6th Street Bunker Bridge Debacle proves the Sioux Falls City Council is bought and paid for, again

While the Sioux Falls City Council still has an opportunity to redeem themselves next Monday with a reconsideration on the vote, I don’t have much hope they will get the 5 votes needed to overturn it.

Most people would jump at a do-over, especially after finding out as NO fault of their own they were mislead into believing it was an EMERGENCY. We all know now that was a bunch of phooey.

The main reason this redemption may not happen is that the 6 councilors who originally voted for this have all received campaign funding and endorsements from Mayor TenHaken. I can almost guarantee without his campaign assistance, PAC money and endorsements the last 4 elected would have all lost or had been close races.

Paul knows what he did, they know what he did, we all know how that cookie crumbles.

Ask Janet Brekke and Theresa Stehly what happens to you when you challenge our very own King of Scotland. The castle tower you live in becomes very cold and dark very suddenly.

City of Sioux Falls to receive $320K for failed geothermal system on the administration building

I originally requested this settlement in the middle of July and it wasn’t finalized until the end of that month. I received the settlement yesterday after I re-requested it from the city attorney’s office; ENTIRE DOCUMENT

As you can see below the city will receive a settlement even though all parties involved have agreed to ‘no fault’.

Geothermal systems work when they are installed properly and can save the users a lot of money in energy costs. What is NOT in this settlement is the cost to install a whole new traditional chiller system, the massive amount of water that was lost when it malfunctioned and the energy costs the city will now have to incur due to the more traditional HVAC system and our legal fees (which probably equals half of the settlement).

They got off easy. Too easy.

What is even more troubling is that an assistant city clerk and the chief of staff signed off the settlement. More sloppy legal documents. Tom and Paul must have been too busy enjoying Father’s Day in a remote location to sign off on the agreement. Was it gay pride weekend?

It would be nice to know the true price tag this screwup cost taxpayers. We may never know. It is also interesting to see that KHA is once again involved with a settlement for bad consulting (Events Center siding debacle).

Young Americans for Liberty sends out goofy email

While I detest that most of our legislators in the state are Republican, I do get a good laugh when they start fighting over who is the most conservative. I don’t think any of them are, just Cuckoo. Read this email sent out defending State Legislator Julie Frye-Lactation;

Dear Mary Jane,

There’s something strange in the water out in Pierre.

President Pro Tempore, Senator Lee Schoenbeck thinks he’s the King of South Dakota.

Senator Schoenbeck thinks he can unilaterally decide who represents the people of South Dakota.

Schoenbeck, a notorious RINO, is acting like the King of South Dakota and illegally and unconstitutionally suspended a sitting state senator without due process.

His outrageous power trip is disenfranchising and silencing the elected representative of tens of thousands of South Dakotans.

You see, Schoenbeck unilaterally decided to punish South Dakota citizens by suspending Senator Julie Frye-Mueller before an investigation had even been organized, over a private conversation between Mueller and a legislative services staffer regarding childhood vaccinations and other motherhood issues.

Should a politician like Schoenbeck have the power to silence another Senator over a personal conversation?

Schoenbeck, working with Democrats and Establishment Republicans, forced through Mueller’s unconstitutional suspension, overriding the ruling of the chair and dismissing out-of-hand any constitutional concerns.

Schoenbeck needs to be reminded that he IS NOT the king maker of South Dakota

State Senators work for the people who elected them!

If this makes your blood boil as much as it does mine, I hope you’ll help me turn up the heat on “Little King Lee” Schoenbeck.

Click here to send a message to Schoenbeck. Remind him that the President Pro Tempore of the South Dakota Senate does not have the authority to remove a Senator simply based on his opinions of a legislator’s private conversation.

Demand he respects the Constitution and the right of ALL South Dakotans to representation in the State Senate.

I hope you’ll click here and tell “Little King Lee” Schoenback that he has overreached his authority and effectively robbed South Dakotans of their duly elected State Senator.

Unless South Dakotans like you fight back, Schoenbeck and his liberal cronies in Pierre are going to KEEP ignoring the Constitution.

If this challenge to our Republic goes unanswered, Schoenbeck will continue to block conservative bills and control the State Senate like a petty tyrant.

I hope you’ll join me in saying “Enough is enough,” to Little King Lee.

Click here to send a message to Schoenbeck.

Remind him that the President Pro Tempore of the South Dakota Senate does not have the authority to remove a Senator simply based on his opinions of a legislator’s private conversation.

For Liberty,

Bethany Young
Grassroots Director
Young Americans for Liberty

P.S. President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck is acting like he’s the King of South Dakota. He thinks he has the POWER to remove duly elected Senators based solely on his opinion.

Schoenbeck, a notorious RINO, has illegally and unconstitutionally suspended a sitting state senator without due process. His outrageous power trip is disenfranchising and silencing the elected representative of tens of thousands of South Dakotans.

I hope you’ll click here and tell “Little King Lee” Schoenbeck he has overreached his authority and effectively robbed South Dakotans of their duly elected State Senator. Demand he respects the Constitution and the right of ALL South Dakotans to representation in the State Senate.

Yeah there is something strange in the water alright, it is most likely vodka. While I do agree Ms. Frye-Lactation should be punished for having an inappropriate conversation it certainly doesn’t rise to suspension. As reporter Austin Goss recently pointed out on Matters of the State (2:50);

You have people in that chamber, as recently as last year, who have DUIs . . . you have others in that chamber who call each other pond scum and monkeys. So I guess if the reason to throw her off the floor is decorum, I am just kind of confused . . .

I am not confused, while the above email is chocked full of smoke and mirrors there is one clear thing going on here, Julie pissed off the wrong governor and it was time to eliminate her.

The Riverline District needs to be housing, and that’s it.

I will agree this will be a prime piece of land for development but not without many challenges.

The one thing it doesn’t need to be is another play palace or baseball stadium. This city has plenty of recreation opportunities. Heck, right across the street (Fairfax) there is a swimming pool and a future skatepark. I would even suggest we build a playground in the Northwest corner of Nelson Park.

As for ‘amenities’ does this area really need more restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities? Not at all, it is surrounded by dozens of restaurants and only a short distance from a grocery store and Lewis Drug.

I would suggest filling the area with affordable and workforce housing constructing hundreds of units that are studios, 1-bedrooms and 2-bedroom flats for younger folks just getting started in the workforce.

But it will need to be propped up;

TenHaken said it is “very likely” the city will ultimately purchase the land, though, and will then decide on negotiating sales or leases to private developers.

That is not his decision to make alone. While he certainly can negotiate (we saw how well that went with the 6th street Bunker bridge) the ultimate decision comes to the council. I know I will regret saying this, but this would be a great place to have a TIF instead of just a buyout from the city. The city could come in and use the TIF to build up all the infrastructure needed to put in such a large housing project, or take an even more daring approach and skip the TIF all together and just budget for the infrastructure taking out the tax rebate equation all together. If Riverline gets the investors and proves they are secure the city can hold up their end of the bargain by preparing the property with sewer, water, roads and other utilities without expensive TIFs and land purchases it would simply be a line item in the budget.

When we pay our 2nd penny in Sioux Falls it should be going towards infrastructure. There is absolutely NO reason the city needs to get into the real estate or tax rebate business on this one. It could be a lot easier then concocting deals. We provide the infrastructure the private investors provide the housing.

Often when there is development in Sioux Falls, anywhere, I ask ‘What is the benefit to the average citizen?’ We are often told that new development helps build up the tax base, but every year we continue to raise the property taxes on 3 levels (county, city and school). If all this development is increasing our tax base, why do we continue to raise taxes? Because of all the play palaces we are subsidizing.

There is ONE benefit to taxpayers, especially those who live in the area (I live 4 blocks away) if any kind of housing is to be put in this area it will border one of the most active and LOUDEST train tracks in the city. The trains are going nowhere. We would need to build a quiet zone in this area in order to make the housing work. I should know, I hear the train whistles all hours of the night since this is the most active thoroughfare.

While Riverline has challenges the city could make this very easy and painless by simply getting out of the way after building up the infrastructure. Of course that isn’t as sexy as having press conferences and talking about complicated land swaps and baseball stadiums that we DON’T need. Sometimes the best thing government can do with projects like this is get the f’ck out of the way and let the private sector offer a solution.

As I have said in the past, most smaller developers and contractors in this city take NO city subsidies. How is it that the little guy has figured out how to make a buck but the big guys are always begging at the trough?

If the city moves forward with a land purchase deal I would suggest the voters of Sioux Falls refer it to a public vote and break this cycle of waste and bureaucracy.

Is the South Dakota State Legislature looking at limiting Municipal Referendums?

It has been brought to my attention that a small southeastern town city administrator is pushing to get a bill submitted (hasn’t been yet) taking municipal referendum and initiative signature requirements to 20 percent of registered voters from 5 percent. This will eliminate yet another safety net to keep city councils in line. That would change the required signatures in Sioux Falls to jump from around 6k to over 24K. Ironically it would take more signatures in Sioux Falls to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot then the amount of people who typically vote in a municipal election.

I often remind people that 1) we need to make the referendum process easier not harder and 2) and signing a petition doesn’t mean you approve of the initiative just your right to vote on it. For example, I signed the slaughterhouse petition even though I already knew I would vote against it. Direct Democracy is a beautiful thing and any opportunity we have to use it and promote it is good for the public.

Advertise your salary

Several years ago, now retired Minnehaha County Commissioner, Jeff Barth suggested that Sioux Falls City Councilors impose an ordinance that requires employers within the city limits list their salary in want ads. Not only is it a good idea, employers who do list wages usually get better and more applicants. We all know why some don’t list the salary, because it ain’t squat and most people see thru the ruse and don’t apply. Senator Reynold Nesiba is proposing such a thing statewide;

A private employer with one hundred or more employees shall disclose in each job posting the hourly or salary compensation or range of the hourly or salary compensation and a general description of all benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired, promoted, or transferred applicant or employee. Such disclosure shall not affect the applicant’s ability to negotiate compensation or benefits.

As you can see, this would only affect larger employers. While a great idea that has proven to have beneficial opportunities to employees and employers it will likely die in committee because one of the legislators wives on the committee will cry about paying her 10 year old niece minimum wage to make goat cheese soap candles in the barn.

Wasn’t worth a lit fart in a wool mitten

I finished watching this movie recently, and while not a real deep dive into anything, I did like the part where Alex Jones broke the bench.

UPDATE: What Happens Next with the 6th Street Bunker Bridge?

UPDATE: Shelby Foote concluded that most historians are “so concerned with finding out what happened that they make the enormous mistake of equating facts with truth…you can’t get the truth from facts. The truth is the way you feel about it”

Not sure what is so ‘exclusive’ about the only daily paper in Sioux Falls interviewing the only mayor of Sioux Falls, but it makes for good fluff and puff and drama;

In an exclusive interview with the Argus Leader this week, Mayor Paul TenHaken said he firmly believed the bridge project was a crucial infrastructure project, but he added he’s actively listened to the complaints from the council.

“Is there some things I would like my team and myself to do differently on the communication of this?” TenHaken asked. “Absolutely.”

Sorry Paul, you have had almost 5 years to figure out how to communicate to the public and council, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, you never will.

As to the incorrect language on the meeting agenda, which an assistant city attorney has already called “unfortunate,” TenHaken agreed.

“I would chalk that up … that was an oversight,” he said. “That was a mistake, and we’ll own that.”

There are small legal language mistakes the administration has made numerous times, which probably has cost taxpayers but this ‘mistake’ is costing taxpayers $10 million dollars! Sure the bridge has to be fixed, and we have plenty of money in the reserves to do it, but it is the fiscal responsibility of city employees, the mayor’s office and the city council to get the best bang for the buck. If we saved $10 million on this project we could spend that money on other infrastructure projects. The timing is also questionable. I would think it would be way more convenient to do this project next year after the Cherapa and Sioux Steel projects are completed so the contractor doesn’t have to play whack a mole to find staging space. It could also be broken up into smaller bids. This could be negotiated better.

But he also raised concerns about how such fights could hurt the Sioux Falls, adding “when we make these smaller issues such big issues on a public stage,” it can lessen the interest of some to work with the city.


Government’s job isn’t about making contractors and developers happy, it is about making taxpayers happy and giving them goods and services in an honest and truthful manner while being aware of the fiscal responsibility.

Throwing our hands in the air and saying ‘oh well’ doesn’t cut it, this was a failure of local government on many levels. The Mayor’s number one priority is to be the city administrator responsible for directing the different departments to do their job right. Either this was gross incompetence by all involved or this was collusion. Either would be hard to prove in an ‘exclusive’ interview with the mayor, but public ethics hearings on all those involved would go a long way. We have learned nothing from our brief history of cost overruns and hidden agendas on projects like the Denty, MAC, City Admin, Pavilion and the infamous Bunker Ramp which should have prepared us for how to handle this.

You know what they say, “Developers run this town”.

The Sioux Falls City Council plans to meet Monday February 5th. They are meeting early due to Municipal Day in Pierre on the 6th.

At least one Councilor, Sarah Cole, has expressed to the media that she may vote to reconsider at the next meeting. She is allowed to do so since she was in the affirmative when it it passed. Any councilor may 2nd the motion (which I am sure Neitzert or Starr would). The problem is ‘do they have the votes’. I don’t think they do. They would have to get Merkouris and Barranco to also vote for it to attain the 5 votes to avoid a tie-breaker. TenHaken would likely vote against the bid denial.

What makes this more interesting is how councilors were mislead and even lied to about the urgency of the project. Even if the council swallows this (I strongly urge them NOT to) they could easily file ethics complaints towards the mayor, city attorney, finance director and public works director and any employees under them that participated in this hoodwink. It would likely require a councilor(s) to file the complaint.

Let’s have a public ethics hearing and find out what happened?

All that aside and the $21 million dollar bridge that we are getting whether we like it or not (reminds you of a certain parking ramp) many engineers have reached out to me, councilors and other reporters, and when we all match up notes, we are wondering how the winning bidder was allowed to submit ONE bid for the entire project when they were required to get at least 3 bids from subcontractors (SOP)? Enquiring engineers would like to know.

Sioux Falls may never see JazzFest again

I was proud to be a part of the marketing team for several years and designing the 2006 & 2007 logos.

Even though JF did kind of end a few years ago there was still some hope it would return in some kind of form. With the SFJB Society disbanding this week, we may never see JazzFest again.

It bums me out because it was always a Sioux Falls tradition I kept (often landing on my birthday) and a great mid-summer party with close Sioux Falls friends.

Maybe someday Levitt can bring this great event back!

Sioux Falls School Board election in May

I believe Cynthia Mickelson’s seat is the only one. Not sure if she will run again or not? This may be the last time they hold a stand alone school board election if the legislature makes some changes this year to terms and elections when it comes to school boards.