Friday, January 24, 2014

TIF'S and Elected Officials

TIF’s (Tax Increment Financing) are getting some attention recently because Councilor Jamison wants all investors disclosed on future TIF applications because of the recent disclosure that Mayor Huether’s wife was an investor on the Bancroft Place Apartment TIF approved by the City Council in 2011. 

City administrations generally used TIF’s in areas of the city, namely in the downtown area, that was blighted or in need of urban development and where private investment probably won’t happen without government intervention. TIF’s can certainly be a good thing for a community. They can revitalize an area and keep it from deteriorating into decay and bring a whole area down into urban decay.

What is the definition of tax increment financing? Here's a definition:  It is a financing procedure utilized by local governments for redevelopment and improvement projects located in the city's jurisdiction. The cost of improvements is assessed to future tax revenues by the taxing authorities that levies taxes against the property. The local level is responsible for determining how much the increase in property tax due to the improvements will be used to repay the construction costs. 

It would appear the Community Development Director and the City Council has expanded the use of TIF outside the downtown area core area with the approval of the Sanford Sports Complex and the Costco/Apartments TIF.  What are the criteria for the creation of a TIF in the city of Sioux Falls? If you look at Chapter 37 of Sioux Falls City Code of Ordinances, you will not find any criteria for the creation of a TIF. All the ordinance says is that the Community Development Department is responsible for evaluating the application, provide a recommendation to the Planning Commission and City Council for consideration, create a project plan and district boundary maps and present the request at all public hearings. Pretty darn vague and open for interpretation.

Nobody knows who the investors are in a TIF. All the public knows is who the owners are in the TIF application. Who knows if one of the elected officials is part of the deal? Hence, the proposal by City Councilor Greg Jamison to ask the City Council to consider changing the ordinance to require all investors named in the TIF Application.

When asked about it, the Mayor inferred that former Mayors Hanson and Munson probably did the same type of investment thing when they were in office which they both denied publicly in an ARGUS LEADER article.

 In a January 2, 2014 ARGUS LEADER article, Councilors voiced their opinions regarding the news that the Mayor’s wife was an investor in one of the active TIF’s:

Council seems divided on idea
Councilors are mixed on the idea.
Councilor Kermit Staggers sides with Jamison. He said city officials should not be invested in local development projects.
“We have to keep in mind when people are involved in investing in a project that has a TIF, they’re getting a government benefit, and the public should be aware of that,” he said during council discussion this fall.
Councilor Kenny Anderson Jr. also voiced his agreement. “I just feel if you’re asking for public money, we should know who you are,” he said.
Councilor Dean Karsky said that when the council decides whether to approve a TIF, it should be judged on its merits as a worthwhile project regardless of who is invested.
He doesn’t see a problem in public officials being among the investors and said there is enough oversight with eight votes on the council and eight sets of eyes watching the process.
“If people have money to invest and they want to invest in our community, I say more power to them,” Karsky said.
Councilor Jim Entenman agreed that the council is watching the TIF program very closely and making sure it is not abused, but he said it’s not necessary that developers disclose all of their investors.
“I don’t think we’re trying to hide anything,” he said.
She wouldn’t want to discourage investors from signing on to TIF projects, Councilor Michelle Erpenbach. She also said she wouldn’t want to discourage real estate investors from running for public office.
“We always want a wide variety of people,” she said. Councilors Rex Rolfing and Sue Aguilar did not immediately return calls.
The fact is, the mayor and city councilors, per the Conflict of Interest ordinance, specifically Chapter 35 of Sioux Falls City Code of Ordinances says different:


   (a)   No officer or employee of the city shall knowingly have a financial interest clearly separate from that of the general public in any contract, transaction, zoning decision or other matter which is subject to an official act or services from the city. This provision shall not apply if the interested officer or employee discloses by written communication to his or her immediate supervisor, director and the appropriate elected official(s) and they reply with unanimous consent to the financial interest or if the person serves on a lay board and discloses to the city council the full nature and extent of that interest and disqualifies and/or removes himself or herself from consideration or future participation in the matter in any respect.
   (b)   The foregoing conflict of interest prohibition shall not apply if an interested officer or employee does not or will not act in the regular course of his or her duties and responsibilities, directly or indirectly, for the city as to inspection, any related performance issues or any operational oversight or work with the matter in question. Also, this prohibition may not apply if the interested officer or employee is an employee of a business involved in the matter in question and the officer or employee has no ownership interest in the matter and will not receive a fee or compensation related thereto.

Clearly, current TIF ordinance language does not speak to criteria or investors. Ordinance language in Chapter 37 should address criteria.  However, the conflict of interest ordinance (Chapter 35.028)  does speak to acting in an official capacity on matters where the official might have a financial interest. It is mindboggling to read the councilors responses to the disclosure about the mayor’s wife’s involvement in an approved TIF.  Do they not comprehend ethics or conflict of interest when they are elected officials?

Do I think all private investors should be disclosed on a TIF application? Probably not. However, I do think if the Mayor, City Councilors or any member of their immediate family is an investor in a TIF application, it should be clearly identified in the TIF application when it is evaluated by the Director of Community Development and considered by the Planning Commission and approved by the City Council.

Even better, how about elected officials just remember the conflicts of interest ordinance and follow it. Involving themselves in a financial matter where they must act in their official capacity as a Mayor or City Councilor is clearly a conflict of interest. Former Mayors Hanson and Munson knew it was a conflict of interest.

If the mayor and city councilors can't see that, then one has to wonder what they actually think ethics and conflict of interest means as an elected official.  They are different than other private investors because they must act in their official capacity as elected officials to approve the financial deal with the city. If you want to be a deal maker and invest in real estate property and ask the city for a financial subsidy, then don't run for public office. 

Active TIF projects (Source: ARGUS LEADER)
Year approved
Cherapa Place office building
$4.4 million
Jeff Scherschligt
Minnesota Centre office
Jim Dunham
CNA office building
$8.55 million
Al Schoenenman
Bancroft Place apartments
Michael Crane and Cary Shaw
Dekalb Lofts, Tri-state office and Larson Square
$2.86 million
Craig Lloyd, Tom Seuntjens, Norm Drake, Paul Cink
Raven headquarters renovation
$3.5 million
Raven Industries
Hilton Hotel/River Ramp
$4.1 million
Craig Lloyd, Chris Thorkelson, Paul Hegg, Kristin Hegg-Zueger, Steve Westra
Sanford Sports Complex
$10.26 million
Sanford, Inc.
Whittier Heights Development
$2.04 million
Dunham Company
Costco and apartments
$5.9 million
Costco Wholesale Corp. and Dakota Point Apartments LLC (John Archer, agent)
Phillips Avenue Lofts
$4.09 million
Craig Lloyd, Tom Seuntjens, Norm Drake, Paul Cink

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Affordable Housing and Transit - Shouldn't They Work Together?

The City's Community Development Director recently announced city funding for the development of a large affordable housing project in Southwest Sioux Falls. The Community Development department is awarding a $350,000 loan to a local developer towards an $8 million dollar project to build 56 affordable housing units out by the Tea-Ellis Road in Southwest Sioux Falls. Tenants with incomes that range from at or below 30% to 60% of the median income of the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area will qualify to live there. 

Granted a $350,000 city loan to a developer on a $8 million project seems like small potatoes but taxpayer money is taxpayer money and taxpayers want to make sure it is a fiscally prudent use of tax dollars, as the mayor is fond of saying. The question that comes to mind is how do these affordable housing projects serve the community and does this funding match the goals of the city in terms of serving the economically challenged population from a transportation perspective.

The writing is on the wall that there is a demographic shift going on in the city. When 49.1% of school age children in Sioux Falls qualify for reduced or subsidized meals in the school district it tells you something. The Banquet and Food Bank have increasing needs in their efforts to help the working poor feed their families.

When you look at the increasing ridership of transit users in this city over the past years, it is telling us something too. From 2000 to 2010 transit ridership increased from 603,279 to 937,258. There are two types of transit riders, the commuters and the transit dependent. The majority of transit users fall into the transit dependent category. (Source: Transit Development Plan 2011-2015)

The majority of funding for transit services comes from federal and state grants and the city's general fund. There is smaller funding gained from fares, Medicaid, and advertising but those are small compared to federal, state and city general funds. It is no secret that general fund money for increased transit costs or expanded fixed route services do not get the attention or funding as those big sexy projects like the Event Center or expanded pools and parks or the necessary road infrastructure needs.

The city says its nearly impossible to expand transit services to keep up with the growth rate of the city and federal funding just doesn't keep pace with increased costs associated with transit fixed route costs. The city is growing outward from the core and many of the outlying areas don't even have transit service. So, it's kind of a head scratcher to learn that city is awarding funds to private developers to build affordable housing in an outlying area that doesn't even have transit services and probably won't get transit services.

It's fine to help build affordable housing but when you build affordable housing in an outlying area that doesn't offer transportation services to major destinations, schools, hospitals, the downtown area, or portions of the industrial park area, it seems half the agenda is met. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Shape Sioux Falls - Shape Places - Are You Confused?

The city's new zoning law called Shape Places will be on the ballot in the April 8th city election. It is a big deal for the city and my bet is that most citizens don't have a clue what it really means to the common citizen. The tendency of voters is to vote no when they don't understand a ballot issue. They will probably think they are voting on whether another Walmart Superstore should be built in southern Sioux Falls.

What exactly is Shape Sioux Falls and Shape Places? Are they the same or are they two different documents? How do these documents affect us and what should we know about them before the April election? Does this new ordinance give all the power to the developers and leave the homeowner without a say? Please tell us, city officials, why this is good for property owners  too and won't leave property owners without a say in zoning matters.

Shape Sioux Falls refers to the Shape Sioux Falls 2035 Comprehensive Plan which was adopted by the City Council on December 7, 2009. This is a comprehensive plan that guides future land development. The last comprehensive plan was through 2015. I tried to find the actual Shape Sioux Falls document online but it says it's temporarily unavailable. This is an important document that guides what our city is going to look like in the future. That's important especially because we are a growing metropolitan area. Actually, it's an interesting read.

Shape Places refers to the Shape Places zoning ordinance which was adopted by the City Council on March 19, 2013 and was to be effective April 22, 2013 until it was referred because of a successful citizen petition drive and is now on the ballot April 8, 2014. The Shape Places zoning ordinance is a major update to the city's current zoning ordinances that was last updated in 1983. It is a culmination of 5 1/2 years of work by the planning and zoning staff to bring city zoning ordinances in compliance with the Shape Sioux Falls 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

You see, state law requires the city to have a master plan that is in line with its zoning laws. Jeff Schmitt, Assistant Director in the Planning and Building Services Department stated, "Because Shape Sioux Falls was designed for Shape Places, it will have to be changed to reflect the 1983 ordinance."   So, if the Shape Places zoning ordinance is defeated in April then the City will have to go back and change the Shape Sioux Falls 2035 Comprehensive Master Plan which was adopted back in 2009. Zoning is complicated but why did it take the city 5 /12 years from the time the comprehensive plan was adopted to update 1983 zoning ordinances? I am still confused but let's move on, shall we?

Master Plan, current zoning ordinance, Shape Places Ordinance, zoning districts, i.e. commercial, residential, forms, categories, uses,  - all terms in this controversy that the voters don't understand. Those terms roll off the tongues of planning officials who assume everyone knows what they are talking about.  My head is swimming. I want to understand this important issue but I need some help so I can make an informed decision when I go to the ballot box.

I went back and listened to the March 19th City Council hearing on this issue. Director Cooper said that they were trying to accomplish two things with the Shape Places zoning ordinance. First, they want to clarify for developers, landowners, and property owners what is going to be allowed and what's not going to be allowed, especially through the conditional use process. I say, that's a good thing. They want to make sure when a property is zoned to something that zoning matters whether it's going to be residential or commercial. How will it matter? He said the expectation of knowing what's going to happen on that property now and into the future is now going to be improved with Shape Places. How will it be improved? He went on to say that the comprehensive plan (Shape Sioux Falls 2035 Comprehensive Plan) is the guiding document on how these owners or intersections should be zoned. The Shape Places zoning ordinance makes it consistent with the comprehensive plan, trying to clarify what is going to happen or be allowed in residential and commercial zoned properties.

Councilor Entemann praised city employees on their work and stated city employees are citizens too and that they are not going to propose changes to ordinances that are the detriment to citizens, that they are trying to improve processes and policies. Councilor Staggers stated that although he had some problems with the signage language in the proposed Shape Places ordinance, it is more flexible and less confusing for people compared to what we have now. A deferral to April 2nd was introduced by Councilor Anderson and seconded by Councilor Staggers but it was defeated. The City Council voted 7-0 to adopt the Shape Places Zoning Ordinance. Councilor Jamison was absent from that meeting.

The rest is history. Residents opposed to a large development proposed for the 85th and Minnesota intersection, including a Walmart SuperCenter, submitted petitions to refer the Shape Places zoning ordinance to a public vote which will be on the ballot April 8th. Personally, I think it is a shame that this neighborhood zoning issue is being lumped into the Shape Places zoning ordinance as a whole. The zoning ordinance revision needs to be done to be in compliance with the Shape Sioux Falls 2035 Comprehensive Plan to be in compliance with state law.

The city needs to apply the KISS principle - keep it simple stupid - on this vote. Educate the public and start doing it now, city officials.

It's the middle of January and the city needs to get in high gear and educate the public on their work revamping the massive zoning ordinance from 1983 or  it  may very well go down in flames which will then topple the Shape Sioux Falls 2035 Comprehensive Plan. All because some people out near 85th and Minnesota don't want a Walmart Superstore in their neighborhood.

Ridding the confusion on this vote can only come from the city. If it fails, they will only have themselves to blame.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bully Politics

The Chris Christie bridge closure scandal is interesting fodder for the news media. If you listen to former NY Mayor Giuliani, he said it was just a prank. Obviously a prank not appreciated by the multitude of people, school buses carrying children to their first day of school and emergency vehicles stuck in a traffic jam around Fort Lee for hours.

“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue in its planning or its execution,” Christie said. Those words are probably true. Planning and executing the bridge traffic jam was done by his minions and he fired them, 4 months after the fact. Yesterday he played the victim. He was sad and felt betrayed. Don't get me wrong here - I kind of like Chris Christie. I was of the mind that he was more genuine and honest than most of the politicians who just parrot the party line in order to maintain their political sucking of the taxpayer teat at our expense. I think he is wearing the victim coat on this one and it doesn't fit well.

He may not have planned or executed the idea but his staff got the idea to do this little "prank" from somewhere and that's where the bully politics come into play. What is the definition of a bully? A bully is defined as a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidate people. Bullies like attention and power. Christie insists he is not a bully and maybe he isn't, but there are degrees to bullying and his personality sure projects a bullying trait to some degree.

Christie is a larger than life politician. He projects an administrative image of - it's my way or the highway. He prides himself on getting things done and he suffers no fools. He intimidates and badgers and we kind of liked it when he did it in his press conferences. He worked with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy and he was blustering, quarrelsome and badgered Republicans who chastised him for working with the enemy. He tells it like it is and he gets things done. But at what cost?

Publicly, bully politics has worked for Christie. Privately though, bully politicians make for an interesting workplace. Intimidation and overbearing management of employees, including your top advisors and confidants makes for an uncomfortable and stressful work environment. Working with a bully politician can be harmful to one's health and push people to do things they think their larger than life boss might want but who doesn't come right out and direct it. Staffers want to please and if someone is in the inner trusted circle of a bully politician and is privy to and take part in the background talking and strategizing that goes on in the office behind closed doors, it’s plausible that things like this bridge gridlock scandal can happen.  A powerful bully politician creates powerful bully staffers.

I heard the term “willful ignorance” this morning on talk TV. Willful ignorance is when you don’t ask questions, and don’t look into something. Then, when something blows up you can basically wear the victim coat and say I didn’t plan or execute what is now a hot potato scandal or problem. The problem with that stance when working for this kind of boss is that some loyal staffer is going to be the fall guy. That is just the way it is when you get in bed with a bully. The bully is never wrong.

We all know bullies. We have bullies right here in river city. When it comes to local politics, there is plenty of talk about bully behavior. The thing about bullies is that they create fear. Fear in politics is a dangerous thing and it creates dangerous results. Just look at New Jersey for an example.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Rocky Mountain High

The voters in Colorado approved a constitutional measure called Colorado Amendment 64 in November 2012 to approve recreational use of marijuana. Colorado had previously approved medical marijuana use in the State. The Governor of Colorado signed it into the state constitution in December 2012 and the first stores opened this month. Governor Hickenlooper stated at the time, "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."

The problem with the legalization of marijuana is the legalization is not a coordinated effort between the Feds and the States.  Marijuana use, possession and sale remain illegal under federal law. No matter how many states pass medical and recreational use of marijuana laws, it remains an unresolved conflict with federal law and yet the Justice Department remains silent on the issue.

Passing recreational marijuana laws seems to be the next step after jumping into the passing of medical marijuana use statewide. Passing recreational marijuana laws to stave off budget deficits or shortfalls in sales tax hardly seems the right way to create sources of revenue but that seems to be the motivation of state lawmakers. Kind of like the video lottery and legalization of gambling in States.  Alcohol, gambling, drugs...potentially addicting behaviors being used to fund government coffers.

Pot makes you dumb in a different way than alcohol. Alcohol makes you dumb too but for a day or two at most unless you become addictive to alcohol which is a whole other problem. Pot makes you dumb for weeks and if you are a long time, consistent toker, you become dumb and dumber. The lingering effect and under the influence of marijuana is troublesome especially for police and employers. What is an acceptable level of "under the influence" for employers with Drug and Alcohol Policies and for Police who administer driving laws?

I am of the opinion that marijuana use for medical purposes may indeed have merit. But legalization for recreational use is a bit of a conundrum to me. Both seem to be the wave of the future. Decriminalization, making possession of a small amount for personal recreational use, is what is driving this major social change in State Legislatures across the country.  I think we are in for court battles and challenges for years to come as we navigate this minefield of change to what is considered as part of the war on drugs at the federal level.

I know one thing for certain.  The candidacy of Emmett Reistroffer for an at-large seat on the City Council will be interesting to watch over the next couple of months. I do not support changing city policy on this issue before state legislators weigh in on the issue. Based on the politics of this state, that will probably happen when hell freezes over.

Look at those lines of people outside the dispensaries in Colorado. Times are changing and I'm feeling old and slightly out of touch but I am willing to consider new ideas if we can put the horse before the cart or the toke before the flame hits it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pass the Salt and Forget the Plow

The answer to crappy streets this season is to use more salt in the mix the city applies to the residential streets. The city says dry snow melts slower so the lower salt mix isn't enough to cut through the snow packed on your residential street. Why is it packed on the street, you say?

It seems the city literally follows the 2 inch rule when deciding to deploy snow plows on city streets. It doesn't really matter how much snow is actually laying on your residential street. If it didn't fall in a 2 inch or more snow fall, forget it and pass the salt.

Lately, we haven't been getting snowfalls in 2 inch increments or more. We have been getting snow accumulating at a half inch to one inch at a time. Never mind that those inch or less snows accumulate to over 2 inches or more on the residential streets.

If the city is going to send those big trucks out to residential streets to lay salt mix through out the city, why can't they just plow the damn snow?

I agree with city officials that main routes are in good shape. I give kudos to city employees who do a good job plowing streets. But that's not the point. It's the policy of when to plow that is the issue, not the employees.

Instead of following the strict rule of not plowing residential streets until it snows 2 inches or more, how about using a little common sense and bring out the plows when there is at least 2 inches of snow laying on the streets.

I'd rather see streets plowed to improve traction than see street traction getting a boost by adding more salt and wait for warmer temperatures to clear it. Then you just have ruts and pot holes. How is that an improvement over a plowed street?

Overall accumulation should be the plow rule instead of a one event accumulation of 2 inches or more. I'm tired of driving over all those crappy residential streets filled with ice and ridges. Freeze, melt, freeze,  melt and pretty soon my vehicle will just fall into a gigantic pot hole.I say plow and plow often and save the salt. Or else, hope and pray that we get snow accumulation in 2 inches or more because right now that's only way you will see a plow on your residential street.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

To Blink or Not to Blink

The City of Sioux Falls announced their Wait No More campaign in October 2013.   I can remember discussions taking place back in my working days at City Hall on this same issue. People always complaining about sitting at stoplights late at night when there was no traffic to be seen on the horizon. Traffic Engineering officials back then were concerned about safety and the likelihood of people blowing through intersections and t-boning someone.

I am uncomfortable when approaching 26th and Southeastern Avenue when those traffic lights are blinking yellow or red. I am always careful, but how do you count on that illusive "other" driver to be careful too? It's a major intersection with multiple lanes. I worry about a speeding car coming down that big hill from the east just as I enter the intersection. I know I am careful and sober, but what about the other person?

I understand that people don't want to be delayed late at night. The City doesn't want us to be delayed anymore either, hence their Wait No More Campaign. The thing is, just because people don't want to be delayed, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do at all signal controlled intersections. The idea of "wait no more" can be dangerous to your safety if you are not careful and don't use the eyes on the back and sides of your head. 

81% of the 250 traffic lights at various intersections in Sioux Falls are now blinking at 10 or 11 p.m. That's a lot of intersections. This is not a sleepy little town anymore. There are a lot of neighborhood intersections with traffic lights where a flashing light might make sense but does it really make sense to have flashing traffic lights at those highly traveled major intersections with multiple lanes?

I hope visibility concerns or lane geometry aren't the only criteria for keeping the light cycles working late at night. I think all major, wide, multiple lane intersections should be left to cycle through late at night.  How about no flashing yellow lights at these big major intersections - make them all flashing red so it's a four way stop. Is it possible to adjust the lights to a shorter cycle at these major wide multiple lane intersections instead of turning them to blinking yellow and red?

Frankly, I was shocked to learn that the major intersection of 10th Street and Sycamore Avenue was one of the newly designated signals that were changed to flashing back in October. That intersection is known for it's crashes and fender benders and it's a major, wide, multiple lane intersection. Now, tragically, we have a fatality at that very intersection because a drunk driver blew through the flashing lights and t-boned another vehicle.

It's fine to tell people that they have to be careful when approaching intersections with flashing lights, but how do you get that across to careless drivers, impatient drivers, drivers driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. And let's face it, drivers in this town don't know what yield means, so are we sure they understand what blinking yellow or blinking red means? Just go through a 4 way stop in this town and you know what I mean.

Granted, a drunk driver may go through a cycled light intersection as much as a blinking light intersection but the point is a cycled light at a major intersection adds just a little more insurance that someone might pay more attention and not just treat the intersection as a rolling stop event or an opportunity to not stop at all.

Sometimes the city should just say no to those people who don't want to "wait no more." The city isn't a sleepy little village anymore.  As a police representative said, we can't be everywhere in this town. Granted, accidents happen but there are still things we can do to try to minimize accidents. Our lives may depend on it. Maybe this Wait No More Policy needs to be revisited, at least for the big intersections in this city.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Red or Blue - Who are you?

A lot of people seem to be defining themselves as red or blue these days. If you live in a red state, you might just be red because it is self preservation. People like to hide in groups and not stand out, especially politically. You may need to pretend to be red in a red state because you might need it for business networking purposes. It's the survival of the fittest syndrome. You have to be red to win almost any state office in South Dakota.

There are, of course, people who have been red or blue all their lives and they will never change their party affiliation. But with being red, it's like an inheritance thing, handed down from one generation to the next. It's almost heretical to think or feel you might be something other than red in South Dakota.

There is an interesting article in the Washington Post about the era of single party control nationally. What is clear to me is that with single party control, comes single minded policies that don't serve the entire population of the state. There is a clear distinction between red and blue policies when it comes to economic, fiscal and social policies. But what seems to be lacking is a balance.

If you are red, you think the blues are downright evil and hell bent on destroying this country and the constitution. If you are blue, especially in South Dakota, you are struggling for your last breath, turning bluer by the minute and dying a slow painful death.

I hate being defined by the color red or blue. I think of myself as an American first. I can see the merits in the policies of the red and the blue although I have to admit as I have become older, I have turned more blue than red. I didn't inherit the red gene from my Dad who wore the color red his entire life. I like to read both sides of the red and blue commentary - I like to watch the red and blue commentary on TV. I strive to be a color palette that is balanced but it is becoming harder and harder when I face intolerance and single mindedness that drowns out the hue of the political spectrum.

What happened to our politicians who define themselves as red or blue first and Senator or Representative or Governor second? This notion that you must say no to a blue President on everything when you are red has created an ugliness that is disturbing and which has shut down government, turned family, friends and acquaintances against each other and turned social media into lies and half truths that nobody seems able to discern as fact or fiction.

If you are blue in South Dakota, you will be blue alone, never able to get a seat at the table. If you are red in South Dakota, you never have to justify anything because being red means saying no and not even having to put an effort into it. Just being red makes it so right.

Purple is a nice color. Let's make purple together. There is room at table for everyone. It would be nice to see purple in Congress and at the State level. I can at least dream in purple about what might be instead of what can't get done being red or blue.