approved, is to utilize some of that money for the event center as well."   I don't recall that use being discussed when it was being considered for a vote by the City Council.  That idea sounds like a round about way to get around the SD Legislature but then I am no legal expert.

I happen to agree with Paul Hegg and David Sweet. Use the money to promote the city, tell our story and get more people to Sioux Falls.  That is the job of the Convention and Business Bureau.  That is what Terri Ellis Schmidt is supposed to be doing with those dollars. This is what Councilor Entenmen used as his platform to get this tax passed.

Councilor Entenmen is right in that this tax is going to be a great tool for the City. The Mayor is going to appoint members to a board that will decide how the money will be used. Any budget developed has to be approved the Mayor and City Council.  Let's hope that the City Council does not allow this tax to be used to fund an Event Center and that it's original purpose remains the main purpose - to woo visitors and conventions to Sioux Falls.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

River Ramp - Kaboom!

Kudos to the Mayor for pushing forward on getting the River Ramp demolished. This is good news for downtown redevelopment efforts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Build It Downtown Letter to Mayor Huether

November 17, 2010

Mayor Mike Huether
City Hall
Sioux Falls, SD

Dear Mayor,

This past Sunday evening in an interview on KELO TV, you made a statement regarding a new Events Center that location isn't that important.  To quote you, "The important thing isn't so much the location.   The important thing is getting it built. That is what's going to drive your economic development dollars. That's what's going to drive your commercial development dollars. The opportunity costs you lose by not building it can be quite overwhelming."

Building a new Events Center for Sioux Falls is a big deal. When a city our size spends $100 million of taxpayer funds to build a public facility and the millions it will cost taxpayers to keep the doors open each year, we believe location matters a lot.  Location of public facilities like event centers, convention centers and sports facilities affect property values, economic development that could be spun off if done right, sales tax revenues to help pay for the public facilities and the whole event experience.  Building the Events Center in the right location will help pay for itself.

About 15 years ago, our city had a similar debate on where to build a new convention center - near the falls of the Sioux River or next to the old arena.  The decision at the time was to take the easy way out and build at the old arena. Today, our city lives in regret of a bad decision.  Convention attendees number one complaint - and biggest reason not to come back to Sioux Falls - is location.  The old arena site discourages pedestrian traffic, lacks for interesting things to do and is located far from shopping and entertaining - the very things we should want convention goers to do when coming to Sioux Falls. 

Had the city leadership made the right decision, we would have a convention center near the Falls, where convention-goers would enjoy the beauty of the Falls, the bike paths, the future river greenway, downtown shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and proximity to a thriving business community.  Convention-goers would be spending more of their dollars right here in Sioux Falls, contributing to a stronger tax base and easing the burden on Sioux Falls taxpayers.

Today, we are having the same old tired debate. Should we build a new events center along the river near the falls or at the old arena site?   Our city has studied this over and over again and the economics all point to one conclusion: build it downtown along the river.  Downtown has more available parking, better in and out access for traffic, a much greater potential for economic development and a structure that fits nicely with the landscape of our great downtown area.  Past studies prove this - and the voters must be made aware of these conclusions.

As mayor, the old arena site offers you the easy route to get this done.  But it doesn't offer you or the taxpayers of Sioux Falls, the right way to get this done.  This Events Center will be around for 50 or 60 years and building it at the old arena will give us 50 to 60 more years of regret. 

The greater opportunities for economic development are in the core part of our city, downtown along the river, with access to the falls, the river greenway and the home-grown merchants who have invested their life savings to provide shops and entertainment for Sioux Falls residents. Downtown is unique in all the best ways - historic buildings, the location of celebratory parades and festivals, sidewalk cafes, the Washington Pavilion, Orpheum, State Theatre, the numerous opportunities to create more urban living and so much more.

Most every city in the country locates its sports and entertainment facilities in its core downtown area.  They do so to spur economic development, create a true event experience and because parking, traffic, electric, water and sewer infrastructures are already in place. Sioux Falls is not unique in this regard.

Location does matter Mayor Huether.  It matters a lot.  Commercial and residential real estate developers tell us location matters. Architects and engineers tell us location matters.  Business people tell us location matters.  City planners tell us location matters.  Former mayors and city council members of Sioux Falls tell us location matters.  Other cities that have had this same debate tell us location matters.  And most importantly, 50 years of history with the old arena site, tells us that location matters.

We are a volunteer citizens committee that now represents more than 2,000 voters who believe location matters.  You are asking the people of Sioux Falls to trust that you do this right.  We hope you do.  But when you ask us to trust you with a $100 million public investment - the largest public investment in Sioux Falls history - we trust the numbers first. The numbers show a fierce need to spur economic development from this $100 million investment.  If we locate this facility at the old arena site and fail to create new businesses, fail to generate additional tax revenue for the city - the taxpayers will be stuck with a debt like we've never seen before.

Build it downtown Mayor and you will see an economic engine like nothing we've experienced before. 

There is a big difference in the two locations.  One is a winner and one is a loser.  We are counting on you and the City Council to do this right.

Thank you.

Build it Downtown
Lee Brown
Carter Christensen
Jerry Hauck
Steve Hildebrand
Jennifer Holsen
Grant Houwman
Wendy McDonnel
Mark Millage
Brendan Reilly
Ellie Smith
Jesse Smith
Dave Syverson
Paul Ten Haken
Andy Traub
Anita Wetsch

Cc: Sioux Falls City Council, members of the media

BREAKING NEWS - City Unveils Second Office

There are so many press releases coming out of City Hall these days chronicling every bit of minutiae that is directed out of 9th and Dakota.

The latest breaking news at City Hall is the new recently modeled offices of the Community Development Department. The Mayor created a second office for his newly appointed director, Darrin Smith. The Mayor has changed Smith's duties from just expanding affordable housing and public parking to economic development and downtown development. A big job for someone who has no economic development or planning experience. 

Every other director had to pare down their budgets but the Mayor redirects $18,000 to window dress Smith's new office. The cost to renovate this second office and buy some new furniture was $18,000 which I bet wasn't even in the budget. Something had to be cut from Community Development and Facilities Management to come up with this unbudgeted amount.

Huether said the cost to renovate the space is a "prudent use of taxpayer dollars," considering the expense. "Darrin and his team, they're going to help close multimillion dollar deals for the city and for these new companies, and you at least want to have an environment that is conducive to that," Huether said. Well, guess what folks -  a lot of money has been expended twice already to renovate the Mayor's suite of offices for the very reason Huether cites as his reason to spend taxpayer dollars on this new office for Smith.

What a waste of taxpayer dollars.  Window dressing seems to be more important than program services priorities or staffing needs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm in charge. No, I'm in charge!

Well, after months and months, the railroad relocation project seems to have bumped it's head up from a deep sleep and received attention from the Mayor and the City Council. Too bad that they need to play tug of war regarding who is actually managing the project and whose priority it is. The Mayor said it was one of his priorities when he took office.  The new Councilors made it a priority even before taking office in May of this year.

I don't really care who gets the glory, I just want them all to start doing something about a project that has been languishing and flopping around without a breath. I am glad to hear it's on the forefront again.

I guess the Mayor doesn't like someone stealing his priorities because he told the Council yesterday that it's his administration that's managing the project, not the Council.  He said, "Just to be clear, the executive branch of government versus the city council is responsible for this project. I want to keep the city council involved, but guess what? We are already doing it. " Hardly, Mayor. It's every one's priority.  Where is that teamwork model you are always talking about? He sounds like the kid in the playgroup who is always saying it's mine and no one else can play with the toy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Is there a Timeline for the Event Center?

I have been listening to the Mayor, Cotter and Cooper talk about the Event Center process at Information Meetings, City Council meetings and on Citilink. I read about it in the ARGUS LEADER. Why am I confused? I think I am a fairly intelligent woman, but they talk about this footprint thing and this design process and comparative analysis and economic analysis and suddenly all those words are swimming around in this old noggin. So, because I like things neat and tidy and oh yes, organized, I went back and did my own little outline/timeline, call it what you will.  A road map so I can understand what the City Hall Trio says when they say it. Although they do mix up the words from time to time. I am not sure if they are trying to confuse me or are confused themselves.

1.  The Design Process - which Cotter says will create the "Footprint." The city will choose an architectural firm to design the Event Center.
  • The RFP for the architect and engineering team went out Mid-October, 2010.
  • The Deadline for RFP submission was November 10, 2010.
  • An evaluation team was identified the week of November 8, 2010, comprised of 5 citizens and 5 city officials.
  • The design process is to be completed by year end 2010.
  • Cotter says all sites identified by the Downtown Group will be looked at by the architects who will develop high resolution aerials to develop a template to start to position in some logical locations at both sites and find the most suitable and feasible location at both areas.
2.  Comparative Analysis of the Arena Site and a Downtown location to see which would benefit the city better financially.
  • The City says the "footprint" needs to be established to see which sites will work.
  • The City says the analysis will encompass parking, site availability, public infrastructure such as water and sewer.
  • Mayor asks the following questions - "Can it fit? What are the expenses? Revenue generated and expense incurred.  All questions he feels needs addressing when looking at the sites.
  • Mayor says three things impact the Downtown location:
    • Land
    • Parking
    • Railroad Tracks
  • This comparative analysis is to be completed in the 1st Quarter, 2011.
3. Economic Analysis - Cooper has identified the following:
  • Real estate values
  • Potential tax revenues
  • Ability to guarantee additional future development
  • Determine how businesses will benefit.
4.  The Vote. The Mayor says the timeline for the vote is November 2011 or early March/April 2012 and the vote will encompass where, size and expense.

I hope when they look at parking at the Arena and a Downtown site they remember that all those parking spaces in downtown are subsidized by paying renters during business hours.  This rent pays for the parking infrastructures. That is not the case at the Arena, where they will build parking lots which will sit empty the majority of the time until there is an event. 

Clear as mud everyone? Unfortunately, it is only as clear as what comes out of the mouths of our leaders. I am just here to help you great men and women, I am.

Location, Location, Location?

Mayor Huether first stated that his vision involved putting the Event Center near the Sioux Falls Arena.

At the November 8th City Council update, he said professionals should decide the best location.

On KELOTV Sunday night, he said, "The important thing isn't so much the location.  "The important thing is getting it built. That is what's going to drive your economic development dollars. That's what's going to drive your commercial development dollars. The opportunity costs you lose by not building it can be quite overwhelming."

I am getting confused. Where does he want it? Does he care where it is built? Who is going to make the decision?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Top 10 Reasons for Downtown Event Center

  1. Easy in and out-Central location; 360 degree exit
    -14 major routes in and out mean faster get-away
    -12,000 people come and go every morning and afternoon
    -Access to 3 interstate highways
  2. Ample Parking-7,300 spaces within 4 blocks
    -Well dispersed parking means less aggravated get away
    -Don’t need to take away a neighborhood park
  3. Over 40 restaurants and bars within 6 blocks
  4. Greatest economic development potential-Spur new hotel development
    -Spur new restaurant development
    -Greatest amount of developable land available
  5. More sales tax revenue
  6. More property tax revenue-Taxable valuation doubled by 100,000,000 over the last 10 years
  7. Most beautiful setting-Falls Park
    -River greenway beautification is underway
    -Historic downtown architecture
  8. An increasingly vibrant neighborhood-Planned higher density residential growth will create a sustainable environment for economic development
  9. Best place to sell our community.  It is the “there” of Sioux Falls
  10. This isn’t your parents Downtown-A lot has happened in the last 10 years to transform downtown into the wonderful place it is
Source: Build It Downtown

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mayor's First Term Priorities - 2nd Quarter 2010 Update

Here's what the Mayor said his first term priorities were in the ASK THE MAYOR segment in May 2010. The downtown parking priority was identified in the October 2010 BUSINESS JOURNAL:

1. Fiscal Responsibility to maximize taxpayer dollars.
2. Stimulate economic development and jobs.
3. Roads
4. Build an Event Center
5. Railroad Relocation Project.
6. Affordable airfare
7. Downtown parking

Furthermore, he said he was going to provide the most transparent government we have ever seen and that he is going to tell the public the good, the bad and the ugly. He started off demonstrating his commitment to transparent government when he wouldn't tell the public who was on his transition team. Oh, excuse me, first he said he had a team and then when he was asked who they were he said he didn't have a transition team.
He also said he was an over communicator.  Well yes, he is. He demonstrates that time and again, thank you.

Fiscal responsibility can mean many things and frankly is in the eye of the beholder.  What he views as fiscal responsibility may be something all together different than what you and I might think.  I think a crash and burn budget to just save money in his cookie jar to build his event center at the expense of program services and general fund operations is not necessarily being fiscally responsible to the taxpayer. I also am of the opinion that his finance plan for building the event center is not being fiscally responsible as I have stated in past blogs.

He did, upon taking office, divert capital improvement money to repairing city streets so kudos on that priority. He did it without communicating to the City Council so transparency or lack of may be an ongoing issue with this mayor.  Let's make sure that this priority stays a priority each and every year because there are still many streets in this town that are downright terrible.

The vote is out yet on his ability to stimulate economic development and jobs. He has tasked his new political appointee Smith to head up economic development for the City. I thought the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and its board of directors were the driving force in economic development for this region? Smith is an ex official member of this board, he doesn't lead it.  He is off to a rocky start on this priority, in my opinion, by his deliberate action to abandon downtown as a site for the Event Center.

No action that I can tell on the Railroad Relocation Project. That is going to take some political finesse with the Feds and right now the political environment is not real conducive to a Democratic Mayor getting the ear of all those fiscally conservative Republicans in Washington. He says he has tasked PW Director Cotter to getting this. Let's see a little more transparency on this project, OK Mayor?

Affordable airfare? Last time I looked the airport was run by the Airport Authority not by the Mayor. It is the Airport Authority's job to search out competition between airlines and get the public affordable airfares.  Frankly, the Mayor has much bigger fish to fry and his economic team needs to focus on those priorities they actually have authority over and quite meddling in the affairs of a separate governing body like the Airport Authority. 

Downtown parking is at a 75% capacity. The one priority for downtown parking is that monstrosity stretching across the Big Sioux River.  Let's see some action on that issue, OK?

Time will tell if this mayor will have any success in achieving these priorities. Tick Tock.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

War Mongers

Now Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, thinks we should consider sinking the Iranian navy, destroy its air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard. Since when did the United States become the aggressor in the world? Oh, I forgot, President Bush started that phase in American history. Graham's remarks are so outrageous that you might think they are false, but, alas, they are not. He stunned the audience at the Halifax International Security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Let's spend billions more taxpayer dollars attacking a country in a region that has such a hatred for our country that we now live in fear of attacks on our home front and live with homeland security measures that have changed our lives forever. Senator Graham sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.  I wish he would be more discreet in his personal opinions and not publicly promote war mongering actions that continue to fuel threats to our homeland security by radical jihadists.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Downtown Development/Railroad Relocation Project

The BUSINESS JOURNAL recently wrote an article on downtown development and quoted the mayor at an October 22nd groundbreaking ceremony of the CNA project saying, "A lot of good things are happening in the city's core, and there will be more to come."  The article went on about other projects unfolding in the downtown area, all of which are occurring because of small business owners and development companies, not because of City Hall.

Michael Bender of Bender Commercial Real Estate Services said the downtown area is thriving but he also said this: “What’s not happening is those darn railroad tracks. We need to get those relocated. When you get those relocated, you’re going to see a lot more development.” Now that is a project where the mayor and his administration play a huge leadership role.  

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.” His administration is responsible for spearheading the Sioux Falls Railroad Relocation and Environmental Assessment Project. 

I checked on the city’s website and it appears that nothing has progressed on this project since early 2009. The year 2010 is almost over and it doesn’t seem anything is coming out of City Hall on this project. What’s the holdup? What is the Mayor doing to move things forward with the SDDOT and the FHWA? This project started in 2006, for goodness sakes. 

Mayor Huether made some 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.

I looked at that study on the City's website and it said one of the key advantages to moving the existing rail yard from downtown Sioux Falls was that the removal of the rail and ties associated with the existing switching operations would create opportunities for redevelopment. The study said it would provide a better use of this vital and growing part of the city and it would create new opportunities for Sioux Falls residents to shop, work and play in the downtown area.

All I can say is actions speak louder than words. The Mayor has abandoned the downtown area as a site for the new Event Center. That action alone doesn't support his past statements about his commitment to developing downtown. No action appears to be happening on the Railroad Relocation Project.  Just what is the Mayor talking about when he says one of his priorities is stimulating economic development and jobs?  I guess he means everywhere else but downtown.