Friday, April 29, 2011

Conflict of Interest II

We, the people, assume we elect people who are ethical. I often wonder what happens to the concept of personal ethnics when one becomes an elected official. Mind you, not all elected officials lose their way but there are sure a lot of people who, once elected to public office, lose their moral and/or ethical way. All you have to do is watch what happens to some of these politicians when they go to Washington, D.C.

Well, it doesn't matter whether you go to Washington, D.C. or stay right here in Sioux Falls, SD. Some people just let their common sense and sense of ethics fly out the window. I think it is because some of these elected officials feel they have become special people, all knowing, granted a mandate by the people who voted them into office and entitled to special treatment. Egos grow by leaps and bounds. Arrogance crops up.

It is pretty heady business to have people want to see you, talk to you, give you special attention and recognition once you become a public official. The fact is an elected official  gets the special attention and recognition  because someone wants something from them and the only way to get the support or approval is to kiss some arse to someone who now thinks they are more important than snot.

City Councilor Entenman seems to have lost his way. First he stands up at a Public Services Committee Meeting and speaks in opposition to adopting the 2010 census for establishing a city liquor license when he is next on the list to get a liquor license. When discreetly told he may have a conflict of interest, he waves away Councilor Jamison and publicly states he doesn't care if he has a conflict of interest or not and just keeps on speaking.

I guess he thought he solved his little conflict of interest when he subsequently withdrew his liquor license application. KELO-TV reports Council member Jim Entenman owns the land right across the street from a proposed parking lot for a new facility at the arena site.

 "No, it will not influence my vote," Entenman said. "I think I've been on the record all along that I've been in favor of an events center out at the current convention center site."......... This property is not for sale, it belongs to my family and it's used for our business," Entenman said.

That's not the point.

Sec. 12½-29. Definitions in this article.
Financial interest means an expectation of receiving a pecuniary benefit. A financial interest of an official includes any financial interest of a member of that person's immediate family. A person has a financial interest in an organization in which that person has an ownership interest, or is a director, officer or employee. An official has a financial interest in a decision if a financial interest of that person will vary with the outcome of the decision. A financial interest does not include the following:

(1) A personal or financial interest which is not of the magnitude that would exert an influence on an average, reasonable person.

(2) A personal or financial interest of a type which is generally possessed by the public or a large class of persons to which that official belongs.

(3) An action or influence which would have an insignificant or conjectural effect on the matter in question.

Sec. 12½-30. Conflicts of interest--City council members.
City officials shall not:

(1) Participate or vote in matters in which they have a direct or indirect financial interest in any contract with the city.

 (3) Participate or vote in any other matters in which they may have a direct or indirect financial interest, or in which an immediate family member has a direct or indirect financial interest.

I recognize that maybe he thinks he doesn't have a conflict interest because he always wanted the EC at the Arena/Convention site which would enhance the value of his property as per the consultant reports.

Maybe the City Attorney and the Ethics Board should way in on this issue.  After all, he started this by standing up to testify publicly before the City Council's Public Services Committee as a private citizen who was requesting a liquor license for his private business. Then he put on his councilor cap and stated he wanted the committee to hold more hearings at the committee level before sending it the full council.  The question is -- should the councilor recuse himself from all votes pertaining to this subject?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Elephant is Still in the Room

The mayor's consultants gave their reports to the City Council on Monday, April 25th. They gave the mayor the green light he needed to complete his vision for an Event Center located at the Arena/Convention Center site. He will make his recommendation to the City Council on May 2nd.

After May 2nd, it will be up to the City Council to sort through the information and come to a decision on what to do about the proposed location, the financial cost estimate, what the ballot will look like and if this entire project will be put on a ballot for a vote of the citizens of Sioux Falls. They have a very serious decision to make – one that will impact the economic future of this city for decades to come.

There was a question and answer session held after the presentation to the City Council, whereby the public was given the opportunity to ask questions of the City's consultants. I would be remiss if I didn't first mention the rude tone set forth by the moderator who clearly did not demonstrate a respectful manner toward private citizens who just wanted to be heard and have their questions answered. After all, isn't that what a public question and answer session is supposed to be?

A couple of things stood out in my mind and/or raised questions for me based on what was presented and what was said at that Consultant question and answer session after the City Council Information Meeting.

1.    Don Dethlefs, Sink Combs Dethlefs, stated that the Arena/Convention Center Site and the Cherapa Site were two great sites and both can work as an event center. He stated it just depends on how much money the city wants to spend. He stated both sites can accommodate the traffic generated by an Event Center.

2.    Greg Huber, Mortenson Construction (Construction Manager for the EC Project) showed the results of the Site Selection Cost Analysis. The consultant stated the buildings would cost the same at both sites.

The report says the results of the analysis show that the Cherapa Place site is a relatively more expensive site on which to build. This is driven primarily by the cost of providing additional parking plus land acquisition.

·        The total cost results for Cherapa: $12,680,000
Parking Structure: $9,766,000
                           Street Improvements: $1,066,000
                           Utilities: $982,000
                           Land: $866,000

·        The total cost results for Arena/Convention Center: $6,532,000
Parking-Surface: $2,705,000
                                Street Improvements: $667,000
Utilities (Rock, Sewer): $3,160,000
Land: City Owned

When asked if he (Huber) had approached the folks associated with McCart Fields or the Park Board, he stated no. He said no one was approached whether there was support for taking these fields for parking. In addition, replacement costs associated with the McCart fields have not yet been identified. The consultant uses these fields in his cost analysis yet has done no background investigation to determine the plausibility of his cost estimates.

When asked what would be done about parking if McCart fields were not available, the answer was a parking structure (ramp) would need to be built at the Arena/Convention Center Site. Think about this: all that money spent for taking out McCart fields for a surface parking lot that will sit empty most of the time and will not generate any additional revenue. Let’s not forget all the youth that will be displaced when these fields are turned into asphalt and the $400,000 + the city already spent to upgrade these fields.  Then think about surface parking or a parking structure in the downtown area that could have daily rental revenue from the businesses located downtown, thereby serving a dual purpose. 

If McCart fields cannot be used at the Arena site for parking and a parking ramp needs to be constructed out there, then the costs between both EC sites will be a wash.  

3.    David Stone, AECOM Technical Services, Inc. provided the Economic and Development Impact Analysis Report. He reported the potential for spin off development and other tax revenue comparison as follows:

·        Downtown total valuation: $51,100,00
·        Arena/Convention Center total valuation: $6,700,00

The disparity between the two sites spin off development/revenue potential is basically dismissed because of the cost comparisons to build the Event Center. Someone said the decisions regarding this project will be based on politics, not on a solid business plan model. It looks like that might be may be case.

4.    When asked about financing the project, the City's Finance Director stated the funding plan has not been developed yet. It was a conceptual plan.  It is quite hard to comprehend that at this late planning stage, we only have a conceptual finance plan.

The Youth Slowpitch Softball Association Home page has a link titled: Save McCart Fields. Click on the link on their home page and go to "Save McCart Fields." This group is not in support of doing away with these softball fields. We have yet to hear from the Parks and Recreation Board as to whether they will recommend giving up McCart softball fields to this project. We do not know yet if the City Council will approve destroying McCart Park as we know it today.

The unresolved issue of McCart fields could have a significant impact on the parking structure-surface costs comparison between both sites. In addition, Dethlefs stated that if just the Event Center were at the Convention Center site, there would be enough parking today. However, with multiple venues holding events at the same time at the Arena/Convention Center site, there would be some need to have additional parking.

The mayor has said that this is not a business decision; it is based on what will be supported by the people. I am wondering how the mayor knows what the good folks of Sioux Falls support exactly because the good folks of Sioux Falls have not voted on anything – not location, not cost, not even if they support this project.

The city got sucked into making a bad decision decades ago when they made the decision to build the Convention Center at the Arena site. The prediction was economic development would follow. It has not.

Nowhere in this discussion have we heard what will be done with the Arena building in terms of updating that facility. What are the cost estimates associated with that venue? Why wasn't the Arena renovation included in the cost analysis by the consultants? The Council is already faced with spending $500,000 for a new scoreboard for the Arena.

The mayor is asking the city council to approve $65,000 for a naming rights study. Take a look at the guest blog written by Dave Syverson on this blog. I remain skeptical about lumping the Zoo and other city facilities in this study request. I am told the Zoo knew nothing about the naming rights study and no one had contacted them. I think its just subterfuge to include all these other entities to get the study approved.

I hope the city council is up to the task of researching this information and asking the hard questions. The economic future of this great city is at stake and we can't afford to build something just for the sake of saying we got it done as cheaply as possible or because the few people who speak up actually speak for the voters in this city.

It's about time for a vote of the good folks of Sioux Falls.  After all, they are the ones that will pay for it for decades to come. A vote in the very beginning would have neutered all this rhetoric.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mayor Won't Talk Yet

The mayor declines to meet with the local paper to answer questions about his consultants' reports because he needs time to digest the reports. When city officials were asked how long they had these reports to review, the response was a week.

Let me get this straight. The city council got the reports binder just before the 4 p.m. Information Meeting on Monday, April 25th. After the presentations, they were given the opportunity to ask questions. The councilors formulated their questions based on what they had just heard at the meeting. No time to digest the information before hand.

Yet the Mayor, who got the information a week before and in all likelihood was briefed by staff, won't comment publicly because he is too busy with other things and needs time to digest the information.

"I wish I had the ability to spend all of my time reading the report, but I don't have that luxury." That is an interesting comment from a mayor who has identified the Event Center as his number one priority. Maybe he could get someone to read it to him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guest Blog by BID Executive Dave Syverson - Naming Rights Study

Why does the mayor want to spend $65K on a naming rights study at this time when much of this data is readily available online? Take a look at the link below:

Or,  how about we simply order the book from Amazon and save $65,000:

Also, how is this firm going to determine in the next 45 days what the naming rights will be worth at the time they are sold? Here’s a breakdown of some other facilities comparing when they broke ground, when they opened and when the naming rights deal was announced:

Facility:  Qwest-Omaha

Broke Ground: 2001
Opened: 2003
Cost: $291 million
Naming Rights Amount/Announced: $14 million/Aug. 2003
% of Cost: 4.8%

Facility: Wells Fargo-Des Moines
Broke Ground: 2002
Opened: 2005
Cost: $99 Million
Naming Rights Amount/Announced: $11.5 Million/July 2005
% of Cost: 11.6%

Facility: Intrust-Wichita
Broke Ground: 2007
Opened: 2010
Cost: $205 Million
Naming Rights Amount/Announced: $8.75 Million/January 2008
% of Cost: 4.2%

Facility: Sanford EC-Bemidji
Broke Ground: 2007
Opened: 2010
Cost: $35 Million
Naming Rights Amount/Announced:  $2 Million/October 2010
% of Cost: 5.7%

Facility: Tyson-Sioux City

Broke Ground: 2001
Opened: 2003
Cost: $57 Million
Naming Rights Amount/Announced: $4 Million/October 2001
% of Cost: 7%

Notice how none of these centers are even close to the $24.5 million (25%) that the Mayor is counting on to raise privately. Also, note that the Superlative Group held out Intrust in Wichita as an example of their success, Intrust was built downtown as part of the larger plan to push economic development.

Here’s the Mayor of Wichita’s take: 
“The best cities across America understand that your downtown brands your community, for better or for worse. Cities with revitalized downtowns have a better chance of recruiting new business’ and attracting new jobs — thereby expanding the property tax base and generating more sales tax”. - Mayor Carl Brewer, Wichita, KS

Dave Syverson
Build It Downtown

Monday, April 25, 2011

No Business Acumen Please - I am trying to build an Event Center

The mayor made it clear that his decision (regarding the event center) in large part will be based on what he thinks will fly with voters. It can't be, he said, based simply on the best business decision - in other words, the best return on investment.

"You can't just do it strictly based on business. You can't. The process doesn't work that way, and the public wouldn't allow it," he said.

This was said in a meeting with members of the Build It Downtown group last week. This is the mayor who says he is bringing business acumen to city government. Didn't this mayor also say that he was concerned about the people coming to Sioux Falls from places other than the city?

So now we have a mayor who uses business acumen or doesn't use business acumen depending on how it fits into his vision and one who is more worried about people living outside his great city.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dim Lighting in the State Legislature

The Legislature's Executive Board chairman Rep. Charles Turbiville, R-Deadwood, has requested that the new Corrections Secretary come before the board to make a presentation on the prison needs. A day late and dollar short considering the legislature cut the corrections budget by $8.4 million, or 8 percent, for fiscal year 2012 to help eliminate the state's $127 million structural deficit. The state also had to fill a hole left by $8 million in federal stimulus money that made up this year's budget.

The first response to the tragedy at the state penitentiary should be a review of procedures. From an outsider, the internal procedures do not make sense and now a corrections officer lost his life. When something bad happens, the first reaction is to throw money at it. Do the procedures review first. Then look at the budget.

These people put their lives on the line everyday and they get paid ridiculously low wages. Welcome to the world of state government employment where state workers are devalued each year by the Legislature.  A state worker lost his life. The people who oversee prisons and the managers who run the prison need to get their act together. Their performance is left wanting and the Johnson family paid the price.

Oh, and by the way, the South Dakota Legislature's light is not shining too brightly either.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hide and Seek with the Westside Branch Library

The 2010-2014 Capital Improvement Program listed the Westside Library being constructed in 2010. The City of Sioux Falls bonded for this new branch library in 2009 with the Quality of Life II bond. The 2010-2014 CIP budgeted $4,300,000 for everything needed to build a full service branch for the citizens of western Sioux Falls. The operating impact included 5 FTE's and 2.5 PT positions with total personnel costs at $389,266.

This project was not begun in 2010. It is April 2011. It was a priority when the city passed the quality of life bond in 2009. It was budgeted for in 2010. The current Mayor has already delayed this project a year meaning it will be at least 2013 before the library hungry citizens of western Sioux Falls have their promised branch.  Has anyone heard anything recently about the Westside Branch Library to be located on the southwest corner of Memorial Park?

And while we are looking for the Westside Branch Library, why not ask the question why branch library planned improvements have decreased as well.  The 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan decreased Caille Branch Library Improvements from $80,000 (2010-2014 CIP) to $26,600.  The Ronning Branch Library Improvements decreased from $67,000 (2010-2014 CIP) to $26,600 in the 2011-2015 CIP.

Are these reductions and the delay in the construction of the Westside Branch library part of the plan to help fill the Events Center cookie jar? When it is finally built, will the new Branch Library be a full service branch like the other three City branches with adequate hours of operation? What will it look like? Will there be enough books and other materials budgeted in preparation for the opening? Will there be services for children?

How will the new branch be staffed? Rumor has it that departments have been told no new staff and that they are to hold their 2012 proposed budgets to a zero percent increase. I don't believe you can do that and plan for a new branch library. I am not sure you can have a 2012 proposed budget reflecting a zero percent increase without a decrease in all program services in the general operating fund.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Parks and Recreation CIP Projects

I was curious about CIP projects and what, if any changes have been made in CIP projects for Parks and Recreation so I looked at the 2010-2014 CIP and the 2011-2015 CIP. Keep in mind that the 2010-2014 CIP was developed under the Munson administration and the 2011-2015 CIP was adopted under the current mayor's administration.

The 2010-2014 CIP called for $472 million in State, Federal and private funds to upgrade and expand the city's infrastructure, facilities, and equipment over the next five years. The 2011-15 CIP calls for $387.1 million over the next five years.

The following CIP projects were in the 2010-2014 CIP but were not  in the Park & Recreation 2011-2015 CIP:
  • Bike Trail/Dev. Greenway ($560,400)
  • Maintenance Headquarters Improvements ($416,070)
  • Greenway Fishing Access ($100,00)
  • Laurel Oak Slide ($78,400)
  • Kenny Anderson Park Development ($145,300)
  • NE Brandon District School Site Development ($15,00)
  • Eastside Athletic Complex ($20,000)
  • Outdoor Ice System ($829,000)
The following CIP projects were added as new projects in the Parks and Recreation 2011-2015 CIP:
  • Leader's Park ($34,200)
  • Family Park ($345,800)
  • Prairie Meadows Park Development ($237,500)
  • Indoor Tennis Facility ($500,000)
  • Indoor Ice Facility ($500,00)
  • Indoor Aquatic Facility ($814,720)
Other projects were changed either in dollar amount or the project year was changed.  I don't know the facts surrounding why certain projects were dropped from the previous 5 year plan and the new ones were added in the present five year plan. My review is simplistic at best and doesn't take into account Park Board input and administration approval. It's just interesting to make comparisons in light of what will be happening in future plans.

CIP's are developed by department directors and staff who do an excellent job planning, forecasting, and managing  the city's program services and infrastructure needs. From past experience, project priorities change and mayors have played a large role in identifying project priorities, and sometimes even putting in their own pet projects.

It is interesting to see the 3 indoor facilities in the current 5 year plan. I haven't looked at the street projects but it will be interesting to watch what will be developed for future years in terms of additions and deletions.

Citizens need to pay attention to the introduction/hearings on the 2012-2016 CIP. The Event Center will have to be placed in this new  upcoming 5 year plan currently being developed by the administration. It will be interesting to see what will be dropped and what will be added.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Event Center is going here - go play ball somewhere else.

I heard the Softball folks appeared before the Parks and Recreation Board.   One of the things the Board learned  is that the five diamonds the EC needs for parking happen to be the “larger” diamonds.

Without them, McCart Field will only work for the Slowpitch leagues with kids age 8-under.  The Fastpitch people spoke as well and I am told went on record saying they don’t have the existing diamond space to absorb any displaced Slowpitch leagues.  Right now, 1527 kids are registered for Slowpitch.  1155 play at McCart, the rest play on the 3 diamonds where Burnside, 6th St, West Ave meet.
 I guess you have to sacrifice something when you are driven to complete one's vision. I just wonder what CIP projects are also going to be sacrificed when the financial package is put together.

But that is another blog.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Guilt and a Powerful Woman In Business

CNN's Fareed Zakaria interviewed Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's Chairman and CEO on his April 17th Sunday's program. It was a fascinating interview. She is an Indian-born American Executive who is clearly a powerful woman in business. 

When asked how she got to be the most powerful woman in business, Nooyi said it was through hard work. There was so much about this interview that was fascinating and insightful but there was one part of this interview that must resonate with women who balance their work life with their personal family life.

When Zakaria asked how she balances work with family life she talked about guilt and how it relates to raising her children. She said she was lucky that she has a husband who participates in every aspect of family life. She then went on to tell the story of her daughter amd a time when she waited  for her mother to come home from work because she wanted to tell her something important. At 10 o'clock she still wasn't home so she just went to bed. Nooyi said she wondered what she missed that was so important in her daughter's life. She said yes there is guilt and she has had to bury the guilt and go on. She said this with emotion in her eyes and her voice.

Here is a woman who has been named number one on Fortune Magazine's annual ranking of most powerful women in business in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Forbes Magazine ranked her third on the 2008 and 2009 list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women.  In 2008, Nooyi was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report.

Her story of guilt as it relates to balancing work with family is an all too familiar story for women everywhere who had to make difficult choices when deciding to move up the corporate ladder, start their own business, run for political office, become a doctor or lawyer, and yes, just being a working mother. And not all women have the choice to work or remain in the home to raise their children.

It is a story that I myself grappled with as a working mother. I worked for a large company out East  and grappled with working 12 hour days and then driving an hour commute home, knowing my son was eating dinner with my caregiver family instead of with me. Being stuck in a meeting at the end of the day, knowing my daycare school closed at 6 p.m. and I was once again going to pay late fees and my son would be sitting waiting for me to pick him up.

Gut wrenching feelings of being an inadequate mother who was letting her son down. I was a single, divorced parent and didn't have a husband who was a willing participant in every aspect of family life. I worked hard to ensure time away from work was dedicated to his needs and being with him.  I am not alone in this scenario. Woman everywhere live this everyday.

Back when I was beginning my career, the workplace was just in its infancy in recognizing the balance of work with family. I remember when I would have my son call me when he came home from school so I could be reassured he was home safely. I was told that the workplace was not a daycare center and that the call was not appropriate at work.

The workplace has come a long way but there is still room for improvement.  I guess it doesn't really matter whether you are the most powerful woman in business or a working mother helping make ends meet in Sioux Falls, SD, balancing work with family life brings feelings of guilt.

It's what you do about that guilt that makes a difference. When I talked to my adult son about those feelings of being an inadequate mother as he was growing up, he looked at me with confusion.  He said, what are you talking about? He told me I was the best mother and he had a wonderful life growing up. My heart filled with love and gratitude.

We working mother do the best we can and whether we are fortunate to have a husband who actively participates in every aspect of family life or not, guilt happens. Let's hope their workplace respects the balance of work with family life and doesn't make women chose between the two because guilt will find a home in that talented, hardworking woman's life.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Event Center Campaign Kicking into High Gear?

Reliable sources say the mayor and his economic czar have reached out to have Mike Knuth of Public Affairs Company (click on the link to learn more about the company)  to run the events center campaign. In addition, sources say the two have also gone to Sanford and Avera to put in $5k-$10k each to pay for it.  Mike Knuth ran the anti-tobacco campaigns in 2006 and 2010.

Background on Mike Knuth:

Senior Vice President for External Affairs, Mike Knuth is a dynamic strategist whose capabilities make a dramatic difference for PAC clients. Mike combines his organizational and analytical prowess with his talent for building strategic relationships to create strong, enduring associations.

The head of PAC's Sioux Falls office, Mike's successes on issue campaigns have garnered national attention. In 2006, he managed a nationally recognized statewide ballot initiative campaign that raised the tax on tobacco in South Dakota. In 2007, he united sporting groups in support of a Wyoming land use campaign that culminated in the introduction of protective federal legislation on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Prior to joining PAC, Mike worked for GlaxoSmithKline as Senior Executive Pharmaceutical Consultant. While at GSK, he directed and implemented a comprehensive range of business development functions, earning several awards and industry recognition. Mike also served as Unit Director of Children's Home Society in Sioux Falls, where he managed staff, as well as budgets and family programs during his six-year tenure. Mike holds a B.S. in Psychology from Temple University.

It is interesting there is an effort to hire a consultant to run the event center campaign when there is no identifiable source of funding yet presented to the public. The final consultant reports have not even been presented to the City Council yet.

Has this action item been discussed at an event center update to the City Council? I don't recall that it has been discussed in a public forum.  Is general fund dollars or CIP dollars going to be used to fund this campaign beyond the $20,000 received from Avera and Sanford? This is a high powered company so I think it is safe to assume it is going to cost more than $20,000.  What role is the mayor's Special Projects Coordinator playing in this fundraising effort? For that matter, what is this person doing, period?

The lobbying campaign is kicking into high gear and the total Event Center funding, beyond the $500,000 for 2011 and $500,000 for 2012, isn't even listed in the 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Program adopted on September 13, 2010. I am not saying this is a good or bad idea, but has this been discussed with the City Council? If yes, why hasn't it been discussed at an Event Center Public Update?

Get your running shoes on - things are starting to get interesting.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Arrogance on Display

I have now witnessed two different examples of arrogance and it falls right in Councilor Entenman's lap. The first exhibition of arrogance occurred at the City Council's Forum on the Event Center held at the Orpheum Theater on April 5, 2011.

Steve Hildebrand, President of Build It Downtown, asked each councilor to state what would weigh heaviest on their mind when making their decision on the Event Center. Some of the councilors said financing the EC, some said economic impact, some said everything.

Councilor Entenman said he had been on two task forces studying this issue over 10 years and this is the farthest they had been in the process. He then went on to say to audience that "that's why we got elected to make the tough decisions. If this was an easy job you all would be sitting up here and not us."

Hmmm, kind of an insulting thing to say to an audience close to 100 people who were invited by the City Council to ask them questions regarding the Event Center project. I don't think anyone said it was an easy decision.  So why insult them when they ask basic questions?

Entenman's arrogance was on further display at the Public Services Committee Meeting on April 11th. The Committee was discussing liquor licensing and the Public Services Committee members moved to put an increase in liquor license fees on the full council agenda based on the new 2010 census.

Councilor Entenman got up to speak to the Committee and started talking about his experience in obtaining a liquor license. He felt the committee was rushing to judgement on the issue and should not bring it forward to the full council without further debate at the committee level.

You see, back in 2008 Councilor Entenman, then a private citizen, was working on obtaining a franchise for a restaurant out by the Arena and needed a liquor license. He paid $1500 to be put on the city's liquor license list. He was now the first one on the list to get one of the new 9 licenses to be released with the new 2010 census.

At some point during Entenman's  testimony, Councilor Jamison got up and whispered something in his ear and Councilor Entenman waved him off saying, "I don't care if I have a conflict of interest or not" and then kept on talking about his objection to putting the liquor license fee increase before the full council for formal action.

City Ordinance is clear on the issue of conflicts of interest as it relates to an elected official. Councilor Entenman would appear to have a conflict of interest in relation to the formal vote on a liquor license fee increase since he was now first on the list to get one.

Council members serve the public. Treating tax payers with respect is one of the easiest things a council person has to do.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

State of the City Address

I just finished watching the State of the City Address presented by the mayor yesterday. I have been out of town so I love the opportunity to watch the goings on of city government off their website. If citizens are unable to attend actual meetings and other events in person, there is that endless opportunity to view it online.

As I watched and listened to the address, I thought he was going to hit it out of the park. He started off with the financial picture of the city. It was informative and clearly gave us citizens a financial picture that bodes well for this community. This information comes from the very capable people who work in the finance department so kudos to them for putting together a slide presentation that was informative and easy to understand.

The mayor went on to talk about unemployment, population growth, debt, and what is happening in each of the four quadrants of the city. Very well done and informative. I was thinking that the mayor was finally going to hit this important annual address to citizens right out of the park. The first inkling I had that he was going to veer off course was when he showed the slides on debt per capita.

He showed what the current debt per capita was and then he brought up the slide that showed debt per capita if the city were to borrow $100 million in extra debt. The exact amount he says he needs to build an event center. I thought, oh oh, a subliminal message to the "good folks."  Made me wonder why we need to spend $65,000 to study the naming rights if he is going to have to go down the road of bonding the entire project.

Then there was his Wow, Wow, Wow story on the extra dollars in the cookie jar. The $4 million in the 2nd penny sales tax. I was now wondering if he was preparing this "great city" for the borrowing of the entire amount, less the saving in the 2nd penny sales tax, for the Event Center.

I was waiting to hear the status of public safety as it relates to the city. I thought surely that would be the next slide. A lot of tax dollars go to police and fire and in the past, public safety has been the number one priority commitment to citizens. Not a word, not a mention, not even a hint of public safety in the State of the City Address. Why?

Because he just has to promote his agenda for the Event Center.  He  veered off the trail on his "don't tell us it can't be done" sermonette.  He started to sound like he had taken a page from Joel Osteen Ministries. He showed pictures of  numerous businesses in town who have adopted the "don't tell us it can't be done" philosophy. These are private businesses, not a tax supported public entity. Hardly the same growth expansion analogy to support his Event Center vision.

He was late giving the State of City Address. There is plenty of history to guide him on what a state of the city address is supposed to be. It is not a budget address, it is a communication to citizens on the affairs of the city. It is the one formal time to talk about development, growth, what is happening during the year and whether we continue to be a safe community.

He started off on the right track. But then he had to go mountain biking off trail.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When the Mayor Speaks....It can be a Head Scratcher.

The mayor addressed the Downtown Rotary Club on Monday, April 4th, and when asked about the status of the city pension system, he talked about spiking. He did state the pensions were funded and the system was healthy so why bring up spiking in this venue? Was this a seemingly benign comment? Who knows what his intent was when he made the comment.  

The city is about to enter into labor negotiations with the 3 unions representing general, police and fire non-management employees.  Incite the public against public employees and their benefits? I hope not.

Discussions regarding the city’s position and the union’s position at the bargaining table are tightly held within the confines of the bargaining table and are not discussed in the public arena. Why then does the mayor bring up the issue of spiking of pensions in a public meeting? 

The term “spiking” is not easily understood by the general public. The term itself causes people to grimace and question what is going on. It is a complicated issue dealing with employee benefits and what constitutes annual compensation. You can rail against unions and their impact to the workplace, but it doesn’t change the fact the majority of city employees are represented by a collective bargaining agreement with the City of Sioux Falls.

Many changes have been made over the years regarding the impact spiking has on the general operating budget and the pension benefit. Significant changes were made in 1981, 1983 and in 1997 and, at times, created very heated discussions between management and labor at the bargaining table. Is there room for more change? Probably, but the public setting is not where you begin the discussion when you are bound by collective bargaining laws both at the state and the federal level.

The bottom line is…. Employee benefits are a mandatory subject of bargaining. Pension benefits and what defines annual compensation are subject to city ordinance and state law whereby any change to the pension benefit requires an actuary study and a vote of the membership in the pension system.

That's why it’s a head scratcher that the mayor brought the subject of spiking up in a public forum at a time when he will be sending officials to the bargaining table to bargain for wages, hours and conditions of employment with its non-management employees represented by 3 separate unions.  

The mayor should quit talking about what he thinks is wrong with employee benefits at this most inopportune time. This is one area where his “business acumen” and corporate business background in marketing and banking don’t bring anything to the table of experience in city collective bargaining with unions.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My new name is American People

Elected officials love to communicate and justify their position on issues by addressing the masses as the "American People."

When members of Congress stand before a microphone and tell me they are closing down the federal government because the American People demand it, I get confused. I am one of those American people. I support actions to cut the deficit. Our nation's future depends on it. What I don't agree with is this patronizing notion that certain members of Congress believe they have been anointed to push for an extreme, uncompromising agenda in the name of the American People.

At least stand up there and tell us who you are actually representing when you attempt to justify your position on paralyzing the federal government and impacting the financial stability of this nation.

Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of this patronizing term.  The self-serving nature and extreme ideology is going to bring this country to its knees.

When compromise fails, nobody wins. With 90 minutes to spare, they all come to an agreement regarding  short-term spending plan that will give them time to finalize legislation funding the government through Sept. 30, the end of the 2011 fiscal year.

This, after a full day of pontificating and posturing before the cameras. I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. But I must ask, why were  we "American People"  forced to watch the antic of highly egotistical, self important people who think they are doing the people's work in an admirable fashion. 

Why? Because they all have to play to their base. Shame on Congress.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fishing for Fiscal Conservatism

In the March 19, 2011 Mayor's Listening Session, the mayor talked about the fact that the city ended 2010 without deficit spending in the General Fund and actually saved  almost $4 million in the CIP due to very aggressive bidding for projects in 2010. Side note: about half of that came from moving a large project out another year. But regardless, you have to give the city administration, made up of city employees, a pat on the back for working hard to bring in actual expenses that were below the budget and for their ability to prioritize without extreme sacrifices to city projects.

The mayor then went on saying this: "One of the things I have told you folks early on is that I am ..about as fiscally conservative of a person you are going to meet because of the way I grew up."

I wonder if he means personally fiscally conservative, being fiscally conservative as mayor, or both. Interesting comment considering he lives in a very exclusive neighborhood or drives two trucks, as he stated when commenting to a woman on her lack of  transit availability at the March 26, 2011 Listening Session at HyVee.  .

Oh yes, then there is that Voices column by Ellis in the Sunday Argus Leader where Ellis finally lets the cat out of the bag about those 16 acres of land the mayor bought and built another house so he could fish and relax. That little rumor has been floating out there for months. The way I heard it was he was building a house outside of Sioux Falls in preparation for his run for governor so he could say he was from someplace other than Sioux Falls. I am so relieved to hear the truth that he built it to relax and fish.

I don't begrudge anyone the financial good fortune to live well, to drive nice cars/trucks or build their dream home or lake getaway to relax and fish. Just don't tell me you, as the mayor, are about as fiscally conservative a person you will ever meet because of the way you grew up when your lifestyle doesn't demonstrate the conservative nature of your growing up years. It seems like an oxymoronic comment to me.

I hope his fiscally conservative nature proves true for the city of Sioux Falls as he moves forward with his Event Center recommendation to the City Council.  The financial package he must develop to fund his vision will impact the city's debt service for years to come, in addition to the prioritization of other infrastructure projects. His recommendation on where the Event Center will be built will impact the economic future of this city for years to come. And if the real meaning of "fiscal conservative" translates to "cheap" then the whole thing sounds like a very risky investment.

Time will tell how fiscally conservative this mayor will be during his term as mayor.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Welcome to the City Council through the Back Door

The City Council finally filled the Northwest District vacancy last night with the appointment of Dean Karsky. I find it interesting that the two qualifications that pushed him to the winner's circle was the fact that he ran for the seat twice and lost and that he had been coming to Council meetings and committee meetings for the last 4 months.

I am not sure what qualifications the City Council should have considered when filling the vacancy. Actually, you don't have to have any qualifications for either a council seat or the mayor's position. There are no minimum qualifications for those jobs.  One just needs to appeal to the citizens who vote and convince them they are the right person for the job.

Personally, I don't like the fact that 7 elected officials get to choose their fellow councilors. It totally leaves the voters disenfranchised from the process. Maybe I would feel better if I knew how many people sent their council representatives a note or email saying who they supported and the council voted based on those constituent numbers instead of knowing that these 7 councilors just got to dictate who will become an "incumbent" in the next election. 

When a city council vacancy occurs mid-term, I think there should be an election. I don't think existing council people should anoint someone which makes them an incumbent which normally assures the person the next election. I think if the council doesn't want to hold an election, then they should appoint someone who has no interest in serving in the vacant seat in the next election.

Remember when the City Commission needed to fill Commissioner Anderson's seat upon his death in office? They filled it with Sylvia Henkin. She served with distinction and served with the clear understanding that she was not interested in running for the seat at the next election. That way, everyone running a campaign at the next election started on equal footing.

I am not sure why the mayor said they were "blessed" to have Karsky on the City Council.  Happy maybe, pleased, maybe, but blessed? Blessed as defined in the dictionary means: held in reverence, bringing pleasure, contentment or good fortune. I would hardly call Karsky's appointment a blessed event.

I don't know Dean Karsky. He is obviously motivated to be on the city council. After 4 months attending meetings, although he has a personal preference he still doesn't want to state his position on the location of the event center. When asked what the important issues facing the city are he said the 3 city contracts coming up this year. I guess no one told him he wouldn't be involved in negotiating those contracts. He is interested in seeing the NW Branch Library being completed in the future.  He was asked what big  moves were coming up and he said just mundane day to day actions at the part-time city council level.

I wish him well. I just wish he didn't get there through the back door. I wish he had been elected the good old fashioned way, by his constituents.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More Changes?

Today the Argus Leader reports that mayor said his administrative reorganization still might continue.
"I'll never say it's complete, ever. Things are going to evolve. "But I'm excited about the team I've built around me," he said. "They are committed to getting results, challenging the status quo." Huether applauded team members' initiative to pursue innovation, even at the risk "of making a mistake or two."

For a person who is just entering his eleventh month in the office of mayor, he continues to say reorganization still might come.This from a man who comes from a marketing background and who, I am told, only had 3 direct reports, while working at Premier Bankcard. People don't know from one day to the next if they are going to have a job. What a leadership quality to drop that bomb publicly over and over again.  A culture of fear. The fun just never ends at City Hall.

If that little tidbit wasn't enough to get the hair to stand on end, the mayor goes on to say he did not know whether the city will have secured partnerships with private enterprise to offset some of the cost of a new events center by the time a proposal on an approximately $100 million project is put to voters. Some of the costs? He said he wanted $25 million to come from private enterprise.

That statement would seem to indicate that he is not having success in getting partners from private enterprise to cough up the $25 million he needs for that leg of his financing plan. That would not be good news to the taxpayers of this city. It would mean he would need to take more money from the general fund which is the primary operating fund for city government operations and more debt.

Just what does he think the vote is going to be in November? A vote on location only? The public needs to vote on the entire package. The decision on where the Event Center should be built is an important factor, but not as important as how he is going to finance the construction of the Event Center and then how he proposes to pay for the operation of the Event Center.

There is nothing to vote on if we don't know how it is going to be paid for from beginning to end.  I have always been of the opinion that the financing portion of this project should have come first, before we spent money on deciding where it should be built.

 It's only been eleven months. How many more changes can we stand from this mayor. I grow weary with worry.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Intimidating Wine Factor

I had a fun experience the other night. I went to a wine dinner featuring the Francis Ford Coppola Winery at Spezia. It was a dinner filled with fabulous foods matched to excellent wines. What was so enjoyable about this wine dinner is that the wine selections were matched to the various dinner courses and were presented by a representative of the Winery who gave a very interesting commentary of the Coppola Winery and it's owner. That and the fact that I enjoyed the evening with old and new found friends.

My first experience with wine was at a college party when I was offered a glass of Ripple by a boy of  dubious world experience in fine dining. Ripple should not really be classified as a wine, now should it? But back then what did a bunch of young college kids know about wine. It was the fun party factor they were going after.  It was cheap and came in many flavors. I do remember the thought that it was disgusting, however. Beer was so much better.

I am no connoisseur of fine wine. In fact, the selection of wine can be quite intimidating. Should you drink white wine with your dinner selection, or would red be better. What goes with fish and what goes with beef. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. I like what I like with what I like eating. I tend to shy away from red wine because it can pack a heck of a migraine headache for someone susceptible to such a thing. That's why I believe white wine goes with everything and no one is going to change my mind.

One of my dear friends in Virginia Beach, who I knew to be a beer lover all his life, has now joined a wine club. He has embraced this new found hobby with gusto. He talks about wine like he knows what he is talking about. I look at him in awe. I ventured out to find a couple bottles of wine to go with the dinner he was preparing one night. He is an excellent cook, by the way. The novice that I am, I spent time looking at the descriptions, the ratings, the "essence of flavors." I was of the opinion that good wine meant you had to spend a bit of coin on it. I was going to present him with my excellent choices of wine for the evening.

I walked in proudly with my purchases and presented the wines to him. He had never heard of them but as a member of this new wine club, he was definitely into experiencing new wines. One word describes the experience of my selections. I took one taste of the first wine, and new immediately it was horrible. But I figured, I am the beer and jack girl, not the wine connoisseur. What did I know. I only knew it cost me  a bundle. He looked at me and said, well, it's not too bad, with this kind of pucker in his lips as he attempted to swallow it. We poured the bottle down the drain.  We tried the next bottle. Same result. Cha ching! At that moment, I knew what I knew all along.  I know nothing about wine and I should not tackle the intimidating factor of selecting wine.

A valuable lesson learned. A relatively inexpensive wine that you love is better than some hoity toity wine that you hate and costs you a small fortune. You have to work hard at being a wine connoisseur. I can think of many other things I want to work hard at and being a wine expert is not one of them. I am my own wine connoisseur.  I am going to look the waitress in the eye and tell her confidently that I want the house Reisling and I want it with my red meat.