South DaCola’s economic forum – It’s about common sense, not accountability

After reading about the leading city bobbleheads blab at the recent economic forum, I decided to compile my own list of economic priorities our city should be pursuing;

          Attract high end, green energy manufacturing jobs to Sioux Falls that pay union scale wages and provide good benefits. Let’s face it, Sioux Falls is awash in jobs that don’t require a college degree. This won’t change overnight, but what can change is the quality of those jobs. This could be done in partnership with the Federal government’s green energy initiatives and training provided by our state’s technical schools. We could also give the worker’s the opportunity to invest in the company for their retirement fund. The city should start a marketing and lobbying campaign to attract those jobs instead of seasonal, low paying construction work.


          Encourage businesses to sponsor or fund upgrades to our public parks and public spaces. Ever notice every time we build a new ballpark or put a wood and rock thingy in our parks, 9 times out of 10 we as taxpayer’s are paying for those ‘extras’. What’s wrong with businesses donating these things to our parks? The companies could even ask their employees to volunteer in building the projects while they supply materials. I know some of this does exist now in Sioux Falls, but we should do all of our ‘extra’ projects in our parks this way on a larger scale.



          Pass a public art tax to corporations to pay for programs like SculptureWalk. We could triple the size of our public art programs and we wouldn’t have to take a penny out of the CIP budget to do it.


          Pay down city debt ASAP and balance the city budget. Taxpayer’s are spending millions each year in debt service and interest payments on an almost $300 million dollar debt. Money that goes directly to private bond investors NOT to improving our community. This is incredibly foolish and fiscally irresponsible. We should put a moratorium on unneeded CIP projects for at least 4-5 years and spend that extra money on paying down the debt, building a strong reserve, and catching up on infrastructure. And once we achieve that goal we should balance the budget every year after that.



          Apply a corporate entertainment tax in combination with a bed and booze tax and corporate sponsorship to build a new events center. Raising retail taxes, especially on essential goods and services to build an entertainment facility is regressive and won’t pass the smell test with voters. It only makes sense to tax the very corporations who are begging the city provide more quality of life projects to attract workers.


          Encourage more community development loans to homeowners and prospective first time homebuyers. The city already has a vigorous program in place, and I commend them on it, but it is mostly only heard about through word of mouth. The city should not only encourage every first time homebuyer to take advantage of the programs, they should be marketing the heck out of it. Why? The best way to fix up the older neighborhoods in our city is to fill them with young families that have the energy and desire to keep up with the maintenance of their property.



          Cut back on wasteful CIP spending by building smaller parks. This can also be tied in with the CIP moratorium and business sponsorship of public parks.


          Change ordinances so developers have to pay the full amount of street construction in their developments. This is how it used to be done back in the day. Of course, in the developer’s defense, this was before regulations were killing their bottom line. I am all for deregulation in construction projects as long as we do not sacrifice safety and quality. I think we could save developers millions by eliminating some codes without costing the taxpayer’s a dime, possibly even saving us money in enforcement costs and with the money developers save they could pay for their own roads.



          Change spending priorities in the city budget to be 70/30. Seventy percent on infrastructure and upgrades and thirty percent on new development. This goes back to what I have been saying about getting behind on our infrastructure projects. (It is estimated we are over $80 million behind on road maintenance in Sioux Falls).


          Recognize that almost 50% of our school children are living in poverty and encourage FREE family planning education. I know this is a controversial issue, but let’s face it, if you cannot afford to feed the children you already have, you shouldn’t be planning for more.  Also educate these families on budgeting, debt and bill paying.



          Abolish home rule. It is unconstitutional and not user-friendly. We could save millions of dollars a year in code enforcement, city maintenance, legal fees, city salaries, etc., etc. I just don’t see this as a constitutional issue, I also see this as a money saving venture. It would also get the council more involved in decision making when it comes to city spending and planning which results in better accountability to the public.


          Split Parks and Recreation department into 4 districts and have 5 elected board members (one at large). Have them appropriate a budget and make their meetings televised like the council meetings. We need accountability from Parks and Rec, especially when almost 13% of the city’s overall budget goes towards our parks.



          Ease restrictions on park usage for games, practice, etc.  We pay taxes to maintain our park system, we shouldn’t have restrictions on when and how we can use them as long as we are being reasonable and respectable of the property.  After all, we own the parks not the city.

I have always believed strong economic communities center government around their citizens first. A populist government not only makes a happier community it makes a richer one to. It’s time we put citizens at the top of the economic pyramid in Sioux Falls.


#1 Ghost of Dude on 03.26.09 at 7:02 am

Public art tax? Ha! Nice one.
How about easing restrictions for public art ie. murals and statues. Much more likely to happen.

#2 l3wis on 03.26.09 at 7:44 am

Don’t laugh, other cities do it and most corporations are glad to pay it. I do agree with easing restrictions. They created the Visual Arts Commission to handle that stuff, but it seems like they are just as cautious and boring, probably why my application to volunteer on the board got shredded, besides, don’t you know, I am Disinform (according to the Argus Leader).

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