Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Shall We do with the CIP Money Left Over?

It seems everyone has an opinion on how to use the $3.8 million that is unreserved and undesignated in the sales and use tax fund. 

The mayor's administration has suggested that maybe the $3.8 million  be used as a down payment for the Event Center.  The city council asked the administration to identify uses for this money related to the city's infrastructure and equipment needs.

The city's finance director outlined how to best utilize the excess funds in the capital program in 2011:
  • .8 million at the Arena for a scoreboard lighting system. This item was not identified in the 2010-2014 CIP project needs, nor was it programmed in the 2011-2015 CIP. This is a new expenditure need and has been discussed at city council meetings earlier this year after the Summit League Tournament.

  • 1.2 million for street improvements, specifically 41st Street from Western to Minnesota, Minnesota Avenue from 22nd Street to I-229, and Marion Road from Madison to 60th Street. The Street Department lists two projects in the 2011-2015 CIP related to street improvements, one for overlay and seal coating of asphalt streets and one for concrete pavement restoration and joint replacement. The program dollars for the asphalt road repairs in 2011 are $6,127,500 and $1,960,000 for concrete pavement restoration. Have all these dollars been expended or obligated already which is requiring the additional 1.2 million to be identified as a need?

  • .1 million for the Fire Department's Headquarters Parking Lot. This project need was not identified or programmed in the 2011-2015 CIP.

  • .2 million for Siouxland Libraries, specifically the Ronning Branch library parking lot and the Caille Branch HVAC. The Ronning Branch parking lot repair is not programmed as a project need in the 2011-2015 CIP. However, there is a project programmed in 2011 for $26,000 to replace the HVAC unit at Ronning that is 16 years old. The 2011-2015 CIP lists a project for 2011 in the amount of $26,600 to upgrade the Caille Branch HVAC so why this is identified as a use for the undesignated sales and use tax is confusing.

  • .3 million for Carnegie Town Hall to replace the roofing system, window lintel repair, and tuck pointing. It is interesting to note that $79,000 for this project was programmed in the 2010-2014 CIP for plan year 2011 but this money was cut for 2011 in the 2011-2014 CIP.  The majority of this improvement project was programmed in 2012 in the 2011-2015 CIP. If this project is already programmed 2012 why is it being suggested now?

  • 1.1 million for City Hall HVAC repairs. This repair project was originally programmed at $595,000 for 2012 in the 2010-2014 CIP. This project was cut all together in the 2011-2015 Capital plan.
The sales and use tax fund accounts for the second penny sales tax and is used to fund general capital projects including highway and streets, parks and recreation and other capital infrastructure and equipment needs of the city.

In my opinion, the first priority for these dollars should be to take care of current infrastructure and building maintenance needs and secondly to plan for future infrastructure needs related to growth that impact streets, parks & recreation, future fire stations, etc.  "Wants" come third after those needs are met.

At the end of 2010, the city's financial report stated that the sales and use tax fund experienced a positive $.8 million change in the fund balance, ending with a balance of $27 million. $8.4 million of that balance was unreserved. Of that unreserved $8.4 million balance, $4.6 million was designated for capital projects that will be carried forward into 2011. That left the $3.8 million unreserved and unobligated that everyone is talking about how to spend.

Spend this unreserved, unobligated money on current needs related to general capital projects. Preserving current buildings and taking care of facilities maintenance needs should never be compromised for "wants." It is a very short sighted approach to maintaining the city's current building and maintenance needs.

Deteriorating streets need to be fixed. If all the money programmed in the CIP for 2011 is not enough to fix these deteriorating streets, then unreserved, unobligated reserve money should be used for this purpose.

The city needs to care for existing infrastructure and maintenance needs before it starts dreaming how to use the money for something that is not even built yet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Trip to Fort Snelling

Once a year, around the time of the Memorial Day holiday, my sister and I drive to Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota to place flowers on my Mother's grave. Thursday was the day and my sister's daughter came with us. We used to take my father with us but he is 92 years old and no longer able to make the trip from Mankato.

 It was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and blue sky. My mother is buried there because my father is veteran. When he dies his casket will be placed on top of her casket in the same burial plot. His name, rank and dates of birth and death will be one side of the headstone and her name will be on the other. For now, only one side of the headstone is engraved with her name.

The cemetery is filled with people this time of year - young people, middle aged people, old people, and children. We all have something in common. We come to honor a loved one who was either a veteran or was married to a veteran. My father served in the Army as a Captain during World War II and has earned the right to be buried at the national cemetery. It is very important to him that he be buried at Fort Snelling. It was important to him that my mother was buried there when she died in 1983.

Those of us who come to honor our loved ones place flowers and flags at the headstone of our beloved mother, father, wife, husband, brother, sister, son or daughter. We are all reflective in our thoughts. We may laugh and tell stories or reflect on a special memory or two. Some have a picnic at the grave site of their loved one. Some stand silently or sit touching the headstone. Some weep softly.

Today as I was walking away from my mother's grave, I watched a man painstakingly unwrap two flags and place them on either side of one of the white marble headstones. He stood there before the headstone for a moment, head bowed. Then he smartly saluted, drank a toast and silently turned and walked away. Honor, love, and respect for someone obviously very dear to him. I just witnessed a very personal and lonely moment in that man's life and my heart ached for him.

Fort Snelling is an awe inspiring, reflective place. It is especially awe inspiring this time of year. United States flags are flying everywhere and line the streets of the cemetery. There are acres and acres of white marble headstones lined perfectly straight, row upon row. This is but one national cemetery in this country. To contemplate the multitude of men and women who have served their country and given their lives so we can live free is overwhelming. On Memorial Day, there will be a celebration and the cemetery will be filled to overflowing with people and cars.

I like to go to Fort Snelling before the big celebration on Memorial Day. It is a peaceful, private time. A trip to Fort Snelling - a bittersweet but yet heart filled visit filled with love for a mother I miss dearly and gratitude for the many men and women who bravely served our country.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Questions Still Unanswered

1.Answers about convention/events in the AECOM report – the mayor needs to back up their numbers and get the questions answered. The dog and pony show at the convention center didn't do it.

2.If McCart Fields isn’t an option for parking at the arena site, what is the preferred alternative and what will it cost? Those costs should be discussed by the city council before a final vote on location preference.

3.What makes Sioux Falls different than virtually every other city in the country that build their events centers and convention centers in the downtown?

4.Event experience – repeat business – why don’t we want to highlight the best and most unique aspects of Sioux Falls when attracting outside visitors – the Falls, River Greenway, Historic Downtown with great restaurants, bars and unique shops?

5. What happened to the River Greenway Project excitement and commitment in this entire process?

6. Why is flat floor space expansion at the Convention Center the leading argument for building the event center at the arena site when the increase in events is just a guess?

7. If this is a great business decision, why don't we hear more vocal support from community business leaders?

8. How are we going to finance the construction costs?

9. Can the General Fund support the operating costs after it is built? How much are the projected annual operating costs?

10. Can Councilor Entenman vote on anything related to the Event Center until a decision is rendered by the Ethics Board and formally acted on by the City Council?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Talent Right Here in River City

I went to see the Sioux Empire Community Theatre's production of Annie Saturday night and it was pure delight. I am amazed at the excellent local talent and the quality of productions produced by the Sioux Empire Community Theatre.

The Sioux Empire Community Theatre's home is at the Historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Sioux Falls. The Orpheum has been remodeled and restored and it is beautiful.  The theater seats around 700 people and it sure looked like it was a full house on Saturday night.

The individual performances were flawless right down to the ensemble cast. The orphans stole the show, especially the character Molly. Such a little girl who packed a punch with her personality and spunk.

The young performer playing the lead role of Annie is a seventh grader and she belted out songs that made me think of the young contestants on American Idol. I wondered if the parents of all these child actors came to each and every performance to watch their children, how proud they must be of their children, and how emotional it must be for them to sit in the audience and listen to the audience respond to their childrens' performances night after night.

The actors playing the roles of Miss Hannigan, Grace Farrell, and Oliver Warbucks have been in other SECT performances but I think their performances in Annie were just flawless. Their acting made the story come alive and I found myself going from smiling, to outright laughter and clapping with enthusiasm after each scene.

What a pleasant evening. A standing ovation to Artistic Director Larry Etten for his direction of the production of Annie and his directorial leadership for SECT. This play was so professional. I left with the feeling of awe at the talent I witnessed that night.

Another excellent opportunity for people in the area to visit the Orpheum Theater in the heart of historic downtown Sioux Falls. This community is so fortunate to have so many volunteers who have the passion for the arts and are willing to donate their time to provide us with this most marvelous form of entertainment.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Sprint View or a Mile View to the Finish Line

Anybody watch the May 2011 Ask the Mayor? The second part of the segment dealt with the Event Center. The mayor said there was much to consider regarding his location recommendation and what made the most economic sense to him was:
  • the Arena Convention Center site will generate more sales tax dollars.
  • Greater return for our dollars
  • More people coming into town.
  • Utilize existing infrastructure.
  • Bigger events, more events, simultaneous events.
  • Common sense played a roll in the decision.
  • Consideration of what we already have - 4 lane roads, good supply of parking, a 15 year old convention center, an arena.
  • What the people want - he was told flat where the people wanted it to be during the campaign and since he was elected. The vast majority prefers it at the arena.
  • 6 out of 10 people will be coming from out of town. We have to cater to the customer.
  • The arena site is more prudent and cheaper to built there. We will get a return a lot quicker.
The mayor said the Build It Downtown group is a minority and they have to realize what the majority want. They want it at the Arena/Convention Center location.

When asked to define the difference between commercial and economic development, the mayor said:
  • There is a distinct difference between commercial development and economic development.
  • The reason you build it there is for total economic return - that's sales tax dollars.
  • You don't build an event center to bring new restaurants, hotels and shops. They are not the main indicator of success.
  • You create a powerful economic engine when you build an event center connected to a convention center because major, major events as well as major, major conventions will occur.
I am still a little fuzzy on the mayor's definition between commercial and economic development. I have yet to hear a really good answer to the difference as he sees it and he has been asked about it a number of times now. He makes no mention of the opportunity for private development at his favorite site. Really, how much private land is available for development adjacent to the arena site? Shouldn't expanding property tax revenue be part of that economic development discussion?

I know I am probably beating a dead horse to death but let's be realistic if you want to talk about commercial or economic development. An event center along the river greenway at Cherapa Place has more adjacent land for private development than the Arena/Convention Center site. There is land along the river and in the uptown area of Falls Park. When the relocation of the railroad out of downtown happens, almost 16 acres of prime real estate will open up for parking and development opportunities. 

To me, this mayor does not see the value (or maybe he doesn't understand the value) in planning for the future. He is only interested in what he can make happen quick and cheap just to get it done. We shouldn't be focused on getting a return "a lot quicker." The city should be focused on a return that will be sustaining for 50 years or longer. Contrary to what this mayor thinks, there is value in long term planning.

The mayor is banking his return on investment forecast mainly on more major, major events and more major, major conventions. Estimates made by a consultant. Estimates made by consultants 15 years ago when the convention center was built and still haven't materialized.

I hope the city council has the long view instead of the short view. The city's future in terms of economic development and return on investment is dependent on it. It's the mayor's job to convince the voting public that this thing is doable. I wonder if he will make it to the finish line.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Event Center Envy Across the Border

    KELO-TV did a story last night regarding Lincoln, Nebraska's process in deciding the location of their new event center. It seems the city faced a similar location struggle Sioux Falls is currently facing - where to put it that makes sense for the entire city.

    Lincoln was faced with organizations supporting 5 different locations, no one wanting to budge and all locations in more remote areas of the city with limited hotel, restaurants, or shopping nearby.

    The story states former mayor Coleen Seng knew it was her responsibility to bring all of the parties together for the benefit of the entire community.

    Key points outlined by the former Lincoln mayor, council member and Lincoln business leader:
    • The task force agreed and recommended the downtown location because of its overall benefit to the entire community. 
    • "The facilities that have been built to date on the outskirts of a community do not pay for themselves. That brought about the conclusion very quickly that it needs to be down in the core of the city where the tax revenue will help pay it off," Campbell said.
    • They go to a game and they go home or they get back on the interstate. That's what we're trying to avoid.
    • “It's really just the vibrancy that you create for an area. People coming in, going out to eat before the show, taking in a show, and then maybe spending the night here in Lincoln. That's the ancillary vibrancy that we think you get from location," Marvin said.
    • "How you pay for it is a critical, critical element," Campbell said.
    What more can you say about a community with leadership like that? A mayor who did not dictate the position but allowed the community to drive the process and bring it to a vote. A process that allowed input, that required listening to all factions in the community, that fostered consensus and ultimately support for an event center.

    I think Yvonne Hawkins said it best today in her column: Sioux Falls could use a good politician right about now.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Golf Opportunity? Don't Waste My Time If It Isn't About the Event Center.

    Willow Run Golf Course is up for auction and there is a unique opportunity for the city to add an excellent, already developed golf course to the other city owned golf courses strategically placed throughout the city.  Willow Run's general manager says the golf course is "in good shape and is operating profitably."

    Here is a golf course with a 25 year history in the community. It is a beautiful established golf course. The City of Sioux Falls has staked a strong committed claim in this recreation sport which has resulted in some pretty wonderful golf courses for the public duffers. A quality of life opportunity for the community that won't see the light of day with the mayor.

    It appears that the mayor is not interested in even entertaining the idea of such an investment for the city. I am told he has already rejected a direct offer to sell from Dr. Tschetter. He has also rejected an appeal from some Park Board members a couple weeks ago. Rumor has it the mayor said the Park Board members were wasting his time.

    The Eastside of Sioux Falls is growing economically with significant infrastructure being built by the city and private developers. Commercial development along East 10th Street continues and the partial completion of Powder House Road is a nice improvement. The establishment of Harmodon Park and Dawley Farms will ultimately drive more commercial development. Housing starts along Highway 11 continue to grow.  Willow Run is directly adjacent to the new Arboretum, and near Arrowhead Park.

    At the very least, it deserved a thoughtful discussion with the Park Board and the City Council as to its potential use in the community as a public golf course and the revenue possibilities for city coffers.  It's not like there isn't the ability to use some of that $3.8 million undesignated fund in the capital improvement program for such an investment in the city.

    Is thoughtful dialogue on investment opportunities for the city as a whole a bad idea? Investment opportunties come to the city all the time and it behooves elected officials to consider all possibilities before dismissing something outright without forethought or planning. This is too valuable an opportunity to just dismiss with a flick of the wrist and a comment that the mayor's time is being wasted.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    The Dean Karsky Event Center?

    At the Information Meeting on Monday, May 16th, there was discussion among council members on when to bring their event center location decision before the full council for an official vote. Council Chair Greg Jamison stated he would like that action to occur by the first or second council meeting in June.

    There are a lot of rumors out there on which way this vote is going to go and who is going to end up being the swing vote. Observers are saying that there is no question that councilors Anderson, Entenman and Rolfing will vote for the Arena/Convention Center location. They have been pretty vocal about their support for the mayor's plan from the very beginning and no amount of information that has been forthcoming has swayed them in the least.

    Councilors Jamison, Erpenbach, Aquilar and Brown have listened to presentations, asked questions and considered both locations and it appears they are leaning heavily towards the Cherapa site as a final consideration.

    Guess who appears to be the swing vote? The new guy on the block appointed by the city council to fill the vacant seat left by Bob Litz. Councilor Karsky has been heard saying he favors the Cherapa site. He has said it before his appointment to the city council. He has said it in meetings with the BID group. Now he saying that he supports the Cherapa site but might have to vote for the Arena/Convention Center site. Either he has no conviction or he's getting real pressure from the likes of the mayor and Councilor Entenman.

    How ironic is it going to be to have the newest council member who was not even elected to the position be the deciding vote on the event center location. I think if he forces this to a 4-4 vote requiring the mayor to break the tie, we should name it the Dean Karsky Event Center.

    What a legacy to have tied to your name.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Mile 17

    The mayor gave his public monthly event center update (44.05) to the City Council on Monday, May 16th. He has equated the event center journey to a marathon. He equates his personal struggle at mile 17 of his marathon to his mayoral marathon called the event center.

    I expected to hear more than the usual platitudes and pep rally we got from his introduction. The only meat at this update was from the public works director who is proceeding with the arena site as the chosen site as if it is a done deal. Even though the city council has yet to decide on a location choice, the administration is moving forward with developing the schematic design and linking it to the convention center. They are continuing the site development work at the arena site relating to access roads, utilities, and parking alternatives. They will develop the initial construction model for the construction manager at risk. 

    We heard the mayor say he needs the city council's help to get this thing done. He said he needs the help of Sioux Falls. He is going to ask the city business leaders for help and he listed various organizations that he is going to reach out for help. I submit to you that maybe he should have reached out to the city council and the business organizations before he began his marathon instead of reaching out at mile 17 of his journey.

    He listed a number of downtown visions/goals and said these goals should be done downtown in conjunction with the building of the event center. He outlined the following goals for downtown:
    • Strong commercial development
    • Remove railroad switching yard
    • Tear down the river ramp
    • New hotels with convention center facilities, bars, restaurants
    • River Greenway to the South
    • Uptown at the Falls
    • Repair/rebuild/replace roads and water lines
    • New investment incentives from Community Development
    • Trolley bus transportation from the Arena/Convention Center
    • Reap rewards of a new Event Center
    I don't know about you but these goals look like the goals associated with the building of an event center at Cherapa.  It's not about downtown reaping rewards separately from the Event Center. It's about what is good for all of Sioux Falls, not just downtown. His motives for listing these visions/goals for downtown is so transparent it is almost laughable. He wouldn't have to go to this length to placate the business community and/or the BID group advocating for the Cherapa site if the Arena/Convention Center site made any economic sense at all.

    The mayor said, "My goal is to bring forth as much information as I can to the city council so they can make a prudent and responsible decision." Yet, he continues to march forward with his Arena site plan. I wonder how the City Council feels about that double talk. When he talks about getting the city council's help, what he really wants is for them to get on their running shoes and run the rest of the marathon with him to the Arena Convention Center site.

    He is already at mile 17 and he is now asking for their help? Asking for their help and the help of the business community should have been a preliminary heat before the actual race got started. This whole thing is so backwards.  No wonder everyone is so darn crabby and heated up. I believe a city this size should have an event center. I just wish our leader knew how to run a race from beginning to end instead of trying to figure it out at mile 17.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Dakota Delight

    I opened up the May/June 2011 issue of Midwest Magazine and saw an article titled "Dakota Delight."  It was a write-up about Sioux Falls. The article says it only takes a day in Sioux Falls to see that South Dakota's biggest city is also its hippest.

    For those of us who live in Sioux Falls, we know what wonderful things this city has to offer. The article says it best. The article calls Falls Park a spectacular urban park to showcase those namesake falls. When my relatives and friends come from Virginia, where do I take them? We go to Falls Park and take the elevator up the visitor tower so we can see the full beauty of the falls from up high. We visit Overlook Cafe and sit outside and eat ice cream. We take photos of ourselves with the falls as a backdrop.

    We ride the trolley through downtown and stop to stroll along Phillips Ave. and view the sculptures. We have taken pictures of ourselves next to and sometimes right on the sculpture. I had a marvelous time showing them the heart of the city. My visitors remark on what a wonderful city this is and how quaint and unique the downtown area is and what a wonderful park Falls Park is. 

    I have even taken my family visitors on a driving tour around Sioux Falls starting at the Falls going North to Arrowhead Park, down Highway 11 past Harmadon Park, traveling through the central part of the city showcasing McKennan Park area and the beautiful older homes, to both hospital campuses.  A drive through downtown and past the Orpheum Theater and the Washington Pavilion. Moving west along 57th Street and then traveling north to Southeast Technical Institute campus and University Center.  Back through the city past the Great Plains Zoo and down 41st Street and the commercial corridor.  I took my Virginia Beach friends to see the U.S.S. South Dakota Battleship Memorial and they got a kick out of the fact that this was a replica and not the real thing like they are used to seeing steaming out of Chesapeake Bay. You don't realize how wonderful Sioux Falls really is until you drive through and around the city and see it through the eyes of your visitors.

    This article in Midwest Magazine reminded me how pleased my visitors were to be shown our city and what it has to offer and how surprised they were at what a wonderful city Sioux Falls is. My friends talk about how blue the sky is and how black the dirt is and how fresh and clear the air is - no smog. They love to come here and they live near the ocean. Go figure.

    Too often we think we are just some little Midwestern town that is boring with nothing to offer.  This article in Midwest Magazine talks about SculptureWalk that converts Sioux Falls' historic district into an outdoor gallery. It talks about Phillips Ave. filling with pedestrians in the summer to view the sculptures and visit shops, galleries and restaurants on Phillips and Main and 8th Street Railroad.

    If you take a minute to read this article, you will understand why the Phillips to the Falls and the downtown area is called the heart of the city. Then I suggest if you never go there, to get in your car this summer and visit Falls Park and take the trolley through downtown and get out and walk and explore the heart of your city. You may find that downtown has more to offer than you think. I wish more locals could view our city through the eyes of our visitors.

    Blogger Site Down for Maintenance

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    Please read the message from Blogger (Host of Blogspot.com)  below which explains what has happened to this site starting on May 11th:

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    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    The Perils of Using the General Fund for an Event Center

    The General Fund is the primary operating fund for the city which pays for most of the day to day services for the city. When city general fund departments don't expend all the money in their yearly budget, the unspent monies remain in the general reserve fund. 

    The general fund is supplied money primarily through the first penny sales tax and property taxes. If the revenues (first penny sales tax and property tax) exceed the expenditure (the general fund departments' expenses) then there is a surplus, hence the growth in the fund, usually referred to as the unobligated balance.

    As the primary operating fund, the general fund is comprised of budget expenditures (appropriated by the city council) of all general departments not supported by user fees. No funds may be expended without the council appropriation approved by city ordinance.   In the 2011 Budget, 85% of the expenditures were personnel costs, 9% of the expenses were for other operating costs, 6% were for capital expenses.

    Personnel costs encompass wages and benefits for the mayor, city council, appointive officials,  full time and part time civil service employees and temporary and seasonal employees, workers compensation costs, health insurance costs, liability insurance costs. Other operating costs encompass operating and administration costs for departments, i.e., new and replacement computer hardware/software, gas and utilities, supplies and materials, education, travel and training, telephone costs, consultants and contracts, to name a few.

    There are many ways the Administration can save money thereby building up the general fund unobligated balance in order to use as a funding source for the Event Center. Here are some things to watch for during the year to indicate the mayor is building his cookie jar.
    • Set the annual budget at zero percent growth. What this means is departments will have to eat any inflationary costs in non-discretionary spending which will impact their ability to fund program services expenses.
    • Put a hiring freeze on any new and/or separated employees.You also won't be able to afford to staff a new westside library or a new fire station since all those costs must come out of the general fund.
    •  Limit the hiring of temporary or seasonal employees. In Parks and Recreation, this would limit recreation program services offered in the summer.  Summer maintenance and repair programs and winter storm removal will be impacted in Street Maintenance.
    • Slow down purchases of  new computers, new or updated software requests, etc. This could mean a negative impact on services to the public. 
    • With supplies experiencing high inflationary trends, this will limit the resources available for their purchase.
    The mayor could ask the city council to pass an ordinance to use the city's primary operating fund  for the construction of the event center. If the city council allows the utilization of unappropriated funds (reserve or surplus, whatever you want to call it)  it will leave minimal funding for emergencies and for cash flow.

    Bringing an ordinance forth to allow general fund dollars for construction costs is unprecedented.

    There are funds identified in city government for construction and infrastructure needs: the second penny sales tax, the entertainment tax, and bonding. I hope cautious heads prevail at the city council level if they adopt such a drastic change in fiscal management of taxpayer dollars. What a city council does today to finance an event center could have serious ramifications to the operation of city government as we have known it.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    It's Not About Me, It's All About You

    I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. Then I watched the "Press Conference" statement by Councilor Entenman at the City Council Information Meeting today.

    Having an ethics complaint filed against you as an elected official is serious business. You could tell that Councilor Entenman took the complaint personally. It is easy to understand the emotions he expressed regarding what he feels is an attack on his family's integrity.

    However, I believe it is important to remember that his role as city councilor is much different than his role as a private business owner. This complaint was not against his business or how he and his family have run his business. This complaint centers on his second job, the job of an elected official as a member of the Sioux Falls City Council. These are two separate and very distinct jobs.

    The job as city councilor requires a much higher standard of conduct than that of a private business owner. City ordinance spells out conflicts of interest and a code of ethics for elected officials and provides an avenue for citizens to express their concerns. The conflict of interest ordinance addresses both direct and indirect conflicts of interest.  It is up to the independent Ethics Board to sort it out.

    The conspiracy theories thrown out against Steve Hildebrand, President of Build It Downtown is just foolish on Councilor Entenman's part. Councilor Entenman himself started this conflict of interest  issue when he stood up in public before the Public Services Committee of the City Council and while brushing Councilor Jamison off, stated he didn't care if he had a conflict of interest or not regarding his liquor license application. The fact that he owns property a block away from a parking lot proposed for the Event Center is surely open for conflict of interest consideration by the Ethics Board.

    Councilor Entenman has chosen to publicly attack a private citizen who happens to be involved in a grass roots campaign to challenge the mayor's vision for a major project that will impact this community for decades to come. He has basically done to Hildebrand what he accuses Hildebrand of doing to him. It is certainly way over the top to accuse Hildebrand of attacking the integrity of his brothers, wife, children and deceased parents. This is not about his family. This complaint was filed based on his role as a city councilor, not his role as a private business owner.

    It is any private citizen's right to file a complaint with the Ethics Board under city ordinance.

    To use one's position as an elected official on the City Council to vilify the complainant is outrageous and shows political naivete.

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    To Vote or Not to Vote – That is the Question.

    Everybody is speculating on just what the event center finance package is going to look like. In addition, there are a lot of rumors whether this whole thing is even going to a vote of the public. The finance package will determine whether there is a vote or not by the public.

    The mayor has identified money for the Event Center coming from the General Fund Reserve, Private Donors and Bonding.  Bonding the project with an issuance of bonds may require a vote of the public per state law.
    Now, there are rumors surfacing that to get out of a public vote, the financing would be done using the general fund reserve and sales tax. Issuing bonds covered by sales tax would not require a public vote unless it is referred.

    If the mayor and city council intend to issue bonds, state law requires an election with 60% of the voters in favor of the bond issuance unless otherwise provided.
    6-8B-2. Election required for issuance. Unless otherwise provided, no bonds may be issued either for general or special purposes by any public body unless at an election sixty percent of voters of the public body voting upon the question vote in favor of issuing the bonds. The election shall be held in the manner described by law for other elections of the public body.
    If the city council wishes to issue bonds for the event center project they would need to declare the necessity to issue bonds by resolution or ordinance at a regular city council meeting or by special meeting. Sioux Falls City Charter requires an ordinance for this activity.
    6-8B-3. Resolution or ordinance declaring necessity of bond issue--Contents--Election. If it is determined by the governing body to be necessary or expedient for any public body to issue its bonds the governing body at a regular meeting thereof or a special meeting duly called may by resolution or ordinance declare the necessity thereof and may submit the question of the issuance of bonds to the voters of the public body at any annual election or at a special election called for that purpose. The resolution or ordinance shall set forth clearly the purpose for which the bonds are to be issued and the maximum amount of the bonds. The resolution or ordinance may also include the maximum rate of interest which they draw, and the maximum time within which they shall become due and payable or other matters the governing body determines relevant to the bond issue.

    State law also provides that the authorization of bonds for the purpose of construction of a building or facility includes authorization to expend the proceeds of the bond for any equipment and furnishings, the purchase of any land, and the payment of all fees and expenses reasonably necessary to complete the building or facility. (6-8B-6)
    Financing the construction of the event center, paying for equipment and furnishings for the building, purchase of any land and other fees and expenses necessary to complete the event center using general fund reserve and sales tax from the Capital Improvement Program raises serious red flags. The general fund is the city’s primary operating fund and to use these operating funds for construction purposes should be highly questionable as other funds have been put in place to fund capital improvements.
    The first penny sales tax and property tax provides the primary revenue source for operations. The second penny sales tax primarily supports the Capital Improvements for general fund departments and is also used for debt retirement. User fees (water, sewer, electricity, parking and landfill) are second highest level of revenue support in the capital improvements program.
    The only money in the 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan for the Event Center is $500,000 in 2011 and $500,000 in 2012. It would seem that serious realignment of capital projects programmed in the 2012-2016 capital plan and the years moving forward will need to be significantly adjusted if the Event Center project is going to be funded using second penny sales tax.
    So where do you think the mayor and his team is going to propose getting the necessary funds to build his vision?  I say pay attention general public. The next couple of months will be very interesting.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Mother's Day Without a Mother

    I started ignoring Mother's Day the year my mother died. She died on April 25, 1983. That was the year my whole life changed as I knew it. I was living and working in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I had been in Virginia Beach since 1970.

    Then my son and I flew to Sioux Falls one October day in 1982. He, to go to his paternal grandparents in Luverne, MN for a special visit; me to travel to Mankato, MN with my twin sister to be with my mother who was having her gall bladder removed. Little did we know just how seriously ill our mother was that day. We all thought this was a routine simple surgery. The surgeon gathered my dad, sister and brothers together and told us our mother had gall bladder cancer that had metastasized to her liver. Her condition was terminal and she would likely be dead in 6 months. We all felt like death had just walked right into our lives uninvited and unwanted.

    You go through your life thinking you are invincible. You take your health and that of your family members for granted. Sickness and death happens to someone else. You plan life like you have a million tomorrows. Then you get shot right through the heart. We were stunned. My mother was only 57 years old. We were too young to be dealing with the possibility of losing our mother. We shoved this news off to the side and told mother she was going to beat this. If I wasn't so involved in my feelings of despair, maybe I would have recognized the desperation in her own eyes.

    Life without a mother is heartbreaking. I feel robbed. More importantly, she was robbed of a retirement life with my father that they talked about and planned with enthusiasm and expectation.  Her grandchildren were robbed of so many opportunities of the love only a grandmother can make special.  She was robbed of  two more grandchildren born into the family and 5 new great grandchildren.

    My mother was the most kind hearted, generous, and giving woman. We were lucky to have grown up in such a loving and nurturing home. She reveled in being a grandmother and a day doesn't go by that my sister's son and daughter and my son don't talk about some memory created by my mother. Birthdays were special days where we would eat in the dining room, with a special meal prepared, served on the china and family silverware fit for holidays only. There was always a special treat when we came home from school. Meal times were filled with talk and laughter of our day. My mother did not work outside the home. Her job was to take care of her family and she dedicated her entire life to her husband and her children. A mother who became a friend and confident when I became an adult. I miss her no less today than I did when she died 28 years ago.

    I have hated Mother's Day since that April day in 1983. I could not bring myself to go into a store this time of year and see all those Mother's Day cards. Mother's Day without a mother was not something to celebrate. It still isn't.

    I try everyday to be the kind of mother my mother was to me. I try everyday to be the kind of grandma my mother was to her grandchildren. She left an imprint in our lives and in our hearts that shall live forever. So today, I rejoice in the fact that I was so lucky to have a mother who loved me and sacrificed for me and I am thankful for the years and moments we had together.

    Still, it's not easy to spend Mother's Day without my mother.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Numbers, Numbers, Whose Got the Right Numbers?

    Jonathan Ellis, ARGUS LEADER reporter, wrote a column on the assumptions used to develop the potential 34 new events if the Event Center is built at the Arena instead of Downtown.

    AECOM, the firm hired to develop an economic analysis, assumes that 34 events with an average daily attendance of 3,500 people will be held each year if an events center is built adjoining the Sioux Falls Convention Center. The number is only seven events if it's built downtown.

    I am hearing rumblings that the consultant used current shows to pad the numbers. How can current shows be used to show economic development? If the number included shows like the Home Show and Sportsman's Show, those figures would tend to skew the daily average, wouldn't it?

    The Home Show, Sportsman’s Show and Lawn & Garden Show are all held in the March time frame, usually starting late in the week and going into the weekends. These are the same weekends that we want State Boys & Girls Basketball Tournaments and the Summit League Tournaments to be held at the Arena.  So if we are going to use a newly connected events center to our convention center to expand the flat floor space for the Home Show, Sportsman Show & Lawn and Garden Show – how will we  be able to host any of these basketball tournaments in the new events center.

    As I recall, the mayor specifically used these shows as an example at the Q & A the other night. And Scott Kavanaugh used them in the Argus story yesterday . I don't know whose numbers are correct. I just know there are questions about the numbers. Maybe the city needs to go back to the consultant and ask them to enlighten everyone on how the numbers were developed. Lay it all out and get these questions answered so everyone can move on.

    The city council has a big task ahead of themselves. They said they were committed to a review of the numbers and assumptions made in an economic analysis of a new events center.  The only two councilors who seem to be up to the task are Jamison and Brown. The others seem to rubberstamp whatever the mayor wants. Look how they all rolled over on the $65,000 naming rights study. Let's hope they are up to the task.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Just Can't Pull the Trigger on the Truth

    The mayor was interviewed live online by the ARGUS LEADER Editorial Board on Wednesday, May 4th regarding his first year in office. When given the opportunity to come clean with the public regarding the firing of Sally Felix, the mayor, once again, could not pull the trigger and come clean.

    The mayor was asked to give an update on the hiring of a new library director. He stated that he would be meeting with one of the top candidates on Friday or within the next two weeks.  Randell Beck followed up by asking, "Did you fire the previous library director or did she resign or retire?"

    The mayor stumbled with his response and said he was not going to answer that and that he was surprised he (Beck) even asked it in that way. What other way could it be asked? It was a straight forward question that deserved a straight forward answer. The mayor said, "Sally Felix retired from her role."

    Here is a mayor who held press conferences and issued press releases when he fired several appointed officials within weeks of taking office. Yet, he still cannot come clean on his firing of Sally Felix.
    To continue to say she retired, is doublespeak.

    What does that say about someone who cannot come clean with his own action regarding Felix? We don't need doublespeak from our mayor. We need public officials who have the conviction and character to take responsibility for their actions, criticism not withstanding.

    To say Sally Felix retired is double speak, pure and simple. Everyone knows he fired her. She chose the option to retire because she was out of a job because he fired her. He knows he fired her. Yet, he still cannot take responsibility for his action and has to doublespeak it. If he could just admit it, this would not continue to be a story. Maybe that's one of the reasons he can't sleep at night.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Moving On - I Can Only Hope!

    Hopefully, I went to my last Q & A Session on the Event Center location topic. It made me want to access my grandson's Talking Tom application on my IPAD and touch his paw so his nails scratched across the screen like finger nails on a blackboard.

    The format was changed so there was no interaction or follow-up allowed by participants. Questions had to be submitted in writing or by e-mail. All the questions were screened by the moderator, Jack Marsh. This was the best format for a mayor who likes to control his environment and what he says. As such, it allowed the mayor to keep the agenda on his message. I heard most of the dialogue already.

    Once again we heard about his business acumen, the way he grew up and why he is the most fiscally conservative person we will ever meet. Why he must continually tell us that is beyond my comprehension. Although it is getting very old, I wish he would just find a new tag line. I don't really want to hear about his personal life, what he brings to the table, blah, blah , blah. The campaign is over. We know who he is and where he came from.

    Here is what I heard last night that stuck out above the same old, same old:
    • We are building the Event Center for the 60% who live out of town.
    • We need more parking for the McCart fields even if we didn't pave the fields over.
    • There's a good chance this facility will not pay for the operating costs, so there will need to be budget subsidies.
    • The way the Event Center pays for itself is economic development, not commercial development.
    • He has a vision for the railroad tracks. When asked to be specific, he said green space, retail, restaurants and Condos.
    • He is going to run for re-election in 3 years.
    • The job is really hard and people need to stop being mean to him.
    • He will get all the information to the city council by the end of July for a vote in November.
    Let's kick this thing into high gear. I know I am not the only one out there who wants to move on to the red meat - financing this thing and when and if it will go to a public vote.

    Are you ready to move on?

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    The Face of the War on Terror is Dead

    The breaking news last night that Osama bin Laden was dead was cathartic. It has been a long time wanting and waiting.  I am sure there will be people and news outlets who will want to politicize this action.  There will be people who won’t believe it because for them the boogey man, going by the name of conspiracy, is always tucked into a corner of their brain.
    Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration were committed to getting bin Laden.  Who cares who got it done?  I am just thankful the party in charge at the time the intelligence brought credible information forward, had the courage to take the action.
    Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea.  I say hurrah! It saves this country from paying billions of dollars to protect someone who has killed thousands of innocent people in the name of Jihad against America.
    Young people appearing almost immediately outside the White House.  People gathering at Ground Zero in New York City. People taking to the streets in jubilation.  Pride in a job well done.  Celebrating the courage and bravery of the specially trained and highly mythologized SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but known even to the locals at their home base Dam Neck in Virginia as just DevGru. These brave people carried out the mission of our Commander-in-Chief. These are visions of patriotism, love for our country and its citizens.

    The sun is shining today and it just seems different out there.  Sure, we are in Sioux Falls, SD.  A little oasis away from real danger and the deadly stain of death by terrorists.  But we can still celebrate this day.  As we reflect on 9/11 and the visions that will forever be stamped in our memories, we can be thankful that we live in America. We can be thankful for our armed forces and our president.
    Justice has been served.

    Sense and Sensibility

    This Event Center process has been interesting to say the least. There are definitely four camps of thought and support regarding this major project.
    A.   The No Camp
    B.    The Just Build It-Who Cares Where Camp
    C.    The Arena Convention Center Camp
    D.   The Build It Downtown Camp.
    Every camp has been vocal in their position, whether it is in person, online commenting on articles written in the ARGUS LEADER, comments posted on television stories through websites or Facebook pages, or blogs/comments. The exchange of ideas and public input is absolutely necessary to this process and should be welcomed, no matter what camp it comes from.
    Small numbers of people actually attend Event Center Updates or public Q & A sessions. There is a huge group of voters out there who never comment, never go on the Internet, never email or call their councilor or mayor, and may never read the local paper. We know what the vocal minority wants. What does the silent majority want?
    We have elected people to make the decision regarding whether the city should build an event center. They will have to decide if we can afford to build and operate an event center. And they will have to decide where the Event Center will be built if, in fact, we can afford to build and operate it.
    Elected officials get lobbied regarding various public issues. What has been going on with this project is just that – lobbying... lobbying through the Internet, face to face meetings, and public meetings.   
    The time is finally approaching where it will be in the city council’s hands and that decision(s) will be made through a majority vote of the council. The city council will ultimately decide whether we vote on this issue at all. If we get to vote, I wonder what the ballot will actually look like.   I wish the mayor and the city council had framed this issue differently and made some crucial decisions upfront.
    We got a glimpse of where the councilors were at on this whole issue in the  Argus Leader.  At least there are some councilors who have the big picture at hand. It's all about the finances, what debt are we willing to carry forward, and what are we going to have to give up.
    All this rhetoric about who is right and who is wrong is growing to a frenzy. People are frustrated and angry and impatient. The debate can go on forever. I wish we had used sense and sensibility in the beginning and talked and debated the financing of the project.
    Then the public could have made the decision if they wanted an event center and where it should be built.