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.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Somebody is lying. No doubt about it.  The question is, who is lying?

The Sunday, October 31st ARGUS LEADER ran two stories about a poll regarding the support and location of the proposed Event Center. Evidently during Huether's campaign for Mayor, some downtown retailers say he told them that he wanted a downtown events center. Both Linda Watts and Dick Murphy, two downtown retailers, say they either heard him or recall similar conversations with Huether about his support of downtown as a site for the Event Center. 

Steve Hildebrand states his firm, Hildebrand Strategies, would not have agreed to work on Huether's election campaign if Huether said up front he was opposed to the downtown location. I am not making this stuff up - it's right in the newspaper article. Three people say he said it.  I guess Murphy, Watts and Hildebrand are all lying. 

Huether flatly denies saying such a thing. Heuther's response to Hildebrand is classic throwback rhetoric of the Mayor. I have seen him to do the same thing to various Councilors who have disagreed or questioned him.  He discounts and minimizes the person who calls him out or disagrees with him,  in this case, Hildebrand.  He says, "With Steve, I think he is probably realizing that he is not getting the momentum he is hoping to get, the more desperate you become, the more stuff you make up." Really? Is that what people do when they become desperate, they lie and make stuff up? Mind boggling comment.   He just called Hildebrand desperate and a liar. I wonder what the motivation of Dick Murphy and Linda Watts was to make up this stuff?

Why not just admit that you said it during the campaign and that you have now changed your mind. Everyone is entitled to change their mind when they have more information to consider.   No one, especially our public officials, are entitled to fabricate or lie to make themselves look better and make others look bad. What is it about politicians who can't tell the truth and who trash those who call them on it? Shameful behavior is what I call it.  This is an example where that silly childhood phrase - liar, liar, pants on fire - seems very appropriate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Event Center Poll

I don't know what to make of polls. Some are scientific with a margin of error of plus or minus and others are just simple opinion polls.  I look at the opinion polls in the newspaper and polls on some of the TV websites to see the way the public sway is going that day. What I have a hard time understanding is these so called scientific pools where a small number of people are surveyed and it becomes the mantra for whoever won the poll. 

This latest poll regarding the event center is an example.  400 people were surveyed.   57% of the 400 surveyed support the Event Center and said they wanted it at the Arena.  On the surface that sounds good. A hoorah probably went up in the Mayor's office. He now feels vindicated and feels his position has been validated by the poll. But is 57% of 400 really a mandate to build it at the Arena?  That's just over 200 people. 

As of 5-27-10 there were 103,764 registered voters in the City of Sioux Falls. There are 1,727 people just on the Build It Downtown Facebook page alone who support Downtown not the Arena site for an Event Center. The numbers just don't add up for me.

I tell you what, it's the financing plan to build this the Event Center that is the target everyone should be discussing right now. Money wasn't a question in the this poll. There are no facts on the table. The financing plan, if not carefully put together and explained, is what will decide if the public truly wants an Event Center or not.

Trick or Treats

I struggle with the whole concept of Halloween. It is now called a holiday.  A holiday to me is the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, not Halloween.  I am trying to decide if my feelings are just the product of my advancing age. There are so many organized activities for children these days that the art of house to house trick or treating is slowly dying.  I am not sure that is all bad. Kudos to the Empire Mall and the County Courthouse Museum for all they do for little ghouls and goblins.

I had two experiences last night that kind of stand out.  A group of teenage girls came to my door. The three of them were totally costumed out in princess dresses, wigs, the whole thing.  They said they were not there for candy but were asking for canned food for the Food Pantry.  I thought that was a nice touch.  Then I opened the door to a teenage boy dressed head to toe in black regular clothes, not a costume.  I was kind of taken aback and waited for him to say something.  He said trick or treat and then said he was collecting candy for the troops.  I slowly said OK and put a handful of candy in his knap sack.  Then he said he was taking cash donations for Second Chance Rescue.  I said no to that.  Now, he may have been on the up and up but frankly, I was skeptical. It is kind of sad that I am skeptical but teenagers at my door to trick or treat seems out of place.  Trick or treating used to be for young children.  Every year I see less and less young children and more and more teenagers.  I don't like the trend. 

Frankly, if it weren't for my grandson Finn who comes to my house and wants to walk around the neighborhood in his Buzz Lightyear costume, I wouldn't even turn on my house lights.  I hate to say it but I am so over Halloween. Then my grandson says to me as he was leaving last night - Grandma, be sure to lock the door so the ghosts and aliens don't get you. Out of the mouth of a little boy who loves the spirit of Halloween.