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Events Center Campus Book Club meeting • 8:30 AM, Wednesday

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Convention Center

8:30 AM

Open Government is paramount, because it is OUR money

We all know the truth, Mayor TenHaken and his staff were forced to open up the Events Center Campus Book Club meetings because councilors Starr and Stehly are sticklers about open government. God Bless Them!

So in a ‘sour grapes’ move I’ve been hearing they had their first ‘Open Meeting’ in the crowded old commission chambers instead of Carnegie. They supplied about 2 chairs for the public for a 3 hour meeting. Staff was rude, and several city employees were burning up the time clock ‘hanging out’ in the meeting.

This is NOT open government, this is obstinance.

Many people in government, conservative, liberal or whackadoodle don’t believe government should be open. They think things get done ‘faster’ when we shut r’ down. While this may be true, it usually doesn’t turn out well for the public. It has been proven time and time again open government prevents fraud, corruption and saves taxpayers money, but all those arguments aside, only one thing matters; We OWN this government, we have a right to see what is going on, it is OUR money.

I have told people if Sioux Falls city government sided on openness I wouldn’t have to have a blog. The fight gets tiresome sometime, because it’s always the tired old predictable things that happen under closed government.

Why must we fight for something so hard that is so easy? You promised transparency Mayor TenHaken, NOW is the time to deliver.

So who is lying about the openness of the Events Center Campus Book Club?

The ‘Painless’ Meeting in Public

We watched as this all played out. The meetings were going to remain closed, the TenHaken administration was digging in their heels. Then councilors Starr and Stehly bring a resolution forward opening the meetings. All of sudden the Task Force was claiming they decided they were going to open them up all on their own according to some secret vote, in a secret meeting and informed the Mayor in a secret email (to this day no one has seen);

An email from the event center group’s co-chairs Dan Statema and Jeff Eckhoff to Mayor Paul TenHaken said that the group had voted at their first meeting on Feb. 27 to allow the public and media to attend the rest of the meetings.

“We see no harm in having interested parties gain the same education we are as we progress through this process,” the email read.

Now fast forward today to the first open meeting. Deputy COS TJ Typeover tells those TV folks this;

“Pat Starr and I brought forth a resolution when we found out these meetings were going to be closed to the public and the resolution requested that they open the meeting and as a result of that the meetings have been opened,” says Stehly.

“After the first meeting they talked in between that meeting and this meeting and decided to open these up to the public,” says Nelson.

So which is it TJ? Did they vote on it? Did they decide later? My guess is both stories are TOTAL BS. You and the Mayor decided to open these meetings up after pressure from Starr and Stehly. Just admit it. Because just lying about it makes you look even more foolish, and certainly NOT transparent.

Events Center Revenue down over the past 3 years

Finally the chart I have been waiting for. I found it in the back of a booklet handed out at the EC Campus Book Club meeting today (click on image to enlarge);

In fact, if you look at the numbers closely you will see that the Denty actually would have a $1 Million year loss if it were not for sponsorships. Add the almost $10 Million a year in mortgage payments then you figure out why we are dodging potholes.

I also wonder if the city survey ever asks if people attend events at the Denty, or Pavilion, Orpheum, Arena, MAC, etc.? I would be curious just what percentage of Sioux Falls residents attend events.

UPDATE: First ‘OPEN’ Events Center Campus Book Club meets Wednesday

UPDATE: See, that wasn’t so hard to invite the public. Hopefully I will have video later today. I guess they discussed financials and the fact that Former Mayor Bowlcut and Bucktooth started the Arena Augie Contract ($25K a year-that just ended) so the discussion about building an indoor REC center there (Greg Jamison) would go away. I guess one city official also admitted (in a round about way) that Bowlcut cut corners while building the Denty to get it done faster AND cheaper. Shocker!

 

Events Center Campus Book Club meetings NOW open to the public

Funny how these things work. Councilor Stehly and Starr put out a press release announcing a press conference today at 1:30 to discuss a resolution opening the meetings to the public and then a mysterious email never shared with the council magically appears; (Copy of proposed ord: Events Campus Meetings RES )

An email from the event center group’s co-chairs Dan Statema and Jeff Eckhoff to Mayor Paul TenHaken said that the group had voted at their first meeting on Feb. 27 to allow the public and media to attend the rest of the meetings.

“We see no harm in having interested parties gain the same education we are as we progress through this process,” the email read.

Do you really think the public is that naïve TJ? Really? The only harm would be leaving the meetings closed, which is still on the table;

The email said the group would like to retain the ability to meet privately if “nonpublic” information ever needed to be shared, but said he did not expect the need to arise.

When it comes to a grouping of public buildings there is no such thing as ‘nonpublic’ information. Bucktooth & Bowlcut tried that approach with the Denty’s siding debacle, it blew up in his face. The only information that can be withheld from the public in closed door executive session has to do with pending litigation and personnel. Since this volunteer group wouldn’t have access to that kind of information anyway that means ALL of the meetings need to remain open. I think this is just a sneaky way of heading off Starr and Stehly to convince them there is NO NEED to pass the resolution, but I still think they need to so they have some insurance in case they try some back door deals. A statement in a supposed email about a supposed vote in a closed door meeting doesn’t cut the mustard.

“Our stance all along was ‘we’re not going to force you guys to meet in public if you don’t want that,'” Nelson said.

“They’re not in a decision-making role,” Nelson said in January. “We want to make sure we have the most open and candid conversation possible.”

Hey, TypeOver, when it comes to OPEN, NON-PARTISAN government, that isn’t up to you or volunteers on a task force committee. The meetings MUST be open to protect the public’s best interest and to have the best OPEN and HONEST conversations, there never should have been a ‘choice’ in the matter.

I would advise councilors Starr and Stehly to push ahead with their resolution to ensure the meetings stay open. I think the administration, especially Deputy COS, TJ TypeOver looks especially foolish for proposing closed meetings to begin with. If someone on the task force was uncomfortable with open public meetings, you pick someone else, it’s really that simple. So now we have to go thru a bunch of steps about supposed votes and emails, resolutions by councilors and excuses from Mayor TenHaken’s staff when we could have just done the right thing to begin with. See folks, this is what happens when you try to keep secrets from the public.

 

Events Center Campus ‘Book Club’ to have 1st meeting this week

First item on the agenda will be a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the campus. I wonder if they will be shown all the water damage in the walls of the Denty or the moldy hamburger buns at Canaries stadium?

Funny how we get to KNOW that they are meeting but can’t come along for the ride.

UPDATE: How did the Premier Center do in 2018?

UPDATE: I just checked the calendar of events for the Denty. From 2/22 until the end of October there is 31 events booked. Only ten of them are major concerts, the other 21 are mostly local sporting events (Storm and HS and College sporting events). Obviously there will be other concerts announced, but as of right now that is 3.5 events per month. Ouch.

I have been wondering for awhile, is the honeymoon over for the Denty?

Recently we found out that the long time GM was terminated and now the Marketing Manager is moving to another market for SMG.

With new management moving in, it would be a good time to crunch the numbers from 2018. I will be honest with you, I don’t follow what concerts and events go on out there. After spending almost $200 (ticket and beverages) to see the Foo Fighters, my hunger to attend shows there isn’t high on my priority list.

With the EC Campus Book Club meetings going on, even if they are meeting in private, I think that information would be important to their decision making. It’s even more important for the city council that is moving on the 2020 budget to know how the place is doing. Not only revenue sources, but ongoing sponsorships, economic impact, and as it seems, very expensive maintenance costs of the entire campus (parking/SF Stadium, Convention Center and Arena).

My guess is that 2018 was down from the previous two years. But the bigger question is how much and why? General Managers don’t just get fired on a whim. I have a feeling SMG knows the numbers and are concerned. I also think that the Mayor’s office knows the numbers to, this is probably the reason they want to hand the Orpheum contract over to the Pavilion.

I asked a couple of city councilors to make a request to the city’s finance department with a 2018 audit update of the Denty. We will see how long they stall.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Secret Study Groups and a ‘War Room’

As transparency continues to go in the toilet bowl in our city (getting worse than the last administration) we found out last night that our (uncertified and overpaid) City Clerk did not have access to city contracts that the city council has to vote on in the consent agenda. Further more, the council doesn’t have access either and are expected to ask in advance of the contracts by NOON on Monday before the meeting on Tuesday. Apparently instead of these being filed in the clerks office (where they belong) they are filed in various other departments. Besides NOT being readily available to the Clerk and City Council, the citizens should be able to go into SIRE and read these contracts online. Reminds me of the disappearing act of the Executive Orders.

But it gets even better, today Mr. Epp decided to interview Deputy COS, TJ TypeOver about transparency and specifically the secret study group. While TJ tried his damnest to argue the administration has been transparent, there was a few snags in his testimony. 1) was how this secret group will have the opportunity to bid on RFPs that may be produced from the recommendations of the study group (well isn’t that F’ing convenient);

Nelson did not say members of the study group would be barred from bidding on any Requests for Proposals that might come out of the study. However, he said anything that comes out as an RFP will be “very clear and very prescribed.” He said it would not be an “open-ended stew.”

“This group is not an advisory board in the capacity of those (official) groups,” Nelson said. “So the study group is really no different than the mayor bringing in a consultant to create a report, beacuse this group is making recommendations for the Mayor’s office.”

He keeps peddling this two-sided story that on one end they are un-important volunteers then on the other end he calls them paid consultants. So which is it? But this statement should have us all worried (not in the text of KELO’s story, audio translated);

“There are times when you just have to shut the door and get stuff done.”

He also went on to say;

“We won’t get all the facts only the ones they feel we need to see.”

I had to rewind and make sure I wasn’t hearing former Mayor Bucktooth & Bowlcut. When it comes to government, these things must be open. We are not running some race to see who can redevelop this area the fastest. Most everyone who has attempted in the past has failed. The only thing that ever manages to stay viable is private entities that are propped up by taxpayers, like the recent hotel and restaurant that was built there. And also remember, even with all the success of the Denty, we still have to subsidize the place around $10 million a year for the mortgage payment out of the 2nd Penny CIP fund (intended for roads). Ramrodding any secret plans down the throats of the citizens or city council will only result in failure. Have we learned nothing about the history of this cursed area of town?

TRANSIT MEETINGS IN THE ‘WAR ROOM’

I have often argued when you open these discussions up for public inspection, some of the best ideas and suggestions from the public can be molded and refined by the specially selected ‘study group’. I don’t have an issue with study groups or task forces, but they must be open and they must involve people with NO conflicts of interest.

So there is another group meeting on the unfinished 3rd floor of the new administration building (Transit Study group), in which the group is calling the ‘War Room’. I guess solving our transit problem in Sioux Falls is like fighting a war. Who knew?

A SouthDacola foot soldier had a recent tour of the ‘War Room’ by the recently anointed by God, Innovation Director, Jason Reisdorfer. To Jason’s credit he did tell them that he was willing to show the war room to anyone that wanted to see it (City Councilors, public, etc.). I guess it is curtains suspended by poles with hundreds of sticky notes of ideas tacked to them.

Jason said that this study group is limited to 12 directors/management that work for the city. The group is also engaged in the Harvard/Bloomberg leadership training program, and learning how to solve problems as a group is part of the training and solving the transit issues.

On the more negative side of things, it appears that the study group will not be looking at older studies or ideas from the past. They also will not be bringing in experts at this time in the field of transit (it may happen in the future).

Some other things this person observed was that they felt Jason was unaware that the city OWNS Sioux Area Transit (SAM) and it’s busses, facilities, etc. and that the outside contractor only manages the the system and it’s employees. I would think this would be an important thing to know if you were leading this group.

They also observed an idea in the ‘War Room’ that businesses may be requesting bus passes for their employees at a discounted or FREE rate to help get their low wage employees to work. There is a whole host of reasons why this is a bad idea. It only encourages businesses to continue to pay poverty wages while getting subsidized by taxpayers. If these businesses want to PAY for the passes and GIVE them to their employees, so be it, but we shouldn’t be subsidizing a private industry so they have bigger profit margins by tapping into a low wage workforce by giving them free bus rides to work.

I asked a city councilor today if they knew about the ‘War Room’ and they said they were unaware, but I was told by another person today that the Argus did this story about it.

I’m not sure why the contracts are being withheld from the public, or what the EC Campus study group will be discussing or what the transit/leadership group is up to, but it’s time we let a little sunshine in on Sioux Falls city government, or I’m afraid it’s going to get very dark for our citizens.

UPDATE: On Facebook today Mayor TenHaken clarified that 15 city employees are going thru a leadership program administered thru the USD Beacom School of Business. The program is called ‘ONWARD’. Not sure if this is tied to the Transit group.

First the siding now the ceiling?

A SouthDacola foot soldier sent me this picture they took at the Fleetwood Mac concert. I know it is hard to see but there is a gaping hole in the ceiling with insulation hanging out. They said there was also air blowing out of the hole and the insulation was flopping around. This is what you get when you build an events center on a budget.