Sioux Falls City Council Digging in their Heels

If you watched last night’s city council meeting or several before that, you will notice a trend of some Sioux Falls city councilors digging in their heels on really bad policy decisions. As a person who has watched this for several years, I’m baffled by it. The public sees it too, and they are equally baffled. What accounts for this? Is there a deep state of local power broker puppeteers pulling the strings? Has the influence of private and/or business money in politics become so second nature, that even our city council and mayor don’t notice it – or just don’t bother to hide it? Example: look at the plurality vote. Everyone knows it was a bad idea to change it to majority, but the majority council voters didn’t blink an eye. Why?

Consider the re-zoning for the Avera nun apartments. This takes taxpaying residential affordable housing off the table for the benefit of non-profit housing. What’s in it for the taxpayers? Why the corresponding destruction of a core neighborhood next to Avera, and those adjacent to Sanford, Lifescape Children’s Hospital & School, and even Billion Buick/GMC? Why the closed door meetings when transparency has been promised? Why the dissent and apparent indifference toward Public Input at official municipal meetings?

Maybe we just chock it up to politics as usual, but given how much these decisions seem related to commercial development, it sure smacks of a bunch of quid pro quo. Are these obstinate councilors really that cheap of a date?



24 comments ↓

#1 Matthew Paulson on 03.07.19 at 5:11 pm

You guys complain that City Council (except Starr and Stehly) “doesn’t listen to the citizens,” but fail to understand that there are other citizens than the small group of people that have nothing better to do besides show up and complain at city council meetings every week. Many of us give feedback to city councilors outside of Tuesday nights and that feedback often doesn’t align with the opinions of this blog and it’s followrs.

Just because they don’t do what you want them to do doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the will of the people, it just means they’re ignoring the vocal minority in favor of the silent majority that think safe drop off and pickup for special needs children is important and that the nuns should have a place to live.

If nuns and special needs children are the groups of people you are arguing against, maybe you should reconsider your positions.

#2 Sierra broussard on 03.07.19 at 10:29 pm

Let me stop you right there first off you cant be talking about me and if so when I speak about crime I’m speaking for the police and citizens that cant speak second off why dont u help with the crime in the community and get involved . You dont know what you talking about . This is what is wrong with siouxfalls people dont wannabget involved and the ones that cant I speak for them tahts why the hell im up there. Wake up and smell the roses

#3 Sierra broussard on 03.07.19 at 10:32 pm

Do you think I go up there for entertainment absolutely not this is what advocacy is all about I have lost jobs retaliation against police officers you just dont know so before you say something out your mouth naked sure you know what you talking about.im on these streets fighting crime testifying in courts against criminals and fighting corruption what the hell have you gave back to the community.

#4 Sierra broussard on 03.07.19 at 10:35 pm

So if you wanna go there we can . Believe me stuff gets done when our voices are heard at public input so again dont talk smack if you cant back up what you saying.

#5 One of the commoners on 03.07.19 at 10:36 pm

In reading about you I see that you do not associate with the common people. You obviously are aggressively energetic and run in the same wealthy circles as does the mayor.

I have no problem with your success. But I can see you do not know or have any idea as to the needs of the common voter and where he stands as do the 5 majority rubber stamp city council who are only concerned with building another Babel here in Sioux Falls.

As to your service on the Board of Trustees at Sioux Falls Seminary thank you. But as a Christian myself, I would like to remind you Jesus did not run with the elite and wealthy.

As to your comments about the council listening to and responding to the public you are incorrect. The 5 rubber stamp councilors are only open to interaction with your class of citizens and highly flattered that they are now rubbing elbows with the important people. Flattery and power ruins most who enter government.

Your accusations are wrong and we average citizens are only being represented by the 3 common sense councilors Star, Stehly, and Brekke.

As to the future, I am a very conservative life long Republican and unless this administration changes its’ closed doors policies and begins to respectfully work with all the council instead of trying to bully or weaken the honest three council members, I will not vote for this mayor again.

#6 Blasphemo on 03.08.19 at 12:46 am

I hear Councilor Erickson’s admonition that “no one (hospital, business, etc) is forcing core neighborhood homeowners to sell their homes.” Well, what are the real world ramifications for a homeowner who declines to sell their home to a business looking to rezone their neighborhood to a commercial district? In the course of this debate, has anyone articulated the downside risk for NOT selling? I’d guess there’s substantial risk to the long term value of the home as residential property, and risk to peaceful enjoyment for an owner-occupant long term in a neighborhood which business is buying up. IF they sell, owners may well be paid market value, but it rather seems a virtual gun is being put to their heads.

#7 Jannelle Cain on 03.08.19 at 9:16 am

Blasphemo, very true! As one of the three home owners has has to deal with Lifescape parking lot in my back yard, and they own 4 of the 7 houses on both sides of me, yup I could be totally surrounded by concrete if I choose not to sell. That IS the reality. Maybe in Councilor Erickson’s neighborhood things work different as the demographics are different than ours. Just thinking out loud here, but how many affordable homes were taken out to build her apartment building on the boarder of the McKennan Campus?

#8 l3wis on 03.08.19 at 9:25 am

Four houses, permently taken off the tax rolls as private residences for a Non-profit facility. And somehow we should be celebrating this? Notice also that the nuns said that when they are finished using the facility, it will be turned over to Avera for intern, student and temp help housing, staying under the non-profit status I am sure.

#9 l3wis on 03.08.19 at 9:28 am

MP- I was going to respond to your ridiculous assumptions, but every time I try to type a response I just start laughing.

#10 LJL on 03.08.19 at 10:48 am

You’re correct on 1 thing. The people are baffled.

Baffled about all the drama over closing a streets next to facilities which we all knew were expanding.

Baffled about how a monopoly car dealership gets a street closed but not a children’s hospital.

Baffled as why NOW a hospital cant purchase adjacent properties on the open market and expand.

Baffled as why the voters don’t decide the rules of an election.

Baffled to elected officials clearly baiting one another on social media.

Baffled as why a person would make gestures during council meetings to antagonize officials and the official
publicly recognizing the gesture.

Baffled as to why the city would couple with a company which is clearly a shell to build a parking garage.

I can go on and on.

Clearly this body has become too dysfunctional to operate due to internal and outside influences. TIFS, street revocations and vote thresholds need to be decided by the voters going forward.

#11 l3wis on 03.08.19 at 11:13 am

LJL, just so you know, as I stated to Kiley, he has disrespected me and his fellow councilors dozens of times over the past 6 years on the dais. He is an authoritarian who only thinks his opinion matters. This is why I was playing the violin, because I was tired of his f’ing grandstanding and hyperbole, I’m glad he saw me, and I am extremely unapologetic. As I have stated to the full council and on this site, respect is earned, not granted just because your chair sits higher than mine. About a month ago, Rick, interrupted me during public input telling the chair I was off topic. I was not, and it was rude. He has done this several times to other public commenters. So while he may feel disrespected, I feel like it is karma.

#12 Blasphemo on 03.08.19 at 12:49 pm

OOTC: nicely said! Furthermore…

Matt Paulson: L3wis used four examples (plurality vote, street vacations, closed meetings & public input) to substantiate his point questioning numerous confounding recent council actions, and you’ve conveniently mustered a challenge to just two. AND, Mr. M.A. IN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP, don’t WE seem to have missed out on the “love your neighbor”, and “take the speck out of your own eye” part of your education and your proclaimed Christian faith in the course of challenging these two! Could your characterization of “…the small group of people that have nothing better to do besides show up and complain at city council meetings every week” be any MORE judgmental?? Good grief. Hey, be the biggest, baddest most strident critic ever – just don’t do it here and then proclaim yourself to be practicing Christian teachings in all your affairs elsewhere.

This “small group of people” as you characterize them have the guts to go public and on record with their beliefs and substantiated assertions, as opposed to perhaps more below the radar tactics like a) buying influence with large campaign donations, b) talking public policy on the golf course or c)via private chats over the cocktail-you-bought-‘em at money-chasing entrepreneur mixers and high society events. Which group has the more arguably virtuous method of approach?

You’ve apparently attended university and seminary institutes of higher learning, but then offer the profoundly unenlightened and contradictory argument “Just because they don’t do what you want them to do doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the will of the people, it just means they’re ignoring the vocal minority in favor of the silent majority that think safe drop off and pickup for special needs children is important and that the nuns should have a place to live.” REALLY. We should be persuaded that, according to your rationalization, some councilors entirely IGNORE one constituent group who speak up, and FAVOR another group – which you proclaim (unsubstantiated) to be a MAJORITY, who, although silent. . . somehow (perhaps telepathically) exert their will via these councilors…to make decisions favorable to PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS at the expense of the interests of MANY residential property owning citizens! Yeah. That’s love and respect for the interests of everyone concerned. A real win-win resolution. Way to work for peace and unity!

Your defense of this “gang of four (or five)” also conveniently fails to consider one or more glaring examples of the petty vindictiveness demonstrated by this group. After failing to achieve a super majority vote on the Lifescape street vacation, they subsequently unite to defeat an expertly prepared ordinance (the plurality vote measure by Brekke, a fellow councilor with infinitely more executive municipal service experience than all the rest of them put together) – a proposal with documented support not only from three additional fellow councilors BUT ALSO past civic leaders instrumental in creating our related local government model. But, nevertheless, this gang withheld their support for the plurality ordinance without ONE WORD ON PUBLIC RECORD to substantiate or defend their votes. What YOU fail to consider Paulson, is the extent to which this smacks of hidden agendas, hushed subversive influence and the worst of partisan politics. So puree your pollyanna self righteousness with your white boy blues and slurp down a big cup of STFU.

#13 Average Citizen on 03.08.19 at 1:52 pm

This is what I see. I see the same damn crap happening in Sioux Falls that is going on nationally. That is the use and abuse of the middle class through taxes, misuse of power, secrecy, etc.

In Sioux Falls it is extravagant spending on growth, multitudes of TIFS like unnecessary parking ramps for new hotels, all the while ignoring the necessities such as our streets. Who pays??????? The elite?? NO! They get a deal! It is the average taxpayer who finances everything so that the elites can make more money through the big growth. I think another viewer compared Sioux Falls’ growth agenda to a Tower of Babel on the plains. I agree!!

Then you add to that closed the door planning and negotiations by our extremely disappointing mayor and five elitist, hip pocket councilors you have arrived in Sioux Falls.

Government is not supposed to work this way. Government is supposed to be loud and noisy. It is to be filled with much open discussion and an abundance of public input. It is planning our future TOGETHER, not just in city hall. And by the way, the public is a lot more creative than government ever was or will be.

As a long time Sioux Falls resident, I am disgusted with what I see. This mayor’s governing tactics are no improvement over the last mayor’s tactics. Our government is not a business to be run from the executive office. The head of our city departments are not to be telling the public what our future plans should be, but to share with the public future needs and ask for public input. The public should be voting on expensive options. The council members should be representing and voting according to their constituents wishes, not just listening to the desires of the elite.

Our city government is not functioning correctly. Five of our city council represent only the executive office in Sioux Falls and are viciously trying to silence the other three. ENOUGH! DISGUSTING!! I am thinking it may be time for a change in city government. I am ready to sign the petition!

And last thank you councilors Star, Stehly, and Brekke for performing your job with honesty and integrity!

#14 Erica on 03.08.19 at 6:11 pm

There are plenty of homes available for the nuns to live in; hell, why can’t they just live in the homes they want to tear down rather than build a multi-unit building in among other homes? Are they too good for those homes?

#15 Erica on 03.08.19 at 6:34 pm

@Sierra, I do want to really commend you on your comments and the fight you are doing against human trafficking, prostitution, and your concern with illegals being employed. If you have social media where anyone can follow you, please share.

Thank you.

#16 Matthew Paulson on 03.08.19 at 7:54 pm

I can see that my comment has clearly sparked some energy and emotion from the regulars on this blog. Unfortunately rather than discussing ideas and arguing why nuns shouldn’t have multi-unit housing (on land that they own, mind you) and why it’s okay that a non-profit that works with specially-challenged children shouldn’t get reasonable parking, some (but not all commenters) have devolved into attacking my character and arguing that I’m not a “true Christian” because I happen to disagree with their opinions. If you’re all honest with yourselves, not one of you could say that you truly know me, my heart, what I care about, what kind of work I do, what kind of volunteer work I do or where my money goes. You just can’t understand that a level-headed, thinking person might disagree with your opinions, so you throw out ad hominem attacks.

The uncomfortable truth is that this blog, which I do believe brings a valuable perspective to city politics, has a small number of devoted followers. The South DaCola regulars are passionate and energetic, but they probably don’t represent the majority of the voting populous. It’s totally fine to be part of the political minority, but why smear, make snide remarks about and personally attack those that disagree with you? It’s hard to imagine anyone will take Mr. Ehrisman and his followers seriously as long as he’s making faces at city councilors during council meetings and referring to elected officials’ actions as “chickenshit” behavior. If you truly believe that the South Dacola community represents the political majority, maybe Mr. Ehrisman or Mr. Danielson should run for city council during the next cycle and let the voters determine that.

I also understand it’s popular on this blog to attack wealthy and successful people and clamor that we don’t care about poor people, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. When the salvation army said it wouldn’t be opening its doors to the homeless during the winter, the business community and non-profit leaders rallied to fast-track the Bishop Dudley house. The chamber is currently raising $1.25 million for VOA to build a multi-family unit for homeless high-school students. They’re going to be raising $1.35 million for the Glory House this fall. They just approved another appeal to raise $1+ million to help McRossan expand its facilities to help troubled youth. The dollars that fund these appeals all come from the business community. No, I’m not out on the streets every night playing private investigator or looking for desperate situations to insert myself into, but that doesn’t mean that I and other successful people don’t care. We do care. We do help. We just don’t always parade our investments in the community through the streets (although some philanthropists in our community do *cough*).

#17 l3wis on 03.08.19 at 8:48 pm

MP- Thanks for your response. I don’t think anyone denies that the ‘wealthy’ in our state and city give a lot. Those stats have been well proven. The irony of it is that while our homeless shelters, food banks, banquets and subsidized housing grows we are playing a game of whack a mole. It drives me crazy. If the rich would just give more of their profits towards higher wages and assisting in higher education of their workers, they wouldn’t have to subsidize the poor. On top of that, when the middle class makes more money, they spend more, in turn helping the economy, which helps the rich more then handouts to the poor. It’s really simple math. As for my followers, I have heard the cries over years. So it will tell you, South Dacola has over 3,000 hardcore followers each day. Those numbers can be a lot higher when controversial issues come up. While that may be low, consider that anytime we have a muni election, around 14-30M people vote. I’ll take the 10%. I truly believe there is around 10M people in this community that truly follow city government, bless their hearts, I wish it was more, but I cannot control this. As for Stehly, she has well over 3,000 people follow her on FB. I will admit, I can take your side that many people that should be paying attention, do not. I have close friends tell me often they wished they followed me more, but their daily lives and struggles don’t afford it, but they often thank me for doing what I do. It means a lot to me. One of my biggest followers is my mother, and that means a lot to me, because if she felt I was taking the wrong approach, I would end this. She often tells me that I am fighting the good fight, and she is a beautiful, hard working, average Christian, born and bread South Dakotan. Good government isn’t easy, it certainly isn’t clean and tidy, and it is hard, but it is worth fighting for. And if I use potty words to achieve that goal, or nicknames that people don’t agree with, so be it. The means we use can often generate criticism, I understand that, but I certainly don’t lose sleep over it, and you shouldn’t either.

#18 Matthew Paulson on 03.08.19 at 9:44 pm

Scott – I appreciate your thoughtful response. My company only has six employees (four in Sioux Falls) and they all do pretty well. I can’t force other companies to erode their profit margins to increase worker salaries outside of advocating a higher minimum wage. I agree with you that the middle class isn’t fairing well nationally or in Sioux Falls, but that’s not an issue I or most business people can personally impact. There are a handful of business owners in town that could make those decisions and I generally don’t get invited to coffee with those folks. I’d like to see a higher average wage, but I don’t know how to impact that. The only thing I can do that I am aware of is make sure there is a good social safety net in place for people that need help.

I am surprised that your blog has that many daily readers. That’s great for a local political blog. Congrats on that!

#19 Obvious in SF Government on 03.08.19 at 10:12 pm

Mr Paulson, you speak of someone in the audience making faces during the last meeting. Well, I believe the mayor himself has been caught more than once making faces.

And then there is Greg Nietzert who quite frequently makes faces, smirks, etc., when Councilor Stehly speaks. That is such immature behavior from public officials. Repulsive middle school behavior!!!!!!!!!!

Incidentally, I have never observed Stehly behaving disrespectfully or making faces! She is consistently respectful even when she is attacked.

#20 Blasphemo on 03.09.19 at 3:03 am

MP: No, I don’t know you personally. I don’t respond to your cares, your loves, your volunteerism or what you buy. What I DO know and may respond to are the words you write here, which give me cause to Google and easily find your self-published personal bio. I was raised a Christian and have Christian beliefs, but in contrast to you I don’t believe myself to be sufficiently devout to declare myself a Christian first and foremost before any other title I ascribe to – THAT would be hypocritical, which Jesus, as I recall, declared was far from lovable. I CAN understand, respect and welcome an opposing opinion from a “level-headed, thinking person”. What I CAN NOT stomach is an ill-conceived, very personally judgmental (“the small group of people that have nothing better to do besides show up and complain at city council meetings every week”) and cheap-shot-gross-over-simplification (“If nuns and special needs children are the groups of people you are arguing against…”) by another out front obviously and profoundly hypocritical self-proclaimed Christian-first-before-all-else. If you’re going to walk that walk, you better talk that talk, which means dialing waaaaay back on your smug attitude, your lack of humility, your lack of diplomacy and otherwise poorly chosen words.

Furthermore, son, “The South DaCola regulars are passionate and energetic, but they probably don’t represent the majority of the voting populous”. . . . I’ve got news for you: the majority of the voting populous DON’T VOTE. They don’t participate beyond perpetuating single party politics in a state that boasts some of the most corrupt governments in the country. The “small vocal minority” are the ones actually paying close attention to and questioning and challenging the words and actions of elected and appointed officials. Your lauded “silent majority” are the selfish who have given rise in our community and this country to the likes of Trump/Rounds/Thune and an acutely polarized socio-economic era of income disparity and bankrupt social and ecological conscience unequaled in our history.

#21 The Guy from Guernsey on 03.09.19 at 9:59 am

Matthew,
That which you can do to increase wages of workers in Sioux Falls?
I would suggest to lead. With your words (since you claim to already be leading with your deeds because all of your employees do pretty well).

Example: The words ‘erode their profit margin’ (by paying higher wages) shows the bias of a financial analyst, not the potential of a leader.
In your analysis of businesses, do you consider the manner in which the business is able to compete for ALL of the resources necessary to conduct business?
Or are you only concerned with the way in which they can provide, or compete for Capital?

A leader who sees a need for higher average wage in a region talks about business owners competing for the human resource required – in the same manner that they compete for financial resources necessary for the business. If they are not able to compete, their business is not sustainable (think restaurants which have consolidated from multiple locations, or closed because they were not able to compete for the people to fill the various shifts).
Your view of businesses being forced to reduce their profit margin reflects the mindset of many small business people, some of which harbor actual resentment toward their workforce.
Any money paid to the workforce removes from cash flow the money these business people count upon to maintain and elevate their lifestyle (the ‘boji lake place; the hunting trips and safaris; multiple trips each winter to warmer climes, “Hey, why are you calling me from the Bahamas to bitch that your workers are constantly leaving for better opportunities?”).

#KashkariIsCorrect

#22 The Guy from Guernsey on 03.09.19 at 10:08 am

The words of a leader:
“So a question that I’m asking everybody is, if you’re complaining about you can’t find workers, why aren’t you raising wages?”
and
“Are any of you planning to raise wages in the next year or two? Or are you just complaining about you can’t find workers and you’re not going to raise wages? Because I can tell you something… if you look at North Dakota and the oil boom, if you raise wages, people respond, and you can find workers. So are you really struggling to find workers, if so, the proof for me is you’re raising wages. If you’re not raising wages, then it just sounds like whining”.
Neel Kashkari, comments to Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls. August 7, 2017.

Transcript of comments sourced from Dakota Free Press account of the event (https://dakotafreepress.com/2017/08/08/workforce-shortage-sounds-like-low-wage-employers-whining-to-kashkari/)

#23 Sierra broussard on 03.09.19 at 5:06 pm

Erica you can follow me on my face book type in my first and last name

#24 Sierra broussard on 03.11.19 at 9:03 pm

First off mr Paulson when I go into these neighborhoods I just dont go looking for the crime citizens business owners lawenforcement notify me that’s how I get involved in these high crime neighborhoods now cough and choke on that .

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