Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Oxymoron of Sioux Falls Metropolitan Area


As of May, 49.1 percent of students in grades K-5 in the Sioux Falls district received the federal government’s school lunch subsidy, up 5.4 percentage points from the previous year. The middle and high school rates were up 5.1 and 4.7 points, respectively.

Eligibility is determined by the number of people and total income in a household. For a three person household, the yearly income maximum is $25,389 to qualify for free meals and $36,131 for reduced-price meals.

Reynold Nesiba, an associate professor of economics at Augustana College. -  “We have a very low unemployment rate, but there are so many people that are working lower-wage jobs, and a higher number of people working two or more jobs.”

South Dakota Division of Labor statistics show that half the workforce in the four-county Sioux Falls Metropolitan Area earns less than $15 an hour — about $31,000 per year.

School board member Kent Alberty, who is also co-owner of a staffing company in Sioux Falls. -  “When you see 3 percent unemployment, you would think, well, companies must be thinking about bumping up their starting pay. I’m not seeing a lot of that. I think we’re seeing too many low-paying jobs and families struggling to make ends meet, even with two incomes.”

Cathy Brechtelsbauer, a Sioux Falls resident with the anti- hunger group Bread for the World. -  “It’s not good enough to have low unemployment. Work needs to pay enough to raise children,” she said. The situation is made worse for these children, she said, because many of them are in familes hit by last month’s cuts to the federal food stamp program, which means less food at home.
Nationally, we see a push to increase the minimum wage with tepid support. We see Congress push their agenda to reduce the federal deficit by attacking the poor and elderly through benefit cuts to the unemployed, the poor through food stamp programs, the elderly through cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
Locally, we see headlines on how prosperous Sioux Falls is once again. We are told of record setting building permits, record setting sales tax revenues, low unemployment rates. Development plans to build 2 more Walmarts, new strip mall developments, new apartment complexes., big square foot houses. 
If you notice where the development growth is, you will see it is in the suburbs of Sioux Falls, not in the core of Sioux Falls which is now becoming the haven for the under served and economically challenged of this community.
Sioux Falls is an interesting city as it's growth and prosperity praises are sung at fevered pitch by our mayor, city councilors and developers. It's interesting though, that these same public officials and the developers do not talk about the growing problems of the core of the city. The poor and economically challenged citizens of this city is becoming the city's dirty little secret.
The ARGUS LEADER's story in the 12-29-13 Sunday Edition about poverty affecting the Sioux Falls School District is a clear indication of the oxymoron of the city of Sioux Falls. Higher crime rates, higher numbers accessing the Banquet, the Food Bank, the Salvation Army, increase in K-12 grade children who need to feed at school  - the list goes on. The trends are becoming disturbing and it seems our public officials may be asleep at the wheel.
The talk of economic inequality nationally seems to have trickled down to our city as well and it's not a pretty picture.