I almost had to chug a beer after listening to Greg’s show this morning to calm my nerves, so many half-truths I don’t know where to begin (we will get to that shortly).
I am often amazed when I hear local pundits talk ‘local’ politics and how little they know, or maybe they do know and just choose to tell a different story. For instance when they call city councilors, commissioners. They haven’t been commissioners for over a decade, get it straight already.
But today’s show was extra special, it’s like B-n-B (Bad Neighbor Belfrage) has become an extension of Channel 16 and the Reid Holsen school of advocational interviews.
You can listen for yourself some of the bull that was dispensed, here is the TRUTH;
There has been NO city administration building built in 83 years (city hall). Actually there have been dozens, even if you don’t count the multiple parks garages that have been built (they include offices) there has been a rehab of a Raven building on 6th and Phillips for Parks offices, there is the light and power building, there is the rehab of Carnegie Hall for the city clerks and community development, there has been the public works garage and recycling center (all include offices) and the recent rental of the city attorney offices (because rumor has it they feared the FBI was listening in on their convos at city hall. Even if that isn’t true, it’s still a little funny).
The mayor is a member of the city council. This is ‘partially’ true. By charter he is a member, but ONLY to break ties. If the mayor was a true member of the council he would vote on every item (he does not) he would attend all council meetings (informational, committees, work sessions, joint county meetings, etc) he does not. He is the executive branch of city government and the council is the legislative branch, he is only a ‘tie-breaking’ member of the council. It is a similar situation with the county, Bob Litz, the county auditor is asked to break ties with the county commission and to run meetings when ‘needed’. He is NOT a regular member of the commission in that sense.
6,400 signatures is ‘NOT A LOT’. This really is a matter of opinion, but by LAW only 5% is required to get a measure on a ballot. Stop the Funding has followed those rules, if you disagree with them, ask the legislature and city council to change them. Either way, I’m pretty sure that Danielson broke records in the time it took him to gather the signatures, this tells me that people are very concerned about the building and want a vote. By law, they deserve one, whether you agree or not. Actually, B-n-B had to admit today that he signed the petition also. I asked Bruce about it, he told me that at the time Greg signed it, he agreed with Bruce it was about the process, less than a couple of weeks later it seems Greg isn’t too concerned about the process, claiming he should not have signed it.
B-n-B has questioned the funding of the petition drive and the filing of a ballot committee. Bruce actually attempted to file the paperwork earlier, but since the city put up the new website design, all the downloadable documents to do this disappeared, to which the city clerk was made aware. Bruce has filed the necessary paperwork. The financials are due later. Did Bruce raise money? He did, and the money comes from multiple sources and all income brackets and sectors of the community, this initiative has broad support.
B-n-B had to admit today that the building (the bonds) will be $25 million. The mayor, yesterday, was telling people the building is $21.9 million, while true, he fails to mention the total after commissions and sale of the bonds the TOTAL cost is $25 million. The initiative is to stop the bond sale NOT to stop a building, Bruce has been VERY clear about this, that amount is $25 million, no lies have been told.
The claim that the building has been ‘fully vetted’. This may be true internally with the administration and council leadership, but the rest of the council and the public was left in the dark until last April. It was sprung on us. The other argument is that if this building has been supposedly talked about since 2007, why not build it before an events center and indoor pool? Notice the mayor has refused to answer this question, even when asked on Greg’s show and at council meetings. The need is NOT great. If it they were concerned about morale of city employees, why are they not getting decent raises this year? As for the public showing up to voice their concerns, we have, several times, and each time the mayor has shut us down, breaking two ties and veto (which he laughed about). The council has listened and TRIED to stop this, but the mayor’s attitude to ‘win at any cost’ has taken over the debate. We could have had 100 people show up to these meetings and protest, wouldn’t matter, the mayor has had his mind made up on this before it was even presented to the whole council. Just like the EC and the Indoor Pool, full steam ahead.
This has nothing to do with the 300 building. As I said above, Stop the Funding has been VERY CLEAR, this initiative has been about stopping the $25 million dollar bond sale. If the council decides at a later date to build a scaled back building, or remodel an existing building or continue to rent, that is another issue. The 300 building owners have been very gracious in letting us use office space. We thank them as they did this as an in-kind donation.
It IS cheaper to rent. You don’t have to take my word on it, city finance director Tracy Turbak has already admitted in a public meeting it would be more cost effective to rent. There is no bond repayment, interest or use of capital outlay. It just makes more sense to rent financially. This one is a no-brainer that even the city finance director agrees with.
Some people and the mayor have said this petition drive has been fueled by animosity towards the mayor. I would have to partially agree. ANY elected official who will go on a media show and lie bald faced to the public most likely will have well deserved animosity towards them, you reap what you sew. Personally I could care less about him, I have gotten used to wearing 5-Buckle over-boots while following him around.
I’m sure tomorrow B-n-B will have a whole new set of lies and half-truths to tell the public. We will be waiting to dispel them. Now if Greg would go do something more productive with his time, like mow his lawn.
• Approximately 5,750 valid signatures (5 percent of registered voters) are required to send an issue to a vote.
• The City Clerk will conduct a random sampling process to validate the petition. Five percent of the signatures must be reviewed according to South Dakota Administrative Rule. This entire process can take up to two weeks or longer, depending on various factors. Even if a petition is validated, any interested person could then challenge the petition, alleging specific deficiencies in the petition. If so, the City Clerk would need to review each of the specific deficiencies and make a determination regarding the validity of each of the signatures in question.
• Assuming the petition contains sufficient valid signatures, the City Clerk would then deem the petition “filed” with his office. The City Clerk would then present the petition to the City Council for further action. The City Council can either place the item on the April 2018 ballot or order a special election by ordinance.
• An election ordinance requires two separate readings at least five days apart.
• State law requires any special election to be at least 30 days from the effective date of the order calling for a special election.
• Election results must also be canvassed before any proposed measure would become effective, if approved by the voters.
The City is authorized to sell bonds for the proposed City Administration building effective October 1, 2016. The existence of this possible initiative effort does not prevent the already authorized bond sale from taking place. SDCL 9-20-3 prohibits the use of the initiative process to nullify the purpose for which bonds have been sold.
We don’t care if it it takes a decade to verify the signatures, that’s neither here nor there (realistically it should only take a couple of hours, since they only have to make sure about 288 sigs are valid), the real clencher here is Fiddle’s interpretation of election and petition law.
The existence of this possible initiative effort does not prevent the already authorized bond sale from taking place.
Stop the Funding signatures will most likely be turned in this week. The final roundup and petition gathering will be occurring over the next couple of days (in other words, if you have sheets GET THEM TURNED IN ASAP!)
The collection process has been anything but uneventful. Co-Chair Bruce Danielson has told me along the way that approximately only 1 out of 8 or 10 refuse to sign. Most can’t wait to sign, and others usually don’t need much convincing. Bruce has always kept the argument simple, keeping politics and personal feelings for politicians out of it. He basically says that if we spend $25 million on a building we don’t need, that is $25 million over the next 20 years we won’t be spending on roads or other infrastructure. That usually convinces them to sign.
There has been road bumps along the way to the democratic process, ones you wouldn’t expect. For instance Bruce has been asked to stop taking signatures at the VFW and the VA (he was actually on the public sidewalk at the VA) he was threatened with arrest by the VA rent-a-cops Federal Law Enforcement agents. But an interesting thing happened yesterday at the Backpack handout event. He was on the public sidewalk getting signatures (and registering people to vote) when he was accosted by a city contractor who hosts public affair shows on channel 16. Of all the people that should understand the democratic process, it should be her? Right? Well she didn’t. Bruce held his ground and said he had a 1st amendment right to be their on public property collecting signatures and wasn’t leaving. She sent out another person (we assumed a city employee) and after a picture of him was taken, he had a change of heart. He said something like, “That better not end up on the internet!” LOL. You never know.
The Argus wrote an editorial today supporting the petition drive and election (but it is not posted online yet) but it wasn’t to nice to councilor Erpenbach.
So what happens next?
Well first the petitions need to be verified using a sampling, this should only take a day or two (actually a couple of hours) there is NO reason these signatures shouldn’t be verified by Friday.
If and when the sigs are verified they need to be presented to the council. By law, they must set a special election date. Ideally, this should be before the bond sale. But the mayor can stop or delay the bond sale.
So now it is in the council’s hands. They need to call a special meeting and get it done. We will be watching and waiting.
Remember when Michelle Erpenbach was Council Chair? This is a snowgate blast from the past. December 18, 2012 the Sioux Falls City Council was required by state law to set an election date because petitions had been filed with and verified by the City Clerk.
The City Council Chair pulled an interesting set of rules out of a body orifice to limit discussion. Kermit Staggers challenged the unknown and never before experienced or even voted on rule the Chair presented. To no big surprise to attendees, the 20 minute public silencing “rule” was used. The vote also was pushed to 2014 to no big surprise.
After this show of arrogance, the voters of Sioux Falls in 2014, slammed the Council and administration lies down by voting 76% to force the city to attach snowgates to plows for clearing snow.
We learned through these displays of misplaced priorities what to expect from the City Council and why we have worked so hard to reset Council processes to be more citizen first in 2016.
The Chamber is at it again, claiming that just a ‘few’ people are trying to change public perception in our community;
August 19, 2016 – Sioux Falls Chamber newsletter
The Will of the People
We consistently hear representations regarding the “will of the people” when it comes to issues before the City Council. We’re not sure it’s a very accurate depiction in many instances. The very few who regularly appear during public input are dissatisfied with aspects of our city – of that you can be sure – and often maintain they express the will of the people. We prefer more objective and measurable data, but where do we get that?
The National Community Survey seems to be one good place to look. The 2015 survey included many indicators where citizens were asked to weigh-in on the quality of our city. Were they all positive? No. Was the overall message a good result for our city? Resoundingly, yes. Further, the data in the survey is used by the administration and Council to guide decisions and budget allocations and that too can be documented. Thus, good data used by our City leaders. On August 9, the City received a national “Voices of the People” award for its community survey and recognition of the high-level satisfaction with our local economy and the opportunities it presents.
We think it is a stretch for any one person to invoke the “will of the people” without a valid measurement of that will. We prefer to listen to the people through more objective processes. We take that same approach as we study policy and legislative issues that come before the Chamber and we encourage the City to continue to do the same.
Ironically you have to have around 5,800 valid signatures to get an initiative on the ballot in the city of Sioux Falls. The city survey is sent to about 3,000 homes with about 900 respondents. That’s right, the Chamber is hinging their ‘will of the people’ argument on the opinion of about .88% of the the population, while petitioners have to have 5% in order to get something on the ballot.
I’m not sure why either, but if you peruse the documents (Item #34), you will see that the city does not have to pay anything, BUT, it is a lot like your parents co-signing on a loan for your first car. If you FAIL to make payments on that loan, well guess what?
It’s still a bit confusing to me, but I still don’t understand why they don’t just go to a bank? Seems they are using our credit rating and bond borrowing status to get themselves a discount. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a mortgage with the city as a co-signor?
Whether you agree or disagree with this project, Councilor Erpanbach’s words are a clear admission that her head is fully engulfed in sand and she has no intent to represent the people’s wishes or adhere to the right to petition within the First Amendment.
The administration says “Let them eat cake” and the people are close to saying “Off with their heads!”
Thank you to the Sioux Falls and South Dakota media for the outstanding coverage the citizen efforts has received. This truly is a story the people of Sioux Falls have followed and wanted more information about.
We have signatures of half of the voters in the last city election.
This cause happened because there had been no information from the City of Sioux Falls justifying the project. If the administration had satisfied the public’s quest for knowledge, this effort might have never happened.
Our signers are involved because our elected officials became rulers instead of leaders. Our signers want a say in the process. Never before has the city been put into debt over the objections of the public and the will of the City Council.
This effort of thousands of Sioux Falls voters is close to completion. We knew we were up against almost insurmountable deadlines in this process but we continue. We are in the wrap up stages. We need the help of all to encourage circulators to turn in the outstanding petitions to our office.
As you can see from the chart above, that was presented to the Sioux Falls City Council during the budget hearing yesterday, Mark says we have $7 million in ‘DEBT’. He goes on to explain that we have extremely low debt for the water department.
At first I thought the number seemed a bit low, I wasn’t the only one. Councilor Stehly asks Mark what we have in the Water Department’s enterprise reserve fund, he tells her around $22 million. So then councilor Stehly asks, “Why not just pay off our debt?” Then Cotter admits that we actually have over $76 million in water department debt, and the $7 million number is actually ‘DEBT SERVICE’ for 2017.
These are the games the city directors play with presentations, they intentionally leave out certain words and key information in order to confuse constituents and councilors.
Most of debt is due to the Lewis & Clark pipeline (you know, that $80 million dollar pipe that trickles around 10% of our water supply to us).