Entries Tagged 'Sioux Falls' ↓

Has the Midco Aquatic Center caused parking issues around the VA?

I won’t get into the argument about whether we needed an indoor public pool or not in Sioux Falls, that ship has sailed. But I do know the neighbors of Spellerberg opposed the location, mainly due to parking issues with the VA. We all knew at the time that the VA wasn’t going anywhere and was expanding. We also know that the VA has a quit claim deed on Spellerberg, so if they want to expand either buildings or parking, they have the right to do so in Spellerberg park. SAVE Spellerberg warned of these issues before the vote. They fell on deaf ears. Now we have an expanded VA, which needed more parking, so they cancelled their lease with Lifescape and we have an indoor pool with a parking lot next to the VA that sits empty most of the time. Earlier this week, a member of SAVE Spellerberg and a Veteran and Volunteer at the VA sent an email to the City Council, here is a portion of it talking about the parking issues;

Parking is a problem with all city projects going back decades.  The city and NFPs intentionally build where there is insufficient parking expecting residential street parking to be a cost savings option.  City leaders have routinely handed over streets to business for their convenience, making homeowners/taxpayers second class to the business of city hall.

Not only do I personally think Spellerberg Park was a bad location for an indoor pool, the evidence is showing that it was a HORRIBLE location. Destroying a park for larger parking, and not having any space for expansion of the facility.

I truly believe if the pool would not have gone in there, the VA would have been able to expand parking to accommodate their future needs as well as Lifescape. I found it interesting that NO ONE brought up the reason why there is congestion, because all of the facilities next to each other. Maybe this SAVE Spellerberg person is right;

Lifescape’s poor planning the last 30 years has caused them with the help of city leaders to promote the decline of the very neighborhood that has supported them.

Maybe this is one of the reasons they put Midco at Spellerberg, so they could institutionalize the neighborhood. Seems their plan hit a snag Tuesday Night.

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?


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.

Does 5G even exist? Sprint argues that it doesn’t . . . yet

So here’s the latest in the long list of lies surrounding the roll out of 5G;

“What AT&T touts as 5G, however, is nothing more than an enhanced fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution wireless service, known as 4G LTE Advanced, which is offered by all other major wireless carriers.”

I guess in at least this case you could get behind the argument that industry can regulate itself, at least when one of the competitors is lying.

That was the question I had when the council voted to roll this out, “Can you use 5G wi-fi if you don’t have a 5G phone or tablet (that can receive the data). Apparently NOT.

“AT&T’s 5GE network is not, in fact, a 5G wireless network, nor does AT&T sell a single 5G-enabled mobile phone or tablet.”

Reminds of when I used to drive a VW Jetta, the model I had didn’t change it’s body style in like 6(?) years, so I always told people it was 4 years newer than what it really was 🙂

I wonder if Sprint wins this lawsuit if Mayor TenHaken’s Deputy COS, TJ TypeOver will put out a correction press release celebrating the roll out of 4G LTE Advanced Technology? Maybe Thune really isn’t the Majority Whip, maybe he is just LTE Advanced?

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City council votes 5-3 to NOT vacate Elmwood Avenue

It takes a super majority to close a street (6-2). Councilors Starr, Stehly and Brekke voted against the vacation saving Elmwood. Watch the Replay.

I will tell you that I was on the fence about this, but still lean towards leaving the street. But ironically, Lifescape still gets their parking, and still got to remove houses (Which moved to Lennox, NOT somewhere else in Sioux Falls). Lifescape didn’t lose. Also, I don’t believe there will be (worse) safety issues. The kids will still be dropped off in the same manner. All this would have done is provide about 10 more parking spots for employees while losing an important inner city street.

Brekke is right, it’s time to put together a strategic plan for our central neighborhoods so they don’t continue to get gobbled up. I was fortunate to buy my home around 16 years ago in a central neighborhood at an affordable price. I couldn’t afford my home today. All I ever see city planning and city councils do over the past decade is put out fires for poor planning. It’s got to stop.

We need to implement a strategic planning vision for the future of central neighborhoods and we need to overhaul the TIF program to assist those neighborhoods in fixing them up. The Sanfords and Lloyds of Sioux Falls are doing just fine.

UPDATE: Cameraman Bruce weighs in after attending last night’s meeting in person;

The night was full of interesting observations.

LifeScape was not the only issue the city failed on but it was the most active one. I actually want LifeScape to be creative in order to solve this issue. I have great respect for LifeScape and want them to succeed.

I for one, am always excited when people show up to be part of the process. This vacation vote showed people wanting to be involved. We must have people showing up and adding their voices to the discussion.

Most of the following thoughts reference the evening’s vacation vote because it was 3 hours and 10 minutes of the meeting. The Sioux Falls street vacation process is a cluster of a high degree. Our town’s street vacation methods have forced the town government to just let it happen because what else can you do? It is always done as a force majeure after the neighborhood damage has been done. The houses have been torn out. The trees have been cut down, The property has been made ugly. The process forces acceptance of what the applicant wants because everything is ready to go, so you better let us do this (whatever the applicant’s goal is).

If the city had a policy of helping companies and institutions with growth planning, they could stop this type of show. Why not bring in the neighbors before the plans are started? Bringing in the neighbors early into a growth discussion, an applicant might have a chance to succeed with the neighbors support. Why not have a checklist to show actually show the due diligence has been done?

The vacation issue failed because it was down to a question of process. Where and how far do we want our city staff to go with planned developments potentially destroying neighborhoods and the policies allowing it to happen.

Consider these back row observations from the back row:

– why was there so much city data available on this item but no data or contracts on most of the other evening items

– the use of tear jerking emotions not having anything to do with legal issues

– attempts at government secrecy by administration

– threats by the administration to withhold information from Council

– the use of an insensitive photograph by the administration

– the repetitive testimony, especially by the 2 dozen non-neighborhood applicant employees

– what was the purpose of the long drawn-out rambling, with pregnant pauses, by the engineering department

– the inability of some members of the dais to read the situation and move on, was it an attempt to “wear down” or “run out the clock”

– the childish behavior of some members of the dais during the presentation and after the vote (only seen by being in the room, there might be some special video coming)

– watch the emotions, I know tantrums when I see them, computers don’t like to be slammed around

The LifeScape issue should not have been a win or lose proposition. The issue was made into one by the poor way the Sioux Falls has done so many previous vacations. I am sorry it was LifeScape that got caught up in the town’s abusive past vacation policy.


Sioux Falls City Council Agenda • Feb 12, 2019

City Council Informational Meeting • 4 PM

The informational meeting is chocked full of great presentations, unfortunately there is NO links to the supporting documents.

• Committee/Commission report; Operations Committee & Municipal League Board of Directors. As we know, the city council continues to make the Operations Committee meetings secret, FOR NO GOOD REASON. Like other City Council Committee meetings, it should be open to the public and video recorded at Carnegie Hall. Often the excuse to keep these meetings silent is because they talk about employee policies. That is a moot argument, because if you are not talking about specific employees and only policy, there is no reason to keep these meetings quiet.

• Long-Range Transportation Plan Upcoming Process

• Consultant agreement for Triage Center

• Elections ordinance (Councilor Brekke). This essentially is about repealing the misguided, unwanted and unneeded election ordinance that now requires a city council candidate get a majority instead of a 34% plurality. This ordinance was not BROKEN, and NO citizen complained that it was. It’s time for the city council to FIX this ordinance that should have NEVER been changed. It will be interesting to see how the council votes on this. I know that Neitzert, Selberg and Erickson refused to sign onto to the repeal when councilor Brekke asked them to. Can’t wait to hear their excuses to keep the anti-voter, and expensive ordinance in place.

City Council Regular Meeting • 7 PM

Item#6, Approval of Contracts;

• $87K to hire a Triage Center Consultant (we need this, but I think if local officials put their heads together they could solve this).

• $300K for roof improvements to SF Stadium. I think this should be deferred until we decide what to do with the stadium. I think it needs to be bulldozed.

• $275K Handout to the SF Development Foundation. The taxpayers of Sioux Falls don’t need to fund this organization anymore. They have plenty of revenue sources. The Development Foundation needs to be funded by those who benefit, the Developers of Sioux Falls.

• $165K to Downtown Sioux Falls. As I understand this, it comes from the DT Bid Tax. But I do have a problem with Downtown becoming Snobville.

Item #12, 1st Reading, Repealing the Majority vote for council candidates.

Item #13, 1st Reading, Wedding Barn Debacle.

Item #14, Resolution, Vacating Elmwood Ave., This is the big party of the night!

More information coming.

City of Sioux Falls HR Director blows smoke

Of course, it is NO surprise that Bill Da’Toole is trying to downplay the corporate like pay structure of city management and directors;

The city says it hires independent consultants every eight to 10 years to make sure it’s recruiting top talent. The city doesn’t want to lose employees to the private sector.

What is NOT mentioned is that those consultants study the wages of the minions in city government (union employees). They do NO studies on director or upper management (non-union) salaries. But somehow Bill tries to tie that study into upper management;

“We’re not Microsoft,” said the city’s human resources director, Bill O’Toole. “We can’t pay at the very top. We’ve gotten very, very practical at how we do this, and we think we do a very good job.”

First off, while the city has many talented employees, trust me, no one in upper management is Microsoft material. Secondly, Microsoft is a private, for profit corporation that in no way runs like a city. So yes Bill, the city isn’t Microsoft, so why are some directors making corporate like executive wages?

He says it isn’t so. Oh really?

So, how do salaries vary over time?

“Every position has a minimum and a maximum,  whether it’s a city director or somebody governed by one of the labor contracts,” said O’Toole.

With good job performance, there are typically nine steps to get from that minimum to that maximum.

“For the first five steps, you’re eligible for a merit increase annually,” said O’Toole. “Between steps five through nine, it’s every 24 months.”

That’s interesting, because many NEW directors get hired at the SAME amount as their predecessor was getting paid when they left the position. It has happened numerous times. When the last city clerk left after around 20 years of service, the new Clerk got her outgoing salary. He isn’t a certified city clerk either.

The city seems to pay their directors like the corporate world; not based on experience, but who you know, not what you know.

Mayor TenHaken’s office sends out bizarre photo to advocate for the closure of Elmwood Ave.

You can’t make this stuff up. The mayor’s office sends out the above photo to the city councilors to advocate for the closure of Elmwood Avenue. Saying this;

02-08-19 Update: Mayor Paul TenHaken stated that Erica Beck, Chief of Staff had sent an email to council outlining the administration’s analysis of the street vacation request. The administration supports the vacation, and is not obligated to be neutral. The Crippled Children’s Hospital and School was built in a corn field and predated the neighborhood.

Their argument that they were their first is ridiculous. First off, zoning laws have changed numerous times since the hospital was built. The neighborhood has also changed. The hospital and it’s ownership has changed names at least 4 times since it was built. On top of the that, the current facility plans to sell within 5 years with no idea who will move into the facility (though the rumor is Sanford wants to snatch it up).

While I disagree with some things in our current zoning laws, street closures should NOT occur because someone or some entity with the most money wants it closed. It should be based on what is best for the neighborhood, which is obvious, keeping the street since Elmwood is the only street in that neighborhood that goes all the way through.

But I have an even bigger issue with the Mayor’s office trying to advocate for a private business and influencing the council’s vote before they have the appropriate hearing. This is what happens when your Deputy COS comes from a right-wing partisan-hack background that doesn’t understand how non-partisan, municipal government works. If PTH wants to veto it after the fact, fine, but him and his staff are not acting ethically in this matter, and it’s a damn shame.

Why does the Sioux Falls Planning Department continue to advocate for private development?

There is a whole host of reasons why public employees SHOULD NOT be advocating for private business, but that is a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down tonight. But one of the biggest reasons is because I am paying their wages and they should be looking out for the best interests of not only business, but citizens and the city as a whole.

I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise that the Planning Department is advocating for private development when it comes to the street vacation of Elmwood, they have been doing it for years and learned it from the master, Steve Metli. As the old joke goes, there are three types of zoning in Sioux Falls, C-1, C-2 and C-Metli.

During last Tuesday’s city council meeting (during public input at beginning), the neighbors brought up their disappointment in the Planning Department advocating for the street vacation, they also pointed out that Lifescape doesn’t plan on staying for more than 5 years, Elmwood is a main thoroughfare AND the safety of the kids is NEVER compromised because the bus pulls right up to the building to pick them up.

But it didn’t stop the city from sending this letter;

(Click to enlarge)

Today, COS and Part-Time Mayor Beck sent out an email talking about all of the benefits of the street vacation. It’s so long I wondered if Neitzert wrote it? Here are some highlights;

We are also recommending support of this right-of-way vacation for neighborhood and community-wide reasons:

• City staff have long supported neighborhood preservation.  This includes the preservation of our core community institutions.  It is unfortunate that this right-of-way vacation request has perpetuated the perception that this is a LifeScape vs. the neighborhood issue, when in reality, LifeScape is an anchor in this neighborhood and has been since they broke ground in a corn field on the outskirts of Sioux Falls in 1948.  (Please see attached photo of the groundbreaking event for LifeScape, then named the Crippled Children’s Hospital and School).

• While balance has been and will continue to be important between commercial and institutional growth and adjacent residential housing, it is critical that we look at the macro of these situations and what is possible with and without investments like that of LifeScape’s.  City staff will continue to work diligently on the ‘preservation’ of neighborhoods so that we do not see continued need for new areas in which public investment is required for ‘revitalization’.

• Our core institutional campuses are vital anchors to not only their neighborhoods but our community as well.  Through their growth and success, our entire community flourishes.  Please know that these folks are at the table, hand in hand with us ready to re-invest into our housing stock and we are looking forward to bringing those ideas to you in the very near future.  They know firsthand how challenging workforce growth is and the key to that often lies within the realm of housing.

• Our team also believes that the challenge associated with on-street parking and the overall safety concerns for clients and employees of the LifeScape campus are not isolated to LifeScape as a business but to the site as a whole.  An attractive, well-maintained and safe property is just as important today as it will be 5, 10, 15, or even 20+ years from now.  The overall parking demands and traffic safety challenges related to the campus will not suddenly be alleviated should LifeScape determine to move elsewhere and another business occupy the space.

Next steps:

• Our Planning staff has reached out to the three neighbors adjacent to the future parking lot.  This effort has been made to ensure that there is dialogue between the neighbors and LifeScape with respect to our landscaping standards versus specific needs of the three adjacent neighbors.

• Our Engineering staff is hosting an open house on Monday night, February 11 to discuss with neighbors that could be impacted by the right-of-way vacation, why the administration is not in opposition to the request.

• Our Planning and Engineering teams will be in attendance on February 12 at the Council meeting to present the request, along with our analysis into the traffic impacts from the proposed right-of-way vacation.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards;


Erica L. Beck

Chief of Staff to the Mayor, City of Sioux Falls

As you can see, there is strong language that the administration supports the street vacation. They should not be taking sides. You could almost argue there are pros and cons on both sides. It is NOT the job of the city, it’s employees, the mayor’s office or city councilors to advocate one way or the other. Their job is to make a decision based on what is best for the citizens. It is pretty obvious that closing Elmwood would not be good for the residents, but I guess it is their fault for not requesting a C-Metli rezone.

Did Bloomberg help Mayor TenHaken cook up a ‘Innovation & Technology’ Director?

It seemed kind of weird that a town that is ran by a liberal, openly gay, Democrat would have a similar position as the city of Sioux Falls;

A month after the City of South Bend’s first Chief Innovation Officer stepped down, the city has named Denise Linn Riedl to fill the position.

Riedl previously worked at the City Tech Collaborative in Chicago and also held positions at the Smart Chicago Collaborative and the Federal Communications Commission.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Notice she has ‘degrees’, but that’s a story for a different day. So where does this ‘Innovation’ director concept come from? Did Mayor Buttigieg cook this up himself? He has been very successful turning around South Bend and he is looking at running for President. The ideas ‘may’ have ties to Bloomberg;

Last year the Office of Innovation spearheaded applications to the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge, which saw the city win $1 million to expand pilot programs connecting low-income residents with affordable rides to work.

As you may or may not know, PTH has been getting a lot of advice from Bloomberg. This may not be a bad thing, but I find it a little ironic that after attending his ‘how to be a mayor’ Bloomberg classes in NY he created this new position. Now if he can just get Reisdorfer to take some night courses. Maybe they could share the expense of getting city clerk Greco actually certified to be a City Clerk? Hey, what an INNOVATIVE concept!

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.