Entries Tagged 'Mayor Grump Toad' ↓

Transparency in local government is our #1 Priority

I have been telling people lately that I could care less about all the issues discussed in the last municipal election campaign, except one, TRANSPARENCY. The Argus agrees;

It’s important to acknowledge that the Premier Center settlement would not have been unveiled without legal efforts undertaken by the Argus Leader, which also just won a seven-year battle with the federal government over access to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) payments.

The most recent mayoral election might have played out differently if not for our insistence on transparency and accountability from both candidates.

SouthDacola has been fighting for transparency since I started this blog. Without it government runs amuck in corruption, and everything that is done in the dark is not to be trusted.

Funny part is if it weren’t for my blog there never would have never been a siding settlement or the pressure of transparency in the last election. I basically told Jack Marsh last Friday at Dem Forum that news organizations have become slaves to their advertisers. He claimed it isn’t happening in print media. I beg to differ.

If blogs would not have brought up these important topics, who would have? Jack Marsh? Randell Beck? Stu Whitney? Angela Kenneke? Yeah right.

No matter how many accolades we want to spread around towards the end of Huether’s administration any thing he ‘got done’ behind the blinds lacks the integrity to even be mentioned. It’s actually disgusting to listen to him take credit in the 100 or so press conferences he has had last week for creating some kind of utopia here. Hey, Mike, in a utopia, people do things in the open.

A good ship is run on the open seas.

Mr. TenHaken, you promised transparency, and we’ll be watching. I think your campaign intentions hold merit. And remember, always err on the side of openness.

Did Huether use insider city hall information to invest in real estate development?

This has been the lingering question with Huether since he walked into office 8 years ago.

Neither I or the media could answer yes or no to that question. I have never gotten a solid answer.

When we have talked about the lack of transparency in his administration it goes beyond sharing city business information with the public and council.

There has only been one incident since Mike took office that we could say that he did, or least his ‘wife’ did. Cindy invested in a property that received a TIF from the city. The only other instances I can point to is a couple of local developers telling me he has and a person from the planning office telling me this, but hearsay only.

There are minimal conflict of interest laws in the state to enforce this. And even if you don’t have an ethical issue with Mike doing this, shouldn’t he at least have to disclose this kind of information?

I really think the new city council should put a policy in place that requires councilors and the mayor to disclose if they are investing in local development projects, whether they are connected to the city or not, they all must go through the planning department so in some ways they are connected even if they are a silent investor/partner.

We may never know if Huether did, but we certainly can protect the public from the future mayor using inside information to fatten their wallet.

UPDATE: Huether’s Legacy of Leadership; Getting Things Done by spending other people’s money

You can accomplish anything when you have your parents credit card.

UPDATE: I thought I would re-post this today (form January 2018) after reading the Argus Leader’s analysis of Huether by reporters Whitney and Sneve.

I often hear it from friends and enemies,

“Why do you pick on the mayor so much Scott? He has gotten a lot of things done.”

I often agree, he has accomplished a lot. And if you don’t believe me or them, just ask the mayor himself. But when you really look at what has been ‘done’ it was done using other people’s money or borrowing other people’s money. The problem with that is that it’s the taxpayer’s money, OUR money, not the little dictator’s at 9th & Main.

These ‘accomplishments’ or ‘WINS’ as the mayor likes to call them, are not really wins at all, but just expenditures that I believe could have been done in other ways to save taxpayers millions while providing those services better. They were nothing more than playthings built to attract more overpaid doctors to town.

While Huether says our debt is the same amount as it was in 2010, what he fails to mention is that he created NEW debt at the tune of almost $250 million while the debt that was paid off was already scheduled for repayment or paid off early due to over 50 fee and tax increases over the past 8 years. There have also been repercussions over these fee and tax increases. Sale tax revenue has continued to go down percentage wise even though we have has an explosive population growth. I believe this has to do with a couple of factors. Wages have not stayed in line with these increases in taxes, healthcare costs, housing inflation and the widening gap between rich and poor. In fact a majority of the middleclass in Sioux Falls has seen no growth or negative growth over the past 8 years. Even with all the quality of life projects, financially the middleclass isn’t doing much better or even worse than we were in 2010, the numbers don’t lie.

Our roads are also still at the same rating they were 8 years ago, 7 out of 10. Which is still good compared to other South Dakota municipalities, but ZERO improvement. One reason may be because our roads fund, the 2nd penny CIP is being robbed by mortgage payments to new entertainment facilities that don’t pay for themselves.

But when it comes to Huether really expanding services to ALL of our residents, what really has he done in 8 years?

The massive annexation Huether has implemented has only pissed off neighborhoods, cost millions in infrastructure upgrades (handouts to the corporations that asked for these annexations) and caused a riff with un-annexed islands that were created after the intentional urban sprawl while our core has become a meth crime haven.

Speaking of that, Huether has done little to combat crime. He hired an un-experienced police chief, a fire chief who lives in Canton (because, as he says, it is safer to raise his kids) fired the former fire chief for allegations of child pornography (but let him keep his pension). Screwed the Police union on raises while giving corporate like raises to directors who have followed marching orders like spiking the Finance Director’s salary over the past two years by $16K right before his retirement.

He has done little to improve project trim to become either free or more affordable to taxpayers. Has cut back street cleaning and snow removal, cut bus and paratransit routes while insisting on charging more and offering ZERO solutions over the past 8 years how to improve service and make it more equitable. I actually look at the do nothing attitude of public transit by Huether as one of his biggest failures as mayor.

He has cost us AND the citizens of SD (Public Assurance Alliance) millions in legal battles that we didn’t have to fight because of the incompetent and non-transparent administration he runs.

Water rates and regulations have only gone up in numbers while sales tax revenue has tumbled, only to take this extra money and put it in a savings account.

But besides the ‘WINS’ he decided to pass up, as I said above, let’s look at the things he called accomplishments by spending our money and borrowing in our good name;

The Denty. This project started on a bad note to begin with. Instead of bonding the entire building we had other options. I think we should have used a combination of private investors, cash reserves and state revolving funds to bond remainder. The vote was also a sham. It was an advisory vote which wasn’t legally binding, ultimately the council had to approve the bonds. In reality, with that much bonding it should have been a legal bond vote which would have required a 60% threshold from voters. It was also built in the wrong place. While Downtown would have been more ideal, I think anyplace but next to the Arena would have been better. The location has only contributed to the money vacuum the Denty has become, sending millions out of town. Than there was the cost saving measure to put flat siding on a curved building that caused a SD Supreme Court case and troublesome siding that will cost us millions to replace over the years. He also lied about the settlement, a lie the very media that sued him continues to peddle. They still claim we got at least $480K, which we did not, that money came from a savings account that was supposed to be protected for future repairs to the facility. Essentially we got ZERO. Proof of this is in the pudding and the reason the money could never be used to fix the siding, because it doesn’t exist. I think we could have built an Events Center, but Huether’s plan has been a complete disaster because of several bad decisions by hizzoner.

The Railroad Redevelopment project has cost Federal Taxpayers (and local taxpayers) well over $27 million. In return we got dirty land for $62 a square foot. The trains are still switching downtown and running more frequent. This boondoggle, while expensive, has done nothing to improve downtown. I consider this one of the biggest failed negotiations of the Huether administration. And if we see another derailment like we just recently did and it’s something other than corn (like ethanol or a chemical) it will take a heck of a lot more than $27 million to clean up.

The city administration building was a gigantic middle finger to the taxpayers of Sioux Falls that was decided by one person who manipulated his executive powers and crapped on 6,400 petition signers. The irony is this $25 million building wasn’t needed. We exchanged a $100K a year lease payment for a $1 million a year mortgage that doesn’t include maintenance costs. There is nothing in city charter that requires the city to invest in office space capital. In fact, the city’s finance director Turbak said it was more equitable to lease space. This is a lie that also continues to be peddled by the mayor. During yesterday’s ribbon cutting he claimed their was ‘collaboration’. There was no collaboration, not with the public, the city council or other government entities.

The indoor aquatic center was poorly planned and based on a campaign of lies and confusing ballot language. The location can not be expanded and built on land the Federal government has the quit claim deed on. We also robbed millions from a repayment of Federal levee bonds that should have been used to repay the bonds. We could have built a larger facility at the Sanford Sports Complex with a public/private partnership with Sanford. It would have also been located by all the other special interest sports clubs. We now have a facility we will have to subsidize up to $400k a year or more in a bad location.

Huether allowed the city to go into a parking ramp agreement with a developer that is facing Federal criminal charges and that has illegally dumped asbestos into our landfill with a penalty that was waived. But even if we picked a good developer, the deal doesn’t add up. We are paying over twice as much for fewer parking spots and a lease agreement that wasn’t based on any appraisals. This deal should have never been penned.

Choosing Paramedics Plus for our ambulance contractor was troublesome for many reasons. Not only their pending legal issues nationally, conflicts of interest with the consultant that recommended them and the ‘Phantom’ ambulances, we could have saved consumers $$ while helping to fund our Fire Department. Since the Fire Department already shows up to medical emergencies, sometimes faster than PP, I think a more prudent decision would have been implementing a public ambulance service. While the initial up front costs would be expensive, the fees charged to consumers would help pay for itself, and help to subsidize the Fire Department. As taxpayers we are already paying for the FD to respond to these emergencies, why not get reimbursed for it?

As you can see, the Mayor likes to talk about ‘dreaming big’ and ‘getting things done’ but he has done all this recklessly and by racking up our credit card. The next mayor and city council will be battling these bad fiscal decisions for years to come, and at the end of the day the taxpayers will be footing the bill for all of these ‘WINS’.

A Parting Gift

Mayor Huether a finalist for the 2018 Golden Padlock Award

He may not win, but I’m guessing there won’t be a press release about this honor on the city’s website;

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether: For going beyond even state law to shroud public business in secrecy. In early 2017, the city council passed an ordinance to require meetings of a city board to be recorded and published on the city website. Huether vetoed the bill and said: “Here’s the way (transparency) works: It protects you one minute. It stabs you in the back the next.” The Argus Leader newspaper filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the city that went all the way to the South Dakota Supreme Court to get a simple contract detailing what the city called a $1 million refund from a settlement over flawed siding installed on a $115 million event center. After the court ruled in the newspaper’s favor in September 2017, the documents showed city officials weren’t telling the truth: The city received less than half of what Huether claimed. After the drowning of a 5-year-old girl in a park in March, the city defended its safety protocols by citing a 2016 audit officials said was conducted on the park. City officials denied the Argus Leader’s request for a copy of the audit, claiming it belonged to the insurance company. When the newspaper contacted the insurance company, reporters confirmed no such audit exists. Huether is term-limited but has indicated he’d seek public office in the future.

Surprised he wasn’t a finalist every year of his administration.

Mayor Huether stays delusional until the end

Huether decided to remind us of his top 10 wins of his past 8 years. Where does he come up with this stuff. #1 really made me laugh.

#1. The City purchased the downtown railyard from BNSF Railway Company after a decade of planning and negotiation. Our downtown will never be the same, and economic development will be spurred on for generations to come!

As I have told the mayor and council a couple of times, this was one of most poorly negotiated deals in the history of our city. Besides taking millions from Federal taxpayers, city taxpayers will also have kick in on the cleanup. And the payback? Well the developers of the land will be making oodles of money, us minions, not so much. First off, this should have been negotiated in the public. Secondly we didn’t achieve the original goal of the project, to reduce train traffic downtown, in fact it has gotten worse and they are still switching cars only a couple of blocks away from the site.

#2. Sioux Falls has experienced five straight years of record-breaking construction, a bevy of jobs have been created, and we have a confidence level unmatched in America. Our economy is rocking!

While this is true, a large portion of this development has been by non-profits and public projects that produce ZERO property tax revenue. And something I could never figure out is if we have these record construction numbers why do we continue to handout TIFs and millions in new infrastructure upgrades? The development community is NOT hurting. Enough of the corporate welfare. We need to invest in our people.

#3. Quality of life has never been better thanks to our citizens’ incredible support of our new Events Center, indoor aquatic facility, beautiful parks, and so much more. No wonder 88 percent of Sioux Falls residents think we have good or great quality of life in our town.

The Events Center while needed was poorly funded and built in the wrong place unlike the aquatic center that was built on land controlled by the VA and cannot be expanded. The Denty will be bleeding our CIP for decades. Oh then there was the siding. Also, I must clarify that about 88% of 900 people who filled out a survey said this.

#4. Public and private collaboration and investment has made our downtown the envy of most. Mayor Mike’s goal of making downtown the chosen “place to live” is now a reality. No one now remembers what downtown Sioux Falls was like during the struggles of the recessionary years.

Downtown redevelopment started in the early 90’s. Because of the actions of Carole Pogones and Mayor Munson the ball was already rolling when Huether came into office. All he did was grab the baton.

#5. No matter what Mother Nature has challenged us with—including the unforgettable ice storm, 1,000-year rain events, and record snowfalls—our city has rallied together to conquer it. Sioux Falls is prepared for the next one, and yes, there will be “a next one” sooner than we think.

While the city’s response was great, I don’t think our city employees doing their jobs is a reason to put something on a ‘WIN’ list. Remember, these were natural disasters and they responded the way we expected them to. It also didn’t hurt that FEMA kicked in $10 million.

#6. Our city’s finances are rock solid thanks to centralizing services, tough prioritization, managing costs and FTEs, doing more with less, and running government like a business. Our piggybank is full, and debt per capita is actually lower now than what we had in 2010, even with a bevy of prudent and overdue investments.

This was mostly due to the over 50 increases in taxes and fees over the past 8 years.

#7. Our city’s infrastructure has regained its strength through an aggressive repair, rebuild, and replace strategy of roads, parks, buildings, and technology. It is a recipe all of South Dakota and American should heed.

As Jodi Schwan pointed out recently, the needle on road repair hasn’t moved at all. Our roads rated 7 out of 10 eight years ago and they rate 7 out of 10 today. At least we didn’t go backwards, so this is ‘sorta’ a win.

#8. Thanks to the trust and collaboration of our City’s employees, pension reform actually happened, saving taxpayers $300 million over the next 25 to 30 years. A monster accomplishment that most have no idea about.

Ask our city’s union employees how they feel about this? Or the police department who lost 30 experienced officers to early retirement.

#9. We celebrate good neighbors and neighborhoods and work with the others to instill those same values. Safety is a virtue and code enforcement is a commitment in Sioux Falls that helps us reach statistics where 91 percent of citizens think Sioux Falls is a good or great place to live.

Code enforcement is a mess and needs to be reformed. Once again 91% of 900 people surveyed think this.

#10. Sioux Falls has become the first choice for flying again with our grand airport upgrades, added flying options, and improved airfares. Leisure and business travelers are flying high thanks to Dan Letellier and the Sioux Falls Airport Authority!

With an airline that has the worst safety record in the industry and airlines that pay the lowest wages in the country.

There you have it, so many wins and not a lot of losses. Ha. I have coined Huether’s administration, “Progress at a Price.”

Disgusted with Mayor Huether

Just when I was considering writing a letter to the editor about Mike’s term in office, someone beats me to the punch, and they don’t gloss over anything;

We elect council members Huether doesn’t want to listen to. Their opinions don’t matter to him, to the point where one council member even walked out of a meeting. Can’t say that I blame him. Now the frosting on the cake is the April 4 article where theArgus Leader had the guts to poke fun at one of the candidates who answered a question from the public. Why should he even comment? All he wants people to be aware of is “What I have achieved.” Accusing a candidate of finding a way to capture the attention of the electorate was very uncalled for. At least that candidate is sincere, not phony like Huether. Take your “big shot” accomplishments home and live with them. We elect the council members, so what gives Huether the right to make our decisions, ignoring their opinions? He also chose the out-of-state ambulance service. I hope he doesn’t have a need in his family and need to wait 45 minutes to one hour, like some people have. One man had to take his wife to Acute Care, as no ambulance ever came. Sound like a proper response to you? Not to me. He probably would get special attention that we average folks can’t get. Highly disgusted with him.

She missed a couple of things, but I do agree with her ending. It has been truly disgusting.

*For the record I have no idea who the person was that wrote this letter.

UPDATE: Mayor Mike Huether – DEM FORUM (4/27/18)

UPDATE: I don’t think we caught it in the video (we have difficulties with the wi-fi in this building) but the mayor was telling the same story about leaving to all the news media lately and was continuing the story at Forum (to a lot of snickers in the crowd). When it got to about 12:50, Jim stood up and reminded the mayor that he needed to take questions. Mike said he was going to finish his ‘story’ first and if Jim didn’t like it, he was going to leave. Mike continued for another 10 minutes without taking any questions. At the end Jim said out loud, “Thanks for the filibuster mayor.”

Mayor Huether has paid off debt by taxing us to death

Hizzoner was on the B-N-B show this morning spreading his own special kind of love. He started telling his victory lap story he has been telling over the past month that he will be on to bigger and better things right after taking a break, because as he put it, his daughter wants him to be ‘fun again’. I don’t even want to know what that all entails but I’m picturing a speedo and a couple of empty Coors Light Silos.

Either way, besides serving up his own special brand of BS this morning, now claiming people hate him, or hate progress, or hate something, not sure where he was going with it since he always prefaces these kind of statements with ‘I better be careful about who I am talking about’. He made another one of his Half-Truth statements;

There is NOW less debt than when I became mayor.

Well folks, that is absolutely true. In fact I think when MMM leaves office there will be around $10 million less debt then when he rolled in in 2010. So you ask, how is this so? First off, the obvious; many of the debts that were incurred during the Hanson and Munson administrations have come to fruition. This has nothing to do with Huether, just the way the repayment was set up. In fact, if we wouldn’t have borrowed ANY money during the Huether administration our debt now would probably be around $100 million instead of 3x that.

So you ask, what about all the debt MMM incurred? That still exists, and will for about 20-30 years.

But this is where Huether gets even more dim on his great debt payoff. Many of the infrastructure debts were re-financed and paid down due to the increase of fees in the enterprise funds, front end property tax assessments, property taxes, building and platting, and the list goes on. In fact the Mayor’s office with the help of the rubberstamp council has increased fees and taxes over 50 times since 2010.

So while the mayor may brag about not increasing the debt on the city over the past 8 years, he has certainly put that burden on property owners in Sioux Falls in higher fees and taxes. Don’t believe me? If you still live in the same home you lived in 2010, pull your property taxes from that year and compare them to 2017. Tell me what you figure out?

It’s too bad wages haven’t increased by that much in 8 years?

He also finally admitted that you essentially can’t get things done in government unless you make the decisions behind closed doors with a minority of support from the council and key business players in town. He said that open meetings and forums with the public just drag out the conversation and nothing gets accomplished. While his statements might piss you off, I was happy to finally hear him say publicly that he never gave a rat’s ass what the public thought.

Full steam ahead.

I hope when the mayor decides to be fun again, it will be on another continent.

Did Mayor Huether, Finance Director Turbak and the City violate state law?

As I mentioned yesterday, the city put this press release out rebuffing TenHaken’s 100 day strategy. Since this press release came from the city, is it a violation of state law?;

Universal Citation: SD Codified L § 12-27-20 (through 2012)

12-27-20. Expenditure of public funds to influence election outcome prohibited. The state, an agency of the state, and the governing body of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state may not expend or permit the expenditure of public funds for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of any candidate, or for the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question. This section may not be construed to limit the freedom of speech of any officer or employee of the state or such political subdivisions in his or her personal capacity. This section does not prohibit the state, its agencies, or the governing body of any political subdivision of the state from presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question.

Source: SL 2007, ch 80, § 20.

The city cleverly will point to the last sentence;

presenting factual information solely for the purpose of educating the voters on a ballot question

But is a ‘CANDIDATE’ the same as a ‘BALLOT QUESTION’? I think not. I hope someone holds the mayor accountable for once.

Ironically, TenHaken accepting donations from minors is within the letter of the law;

The children, ranging from ages 6 to 15, each contributed the maximum yearly contribution of $1,000. McDonald, who created the medical software company in downtown Sioux Falls in 2000, also gave the maximum amount.

Those contributions don’t break any laws, city officials said, but they do point to the way savvy supporters can lend a little extra help to political candidates, especially if the kids are on board.

“They’re technically not signers on the account, but there (were) six separate checks with a memo with their name on it to keep it clear,” McDonald said.

But is it ethical?

Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State University, said contribution limits are intended to limit the influence a single individual can have on candidates and elections. But when someone is politically savvy and invested in a candidate, they’ll almost always find a way around those limits.

“For better or worse, that’s the idea,” he said. “So when people are using children, there’s a possibility that people are avoiding the intention of the law – even if it’s not technically illegal.”

Yeah, Savvy. LOL.