Entries Tagged 'SF City Council' ↓

A perfect time for Mayor Huether to prove Sioux Falls city government isn’t ‘sinister’

“God doesn’t seek for golden vessels, and does not ask for silver ones, but He must have clean ones.” – Dwight L Moody.

Yesterday during the Sioux Falls city council informational meeting, councilor Rex Rolfing couldn’t help himself, he had to put in a dig at Part-Time Mayor (councilor) Theresa Stehly.

In Stehly’s quest for transparency she continually asks for open RFPs. This hasn’t been sitting well with Rolfing, he continues to hammer home the LIE that state law requires RFPs to NOT be public. This of course is untrue. Municipalities in South Dakota have the CHOICE to make none, some or all of RFPs open and transparent. Sioux Falls chooses to make them NOT open. I reminded Rolfing of this at the council meeting after he accused Stehly of making Sioux Falls city government seem secretive and ‘sinister’ by continually asking for open and transparent government. I went on to say, “I don’t think there has ever been a city in South Dakota get in trouble for being too open.”

I get it, he is opposed to transparency and thinks government works best if it keeps important contracts from citizens. As we have been learning over the past couple of months, secrecy is getting us into a lot of trouble and eroding the public trust. It’s blatantly obvious.

Of course councilors Rolfing, Erickson, and Erpenbach (and others) seem to think that the city council is pretty clean. And they probably are, except not recusing themselves on items that benefit people who fill their campaign coffers.

Are they investing in city projects? Don’t know. Several of them, at least Erickson, Neitzert and Erpenbach say they are not. I’m willing to listen, but when it comes to the mayor coming clean during public meetings, he changes the subject. Which puzzles me.

Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity for mayor Huether to have a press conference confirming he is NOT investing in city development projects OR projects that the city has fast tracked and approved? Personally I think such an action would wreak of hypocrisy. The mayor has admitted in the past that he does invest with city development, and developers have admitted he or his wife have invested money in local development, his wife invested in a project that got a city TIF and his private tennis center that bears his name at the Sanford Sports Complex has received $500k from the city with little to no benefit to citizens.

So if Rolfing and others on the council want to claim the city is clean when it comes to investing in development projects, shouldn’t they encourage the leader and chief executive of the city to tell us where he stands instead continuing to spread lies and innuendo?

Nope. It’s just easier to keep things secret because we know the latter would be disastrous to Mike’s delicate ego and reputation. We wouldn’t want to be known as the city with a ‘sinister’ mayor.

Sioux Falls City Council Meeting, Dec 12, 2017

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda (Dec 12, 2017)

Informational Meeting

The Super Secret Golf Management contract will be revealed, BUT will we get to see the details of the contract? Probably not.

Last month on an Inside Town Hall, Sioux Falls city councilor Marshall Selberg had the idea to give an award to a Sioux Falls citizen for doing ‘positive’ things in our community.

He reveals his idea at the informational meeting, he is calling it SIOUXPERHERO. Please nominate South DaCola. LOL.

City Council Regular Meeting

While the agenda seems short, there is a lot going on.

Item #1, Consent Agenda,

More money being dropped on Entertainment facilities. Our bond counsel on the DT Parking ramp is also asking for another $5,000. Go figure. We are already being taken to the cleaners on the project, what’s another $5K? I’m sure we will never hear why.

Item #7, Naming Rights. SDSU will be funding an exhibit at the Kirby Science Center.

Item #9, An $8.8 million dollar bond for storm drainage. I find it interesting we are taking out a bond right after we took $25 million in cash from the water enterprise funds to re-fi the Lewis & Clark bonds. Not sure if storm drainage falls under the water department (probably not). I also find the bond’s timing interesting. It seems they wanted to wait until they passed the parking ramp bond before telling the public about this. It is a little troublesome to me that the city doesn’t have this money in reserves instead of borrowing it.

Item #10, It seems our wonderful public transit system has come up $100K short this year, so we have to bail them out. Sad.

Item #11, Council staff gets another raise. Sure glad we had to replace former City Clerk Debra Owen with 3 full-time staff at a cost of almost $270K a year. That’s prudent folks . . . not.

Item #12, Annexation Task Force Report.

Item #13, Legislative Priorities for 2018 legislative session. A few I take issue with;

• Repealing a sunset on 911 surcharges. As I tell people ‘sunsets’ on taxes are never a reality because government bodies always override them.

• The Sioux Falls City Council urges the state to leave in place maximum local control of tax increment financing (TIF) districts. This is really a ruse. If there was really LOCAL control of TIF’s the county and school district could weigh in on them. It’s time to eliminate the corporate welfare of TIFs. If I were the next mayor, I would eliminate the entire program on day one with an executive order.

• The Sioux Falls City Council supports legislation providing local governments flexibility when it comes to compensating those who serve on appointed citizen boards, committees, and commissions. I don’t agree with this. I think volunteerism in public service is important to keeping a fair process.

• The Sioux Falls City Council supports cooperative activities between county and municipal governments, the protection of existing joint activities, and elimination of barriers that hinder the creation of such arrangements. While I think this is a great idea, I think it should be expanded to save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Mayor Ramrod doesn’t want public input

Guest Post by Bruce Danielson

During the December 5, 2017, Public Input I noticed several Council members not paying attention to us. During my turn at the podium, I politely called out members of the dais for ignoring us while we talked. I won’t name names but as I stood there talking, I mentioned what each of them were doing. The cellphones went down, pens were dropped, papers put away and eyes were brought up to meet mine. I have a photo (and video) of the mayor being handed a cellphone from the Council leadership side during this time. Very inconsiderate to say the least.

As we talk during any public testimony, we see the contempt several of the members show while we are there. Several do not want to see us, much less hear us, as their minds are closed to whatever we say because it is already a done deal. One member said in the past, the mind is made up over the weekend prior to second reading when the exhibits with agenda are available.

Some of the members have been privy to a lot of the information, some have not been privy to any of the backroom information. Some members and the public have not been privy to any of the real information.

This is now a project $22 million project we have to pay for. It is not the 3 year old, $9 million project we first were told about. This is a $22 million project we heard about 3 weeks ago without any open discussion with the public. We have been only shown pretty pictures and a fancy video to go with a 117 page contract.

This has been a secret project many times postponed to make the public bonding pieces fit with a developer who continues to skirt every rule of law.

A few months back I found out and then announced to the City Council during a Public Input, how Community Development had screwed up details and they had to postpone the project.

The mayor shouted me down during a November Public Input because he did not want any reference to Legacy Development brought up when in fact I was not talking about Legacy only using a word “legacy” in a reference.

He is a bit touchy. It makes me think of Shakespeare when the question is asked “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” What part of the issue is so uncomfortable he has to put up his guard?

Sioux Falls City Councilor Pat Starr did the right thing

Sure, we can discuss the minute details about how Pat handled this (did he walk out at the right time? Was it professional? etc., etc.) but when you look at the BIG PICTURE something I reminded the council to do when looking at the parking ramp project to begin with, I think Pat walking out was the right thing to do, especially since he had no other options. The Mayor and Kiley already said there would be no more input, could Pat really have gotten the rest of the council to overturn it? Probably not.

As Tim Stanga brought up during the meeting (and Belfrage discussed it on his show today) the council’s minds were already made up before the meeting even started.

What was disappointing the most about the input about the ramp itself was the fact that we heard NO testimony from the developers, we also had NO testimony from the city’s legal counsel about the liability of Hultgren and Drake.

It was obvious that the mayor wanted to bury the hatchet as quick as possible, it was obvious when he was acting like a restless child when Stehly brought forward amendments.

But what is more troubling is that Kiley and Huether reaction to Starr’s statement that he is the one being ‘unprofessional’. The entire council and mayor BESIDES Starr acted like complete children throughout the meeting, as I have pointed out earlier. I don’t blame Starr for not wanting to be a part of it. I also applaud him that his name will not appear on any of the documents or votes on the project (that I think will never happen due to lawsuits, lack of investors, bankruptcy OR all of the above – remember, the developers have already said they have no investors yet, or a hotel franchise).

Huether and Kiley were acting like jackasses when it comes to public input, as they normally do, and they finally got called out on it. If anyone should be embarrassed it should be them. Honestly Starr looks like a Star in this manner.

Bratty Sioux Falls City Council only makes Stehly look good

I’m not sure when the rest of the rubberstamp council is going to learn by trying to publicly shame Councilor Stehly they only make her more popular amongst her constituents.

Theresa ran on a platform of transparent government, prudent spending and listening to constituents. She beat two well-funded MALE candidates on her message and she continues to stick to her guns. This has pissed off her fellow rubber stamp councilors who are consistently saying she ‘plays the victim card’ and pulls ‘stunts’. Ironically, Stehly is doing EXACTLY what she promised and only continues to get more and more support. Her ‘stunts’ such as handing out flyers and self-funded mailers have only gotten citizens more engaged in their local government. This is a good thing.

Last night it was disgraceful how she was treated by her fellow peers. She held steady despite Starr not being in the room to back her up. You would have to have been in the chambers to see how they continually said things behind her back to each other, rolled their eyes, mocked her proposals and even giggled at her. The mayor tried several times to shut her down and cut her off.

Not only did they look like a bunch of childish brats, their attitude towards her only has the constituents feel sorry for her and want to defend her positions more.

The sad part is that Stehly had two wonderful amendments that she said if they would have passed she would have supported the parking ramp; Not using the 2nd penny to bail out the parking division on bond payments and transparency on the investors.

The mayor’s blindness on transparency has been obvious for a long time, and after he got caught lying about the siding settlement, the citizens don’t trust his ‘word’ on anything anymore. And while I don’t expect the mayor to understand, I would think the council, at least half of them would agree the settlement and lack of transparency broke the citizens trust in their city government and their ‘word’ on if they are investing or not doesn’t mean a hill of beans.

If you listened last night, several councilors, mostly Erickson and Erpenbach, swore they were not investing in the project or their relatives. While I believe them, there is NOTHING in writing saying otherwise. They kept reminding us it was against state law. Oh really?

The mayor quickly shut down the ‘cross my heart and hope to die’ session. He had to. He has violated this clause twice IMO. The first time was when the city granted a TIF to an apartment project his ‘wife’ was investing in. He slipped it by because he had his public works director, Mark Cotter sign off on the document. The second time was when the city gave $500k to a private tennis center that bears his name and has given little to nothing back to public for our ‘investment’.

The rubberstamp councilors need to realize that the citizens don’t trust the mayor’s ‘word’ on anything, anymore, and since they do nothing to fight the obvious corruption, it also reflects on them.

So keep laughing and picking on Stehly, it only makes her more popular.

 

Sioux Falls City Councilor Pat Starr explains why he abstained from voting last night

Pat Starr, Northeast District

For Immediate Release

On Tuesday night, December 5, 2017 the Sioux Falls City Council was asked by the Huether administration to cast a vote on a proposed mixed-use parking development deal in down town Sioux Falls. It was a complicated deal that proposed a City financing deal of $21.3 million for the parking ramp and a $30 million privately funded building.

During the public’s one and only opportunity to offer input to the City Council on this project Mayor Mike Huether, with the consent of Council Chair Rick Kiley, abruptly halted public testimony and said that it was over. I did request that the Mayor reconsider his and Councilor Kiley’s decision but was told we had heard enough.

I could not in good conscience sit in the room with the public silenced and stopped from being heard by their elected officials. We are elected to office to listen to our citizens and to use this information to act on their behalf to the best of our ability.

Three weeks ago the Huether administration dropped a done deal on the Council and the citizens of Sioux Falls claiming this scheme has been discussed for many years. In fact, this was the first time the Council had a chance to publicly review and question the program.

The people were shut off access to their elected officials. These officials are charged with spending their tax money.

Through mayoral control of and City Council leadership rules, this was the 1st chance for the public to be part of the decision-making process. They were insulted and told their input was not needed and certainly not valuable.

If the citizens can’t be heard by the Council, then why should my voice be heard or my sacred vote be cast, if the citizen’s voice is shutoff? How do we as elected officials truly represent the people?

At this time I offer my sincere apology to those residents who appeared at the Council meeting last night and were not allowed to speak. I value your opinions and wish that you could have been heard.

With that being said, I am calling upon Mayor Huether and Council Chair Kiley to also apologize to those citizens wronged and to pledge it will not happen again.

Parking Ramp passes but not without a little dust

As predicted the parking ramp passed by 6 votes tonight. Stehly voted NO and Pat Starr abstained by saying ‘Present’ during the vote. Which put the Mayor in a tizzy. It was determined by the city clerk and city attorney that he could not abstain unless he left the room before the vote. So Starr walked out. Council chair Kiley went out after him but Starr refused to return until all the items were voted on concerning the ramp. The mayor, of course, took the opportunity to shame Starr for not playing the reindeer games. I applaud Starr for taking a stand and not participating in this fiasco. In fact several of us clapped during the meeting.

Starr I believe was frustrated because the mayor cut off public testimony after an hour in which Starr asked for more time and the mayor denied it.

The discussion was actually very interesting, besides the President of DTSF and a pastry chef that owns a downtown business nobody else testifying thought it was a good idea. In fact a couple of the people even mentioned if the developer was paying more towards the project they would support it.

Three of us raised concerns about Legacy and the Hultgren construction connection. I said it was a liability. Stogeez and Eastwold Smokeshop owner Tim Kant said he is embrawled in a possible lawsuit against Legacy over his building being torn down and an attorney representing Emily Fodness warned about doing business with Legacy due to liabilities also.

Besides Stehly offering an amendment about the 2nd penny there was ZERO discussion from the rest of the council before voting on it.

This was a very shameful night by the council, they let a developer with a bad reputation take the taxpayers to the cleaners.

Sadly, I don’t think this is over. I have a feeling there will be repercussions for the city, which means we will all be paying for the very bad decision made tonight.

What has Councilor Rex Rolfing learned in 7-1/2 years? Not much.

Take off your hat and listen to my genius.

I guess I didn’t have too many high expectations out of a retired insurance salesman anyway.

At the council meeting tonight during the parking ramp debate, Councilor Stehly showed an image of her postcard she recently mailed out that listed all the councilors contact information (city email addresses and phone #’s NOT private). Rolfing, being the ignoramus he normally is reiterated to the public that he has told Stehly not to use his public contact information on her mailings she pays for personally.

Not up to you Rex, it is public information. The tax payers pay for that service and we OWN your public email address and phone number, you do not. And since you don’t own them Rex, you have NO authority to tell Stehly whether she can use them or not.

What’s that saying about a mud fence?

UPDATE: Proposed Downtown Parking Ramp; A BAD DEAL for taxpayers

Trust me, I’m still baffled why possibly six city councilors and the mayor support this ramp with so many strikes against it. I am not one least bit surprised though that the development community and their upper crust friends support this, if this passes it will set a precedent paving the way for them to cut the same deals.

The laundry list of issues are obvious; A rock bottom, 80 year lease. Taxpayers covering over $6 million in ‘soft costs’ that should be either shared or paid entirely by the developer. Not enough parking spots (we will only net beween 290-390) for the price we are paying. No clear explanation of rate increases and how the bond will be paid back besides the detrimental idea of using the 2nd Penny as collateral. Not even an inkling of who the hotel franchise might be, the retailers or ‘possible’ private investors – lack of transparency. And lastly, the most egregious, we are possibly signing a contract with the person who is responsible, according to OSHA’s levied fines, for the Copper Lounge collapse making him an obvious legal liability.

But what is even more troublesome is the ‘deal’ we cut for the taxpayers. If we are going into a Private/Public partnership, shouldn’t we be negotiating a good deal for the taxpayers instead of the other way around? Especially after we have spent almost $1 million on engineering, architectural and legal fees, not mention this will be built on OUR land.

This has to be one of the most poorly constructed proposals the city has ever presented in the past decade, and I really mean that. As a councilor, I would be ashamed and embarrassed to vote for such an obvious scam.

If the council thinks they heard a lot of vitriol and rancor from the public before the vote, if they vote for this, I think the second round of frustration will be a lot worse.

Good Luck tonight, you are going to need it.

UPDATE: I just got a tip from someone who works in the hotel/motel industry in SD that the hotel partner will most likely be a ‘select service’ provider (similar to a Homewood Suites). This is NOT considered a FULL SERVICE Hotel. So I asked him if Legacy (and the city) probably knew who that was provider was, and that it was most likely. So I wondered why they have not said who it was yet, and encouraged a city councilor to ask tonight.

So I also asked this person about the lease agreement. They basically said what we have all known for awhile that it was a heckuva a deal and really unheard of (one time payment for 80 years). Like I said, we are getting hosed on this all the way around.