ArtMaze, one of the better parts of Sioux Falls life in 2016
2016 has been a rough year for citizen activism. While it has been up and down here in Sioux Falls with many successes and failures to boot, it seems Washington DC has gone into full collapse as we allowed racist, sexist, hillbillies to elect our president.
But locally there were three things that stood out;
• Governor Daugaard claiming that voters were ‘hoodwinked’ into voting for IM 22, then getting the Pierre (in)justice system to go along with it. Funny how for over 40 years voters have been voting his party into power, and no word about ‘hoodwinking’ but once that corrupt power will be challenged, all the voters are idiots. As one official told me that used to work for Dennis, it’s not the public that are idiots, it’s Dennis. And his idiocy has been shining through.
• The South Dakota Democratic Party’s bottom completely fell out, and the people in charge patted themselves on the back. Insanity I tell you! Insanity!
• But one of the greatest achievements of the year is the Sioux Falls City Council’s change of power. The four new councilors have been flexing their muscles with a little help from Councilor Erickson, and while they have had a few missteps to start out, they have been learning from the battle scars. While ‘leadership’ of the council (Rolfing and Kiley) seem to be on a two man mission to rubberstamp all things Huether, shut down public input, and concoct false ethics charges against a fellow councilor (until they got caught lying like the snakes they are) they are becoming more and more in check. The city council has many big plans for 2017, and I have a feeling their agenda will push through easily as our lame duck mayor melts.
Let’s take a look at some the finer high and low points of 2016;
• The Huether Tennis center continues to block parking from other event attendees at the Sanford Sports complex though they basically stole $500K from taxpayers for the facility. Throughout the year there was several reports on cones and signs blocking the lot with not cars in it. But hey Mike’s Bride won an award this year and seemed surprised she did, without commenting that her check to the organization that gave the award wasn’t returned.
• The Sioux Falls City Council leadership and mayor’s HR department pulled a military retiree out of their asses for city clerk, a person who will be in charge of our city elections and hasn’t been registered to vote for years. He also proved his knowledge of official stamps when he stamped a petition without even bothering to read it. While Mr. Greco has gotten better over the year, the city clerk position should not be a $80K+ a year job as an apprentice, sadly being trained by one of his assistant clerks who has ten times the qualifications and applied for the position but was turned down. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the council chair’s view of women in the work place.
• Speaking of letting the mayor’s HR department and Leadership’s Mutt and Jeff pick the next internal auditor, the council barked loud enough that they did not want another ‘Greco’ pick. Not sure if the barking worked, but the person who was set to take the job saw the writing on the wall and turned it down. Hopefully the person who ultimately gets the position won’t be turned down because they shave their legs.
• The city continues to blow money on the Winter Wonderland Display, but the way the mayor has been cutting budgets these days, I expect next year’s display to be a couple of homeless barrel fire pits, sponsored by the Dudley House of course.
• After posting about the ridiculous corporate like raises the mayor has been giving to his management team, he turns around and still screws the minions with dismal raises again this year. I think in a special note to the city employees on their Christmas paystub he wrote, “I don’t care.”
• The city continues the FREE condom distribution program at area bars, and for some reason Monk’s is always emptied the quickest. Coincidence that is also a favorite watering hole of city managers . . .
• The Tuthill shooting case becomes ‘inactive’ and a tree branch shadow gets off scott free.
• The Erp wrongfully calls out local massage therapists as prejudice because they pointed out the ‘shower massages’ that were taking place around town. Apparently someone got a bad fortune cookie that day.
• The car rental tax and BID tax grabby-grabby fails in Sioux Falls, but the state legislature passes one of the most idiotic tax increases ever so our teachers are now just tied for last instead of dead last in pay. Out hoodwinking governor already has plans to rob the pot only one year after its passage.
• Hartford’s city government was in a state of collapse. Who really cares?
• The Levitt Pavilion is moving forward in Sioux Falls. It will be nice watching outdoor concerts sitting in the grass while battery acid is boiling beneath our asses.
• The Boulevard ordinance changes went into effect. Now stop worrying about rocks and plant a garden.
• The Washington Pavilion got a change of leadership after Darrin Smith takes over as President. So far he has only eliminated one director, but I hear the blood-letting has just begun. Now let’s throw another couple of million at the place to fix the poor construction to begin with. That will never happen with the Events Center . . .
• The Events Center cracks down on outside snacks and guns at events. We are all now safe from cheap fat people shooting us, but not in the parking lot.
• The Pottie Room war starts in Pierre and is guaranteed to return in 2017.
• A city council candidate throws a hissy fit over a post I wrote about his wife’s involvement with the Jesus plows and after threats to my employer I pull the post. He ends up taking last place in the at-large race. How’s Jesus working out for you now?
• Due to health reasons, Kermit Staggers decides not to run for a 4th term on the city council. His endorsement of Stehly puts her over the top.
• One of the youngest candidates in city history runs for city council. I apologize to Briggs for all the shitty things I said about him during the campaign.
• The Argus Leader sues the city for the details in the secret events center siding settlement. The Argus loses the first round but it is headed to the SD Supreme Court.
• On a similar note, the SON neighborhood is also awaiting a judgement in their Walmart suit with the SD Supreme Court.
• The Mayor and Q-Tip Smith screwup the DT parking ramp development by flapping their traps to soon, and the council later on in the year returns the favor and defunds the ramp all together for 2017. I still think the fiasco is what got Smith to seek refuge at the Pavilion.
• City officials throw a hissy-fit over Bruce’s camera at a city meeting we were invited to by then city councilor Kenny Anderson. Looking back on it now, I just chuckle.
• Bruce and I do a presentation on voter turnout in Sioux Falls at Democratic Forum and one of the mayor’s buddy developers in Sioux Falls tries to shut us down. When he fails, he walks out. Another casualty to transparency.
In their defense though, the place has had the same carpeting for almost 17 years, so it is probably due for an update.
But what about staff? It certainly is a building that has seen many staff and management changes throughout the years. They are on their 5th CEO, they have had I think four VAC directors. The Science Center, the Performing Arts Center, Box Office, Education/Learning center and the Marketing departments have seen many changes over the years. Their have been two constants though over the years, the CFO and the Operations Manager have been there since day one.
Darrin has been in charge several months now, so I’m sure mixing up management has been in his craw for quite awhile, but not sure what he will do?
I will say this about Darrin though, he is NO pushover. Unlike past CEOs I think Darrin won’t be afraid to make changes on his terms.
May 26, 2016: Smith, in what’s likely to be his last press conference as Community Development director, says city will not build a standalone ramp and instead will look for new partners to move forward with mixed-use parking facility.
Not only was it obvious to NOT build a standalone structure, I don’t think the administration had the votes on the council to get a standalone passed and built, especially with the current discussion about the new administration building.
Was the Washington Pavilion truly a building for the masses? And just how much public money would Sioux Falls pour into it? (referring to the rock concert of Collective Soul and the shaking balcony).
This really came down to one thing, poor engineering and design. A few years after the incident and the fix, Arturo Sandoval played the Pavilion, he had every person in that hall dancing on their feet to a sold out show. I looked over at my boss at the time (I was lead usher), Jeff Venekamp and said, “Are you thinking what I am thinking?” He was, if Arturo would have played the great hall before Collective Soul, how would the architects blame Rock & Roll for their bad designs? You know, because Cuban Jazz is hardly the devil 🙂
It wasn’t R & R at fault or even those evil Cubans. Which has been proven throughout the years.
Then there is the ‘funding’.
The annual contribution of about $1.5 million from the city’s entertainment tax – primarily for expenses such as maintenance and utilities – comprises just 20 percent of the Pavilion’s operating budget of $7.5 million, with the city also providing capital improvement funds as needed.
Okay, a little clarity. If you continue to read the article, you will see the Pavilion cost around $32 million to complete instead of the $20 million actually pitched to voters (actually it is over $50 million to date). The entertainment tax mentioned above was also supposed to go bye-bye after the bonds were paid off, you know, those BS sunshine clauses people always talk about. Didn’t happen, they continue to pile that money into the money trap it has become, with constant repairs and subsidies. Like a new roof on the Cinendome, the main roof, and hundreds of other ‘little fixes’ in the building. Their is also the millions from the CIP (2nd penny) for windows and malfunctioning sprinkler systems that ARE NOT part of the $1.5 million subsidy (you know, the reason why are water rates are going up). And of course this little tidbit, that always makes me chuckle, in a very dark way;
But it represents solid progress for the nonprofit Pavilion, which has been in the black six straight years after hitting rock bottom in 2009.
The Pavilion has never been in the black, let me repeat that THE PAVILION HAS NEVER BEEN IN THE BLACK! That’s like saying your lemonade stand made a profit after 3 people actually bought lemonade from you and your grand pappy bought your supplies (lemonade) and stand.
Same goes for the Events Center. A subsidy or a mortgage payment not tied into actual profitability, isn’t profit. No normal business runs that way. The money you take in should cover your expenses, or you are operating in the red. Doesn’t matter how much your uncle Bob gives you to stay afloat. In the real world, the Pavilion would have filed for bankruptcy years ago.
But there is still room for improvement, which makes Darrin’s job cut out for him.
Besides making the Visual Arts Center free again, the first thing President Smith needs to do is stop lying to the public, or at least tell us the truth about finances. Let’s face it, the Pavilion is an unprofitable organization that gets most of it’s funding from people who never use your facility. Invite them in, for FREE every once in awhile. And those elitists that use the place? Make them pay double.
While studying the city management salary increases over the past five years, we came across some interesting title changes. People were hop-scotching back and forth between the public works department and engineering. Not sure if this had to do with pay adjustments or what. It kind of looked like an accounting game.
Either way, there seems to be a discussion going on similar in the community development office. Will Darrin Smith have to be replaced or will restructuring of the department eliminate a Czar of community development?
With the new council rolling in, and the change of rules when appointing department heads (council must also approve the mayoral appointment of the director, no matter the size of the department). Could be interesting to see what kind of extra duties some of the other directors may have to take on to avoid a mayoral appointment.
Of course this wouldn’t be the first time the mayor would be playing hard and fast with the rules.
When I first got the text about 45 minutes ago, I busted up laughing. You know how the saying goes, and appointing Darrin as the next president of the Pavilion proves it, it’s WHO you know in this town, not WHAT you know.
In a press conference that just concluded at the Pavilion, the mayor introduced Darrin to the crowd. In some kind of strange irony, the podium was just below a phrase on the wall there for the Argus photography exhibit about freedom of the press, I had to chuckle even more.
It should be no surprise, Darrin has been an opportunist since he jumped on the scene of the city council several years ago, jumping from job to job when the going got rough, and getting out before the ship sank completely, at least his little dingy of a ship.
When he lost his mayoral bid, he quickly resigned from the city council never finishing his second term. When he saw an opportunity to work for Huether, he concocted a junket story about Kermit and hand fed it to Stormland news. Huether rewarded him with a job he knew nothing about, parking systems and community development. In one of his first meetings with the new staff he said to them, “Where do you get a cup of coffee downtown anyway, or eat?” I think they thought it was a joke. He was serious.
Once again, coming off the enormous failure of the Banks project, Smith is running for the hills again, with another promotion, to another job he doesn’t understand or is qualified for (of course, I don’t think any President of the Pavilion was qualified). I’m sure the tension between him and Mike is at an all time high. How could two salesmen fail so huge working together, they must have asked each other?
It will be fun (dreadful) to watch though. The Pavilion has been in meltdown ever since Gary Wood left. The only thing they have been successful at is siphoning money from the CIP to fix the awful reconstruction job that was done only 16 years ago and playing ‘tiddle-dee-winks’ with each other in down time. And it is costing us millions. Good thing we have increased water rates to pay for pipes, because the 2nd penny is all tied up in remodel projects at the Pavilion.
It will also be fun to watch the interaction between the Operations Manager, Jon Loos and Darrin. They will either be two peas in a pod, or come to blows, real quick. There is also probably a lot of butt hurt in current management in the building that wanted that job to, and how it must burn the position was handed over to a parking lot specialist who just happens to be the Mayor’s tennis partner. Like most things Darrin has done throughout his career, he will keep his head where he has had the most success, a place where the sun rarely shines.
I give him about 16-18 months.
UPDATE: There is another reason why this move is interesting. It is no secret that Darrin’s name has been mentioned as a candidate for mayor in 2018. Kind of hard to run for the position as a city employee. This will give him an opportunity to distant himself from his current job when or if he decides to run.
UPDATE 2: It is also ironic that the Board of Trustees who picked Smith are appointed by the mayor (two members). Guess what else? Darrin was the city’s contact with the Pavilion.
The city said Thursday that private investors have backed out of a planned $40 million downtown project that would have included loft apartments, retail and a boutique hotel.
“The hotel and apartment folks have informed us recently that it’s not financially feasible for them to continue,” Sioux Falls Community Development Director Darrin Smith said.
So why in the Hell would we move forward on a $10 million dollar parking ramp without a leasing tenant? Wait until we get an interested party, then build the ramp. Or better yet, don’t build a ramp at all and let private development take care of private development, and tax dollars take care of citizen projects, like maintaining the roads.
Mike and Darrin have this great desire to spend tax money on unneeded projects. The new council is probably going to be working with smoking brakes until the end of Mike’s term.
While Director of Parking and TIF’s, Darrin Smithe was being interviewed by KSFY about the Banks Project, he conducted the interview in fronte of the tennis centere. I was surprised there were vehicles parked in their parking lot and people actually using the facility. I wonder if Darrin broke his rackete again after another failed matche against his boss?
Come to the news conference to learn more about the Washington Square project and how City officials are proposing to support the project.
As I have said in the past, I was opposed to the massive TIF requested for this project, but I wouldn’t be opposed to something scaled back, like a low interest community development loan, financial assistance with cleaning up the alley and upgrading infrastructure in that part of Downtown, even some kind of lease agreement with the city on parking. But a large TIF for condos doesn’t float my boat.
Funny how the commission gets to see this presentation before the council – or at least I can’t recall the council getting the presentation yet?
Darrin explains TIFs before the new TIF presentation. While he is correct that TIFs don’t cost taxpayers up front (even though we are footing the bill to administer them) we are losing property tax revenue for several years. Basically the developers are paying themselves property taxes and using the money to pay for the development.
What an unusual year 2016 was. In fact the 16 years of this new century has been filled with changes that happen daily. Look at the weather. The temperature can go from 40 degrees one day to below zero the next.
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