Entries Tagged 'economy' ↓

Sioux Falls needs to do more to save it’s core

If I was running for mayor, one of my main legs on my campaign stool would be revitalization of the core. If tackled correctly, it could accomplish many goals. Not only making our core look and feel better, but it would help to reduce crime, create more affordable housing and in turn produce economic growth. It seems the city’s solution is spending our tax dollars tearing stuff down and rebuilding new which isn’t very cost effective at all;

The home is slated for demolition next week, with plans to rebuild a single family home on the lot.

Thanks to federal funding, the newly built home will eventually be sold to a lower income family. It’s all part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which is funding 10 such projects this summer in an effort to improve the local housing stock and add to the city’s pool of affordable housing.

While this may sound all fine and dandy, you could probably take that same amount of money, disperse in a different way and do 4x the amount of projects. How? Like I said, if I were mayor I would reorganize community development. I would have two full-time staff dedicated to knocking on doors in our core and identifying homes and rental property that could benefit from community development loans and federal grants (I received both shortly after I bought my home, and it was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone buying an older home that needs some TLC). I would also change the TIF program for what it is truly intended for, creating affordable housing out of blighted properties. I would give landlords and individual homeowners who are willing to fix up old properties an opportunity to apply for property tax abatement.

Like I said, this process could be very simple and would produce better neighborhoods while producing economic growth. Giving TIF’s to sprawling apartment buildings or luxury condos just doesn’t cut it. Just imagine if we took the millions in TIFs and spread them out to hundreds of homes and smaller unit apartment buildings, the impact that would have?

The problem is big development has a chokehold on our city government right now, they have them by the balls. Just look at the DT parking ramp or Flopdation Park, we are spending close to $50 million dollars on infrastructure that does almost ZERO to rehabilitate what we already have in our core, and while it is not a total waste, it certainly doesn’t make economic sense.

Why do you think the city wants to crack down on rental registry? They want to squeeze the little guy out by seizing their property thru code enforcement and handing it over to the big guys. Every one that I have spoken to who own small rental properties that have registered have been bothered by mailings and phone calls to sell their property to a major developer. Is the city selling or giving away this information? Makes you wonder?

The next administration and council need to work with the little guys to help clean up our core and let the big developers play on their own, they are certainly not going anywhere, and they will survive with out our corporate welfare. It’s time to get back to the basics.

Another Bar Napkin contract OR the real deal this time?

Rumor has it they have an actual committed tenant for Flopdation Park. Hopefully they have an actual signed purchase agreement this time, instead of a handshake and a wink;

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation will make what it’s calling a major announcement Friday involving Foundation Park.

Remember, as of right now, South Dakota and Sioux Falls taxpayers have committed over $30 million to this project so far in infrastructure costs. We have a stake in this process. Will the Development Foundation deliver this time? And if they secured a new business for the area, will it provide over 50-100, living wage jobs?

This is a good start, but can you fill in the blanks?

I guess the CVB has been listening to my requests for economic impact of the Events Center and other entertainment venues in the city;

“When there’s something big going on in town, people are at gas stations, filling up their cars to drive home.  They’re eating in the restaurants.  They’re shopping all over the town,” Schmidt said.

All of this made for a lucrative 2016.  Schmidt says concerts, plays, sporting events, conventions — you name it — brought nearly $500 million into the city.

Hey this is great, but without details, it’s just all fluff. I would like to see the formula the CVB used to come to these conclusions, I would also not only like to see the sales figures of the EC but of all the entertainment venues. We own, operate, take care of and pay the mortgages of these facilities, we have a right to see the numbers.

This story was just a teaser that leaves me with more questions.

Sales Tax Revenue down EVEN MORE than last year

Click to enlarge.

Finance Director Tracy Turbak will be making his monthly report at the informational meeting at 4 PM. So far, the sales tax growth is even more dismal than last year. For the first 3 months we are at 0% growth. Ouch.

Since I am not an economics major, I really can’t tell you why this downward spiral is happening. Obviously the farm economy isn’t doing well, but with Sioux Falls having so many residents, you would think this would not affect us this much. I still kind of wonder if we really didn’t recover from the last recession. Wages continue to be stagnant, and that is obvious with all the food banks growing and the lack of affordable housing.

2017 City Salaries; Economic Development

While there is only 6 employees in the Economic Development office, salaries add up to over $500K. Even the lowest paid employee of the department, the administrative assistant, makes over $49K a year. The department seems management heavy.

What surprises me about the department is how slim it is on office staff. I think the department has become very ‘tight’ or should I say ‘tight-lipped’ since Huether has become mayor. I guess the fewer people in the department, the less likely there are leaks.

Here is the full doc: 2017-Wages

What the HELL is a ‘Segregated Fund’?

Sometimes when city directors are sweating bullets trying to dig themselves out of a hole (FF: 1:10) they slip up and reveal ‘certain’ things the mayor’s administration is up to. Brent O’Neil, Economic Development Manager, called an account that is ‘holding’ money away from the city’s general fund or reserve fund a ‘Segregated Fund’ during his presentation Q & A portion at the informational meeting.

Funny, in the 11 years I have been following city politics I have never heard of such a practice of hiding money from the general fund and quite frankly from the public in a separate secret account.

Maybe Finance Director, Tracy Turbak would like to explain this practice? Is it a normal practice in municipal accounting to hide money from the General Fund or Reserve Fund by putting it in a separate secret account? If it was a private business, maybe I could see such a practice, but with public money?

Sounds a little fishy to me.

When will the City of Sioux Falls tell it’s citizens we are going broke?

City workers collecting their pay checks

You can’t rack up millions in record debt building structures we don’t need, turn around and give your directors atrocious corporate like raises then turn around and tell the minions, here are your crumbs;

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which represents hundreds of clerks, drivers, and maintenance workers, said Friday that members have rejected a contract offer from the city that would have offered 1.5 percent annual pay increases through 2018.

A spokesman for the union said the raises aren’t enough to cover the rising cost of health insurance paid by city employees. The union representing police officers in the city rejected a similar contract late last year, leaving firefighters as the only employee group with a new labor contract in place.

At the end of the day, the city council will be expected to do the heavy lifting without being let in on the negotiations, basically a shot in the dark;

Although not privy to the negotiations, the City Council will be asked in the coming weeks to approve  the new terms. If the unions declare an impasse, the Council can impose the contract without the consent of the employee groups. Asked by leadership and city attorneys to stay quiet on the topic as it could end up in litigation, councilors mostly have balked at questions surrounding the labor dispute.

“We were told not to comment,” Councilor Greg Neitzert said Thursday.

Councilor Theresa Stehly said it’s not her intention to complicate the process, but she shares the unions’ concerns about not prioritizing personnel.

The city in recent years has extended itself financially with more than $150-million worth of large-scale spending projects like the Midco Aquatic Center, the Denny Sanford Premier Center and the planned city administration building, yet can’t keep the labor force happy, she said.

“I can understand how these unions feel like things aren’t adding up when we’re extending ourselves with pools and administration building,” Stehly said. “It’s so very important in our personal lives and in city life that we take care of what we already have and support what we have before we go out and extend ourselves for these wants.”

While true, seems too little too late. People often tell me that Mayor Huether has accomplished a lot, he sure has, on the backs and debt of the citizenry. He has been anything BUT prudent with our money and now it is time to pay the piper on the bill of goods he sold us.

Taxpayers duped once again by the pie in the sky dreams of developers and big business

I was very reluctant to post about this story, simply because it was no shock to me that this happened. I was waiting for the day to come when we would read this;

The company that would have been the first to build in the new Foundation Park development park has decided to look at other locations.

Stuless Whunder makes a great point;

Others question the role of taxpayer-supported public entities in the area of private development, especially if urgency to find companies to fill parcels at Foundation Park drives down the market.

In that same vein, I question why taxpayers (State and Local) are putting up over $20 million in infrastructure for a project that didn’t even bother to secure a solid purchase agreement? We should have never authorized the expenditures unless we had a ‘real’ promise from a prospect, we went ahead with the possibly of spending $20 million of tax dollars based on a ‘letter’.

Wow!

Another reason we can’t run government like a business. Unlike private enterprise, government shouldn’t be in the business of taking risks and land speculation.

As for saying I wasn’t shocked that this happen, it is because we have had precedent. For one, just peruse available industrial park land the development foundation and other realtors have available already. It’s like deciding to build a 3 car garage for your Fiat 300 and bag of golf clubs. There isn’t a need for more land, it’s a classic case of urban sprawl. Remember Phillips to the Falls? How did that work out for taxpayers? We spent millions so we can have a new location for German Fest. Also don’t forget the fiasco called EB-5. There is also the employment factor (I’m guessing that is why Logistics Buddy backed out). Capital One is leaving solely based on the fact we don’t have enough workers. There is also the promise of living wage jobs that has never been hammered out before we moved ahead with this project. But hey the city is throwing thousands of dollars at businesses for the “Welfare for Want Ads” project.

I know I often sound negative and am really a cynic at heart, but it pains me to be right about something so wrong. I hope things will work out in the end. But hey folks, it’s Meth Week in Sioux Falls, so don’t worry about failed developments and petition drives. We gotta nip this dang problem in the butt. You go Tiger Mike!

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Debt 2016

This is a graphic I updated from 2012. Total city debt actually went down about $25 million since 2012. I wouldn’t say the city has a ‘debt’ problem, we have a ‘spending’ problem.

Click to enlarge the graphic

citydebt2016

Interesting Wealth Graphic of Sioux Falls

The Argus did a graphic of wealth in Sioux Falls. Not surprising to me, something I have known for awhile. Over two-thirds of households in Sioux Falls make under $50,000 a year, over a third make below living wages. And we wonder why food banks are growing leaps and bounds in this town.

wealth