Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where is the Event Center Project in the Recommended Capital Program?

The mayor presented the finance package for the Event Center. I don't know about all of you but I am still scratching my head about it. I understand that the city will authorize the sale of bonds to finance the construction of the event center. The construction debt will be retired using the 2nd penny sales and use tax for the next 22 years. 

The mayor intends to fund the entire construction project, estimated at $110 million, with bond proceeds paid back with the 2nd penny sales and use tax. Within the proposal there will be no down payment on the debt and the first two years' payments will be interest only. Let's hope we see the projected sales tax growth over the next five years  so the city can make the payments when they come due. If there's a shortfall, the city will have to rob Peter to pay Paul. That means the current obligations of the sales tax dollars for capital projects may have to be reduced.

It is hard to get a handle on the financing of the event center until the city authorizes the bonds. Financing the event center bonds with 2nd penny sales and use tax does not require a vote of the public. Can the council refer this to a vote of the people? Is the public the only one who can petition it for a vote?  The ordinance, authorizing the debt, will address how much the bonds will be, what the money will be used for and what funds will be used to pay back the debt. All ordinances of the city are referable to a vote from a petition of the public.

In the 2012-2016 Mayor's Recommended Capital Program's summation, the event center bond debt payment was identified as follows:
  • 2012: $4,200,000
  • 2013: $4,600,000
  • 2014: $5,900,000
  • 2015: $6,900,000
  • 2016: $7,900,000
This summation does not meet the charter requirements for the event center capital program.

The City Charter requires that these items be addressed:

Section 5.11. Capital program.
(a)Submission to city council. The mayor shall prepare and submit to the city council a five-year capital program no later than July 1 of each year for consideration.
(b) Contents. The capital program shall include:
(1) A clear general summary of its contents;
(2) Identification of the five-year goals of the city;
(3) A list of all capital improvements and other capital expenditures which are proposed to be undertaken during the five fiscal years next ensuing, with appropriate supporting information as to the necessity for each;
(4) Cost estimates and recommended time schedules for each improvement or other capital expenditure;
(5) Method of financing, upon which each capital expenditure is to be reliant;
(6) The estimated annual cost of operating and maintaining the facilities to be constructed or acquired;
(7) A commentary on how the plan addresses the financial sustainability of the city and the region of which it is a part; and
(8) Methods to measure outcomes and performance of the capital plan related to the long-term goals of the city.

The above shall be revised and extended each year with regard to capital improvements still pending or in process of construction or acquisition

There is nothing in the CIP that identifies the project costs for the new Event Center. The Event Center project sheet just lists $500,000 for 2012. There is no identification of the estimated impact on operating expense for the Event Center. Here is the event center project page in the 2012-2016 Mayor's Recommended Capital Program:









This project will provide funding for the planning and design

of an Events Center. Debt service payments are based on estimated project

costs of $110 million.

CONFORM TO COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: In Conformance with the Plan

STATUS OF PLANS: Nothing Done Except This Report


PROJECT CATEGORY: New Building/Land and Improvem




YEAR: 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016


ST SALES TAX 500,000



The finance director did say that the city intends for the naming rights money to pay for the operating expenses of the event center. If that money is not forthcoming in a sales push by Superlative or some other consulting company hired by the city, where will that money come from?

At this point, the public really doesn't know what the cost will be until that ordinance authorizing the debt is before the council for adoption. That's where the details will be outlined.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Learning to Drive

My sister's grandchildren are staying with us for a week. Her grandson is on the high side of 14 and just got his learner's permit. He has taken the classroom training and will have his driver's education training in a few days. She is letting him drive while he is staying with us to get some experience in driving around a big city since he comes from a small community north of here.

I forgot what it is like to be in a car with a new driver. It brings back memories real quick. I have been through this phase with my son and my brother's three sons. What is really nerve wracking though is the breath intake and reaction coming from the passenger seat occupied by the grandmother. She makes me more nervous than the learning grandson.

It's that heaving sucking sound of apprehension that makes a 14 year old question his action and makes me nervous as I sit in the back seat that we are going to be rear ended because of his hesitation due to that heaving sucking sound. What I tell the grandson is that she does that sucking sound of apprehension when she is with me too. In all fairness to her, she was in a roll over car accident because of a drunk driver many years ago with her young daughter and niece as passengers.   It has stayed with her all these years and has affected her response to driving actions. Her reactions have the potential to make me a nervous wreck and I am an experienced driver. Think what it does to a 14 year old grandson.

We were driving down 26th street tonight and the light changed to yellow just as he was entering the intersection. In my mind, as the back seat rider, he had already committed. In his grandmother's mind, the light turned yellow and she kind of hollered out to stop. Well, he was already in the intersection when he started to stop in reaction to her reaction. OMG, my thought was, we are going to be hit. I softly leaned forward and told him to keep moving and I not so softly told her to button down the reactions.

I asked him who was going to be his learning instructor and he said his principal. I said, well, thank goodness, it will probably be easier than being instructed by his grandmother, bless her good intentions.

Some thoughts expressed by this inexperienced grandson driver and some instruction from the grandmother:
  •  Parked cars make me nervous. I am worried I am going to take their side mirrors off.  Well, , don't drive so close to them then.
  • I don't think I should drive since I am full from supper.You are going to drive because you  need the experience.
  • A lesson in the real meaning and importance of a turn signal. Use it, use it, use it!
  • Why you should use your 3 mirrors. You need to always know what is beside you, coming at you or is behind you.
  • Please look before you change lanes and signal please. That means turning your head!
  • How do I know when to go when I get to a stop sign? Who goes first? Consequently a lesson on what "all way" stop means and what it doesn't always mean to other drivers.
  • Stopping behind the white line at an intersection so that van doesn't have swerve out to pass you.
  • Merging onto the interstate means picking up speed, not stopping or moving at the pace of snail. Pick up your speed, pick up your speed or we are going to get hit.
I actually feel sorry for the new driver. It is a bundle of nerves just doing something that is intimidating because of the traffic and not feeling confident. Add to it the nervous outbursts of parents and grandparents and it makes for a unique experience that is not what I call a fun learning event.

It is a right of passage. We have all gone through it and we have survived. We just want our learner to be safe. As my sister said to her grandson, I don't want to have to pass one of those think signs on the side of the road and think of you. He said, what is a think sign?

 I just sighed quietly in the back seat.  I think we need to leave Grandma home.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Debt Ceiling Talks on Verge of Collapse

CNN is reporting on the status of the debt ceiling talks in Washington. It seems there is nothing new to report on the Republicans and the Democrats. Each party says the other is holding up the process.

It is a sad commentary on this country's state of affairs when reasonable people cannot come together for the good of their country.  Both parties are guilty of grandstanding and maintaining their positions to the detriment of others.

But walking out of the talks is being a baby and serves no purpose other than grandstanding. If the Task force has reached impasse, then the Task force in mass should state that. To quit and take your marbles home is cowardly and childish. Leaders work to come to a solution. Democrats and Republicans were put on this important task force for a reason - to come to table in good faith,  to come to a consensus solution that can be brought back to Congress for a vote that has a chance to pass.

Why does it always have to be my way or the highway? Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why does it have to be a blame game? Both parties are to blame for the condition of the country. This did not happen on any one particular President's term of office.

Congress is broke and we are all paying the price.

Finally - a Library Director back at the Helm

Congratulations to Mary Johns on her appointment as Director of Siouxland Libraries. I sincerely wish her luck as she begins her new job with this administration. Her credentials appear to be very similar to the previous director, Sally Felix and will serve the library system well.

I wonder if she asked why the position was open and what happened to the previous director. That is a pretty common question from applicants at this level in an organization. I would have loved to have been a mouse in the corner listening to the spin doctor on that gem.

The mayor is so excited because she will bring - here's that pesky favorite phrase again - "business acumen" to the library system.  “Mary will bring vibrant energy, a wealth of experience, solid business acumen, and even infuse a bit of fun into the role,” said Mayor Mike Huether. “She will take an organization that is already on solid ground and lead us to an even higher level in an always evolving library services environment. I can’t wait for her to start!”  I realize I am rehashing old business but come on. If the library was on such solid ground, why did he fire the previous director?

As long as the new appointee doesn't challenge or disagree, she may be able to hold onto her job better than the previous director. And above all else, "infuse some fun" into the role. The mayor expects it.
Personally, I think she will be safe. He couldn't explain another firing in the library organization.

Good luck, Mary Johns, and welcome to Sioux Falls, SD. You have a great library staff to work with and beautiful libraries. I look forward to your energy in building the Westside Branch Library and maintaining current library services and growing the system.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Planning Department - Where art thou?

There is an employment posting on the city's website for a new position titled Economic Development Coordinator. It is at the same pay grade as an Urban Planner in the Planning Department.  It seems Economic Czar Smith continues to build an economic development empire at City Hall at the expense of the Planning Department. The new economic development director already took two planners from the planning department when he was appointed to replace ousted Community Development director Randy Bartunek.

I read the job description and it is an entry management support staff position. Really, why not just add an Urban Planner to the department instead of creating another job description that is similar in education, experience and training requirements. But that is not the real issue.

When Bartunek was fired from his appointive position, he exercised his civil service rights by bumping back into civil service. He didn't bump anyone out of their position. His bumping back created a surplus position in the CD department. When he resigned a month or so ago that surplus position should have just gone away. This is really a new position when he is not adding new staff.  I thought the mayor implemented a hiring freeze of city employees.  If the mayor is so committed to keeping costs down, he should have let Bartunek's surplus position go away when he resigned.. 

The Economic Czar must need this position to help him create the huge economic development that is going to appear out at that fabulous Event Center/Arena/Convention Center site. What is really sad about all this is the neutering of the Planning Department. If a new business comes to town, where does that CEO go to talk about the potential entry into the business community. I would bet there isn't a consensus answer between the city and the business community.

The Planning Department used to be a major department in driving planning and economic development in this city. Now, we have a department lead by someone with no experience whatsoever in economic development and planning leading the charge at city hall. Community Development as it relates to housing and revitalization  of  neighborhoods has basically disappeared and Planning officials have all but disappeared from public view. It makes you wonder where the Development Foundation fits within this new "economic" vision of the mayor and his pretend "chief of staff."

How nice for Darrin Smith to be the new favorite son in his friend's (the mayor) favorite newly redesigned department.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Are we at the Event Center Starting Line Yet?

Representatives from the consulting firm, Superlative, made their presentation to the City Council at the Information Meeting this week. It was an interesting and impressive presentation. They sound like they know what they are talking about and have been successful in past sales campaigns.

We now have two companies that have offered up income projections from naming rights.  The first was from Conventions, Sports & Leisure and was included in the Task Force study.  The 2nd is from Superlative presented this week at a cost of $65,000.

Between the Title Sponsorship Naming Rights, the Premium Sponsorships, and the Luxury Suites Sponsorships, Superlative  is predicting an overall income range of $975,000 to $1,875,000 per year with an industry standard 3% annual fee escalator. This equates to a $26.2 million to $48.3 million income range for 20 years.

The Task Force Study said according to projection from the consulting firm, Conventions, Sports & Leisure, naming rights could generate $250,000 a year which would amount to $5 million in revenue if a company buys naming rights for 20 years plus another $161,000 to $375,000 per year for premium seating. The study went on to say by including that money in the operational costs, the new event center and Arena could make a $185,000 profit annually under one scenario or lose $198,000 under a less optimistic scenario. Removing naming rights and premium seating from the same analysis results in an annual loss of $440,000 to $609,000 as was reported in an Argus Leader article back in 2010.

 The Taskforce Study recommended that the naming rights should be used for operations. I didn't hear any mention by Superlative whether this money should be applied to construction or whether it should be used for operations. It is an important distinction. Hopefully, the mayor will address this distinction in his financial plan presentation. The public needs to understand not only the construction cost but also the estimated operational impact to the general fund in order to make an informed decision on their vote.

It's interesting to compare the numbers of the two consulting firms. In reality, its just guesses and estimates and who knows whose guess is on the mark or if all this is just pie in the sky whimsical dreaming.

Eager beaver Councilor Rolfing has already signed up to be on the Title Sponsorship Naming Rights Committee says Economic Czar Smith. He is obviously confident the citizens of Sioux Falls will vote yes on the Event Center vote, whenever that is.

Councilor Entenman asked about a timeline anticipating an opening in 2014. The Superlative consultant stated that the naming rights process takes 12-18 months and the sales process could take one to two years. He recommends the city start now by putting them under contract.

Who is this Mayor going to get to put this kind of money up for naming rights when he couldn't even get anyone from the business community other than Sullivan from the Sports Authority to stand up and support the Arena/Convention Center in the location debate that he sealed with his vote to break the tie?

Really, shouldn't we be waiting until we hear the financial package and move forward with a targeted vote date before we start the sales pitch frenzy? There is a time and place for the naming rights agenda. the mayor has yet to present his financial plan to the city council. They need to affirm his financial plan and instruct the city clerk to prepare the ballot for election. If the citizens pass the Mayor's Event Center plan at the Arena/Convention Center site and support his financial plan to build and operate it, then I would say unleash Superlative sales representatives on the business community.  We are far from the starting line and the starting gun has not gone off yet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Drip Drip Drip

I watched the presentation at Monday night's Council meeting regarding the 2nd reading of an ordinance to increase water rates by 14%. I appreciate the efforts of Stehly, Ehrishman and Staggers to inform the public but let's be realistic. It was said people aren't aware of what's going on. Maybe there is no backlash from the public on these rate increases because it's not an issue for them. People get fired up when they think something is unreasonable or doesn't make sense to them or it is seriously affecting them financially.

I am not convinced there is a groundswell of discontentment and dissatisfaction with the city's planning and forecasting the future needs of it's utilities. I didn't see testimony from a huge contingency of citizens testifying against the proposed rate increases. Yes, the actual per cent increase each year is certainly higher than their inflation target, but the city has explained why that is and what is necessitating the rate increases.

Believe them or not, call for an audit to see if there is waste, whatever. The fact remains that these are the professionals and they provide the necessary information to the city council to justify their proposed actions regarding these "businesses."  The city council's audit team can call for an audit if they deem it necessary.  City funding and it's financial structure is complicated and the premise that there is waste and to just take money from the 2nd penny sales tax is naive.

Let's be clear on some facts regarding funding. The Sales and Use Tax (2nd penny) is the city's primary capital account excluding public utilities. Enterprise funds are used to report the same functions for its public utilities - electric light, public parking, sanitary landfill, water and water reclamation operations.

These public utilities are classified as "enterprise" because they are run like a "business." They are not funded with the same source of money as the general fund departments. These enterprise fund departments charge fees to generate revenue to pay for their "business needs."

The Enterprise funds relating to water, water reclamation, sanitary landfill and electric light departments are used to cover the true costs for that specific enterprise (business) including operation, maintenance, periodic capital improvements, new capital acquisitions and improvements, and debt service requirements.

The premise that money from the Sales and Use Tax Fund (2nd penny) should be shifted to the Enterprise funds of these utilities to offset rate increases destroys the "business" operation and funding model of these utilities. In addition, it diverts 2nd penny sales tax from it's intended purpose of being the primary capital account for general fund operations, i.e., streets and highways, police and fire, parks and recreation, libraries, etc.

Utilities are run as businesses and their revenues must support their operational, maintenance, capital needs and debt service requirements. These rate increases are just not for water usage. The comprehensive rate and water needs analysis conducted in 2005 and updated by an independent engineering firm was and is being done to account for ongoing costs of operations, the financing of the City's LCRWS pre-payment, and additional capital replacements and expansions to meet the City's entire water resource needs.

It's unfortunate that we as consumers have been and are faced with double digit rate increases in our utility bills. In hindsight, no rate increases for ten years has certainly contributed to the rate increases we are being faced with today. I doubt it is the only contributing factor.  However, the fact remains that, as citizens, we expect a quality product flowing from our faucets. We expect our city officials to operate this business efficiently and we expect them to maintain the infrastructure of this business and to plan for new expanding infrastructure.

In this case, the city cannot win for losing. I may not like the increase but at least I understand why it must be done. Unfortunately, it's a necessary evil of running the city business called "water." We complain when they increase our rates to fund the "business" and we would scream bloody murder when the drip, drip drip dries up.

Source: 2010 Comprehensive Financial Report

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ice Road Truckers

 I have found a new program to watch on TV. It is called Ice Road Truckers. It is on the History Channel which I find kind of interesting. Anyway, this show is along the lines of the cable show called Deadliest Catch. Yes, I watch that one too. I am hooked on Lisa and Alex and Greg and Jack and all the other drivers as they compete to be the load leader of the season. Oh yes, they make a lot of money doing this kind of driving too. They also toot their horn a lot. Why, I don't know since there is never anyone else around. Solitary, very solitary.

I am fascinated by these truckers who must maneuver the roads in Alaska and the fact that a couple of them are young women. They drive roads and hills called roller coaster. They use push trucks to get a heavy load up an icy hill. They drive on ice highways which are really frozen rivers and lakes.  I am enthralled with their driving skills and all the down shifting they have to do to maneuver those huge trucks through that harsh winter country. Why anyone lives there is beyond me. Minus 40 degree weather - out there putting chains on tires and fixings loads does not look like fun to me.

The reason I am writing about this at all is that I was sitting at the intersection of 33rd and Minnesota this morning and what do I see? A huge semi-tractor trailer moving about 5 miles an hour through the intersection. A woman is driving the rig and I can see 2 guys leaning forward in the aft cabin area. On the trailer it reads: MCT Student Driver in training. Cool. A woman is learning to drive one of those big a.... trucks. I wonder if she watches Ice Road Truckers and decided she wanted to drive a big truck in Alaska. I was glad she wasn't learning to make a left turn. Have you ever been sitting at an intersection when one of those trucks is turning and you can almost wipe the dirt off the trailer as it passes by you?

I always thought it might be kind of fun to ride with someone who drove a truck on a trip somewhere in America. You sit up high and can see down into the other cars. You can see unobstructed for miles ahead. Maybe see a pesky highway patroman before you are right on top of him. What does it look like it in the sleeping quarters behind the driver's seat, anyway? How they get those big trucks down little tight streets or alleys is beyond me. Have you seen a truck back into the back of the Sunshine store down on 2nd Avenue? I can't even back up straight in my van. My very first car was a two door Ford Fairlane Super Sport with a 4 on the floor. I wonder if I can shift one of those semis. If only I didn't have to back up.

I wish that woman truck driver in training good luck. I am impressed she was giving this job a try. I hope she learns to go a little faster though. She was holding up traffic on Minnesota Avenue. Who knows, maybe I will see her on the History Channel in an Ice Road Trucker series. They could use another woman on that show.

Ten four good buddy!

The Women who want to be President

It is interesting to watch what is going on in the Republican nomination run for President. It seems there is a contest between Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman as to which woman is new little darlin' of the Republican Right.

The media has pretty much proclaimed that Bachman is the new star which has pushed Palin off to the side. I listened to some of the CNN debate and Bachman's verbal skills certainly surpass Palin. I just read an interesting article in the Daily Beast regarding Bachman's husband. Her husband is her closest advisor. Her husband is a christian therapist who describes gays as barbarians.  Surely she must have a gaggle of advisers in order to keep her balanced, right? I think not. It doesn't appear that there is any balance to Michelle Bachman. She leans so far to the right that I am amazed she doesn't tip over.

I would love to see a woman become President. I wonder if there is a moderate thinking woman in politics today who has the ability and stamina to run for President. Not to the left, not to the right, just someone who can listen to both the left and the right and the middle and somehow maintain a sense of balance.

The left, the right - what about the middle? There are a lot of Americans who are in the middle. Who represents them? All this pandering to the right leaves me weary. I surmise it leaves a lot of Americans disenfranchised and disillusioned about politics.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Embezzlement Ties to the City of Sioux Falls

Per a KELO-TV report, a former accountant at SDN Communications has been charged with embezzling close to $400,000 from SDN Communications over a period of 10 years.  Although this is very serious business for SDN Communications, this news also affects the City of Sioux Falls because the charged accountant, Brad Whitsell, served on the City's Internal Audit Committee, both as a member and as it's chair.

This information has personal ramifications for City Councilor Vernon Brown who is employed by SDN Communications. Although they shared an employment relationship, working at the same company, they did not work in the same departments. Whitsell was in Finance and Brown was in Marketing. Brown had no managerial oversight over Whitsell at SDN Communications.

Here are the facts as related to me by Councilor Vernon Brown:

  • The Council was having trouble filling the Audit Committee position because it was a brand new board. Councilor Brown asked Brad Whitsell if he had an interest because his resume met the qualifications. Whitsell expressed an interest in serving on this volunteer board and Councilor Brown subsequently forwarded his name for consideration. Councilor Brown abstained from voting on his appointment and re-appointment to the Audit Committee.
  • Councilor Brown did not serve as a council representative on the Internal Audit Committee because of their employment relationship.
  • Brad Whitsell received high marks from committee members for his work on the Audit Committee in setting up internal controls for city government.
  • It was communicated to Mr. Whitsell, through his attorneys, that he should immediately resign from the Internal Audit Committee at the City. He did not do that and Councilor Brown stated he could not jeopardize the investigation by going public with the information.
  • Volunteers who are appointed and serve on the Internal Audit Committee do not have access or touch city dollars. Their work is related to process and procedure audit and review.
  • Investigators knew about Mr. Whitsell's voluntary role on the committee and knew no city dollars were at risk.
People trusted Whitsell, pure and simple. It would appear he hoodwinked a lot of people, both at SDN and at the city.  Unfortunately for Councilor Brown, he was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

This was a highly confidential investigation for SDN Communications and a personnel issue that required confidentiality until an investigation was completed.  His employment with SDN Communications is very separate and distinct from his public role as a city councilor.

The facts are the facts. Councilor Brown understood what conflict of interest meant with respect to his personal employment relationship and his role as a city councilor and abstained from any formal or official actions regarding Whitsell's appointment or service on the Internal Audit Committee.

Vernon Brown has served the city of Sioux Falls as a city councilor for almost 8 years. Any comments or innuendo regarding these charges related to SDN Communications and his employment relationship to the accountant that infers or taints his public service is unjust and plain unfair.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oh What a NIght

It was a marathon at the June 13th City Council meeting. Two hours of public testimony that didn't start until after 10 p.m. from the impassioned public, most of whom were articulate and well informed. There were good comments, humorous comments, arrogant comments and one or two memorable moments last night. Here are a few of them.

  • All those cities, in their infinite wisdom, located their event center in the heart of their cities where it offered more than a drive, a parking spot, an event and a drive home.
  • What good is more flat floor space if we have fewer conventions because there is nothing to do out there and no place to go for entertainment, consequently no increase in sales tax for our city.
  • There are many reasons to build an event center downtown but the most important is the economic impact and to grow our tax base.
  • You must examine the past if you are to have a clear vision for the future.
  • It makes no sense to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
  • Don't put a $100 million project out there to take care of a $13 million problem.(floor space)
  • This city has never spent $120 million on a project before in its history. We want to be able to learn from what other communities have learned and also what we have learned in Sioux Falls with the history of the Arena site. Look at the studies that have been done and the economic impact to the city. In good conscience, you'd vote for a downtown site.
  • Sioux Falls is so close to getting to the next level and an event center downtown will get us there.
  • Mayor, I understand the decision may come down to your final vote and I just want you to remember the conversation we had on Phillips Ave. when you were campaigning.
  • We have South Dakota winters. Tell me how they're going to get there (Downtown)
  • I'm representing small cities and senior citizens and senior citizens don't want to walk downtown.They want to get in their car, get going home, get something to eat. They're afraid, they're old, they're in wheel chairs, they're handicapped. They want some place they can get in and get out of the Arena real quick.
  • Are you having fun yet? People say there is nothing to walk to at the Arena. You can walk to Covell Lake, Terrace Park, band concerts, water park and pool, Veterans Memorial Park, beautiful trees in Elmwood. You can go to the Ramkota and use their pool and restaurant, Sheraton and its restaurant, Sioux Falls Inn, Arena Motel, Motel 6, Brimark Inn, Kelly's Inn, Buffalo Wild Wings, Nuttie's Bar, Jono's Bar and the Rolling Pin.
  • It's 11:05 p.m. and I just want to let the people of Sioux Falls know that we still have a packed house that's engaged in this critical topic for your city, Sioux Falls. You should be very proud.
  • If we do it right, this project can be the signature project for the next generation.
  • When you look at the potential and the bottom line for the city for the next generation you come to the tale of two returns on investment: the good and the better. If we go for the good or if we go for just build it or if we for the quickest and easiest option, we short change the city for a generation and unfortunately it might just make what the naysayers say, come true.
  • The younger crowd of Sioux Falls deserves a voice on this issue which will quite frankly affect us a lot longer than anyone else.
  •  Downtown is the vision. It's the future of this city. Let's do the right thing and not regret what we did 40 years ago.
  • The AECOM study does not make a location recommendation. It says if you build it at the Arena you can expect to see $6.1 million of new development. If you build it downtown, you'll see $51.1 million in new development.
  • The decision will be the legacy of this mayor and city council.
It was wonderful to see those 30 something people testifying last night. Getting involved, having the courage to testify before the city council means these people are invested in the future of this city and want it to be better for them and their future families. Half the council just blew those young people off.

All this testimony when you knew darn well, no one was going to change their minds. You could see it especially in the no vote group. Some of the no voters didn't give the downtown supporters the courtesy of eye contact. Some smirked at the remarks. No engagement or nodding of the head unless a testimony was geared to their position.

The lecture by Rolfing was patronizing and insulting. These are his constituents. He was elected at large, These people who strongly believe that the downtown site is the future vision of the city deserved his respect, not his degradation. These were people who were passionate and had the courage to speak up. He should be thanking them for taking an interest in their city, not telling them how he was disappointed in them.

The downtown supporters who had the courage and passion for the future of their city and stated that they could not support an event center at the arena site are not poor losers in this debate. To say they are is a great disservice to them. Their lack of support for the Mayor and the 4 no voters has nothing to do with the fact their preferred site wasn't chosen. It has everything to do with what is right for the future direction of this city. To say they are all poor losers is an injustice to all these people who have elected to participate in their local government by getting involved.

Councilor Rolfing said people have made it out to seem like the Arena and the Convention Center have been a complete flop. I was there and I didn't hear anyone say those two venues were a complete flop. What they said was the location decision back then was a mistake. Carol Twedt said it best when she said that she supports and is proud of the convention center but the predictions that building the convention center at the arena would grow the economy and the tax base were wrong, wrong, wrong.

The last speaker was the highlight of the evening, however. I would venture to guess that everyone was a bit in shock when the mayor's daughter came to the podium to speak. The mayor did not blink an eye as his daughter gave a cheer out to the council to come together and produce an 8-0 vote on the Convention Center/Arena site. The only thing missing were the pom poms.

I am sure the mayor's daughter is a wonderful young woman but her appearing before the council on her Dad's issue was so out of place.  Politics 101: you don't trot out your family members to promote your cause. It is a pathetic attempt at self promotion to use your daughter in this fashion.

I find it interesting that the "golden boy" of Citibank could not find one person in the business community to close the deal for him. He had to use his daughter.

And that's a wrap!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Poll Numbers Declining

Steve Hildebrand has confided in me that he personally commissioned the poll regarding the event center and the mayor's approval ratings. Although he would not share specific details and results of the poll, he did tell me that the mayor's approval rating has dropped 6% since last September (when he commissioned a similar survey).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Predicted Role Call Vote on the Event Center Location Monday Night

Here is the order of roll call votes at city council and the predictions on how they will vote when asked to support a resolution to build the events center downtown:
Kenny Anderson, Jr – NO
Vernon Brown - YES
Jim Entenman – NO
Michelle Erpenbach – YES
Greg Jamison - YES
Dean Karsky – NO
Rex Rolfing – NO
Sue Aguilar - YES


Tell  them that a blue-ribbon panel of mayoral appointees (the Board of Ethics) easily concluded that there would be no economic impact at the arena site on surrounding properties. Why would we waste $100 million to build a facility that has no economic impact???

The word is that the mayor does not want to vote no on Councilor Jamison's resolution to build the Event Center at Cherapa and is working to change the yes votes to support his resolution introduced through Councilor Entenman to build the Event Center at the Arena/Convention Center.

Let's hope the yes votes stick to their principles and support a resolution to build the Event Center at a location that clearly provides true economic development for the city of Sioux Falls for the next 50 years.

The Anatomy of Men Behaving Badly

Once again, we are bombarded with another man in the public eye who has behaved badly. The latest is Congressman Anthony Weiner. The list is getting lengthy and it covers both political parties.  I consider myself an enlightened person, but I just don't get it with these men in powerful, elected positions who seem to think they are invincible and the best thing since sliced bread and yet do really stupid things in their personal lives. Then they compound the bad behavior by using their cell phones and social media to promote the bad behavior.

What is the anatomy of men behaving badly (no pun intended)?
  • Some seedy immoral behavior is exposed by the media or by some woman hoping to capitalize on fame and fortune.
  • They are caught and start plotting their response.
  • They lie.
  • When that doesn't work, they admit it.
  • They apologize to the public and their families.
  • They beg forgiveness.
  • They seek treatment.
Meanwhile, their families are  left in shambles. Their constituents and followers are left betrayed. They are ridiculed in public. They go on thinking this too will pass and everything will be forgotten. They lose their jobs or resign. Some bounce back.  Look at Spitzer who landed a job at CNN. Sorry, my gag reflex kicks in right about the admittance phase of their spectacular fall from grace. You know what is coming next. It is the woe is me phase, please understand me, please feel sorry for me.

What are they thinking? Oh, right, they are not thinking with their brains. What is it that these men behaving badly have in common, you might ask? Here is my take on what I think these men have in common.
  • They seek power and adore the limelight and the attention, especially from other women.
  • They are enamored with power.  
  • They have an ego the size of Mount Rushmore.
  • They have a strong self preoccupation with themselves and how great they are and they have to tell us about their greatness at every opportunity.
  • Outside forces or influence do not necessarily intrude on their mentality so a grounding of their public behavior is absent.
  • They are concerned solely with their own desires and interests.
  • They have what I heard coined recently - delusional hubris. They have exaggerated pride and a self centeredness about themselves.  They are great and no one can touch them.
  • Their fall from grace is usually spectacular.
  • They probably all had a dirty little secret(s) that they got away with and because of their delusion of greatness and self importance, it propelled their bad behavior to greater heights of risk taking.
Bad behavior is not new. Civilization abounds with stories of bad behavior. It doesn't mean we have to like it or condone it. Just stop it and don't accept it. Their personal apologies are sickening and too late. Their run to self help clinics as a way to gain forgiveness is shallow and just part of their game and self preoccupation with themselves.  I personally just want these bad behaving men to look in the mirror and, for once, recognize their lacking character and go away.

Taking personal responsibility for one's behavior - too bad it's missing in the men behaving badly.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is Now the Time to Build an EC in an Area that is Economically Challenged?

I just finished reading an article in June 20, 2011 issue of Time Magazine called "Don't Hold Your Breath." It listed the five most destructive myths about what is happening to the economy and how it will or won't recover. The myths are:
  • This is a temporary blip, and then it's full steam ahead.
  • We can buy our way out of all this.
  • The private sector will make it all better.
  • We'll pack up and move for new jobs.
  • Entrepreneurs are the foundation of the economy.
I am a supporter of an Event Center but I just don't know how one can support the mayor's vision to build an event center in an area of town that will provide no real or concrete economic future for the taxpayers of this city.

Guesstimates by his consultants are pie in the sky promises. A press release by Global Spectrum that there is "interest" by Pheasants Forever in coming to Sioux Falls if we just build it is a just that - an interest, not a promise, not a commitment. Another pie in the sky comment to flim flam the taxpayer into believing that if we build it in an area that offers nothing, they will come. The taxpayers believed the city when their consultants said it 20 years ago when the Convention Center was built and the taxpayers are still waiting.

To saddle the taxpayers with the debt of building an event center in a location that even the mayor's AECOM consultant's report showed a huge difference between economic development at the Arena site versus the Cherapa site is questionable right now. If we are going to saddle the taxpayer with new debt, shouldn't we build it in a place that has the most potential for creating economic development, thereby creating more money to take care of the city's infrastructure needs?

The mayor wants the private sector to put up a large amount of cash to fund his folly location. Well, private sector companies aren't spending  their money on such things outside their own operations. As the article states, they aren't even spending it on their own workers.

I could support a city council who votes to build an event center at the Cherapa site where the economic development potential was identified as over $50 million. I cannot support a city council vote to build an event center at the Arena site where the economic development potential was identified as $6 million.

Let's hope the city council has the wisdom to do what is right for the taxpayers of this city and not to continue to push an agenda that this local economy cannot support for decades to come.

Friday, June 10, 2011

the Miraculous McCart Field Parking Solution

The mayor held a press conference to announce a revised parking plan for the proposed new Events Center, if located at the Arena/Convention Center site.

The press release states:

"The plan meets the additional parking needs for the proposed Events Center as well as improves parking for McCart Park ball field activities and more. It minimizes the impact to the actual ball diamonds, as only one ball diamond at McCart Park will be utilized for parking purposes."

The new proposed parking will take one of the softball fields and provide an additional 300 spaces. The map of the proposed parking solution also shows a private parking lot with a building on it that I believe is the Moose Lodge. I understand that the Moose Lodge tried to sell their property to the city and the city wasn't interested in the past.  I was also told that the Moose Lodge doesn't like the softball people parking in their lot. So why would they want Event Center goers to park in their lot? Maybe they will close the lot off and charge exorbitant fees to event center goers.

It is pure doublespeak by the mayor to say that he is solving the McCart field parking problem and yet he is going to pay for it with Event Center project money. He didn't care about the softball community playing at McCart Field until he was faced with opposition to his plan to take 5 softball fields for his EC parking lot. The Mayor is now on record saying McCart needs softball parking regardless of the Event Center outcome,

It's manipulative of  him to announce this idea right before the Monday night city council vote on which location to support. He does it with the appearance of "it's a done deal,  I want it and this is where it is going." I would imagine he thinks this action might sway one or two of those four council people who favor the downtown location and intend to vote that way Monday night. I hope they are stronger and smarter than to fall for his games.

The mayor is using the softball kids as pawns in his event center agenda.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Corporate America Trained

The mayor was the luncheon speaker at the Sioux Falls Business Conference - Innovation - A Changing Market Place a week ago and he gave the conferees a "business" lesson. He said he was the "business guy" and he was going to share what he learned over 25 years in business.

He said he was Corporate America trained; he managed hundreds, motivated thousands, spent millions and millions of dollars and generated billions of dollars.  He went on for the next 45 minutes outlining what he believes are the basics in business.

Most of the "basics" are common tips that you hear consultants present in training classes. A few of his comments regarding some of the basics stand out to me:

  •  Working smartest and harder than anyone else will not get you noticed. You have to market yourself.  He said there were the smartest and strongest people working at Citibank and Premier and nobody knew who they were.  I find that an interesting comment. I was corporate trained for 15 years in the Bell System before coming to work for the city and working hard and working smart is exactly what got people noticed and what got them promoted. Marketing yourself is not equal to working hard and working smart. You may talk a good game, but if it is just smoke and screens eventually you will fall flat on your face because you are just a talking marketing cardboard cutout.
  • When you make a mistake, notify your boss. You should be thanked for it.  That is not what I hear is going on at the city. Three words - culture of fear. He said in city government there is a strong feeling of not making a mistake for fear of the press and the people. I submit there is a fear of him and his reaction.
  • If you don't like it here, leave. When you leave, you will be replaced in an instant.  The mayor went on to say when he left Citibank, he was the "golden boy."  I agree with this philosophy to a point. No one is irreplaceable or indispensable. However, there are varying degrees and reasons  why people are unhappy. Some are just complainers and don't value what they have in their job. For others, their dislike for their job or their unhappiness could be because of a new management style or an intolerant boss mentality.  It could be because of something we as leaders do to make the environment difficult. This "just leave" philosophy is dangerous in the workplace and disenfranchises people without further investigation. It's how you lose good people. A "my way or the highway" philosophy is not an admirable "business acumen" trait.  
He talked about giving the city council a book about how to become a millionaire and how controversial it was and that the city councilors missed the point. He gave it to them because he said it was about sacrifice, hard work and discipline. He said, "folks, you are not what you drive." I doubt they missed the point. He believes this book is an example of who he is. Easy for him to say as he lives in the most exclusive residential section of the city and as he builds his new "vacation home."

Yes, his luncheon speech was good for those in the audience who may just be entering the business world. I would venture most of the seasoned "business" people have heard the "basics" before. He always seems to mar the message by his grandiose reflections of himself, however. He has to constantly tell us he is working hard and working smart. He is constantly "marketing" himself.

Another thing he hammers over and over again is his constant reflection on his corporate business experience. It is a major put down to the hundreds of professionals in the city who may have never been corporate trained but have dedicated their entire professional life, education and training to public sector work and are excellent leaders and managers in the city.  It's as if working in the public sector does not count, that somehow it is mediocre.  He comes across that if you are not "corporate trained" you have no credible "business acumen."

Business is business whether it's public sector or private sector. Do you bring value to the public sector when you are Corporate America trained. Yes, you do. Does it make you better than everyone else there? No. You may have come from Corporate America but you don't know jack s...... about government and how it operates. It's a whole new learning curve.

Maybe, just maybe, the mayor should quit beating everyone over the head with the Corporate America trained and business acumen mantra and his personal marketing agenda and move on by listening and try to learn and understand something new. Oh, and maybe listen to the public sector experts once in a while.

His "basics in business" are common sense basics that don't just apply to or come out of Corporate America. Contrary to what he thinks, city government is a business too. After a year in office, he still thinks Corporate America is the only real business place that counts for anything.

I suggest he take a class offered by the city called Situational Leadership Training, taught by T. J. Reardon.  Maybe just maybe, he will learn something new and useful about leading a new "business" called city government.

CIP Comparison - Fire


The CIP consists of two portions: the capital improvements program (CIP) and the other capital expenditures program (OCEP).The CIP is primarily made up of land acquisition, infrastructure improvements such as streets and utilities, acquisition or construction of buildings, and other improvements to facilities or property such as parks. The OCEP is comprised of vehicles and capital equipment.


The current plan cuts Fire's 5 year CIP plan by $858,920. Fire's 5 year OCEP plan was cut by $590,591.

In Plan Year 2011, Fire's capital projects were cut over last year's plan by $3,420,683. The significant change for 2011 was related to Project #017015, the construction of Fire Station #11 in the southeast portion of the city to be located at 41st Street and Powder House Road. This fire station was already delayed a year in last year's plan. It was supposed to be built this year. This year's plan moved it out to 2013. In addition, $400,000 for land acquisition for future fire stations was cut in 2011 and moved out to 2013 and reduced by $20,000.

Building new fire stations means a significant impact on costs to the general fund for personnel and benefit costs. Moving these projects out to 2013 and beyond means they will compete for precious dollars in both CIP and general fund dollars with the new event center. Who do you think will win?

Previous Fire Chief Donn Hill was a visionary leader and was very well schooled on forecasting the need for land acquisition and capital needs relating to fire station coverage in the city.  Let's hope the new fire chief is up to the challenge. It looks like he has his work cut out for him in representing the needs of city fire protection.

Monday, June 6, 2011

CIP Comparison

I am going to start writing a series of blogs comparing the 2010-2014 Capital Improvement Plan with the 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Plan. I started looking at the plans in depth after the city identified that there was a $3.8 million unreserved and undesignated and questioned what should be done with the money.

The 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) identified $3.8 million as unreserved and undesignated and the administration started talking about about how to spend the money publicly in the April/May time frame.  City finances are complicated. The city does an excellent job of putting the financial reports, budgets and CIP's out on the official city website for public review. The test is understanding it as a lay person.

The Capital Improvement Plan, commonly known as the CIP, sets out projects for the upcoming year and a wish list of projects for the remaining 4 years of the plan. Projects get deleted and/or moved out or moved up dependent upon priorities.

Here are the totals for the Capital Improvement Plans:

2010-2014 CIP: $472,205,675 (former mayor's administration)
2011-2015 CIP: $387,146,485 (current mayor's administration)

As an FYI, the Event Center was not identified as a city project in the 2010-2014 CIP. The Event Center is listed as a Project 000122 in the 2011-2015 CIP. $500,000 was programmed for 2011 and $500,000 was programmed for 2012. There is no money programmed in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for an Event Center. There is no money identified pertaining to the estimated impact on the annual operating budget (the General Fund) in this plan.

The 2012-2016 Capital Improvement Plan should be coming out in the near future. City Charter 5.11 requires the mayor to submit a capital improvement plan to the city council no later than July 1. The City Council will hold hearings on the projects submitted by the Administration and, by City Charter 5.12, must adopt the CIP on or before the 30th day of September of the current fiscal year. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Irony of the Ethics Board Decision

The Ethics Board has rendered its decision and it is time to put the issue of Entenman's conflict regarding his building at Burnside behind us. This has been a very heated debate in the public, sometimes not very civil.  However, this issue needed to be addressed by the proper governmental body and it was - so be it.

This is what an Ethics Board member stated:  "Whatever we've done in that area hasn't necessarily had a good financial outcome for area businesses," board member Bill O'Connor said.  The Argus Leader reported the board based its decision in part on the fact that land values didn't go up after the Sioux Falls Convention Center was built in the mid-1990s and after upgrades were made to Sioux Falls Stadium in 2000.
There is great irony in the Ethics Board decision.  Entenman is cleared of a conflict of interest so he can now vote with the mayor on putting the biggest economic engine this city will see in decades in a place that even the Ethics Board sees as having no land value potential.

Although Entenman argued that a new events center wouldn't do much for landowners in the area, he did maintain that it still would be good for the city. "That's where the power of having it there is going to be," he said.

The mayor and his team of 4 councilor followers are hell bent on not changing their position regarding the Arena/Convention Center site. I just don't get the mentality that once you make a decision, you can't change it. It's like they have adopted a stance of "don't confuse me with the facts."

The irony of it all. This would all be funny if it weren't so sad for the city.