Should we Scrap Public Transit for E-Bikes in Sioux Falls?

My little slice of Heaven

I made this joke a couple of months ago to some people, “Maybe the city should just sell SAM and buy current transit riders an E-Bike.”

Imagine my surprise when I heard about this NY Times Article today;

I’m no stranger to bike commuting, I have been doing it on and off, depending on the job since 1993. But like the article mentions, you get sweaty. I have been putting off getting an E-Bike, because up until this point, I don’t think many models are worth a crap (there are only about 3-5 brands that are worth a damn) and I have quite the non-ebike collection now, mostly cruisers I have fixed up or saved from the junk pile that are wonderful for leisure rides and short commutes and as I lovingly call ‘My Children’.

My 1957 Schwinn ‘Cotton Candy’

I first started with an E-Scooter (that only rides on the streets) 2 years ago, which I love. But it is heavy and you cannot pedal it.

E-Coco, made in Turkey

So after visiting San Diego in May and riding a certified throttle E2 I was sold and finally narrowed it down to my Ariel Rider (top pic). The bike I chose is not for everyone. It has a center bar and is made for shorter people. But it rides and handles like a motorcycle, and I won’t even tell you the speed I get out of it, but I have been riding everyday since I got it a month ago and it is amazing and the charge is good for 40 miles. The only thing I can suggest for you is to do your research (I watched hours of video reviews and read tons of data about batteries and motors). I don’t see myself driving my car at all next summer except for when it is raining (but this is an all-weather bike you can ride through most weather events except for like a blizzard or ice storm). Other brands like RAD and Himiway are also year round E-Bikes that are actually very affordable and tough as nails. The other advantage of having a bike VS. a car is that it can be included on your homeowners or renters insurance.

The ride that sold me on an E2

So how would it change our perception of Public Transit in Sioux Falls?

I’m not naive, I realize that there are many people who ride SAM that cannot bike or walk to work. But what if we reduced the size of SAM to targeted pickups and simply buy anyone who qualifies a good E-bike with a tool kit and access to affordable parts and a trade-in program? It would be life changing and you might even be able to diversify the workforce in Sioux Falls. If the city bought durable E-Bikes at a bulk rate they could probably get the bikes for under $1,000 a piece. They could probably even get a Federal Transportation grant for it out of the infrastructure bill. You could also exchange the FREE bike for a one-time volunteer opportunity to pick up trash along the river and bike trail or any other number of community projects.

Here is an example, through Federal housing grants it already costs around $300K to build one multi-family home in Sioux Falls. Can you imagine how many working people you would impact if you spent half that on FREE E-bikes Instead? It would be enormous. You could also set the program up so they could trade the bikes in for an upgraded model in a couple of years and make sure the bikes are specially marked from being sold to Pawn Shops, etc.

There are a lot of details to be worked out and YES some people may abuse the system but I can tell you from my experience of getting on a true E2 for the first time in California, once you ride one, you are sold. Many of these bikes can also fold up and be very compact for a small living space, and like my model, the batteries are detachable for recharging in case you have to store it outside. Let’s just say besides saving public tax dollars in transit costs it gives recipients of these bikes enormous FREEDOM they did not have before standing and waiting for the bus.

I think when it comes to commuting to work in Sioux Falls, we really need to think outside the box, and big clunky buses really are NOT cutting it anymore.

I grew up always having a bike, and I can’t imagine what it would be like NOT having one now, especially to someone who is working poor and cannot afford a vehicle. Instead of blowing millions on parking ramps, tennis courts and ice ribbons, maybe we should be investing in reliable transportation for workers. Just a thought.

Is South Dakota turning into a One-Party Dictatorship?

I guess we should not be surprised about the Amendment A ruling today.

There used to be a time where South Dakotans could actually fight the goofy one-party legislation and that was by putting sensible legislation on the ballot and through the court systems, and now those processes are rigged.

While the SD GOP has been successful taking over most of the local governing boards, the state legislature and the constitutional offices, they now have officially have taken over the courts.

I think the one dissenting SD Supreme Court Justice, Scott Myren said it best;

Myren’s dissent focused on the single-subject decision. He noted that Amendment A received substantial media attention and that voters were informed about its intent.

“I believe that the propositions in Constitutional Amendment A are ‘incidental to and necessarily connected with’ the object of providing a comprehensive plan for all phases of legalization, regulation, use, production, and sale of marijuana and related substances,” Myren wrote. 

He is exactly right. I can guarantee if you interviewed every single voter in that election, whether they voted NO or YES, they would all agree they knew by voting for this measure it would legalize Cannabis for Recreational use if passed. I don’t think the supporters of Amendment A were deceiving anyone. And as Myren also points out, with any initiative or amendment there is a factor of regulation, I also think voters understand that.

But I think the most important part of his dissent was this;

Myren says the majority “departs from the ‘Strong presumption of constitutionality’ we are to accord to Amendment A” and the will of the voters.

This is the most important part of the case, because the will of the voters should always be upheld. The SD Supreme Court could have done that while separating out the regulation part, but cowered to obvious political pressure from the Right Wing Dictatorship that runs the entire state;

Although the Court agreed that the first 13 sections of Amendment A were a single subject devoted to legalizing marijuana, it declined to separate that by finding those sections legal and the rest of the amendment unconstitutional. 

In other words, they could have agreed with Justice Myren that what the voters really wanted could have stood, while striking down the parts in the Amendment that need to be handled by the legislature (regulation and taxation) and the fact the other two parts (Industrial Hemp and Med MJ) are already legal and are moot.

There is also the question of how this even made it to the courts;

Ultimately, the Court ruled they didn’t have standing, but because Gov. Kristi Noem ratified the action, the challenge was valid.

“While Thom and Miller lacked standing to commence this action, our conclusion that the Governor ratified the prosecution of the action and is bound by the outcome of this litigation cures any standing defect,” Jensen wrote.

This part makes me question what kind of cooperation was going on between the governor’s office and the court system in private. How did Noem know she had to make this correction in mid-stream? And how is it that the governor can sue it’s own citizens (voters) while using their tax dollars to do so? That is the epitome of corruption and the foundation of any strong fascist regime. It’s mind boggling.

Like I said from the beginning, I wasn’t shocked of the outcome, South Dakotans have been voting in these clowns for years and we get what we deserve. The problem now is we have no way to remedy bad laws in the initiative process or the court system. We now are stuck with a regime we created by ignorantly electing radical right dictators that want to control our lives, so put that in your pipe and smoke it, cuz you got nothing else.

When it comes to the City of Sioux Falls politics most are oblivious

I could tell you how many people a day read my blog, but I don’t want to embarrass myself. But I had to laugh at the irony of this image. While Mayor Poops mayoral opponent talks about food insecurity, housing, public transit and building permitting on FB and gets about 3-4 comments, Poops talks about gravy and gets almost 500 comments. He has been riding the gravy train for over 3 years.

Appeal of Neitzert’s Ethics Hearing in Circuit Court gets thrown out

Remember this Delightful Hearing?

And the obvious and awful bias the chair of the meeting, Mayor TenHaken, had towards Greg and Greg’s detractors. Paul routinely cut off John, Janet and Pat while letting Greg’s 5 best friends make statements and cut off answers from John before he could finish. His performance that night should be a clear ethics violation.

Basically the judge threw out the petitioner’s complaint with a summary judgement saying he had plenty of opportunity to present evidence throughout the hearing (I wonder if she even watched the hearing?)

While the city council member against whom a complaint has been filed may be represented by their own attorney, may call witnesses and may present evidence, there is no requirement that the complainant has the same rights. Instead, the Ordinance requires the city council to “receive evidence” from the person making the ethics complaint. The record is clear that the council “received evidence” from the Petitioner. Petitioner had a right to participate in the process as set forth in the Ordinance. He did not have a right to dictate the procedure contrary to the Ordinance.

In other words the judge is saying that the city council has the right to act as a Kangaroo Kourt, as they do every Tuesday evening 🙂

Read the judgement HERE.

I also liked this under the profile of the (private) attorney representing the city on the issue;

Melissa successfully defended her clients in the following reported matters: 

McDowell v. Sapienza and the City of Sioux Falls, 2018 SD 1, — N.W.2d —

If you fight city hall, good luck getting any legal or judicial deference in this town.

Did The Sioux Falls Chamber & Experience Sioux Falls (CVB) agree to split?

Not sure. While rumors are going around that a decision to split was made very recently, nobody has said a word publicly, but the Sioux Falls City Council got an update about the possible decision at the 4 PM informational today in which a presentation involving the Falls Park Visitor Center Management Agreement was discussed and these changes;

9 month Term: January 1, 2022 – September 30, 2022
• Discussions are on-going between the Chamber and Experience Sioux Falls regarding potential
separate legal status for Experience Sioux Falls.

• 9/30/21 coincides with the end of the Chambers fiscal year.
• 60 day termination clause exercisable by City, which allows for transition of agreement once an
effective date of separate legal status is determined.

This was first presented at the Parks Board Meeting on November 17, but it was also very sketchy as to what was going on. They called it ‘legal status’ changes between the Chamber and CVB and are having ongoing discussions. Terri Schmidt, head of ESF (CVB) did say;

“ESF becoming independent from the Chamber, that process is really moving along now, and tomorrow there is a major meeting where we are expecting to probably either seal the deal, or being really close to sealing the deal. I don’t know if anyone on the outside will really know the difference, it will be more of back house of becoming independent.”

While NOTHING was said by the presenter at the informational about why this is occurring, the council, who must certainly know, has also chosen to keep this quiet or at least not filling in the blanks. Council Chair Curt Soehl even bragged about keeping it quiet and secretive by saying this at the end of the meeting;

“Thank all those involved for keeping their eye on the ball and realizing there is a lot of external noise going on at this time, for all of this, and to protect the city from everything they do.”

I find it interesting that the council is being publicly noticed about contract changes but during the presentation the public cannot be filled in on the details of a possible split. The hatred towards transparency in this city is even more troubling especially when the chair of the council brags about the secrecy. WOW! Surprised he didn’t just take a potty break during the presentation 🙁

It seems the head of ESF is the only one to at least give an inkling this was going to happen. So was a deal struck last Thursday? We may never know because of all the ‘External Noise.’

I also have a feeling if this was a simple matter of ‘back house’ deals and ‘legal status’ it wouldn’t be that controversial to release that information to the public, especially since it involves our tax dollars. I have a feeling this was a lot messier than they are putting on and they are hiding the sausage making from the citizens.

Billion dollar permit record in Sioux Falls happened by pouring gasoline on a fire and massive property tax increases

As I have been saying for years, we are breaking these records by ignoring affordable housing, handing out millions in tax rebates and TIFs and including publicly funded projects while raising property taxes a record amount.

If you read the article you see that two large chunks of permitting were projects that received millions in TIF money and another large chunk was public projects like the water treatment plant and the public safety center.

I have often argued that permits should be separated into PUBLIC PROJECTS and COMMERCIAL PROJECTS.

Private Commercial projects build economic growth, but when they are propped up by massive tax rebates it’s just putting gasoline on the fire. As for Public Projects, those are funded by the taxpayers as investments in infrastructure and should NOT be considered towards the permitting financials as part of economic growth. Sure, we have to build these facilities because of growth, but it also means our taxes are going up to do so while handing out tax breaks to the very developers fueling the uncontrollable growth. It is counter productive and simply growth for growth sakes instead measured, calculated slower growth.

I would love to see the city stop giving TIFs for Korean owned egg roll factories and parking ramps and start applying them to neighborhoods. Or better yet abolish TIFs all together and simply invest tax dollars in neighborhoods by encouraging the construction of more affordable housing through other tax incentives. Instead recently the city code enforcers bombarded neighborhoods in the central district with pink spray paint and violation notices for city owned sidewalks. What a great way to prop up our central neighborhoods by fining citizens to fix city owned property (more on this story in the near future).

Recently CountCilor Alex ‘Expert Economist’ Jensen suggested on CityLink that the way to solve our workforce and housing issues is by inviting people to work in Sioux Falls but to live in towns around us like Tea, Hartford, Dell Rapids, etc. Yeah, that’s an awesome way to build a solid tax base 🙁 and this guy works at a bank!

I would also like to see separating commercial and public permits. They don’t represent the same thing and shouldn’t be held up together. It’s like saying you are the championship BBQ’r in your own backyard and buying yourself a trophy. The city saying they broke records by including infrastructure projects they approved and we are paying for through higher taxes is putting the thumb on the scale.

Don’t get me wrong, economic development is good, but let’s be honest about the numbers and where the money is coming from (mostly taxpayers) and let’s start investing in neighborhoods, local businesses and people – then you will see true economic development we can be proud of because you can’t live in a parking ramp, police firing range or an egg roll.

Open Meetings Violation filed against the City of Sioux Falls today

You can read the full complaint HERE.

The complaint was filed at the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney office and the State AG’s office because there may be a conflict of interest. Once a report is filed it could move onto the Open Meetings Commission for consideration.

It has to do with not allowing public input on items that were pulled from the consent agenda in Tuesday night’s city council meeting that was riddled with many issues, including possible conflicts on items, a mysterious potty break and failure to notice an amendment 24 hours in advance on the garbage hauler notice.

The Chair of the Meeting, Mayor TenHaken, the City Attorney, Stacy Kooistra, City Clerk & Parlimentarian, Tom Greco and City Council Chair Curt Soehl are all mentioned in the complaint for failing to call for public input during the meeting.

As I mentioned to the Charter Revision Commission a couple of weeks ago, we have many issues with public input in this city that needs to be fixed but they accused me of ‘micro managing’ the meetings. Well it seems someone needs to manage these meetings, because our supposed leaders are not doing a very good job of it.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Kiley’s Tuesday Night Shananigans & Scammery

Besides the potential Open Meetings violations at last Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, it seems Kiley was participating in some very strange behavior.

If a City Councilor has a conflict of interest with an item, they must recuse themselves and go in the back room. They must do this AT THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the item and not return until after the final vote. They can’t sit there and listen and then leave before the vote. They must ALSO tell us why they are leaving. Kiley didn’t do that.

My assumption was it was done to save the mayor from having to have a tie vote on Neitzert’s Amendment that Kiley saw in advance*.

Watch how this plays out on Item #40, resolution on development.

(FF 21:20) Kiley doesn’t leave at the beginning, and Erickson whispers something into his ear.

(FF 1:06) Kiley is still sitting on the dais and leans into Erickson and says something as Neitzert discusses his amendment. Between 1:06 and 1:10 he leaves the dais and goes into backroom before the Amendment vote of 4-3 saving the Mayor from breaking a tie. Kiley doesn’t return until after final motion vote and the announcement of the next item.

So Ricky Lee, seems like an interesting time to take a potty break? Talk about blatant corruption and scammery.

But that wasn’t the only time Ricky was up to his little bag of tricks with the help of his magician assistant Heels. *(FF: 2:38) While Neitzert gave an advance notice (several days) of his Garbage Hauler amendment, Ricky did not. It has been ruled in the past by the city attorney that councilors should give a 24 hour advance notice, they have called councilor Starr out on it. So Pat asked Ricky Lee about it and said he could do it because Pat did it in the past to which Pat responded sarcastically, “Yeah, I’d be happy to take credit for it.”

Should the Sioux Falls School Board team up with City Council to offer FREE public transit rides for minors?

As I reported in August, Rapid City decided to extend a FREE public transit ride program to students. I think Sioux Falls should do the same, and our cost would be minimal if anything. We already do it during summer months mostly so food insecure kids can eat in the summer.

Recently Congress passed an infrastructure bill that has billions in it for public transit. Sioux Falls could take advantage of this by hiring and training more drivers and extending routes and time of service.

Now, don’t be fooled, this cannot just happen with a stroke of the pen. The devil is in the details. I encourage the school board to sit down with the city council in a public work session to discuss how to move forward. Let’s face it, there would have to be some route changes and other logistics, but it’s doable.

A candidate for mayor put it best recently in a FB post;

Regardless if it’s a “public school issue,” the shortage of bus drivers is a community problem. Many SFPS students also use public transportation, and as our city grows, the need for a robust public transportation system is a must.

A lack of planning on critical issues like this is why we end up with parents being asked to drive school buses. We can and will do better.

As they point out, different branches of local government CAN work together on this for a solution. I reached out to a school board member and a city councilor last night about the idea, hopefully talks will happen soon.

Some may not know this, but I actually consulted and encouraged a city councilor to start the FREE summer youth rides when they asked me if their idea was worth pursuing. It was then and a broader approach should be pursued now.

Interesting Accusation about Sioux Falls PD

I know this is on a random twitter page, but they bring up some interesting stats and rumors;