Staggers vs. Huether; The Argus Leader comparisons

First, I want to commend reporters Ellis, Levisay and Luther for their multitude of stories in the paper today. If you read the Sunday Argus Leader, you have no excuse for not voting in the mayoral runoff and not being informed.

I have read through all of the articles and picked up on some of the finer points, here it goes. First, their campaign styles;

Staggers, although an elected official for years, has not been considered in the mainstream, and Huether is making his first run for public office. Between the two of them, they secured the majority of the vote Tuesday. “If you think about that, voters are basically saying, ‘I don’t want to do business the way we’ve been doing business,’ ” Knobe said. “People are looking for a different way of doing things, and it showed up in this local election,” he said.

I agree somewhat. I think Mike’s supporters are people who thinks the city doesn’t spend enough on social programs and quality of life projects, while Staggers supporters are people who want the city to focus on the citizens and not special interests.

Both rejected a task force plan to build a new events center, contending the plan was too expensive.

Mike didn’t reject the plan until he noticed that Kermit got a lot of traction on the issue. This was another issue that Mike stole from Kermit and repackaged.

“That’s the number-one priority, the roads,” she said. “For the 30 years we’ve been here, they’ve never been this bad.”

This is another reason why Kermit makes the most sense. Kermit has been saying for years that we need to focus on infrastructure with the 2nd penny, not monkey crappers. Kermit has a proven record of fighting for this, Mike just has his word.

But Huether’s choice of a Democratic consulting firm, Hildebrand Strategies, as well as donations to his campaign from labor unions, has aroused the suspicions of some Republicans. Last week, some of them were beginning to coalesce around Staggers.

The Minnehaha County Democratic Party referred to Huether as “our mayoral candidate” when it promoted a speech that he was scheduled to make at the Labor Temple during an event to celebrate this year’s state of the union address.

As I have said, there is no room for partisanship in this race, and Mike has taken it to the highest level. I find it hypocritical of Mike to claim he is better prepared to run the city because of his executive leadership experience, yet can’t run his own campaign. You think Munson spent a lot of dough on consultants? Mike will break the bank if his administration runs like his campaign, don’t take my word on it, listen to the horse himself;

“I hired Hildebrand Strategies because they know how to run a political campaign and I don’t,” he said. “I hire the best people in the business, and I did that in private business, did it for my campaign and will do it in City Hall.

But, Lentsch (SD GOP) added, Huether’s campaign consultant and the labor donations have injected partisanship into the race.

“If he wants to make this a partisan race, it’s unfortunate,” Lentsch said. “But if that’s what he wants, we’ll dance.”

I’m not a fan of Lentsch, and if I was Kermit, I would continue to keep partisan politics out of the race. Kermit has done well with all parties, he doesn’t need to alienate Dems and Indies. I’ll give props to Munson for reaching across the aisle and getting Johnson’s endorsement in the last mayoral election. But that does not mean the SD GOP can’t do something on their own to promote Kermit, and over the past couple of days, I have heard that just might be a possibility.

The two candidates probably will try to meet with Brown, Peterson and Costello in hope of securing endorsements and luring supporters.

I suspect there may not be any endorsements, especially from Brown who is furious with Huether for the Events Center ad and has had trouble working with Staggers in the past. Mike seems to be confused about Kermit’s honesty and clarity. That is the one thing I like the most about Kermit, he tells it like it is;

“Mr. Staggers talks about, ‘Well, I am going to have an administrative assistant.’ No kidding. We’re all going to have an administrative assistant. That again goes to show how a lack of experience when it comes to the executive roles within organizations. If you don’t have that, it’s really going to hurt you if you become the mayor of Sioux Falls because Sioux Falls … is a $337 million operation.”

What’s wrong with telling people that Kermit will hire a secretary? Why would you have a problem with this? That just seems odd. As for running a $337 million dollar budget, I find it hard to imagine that you are prepared since you had to hire a consulting firm to run a campaign with a very small budget. Kermit is running it on his own and up until today, he was doing it out of his house (his new headquarters opens today at 2 PM, 49th and Western). Kermit approaches everything in his life with fiscal responsibility.

“When I (Huether) started this campaign, I made a promise to do it the old-fashioned way, and that was actually taking the time to go door to door, business to business, and reach out to everyone. And I mean everyone.

Then why hire a very partisan campaign strategist and take money from unions? If you really want to see a grassroots campaign, all you have to do is look at Kermit’s. And just for clarification Kermit has paid me $0 to promote him on my site. In fact I donated money to his campaign. I believe partisanship and money in politics is the problem and I would not take one red cent from Kermit. As I told him, “It is very important that we get you elected.” I joked with Huether in an email that, “If each of the opposing candidates to Kermit want to give me $500 I’ll stop blogging about them :)”

“My goal is to let everyone have a voice and everyone have a seat at the table of city government. And when that occurs, our city government will be stronger than you can ever imagine.

“Someone who votes for me would be someone who wants to infuse common sense into government, someone who wants to balance progress with prudence, and someone who ultimately wants to get something done and is tired of politics as usual.”

Mike is at it again, repackaging Kermit’s ideals. When you take money from Unions how can you say ‘everyone’ will have a seat at your table? You can’t take from special interests then turnaround and say you represent ‘all of us’ Not sure if you have been watching city government very closely over the past few years, but the councilors who have ate from the trough of special interests have voted for those interests. Why do you think Costello’s campaign fell flat on it’s face?

Kermit points out the benefits of a Lyon County casino, that I have been harping about for months;

“There’s going to be a lot of good things associated with that when it comes to jobs and when it comes to constructing it ..

FINALLY! Someone admits the obvious. Also Kermit points out his biggest difference between him and Huether; EXPERIENCE!

“Actually being involved in government is a lot different than being involved in business, and that’s something that maybe Mike is a little naive about. … He’s on the outside. He’s never been in the inner workings of government and how it operates. I’ve been in government in the City Council for eight years, and I’ve been finding efficiencies for eight years. An outsider coming in, it’s going to take an outsider a while to even figure out what’s going on.”

Kermit is right, he knows his stuff. I still remember one night in a council meeting he even questioned former SD Supreme Court justice and current city attorney Robert Admundson about state law, and Robert couldn’t give him a clear answer. That says a lot, when you have a councilor who knows more about state law then a former SC justice. This is where Mike would be lost, in fact extremely lost. We need to have a mayor who understands legislation and law, and not just credit card laws that are used to manipulate people. I want someone who can interpret the law to benefit of the citizenry, not the benefit of billionaires.

Kermit’s biggest accomplishment as mayor will be helping businesses succeed, which will play into more jobs;

“But also another area on the City Council that I’ve been doing for eight years, literally, is trying to reduce these unnecessary regulations. …

Now unto the thing Sy can’t stop talking about;

In the big picture, Huether and Staggers have similar visions for an events center in Sioux Falls. They both say the city needs one but that broad-based taxes should not increase because of it. Both say there is money to be found in the private sector through naming rights and sponsorships. Huether says bonding and improvement districts are a possibility, along with bed and booze taxes. Staggers opposes bonding, which is essentially borrowing.

Huether really is the follower on this issue. If you would have told me six months ago that Staggers would be the leader in getting an Events Center built, I would have laughed in your face, but I truly believe with Kermit as mayor and with his creative funding ideas, we will break ground before his first term is over, and 90% of the citizenry will have a consensus on the issue.

And now unto something nobody wants to talk about, the budget;

At the end of 2009, the city had an outstanding debt of $277.3 million. Total debt increased last year by $47 million.

How is it possible that the city increased the debt by $47 million in a year they should have been tightening their belt? Two words; fiscal irresponsibility.

But no worries, Mike to the rescue, here he goes again, repackaging another Staggers’ idea;

If he’s elected mayor, Huether plans to analyze inefficiencies and waste to tighten spending. If families and businesses are tightening their belts, he said, residents expect the city to do the same.

The man has no shame, this time he even STEALS a direct quote from Kermit, Kermit has been saying this for over a year, and Mikey-come-lately swoops in and tries to steal his thunder. Here he does it again;

For example, he would look into consolidating code enforcement

This is actually something Kermit has been fighting hard for and an audit of code enforcement proved that Kermit was right. Who do I trust to fix the mess? Someone who understands government, not someone who steals other candidates ideas then pretends he has all the answers.

Staggers has developed a reputation as a budget hawk while on the council. If he becomes mayor, he said he would establish a (Hoover) commission to examine the government and to determine where efficiencies can be found. He says city employees often offer the best ideas for how to save money.

Kermit has a strong record of fiscal ‘prudence’. Mike only has words. Even the AL agrees;

Both candidates say spending needs to be kept in check, but experience over the last eight years shows that Staggers would likely be the more frugal of the two.

The next 10 days should be interesting. Expect to see more come out about Mike’s partisanship. I also expect some surprise endorsements on both sides and you can guarantee both sides will have some kind of ATTACK ad in next week’s Sunday paper, which is unfortunate (but fun to watch). If I had to pick a winner today I wouldn’t bet nickel on my prediction. It’s gonna be very close or a blowout for one of the candidates.


#1 Helga on 04.18.10 at 12:55 pm

Nice job Lewis. I agree, people have no excuse after this for not voting.

#2 l3wis on 04.18.10 at 8:06 pm

I think the Argus really redeemed themselves on so many levels after reading these articles. They really have a true talent in Ellis.

#3 James Milne on 04.19.10 at 5:11 am

Good read here, I haven’t had a chance to peruse the Sunday Argus (and after reading this I don’t think I need to). If people have the slightest bit of common sense I think Kermit will win this.

#4 l3wis on 04.19.10 at 5:28 am

I hope so James. This will be a tight one and both candidates know it.

I am happy to hear that the SD GOP is stepping up to help Kermit, but I hope they are doing it for ‘the right’ reasons.

I have always appreciated that Kermit is non-partisan. We disagree on a host of social issues, but I still consider him the ‘logical’ choice for mayor.

#5 John on 04.19.10 at 7:20 am

The Argus isn’t as interested in who is Mayor as much as they are selling papers. Just ask any of their employees who have had forced vacation over the last year!

Mark it down right now Mike wins 60-40. And I think the 40 is high only because Kermit’s people will have a high turn out.

#6 Plaintiff Guy on 04.19.10 at 8:02 am

Notably, either candidate has a similar track.

I like Stagger’s experience and the fact he’d return to citizen service.

I’d accept Huether but he’ll have trouble playing politics and I wonder if ‘Home Rule’ would not corrupt him as it did Munson.

#7 Sy on 04.19.10 at 9:18 am

Kermit’s people will certainly have a high turnout, but you also have to take it in context.

In reality, he knocked on 19K doors and that equated to 7400 votes out of 30K cast in the last race. He has to double that number to even have a sniff.

Brown won’t endorse because he has to work with whoever’s in office next. Since Mike is better at (and employs a master of) sound byte politics, it wouldn’t surprise me if most of his Brown’s supporters go to Huether.

Kermit’s best strategy would be to call out Huether as Obamalike in that he sounds great, but has no practical experience. How’s that been working on a National level and why would it be different in little old Sioux Falls? Sure Obama carried the Sioux Falls Metro, but I highly doubt he would today nor will he in 2012. Fool me once…

Huether says he has managed $100 million budgets, but he wasn’t higher up the Premier totem pole than Dykehouse or Beacom, who both answer to TDS. How hard is it to manage a $100 million budget in a money factory like Premier? He was in Marketing, what consequences did Premier face if they ran a bad ad or went over a few million on a particular marketing campaign? It’s not like he ran a top tier group of sales people, those guys were order takers as those cards sold themselves the same way liquor & gambling do.

Like I said earlier, Huether talks out of both sides of his mouth. The more he does the more Kermit can hit him on it.

#8 Brad S on 04.19.10 at 12:02 pm

This Denver resident was in Sioux Falls, visiting some family and old friends, and a couple of things became apparent:

1. Unless Sioux Falls has a plan to build a freeway spur toward downtown, any idea to put the Events Center there is a non-starter. When the majority of working and discretional traffic can avoid 10th/11th Streets and Minnesota Ave in the course of a normal day, a lot of things placed downtown can be white elephants in a hurry.

2. At some point and time, the owners of the Empire Mall are going to come to the City Council and ask for some type of tax break to help redevelop that mall. While it looks full right now, the mall doesn’t look like it’s been remodeled since at least 1990. The eastside presence of WalMart/Target should give hints of some changes in shopping since that time.

3. Russell Street in front of the Arena is an embarrassment. Any plan to build the new Events Center next to the current arena better include a rebuilding of that mess.

But then, with Huether and Staggers in the runoff, it seems like Sioux Falls is yet another city that’s hearing the “Stop the World, I want to get off” siren song. We in Colorado have had a few cities try the slow down approach. Those cities are now finding out the lack of rate of return on redevelopment the hard way.

#9 l3wis on 04.19.10 at 12:40 pm


1- Downtown has the only entertainment infrastructure able to support a EC

2- Russell and West avenue is being rebuilt I think next year

3- I haven’t been to the mall in years, and can tell you that the East side will thrive, especially if a Larchwood casino is built

4- I don’t think either candidate is against growth, they just have different plans in how to continue that growth, Staggers wants to give businesses the tools to thrive on their own without government interference, Huether, it seems wants to ramp up government involvement.

#10 Brad S on 04.19.10 at 12:50 pm


This is the future of arena and retail development, should Sioux Falls be so interested:

The 1stBank Center only holds about 6500 for basketball and concerts. Granted, Broomfield is a suburb between Denver and Boulder, but it fits a niche in a metro area that doesn’t have that many venues like it.

Which is why it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to hold off on the Events Center until someone develops a plan to redevelop the Empire Mall around the Events Center.

#11 Costner on 04.19.10 at 1:09 pm

Eventually Sioux Falls will get a second indoor mall at which time we will have the “nice” mall, and the “old” mall that people used to go to sort of like what Omaha has going for it.

It isn’t as if the Empire Mall can really expand much, although considering how much of the mall traffic comes from outside of the city I would guess a new mall will still likely be near I-29 or I-229 to allow easy access in and out.

Maybe someone should develop a plan for a new mall connected to an Events Center with a phased building approach.

#12 Brad S on 04.19.10 at 1:17 pm


No one is building indoor malls anymore. See the link in my previous comment. And I think the Empire Mall can be redeveloped to be an outdoor mall, have the Events Center, AND have most if not all parking be retained.

The tradeoff may be that one of the department stores may have to find standalone homes (likely Sears), and that some of the mall’s current tenants may be left out. Then again, when I was in SF a few weeks ago, I saw two big empty spaces on Louise Ave, so it might not be that big of an issue.

#13 Brad S on 04.19.10 at 1:24 pm

To expand a little, at least five old indoor malls in metro Denver have been torn apart and redeveloped into outdoor centers. Three of those have a “neo-urban” pedestrian Main Street with smaller shops and nightclubs, and all three have some combination of rental and condo housing. One of those old malls even has a City Hall (Englewood).

Again, it can be worth Sioux Falls’ while to try to fuse the two issues, as the eventual redevelopment of Empire Mall will be an issue in the next few years.

#14 Sy on 04.19.10 at 1:40 pm


If you ever are having trouble getting to sleep, go to the City web site and download the 2025 Transportation plan and take a run through it. It’s comprehensive, but in a nutshell, the City is growing in all directions and the crux of the plan is to get as many people from the edges of the City into the Center and back out again, whether that’s a commute to work or heading to Sculpturewalk. It show several new roadways that will be built or expanded over time.

An Interstate exit or spur isn’t necessary to have a booming downtown, take a look at Madison, WI or Rochester, MN for some comps. In fact, there’s a school of thought that says you want people to have to make their way in and out at a slower pace like the main roads are designed for. It means that more people take more options to get in and out and all the businesses along those roads are benefitted by the increased traffic. Even if those businesses aren’t located downtown, most of them are located on one path or another to get to downtown.

Our downtown is located at the intersection of two State highways, one of which (Minnesota Ave) is set to get a new interchange at I-90 and the other (10th/12th Streets) is destined to be widened to 3 lanes each direction with a median for higher speeds. Several other existing streets in that grid are destined to get expanded/widened.

You also have all those tracks that will be coming out at some point, that frees up several acres of ground that will need to be redeveloped. One of our Mayoral candidates claims to have plans to spur growth downtown, but we need to elect him to find out what those are. With the exception of an Events Center or Casino, there really isn’t too many practical things a City can do to drive growth to a particular area. And like you pointed out, our existing Arena and it’s general area is mostly a dump, wedged in between industrial and low end residential.

#15 Sy on 04.19.10 at 1:51 pm

One problem with the Events Center at the Mall concept, is that you are taking an area that most of the region already is bitching about the traffic in and making it all that much worse during Events.

The most travelled intersection in the State by far is 41st & Louise. All that ground around there is priced accordingly so you are also talking an extremely high price for what gain?

If you want to redevelop a site, the School for the Deaf make more sense. Unlike the Mall, that site will likely sit vacant for years before anything worthwhile happens.

You also want to have the maximum ripple effect for a major project like this. So you should put it somewhere where you want to increase the values of the neighboring properties, I think and EC at the Mall might actually have the opposite effect.

Nice outside the box thinking though, too bad you aren’t running for Mayor.

#16 Sy on 04.19.10 at 1:53 pm

One last point, Dawley Farm Village is already under construction on the East side and is modeled after the outdoor “Lifestyle Center” concept you are referring to.

#17 Brad S on 04.19.10 at 1:54 pm


Correct me if I’m wrong, but downtown Madison is very close to the Univ. of Wisconsin. So they’ll always have a captive audience for development. Not so much a city like Sioux Falls that has 3 freeways each at least two miles out from downtown.

One of the great ironies of revitalized downtowns like Denver’s and Omaha’s is that neither place could do it without decent freeway access out. Denver’s Light Rail is not nearly enough to clear out downtown, even if things like Coors Field and the Pepsi Center weren’t built.

#18 Costner on 04.19.10 at 1:58 pm

No one is building indoor malls anymore.

In San Diego, outdoor malls are beautiful things. In Sioux Falls… not so much.

I know there is a trend to build outdoor malls and that is fine, but I would easily argue in our climate outdoor malls will only work for larger anchor stores and won’t work for the dozens of smaller stores. Or should I say they woudln’t work as well.

I once heard the Empire Mall is South Dakota’s number one tourist attraction – and when you compare it to Mount Rushmore that is saying something. It is rather disapointing and disturbing at the same time, but it puts it into context on how popular that place really is. There is a reason the nation’s biggest mall in the cities (Mall of America) is an indoor mall – because an outdoor mall in a Minnesota winter would be worthless.

There will never be an events center connected to the Empire Mall, and the Empire Mall will never be remodeled to be anything other than an indoor mall. The concept works well for this area, and to change a proven concept would be a disaster.

If Sioux Falls does build an events center in the next decade, my money says it will be downtown – and it won’t be connected to a shopping center of any type.

#19 Sy on 04.19.10 at 2:16 pm

Costner is correct,

6.1 million people visited that Mall in 2008.

Here’s a bunch of other interesting market info from Macerich’s (the Mall owner) site:,%20The.pdf

#20 scott on 04.19.10 at 4:30 pm

if someone wants to see the outdoor mall concept in action, head down to sioux city. i think most people park at one end, then walk out of the store, get into their cars, and drive down to the other end. not much fun to do in the winter, or in 90 degree weather.

#21 redhatterb on 04.19.10 at 6:46 pm

Most of the people that I know have quit going to the Empire East for several years since they closed the inside so that you can’t get from store to store without going outside. The main reason for this is because some of us have trouble walking very far and when we could go from store to store on the inside we could stop and sit on benches to rest. When I used to go there I would usually shop Target, JoAnns and sometimes Kohls. Now when I go there I only hit one store, because in order to get to the others I end up in too much pain to enjoy looking in the other stores.

#22 Scott on 04.19.10 at 7:21 pm

Most of you are obviously not old enough to remember when downtown SF attempted this concept during Knobe’s first term as Mayor in the mid-70’s. It was their attempt to counteract the loss of retail sales to the Western Mall, but in the end it helped that mall and killed downtown for many many years.

#23 l3wis on 04.19.10 at 7:53 pm

I like how Park Ridge is setup, obviously, it is very small, but they have an INDOOR walkway without Kiosks, food courts, etc.

#24 Costner on 04.20.10 at 12:30 pm

Keep in mind Park Ridge was originally an outdoor mall. They found people were a lot more willing to shop at multiple stores when they closed off the walkway to the elements.

Thus my point about outdoor malls not being as popular in this geographic area. Strip malls survive because the typical shopper only visits one store and then leaves. You don’t find people going to a cell phone store to pick up a new phone and then next door to buy a new fireplace, and then to the store besides that to buy a new suit and to the next store to eat a sandwich and bowl of soup. It just doesn’t happen (at least not very often).

Thus, you can never really compare something like the Empire Mall to Dawley Farm Villiage. The Empire is a destination in itself… sometimes people just go to the mall to go to the mall – they have no specific store or item they are going for, they are just shopping.

Dawley on the other hand will rely upon anchor stores like Target, Kohls, Best Buy, and if rumors hold true Dick’s Sporting Goods. Those are destination stores – stores that people go to just for those stores with no desire to hang around and shop at other smaller stores.

Thus, Dawley is essentially just a series of strip malls and will be no more or no less effective. The Western Mall and Empire East are both effectively strip malls as well because all of the larger Anchor stores don’t allow access to the interior and the stores are self-sufficient. The thing is, in order for an interior mall to survive it needs to be large and it needs to be diverse. You need large general clothing stores and targeted clothing stores and stores for men and stores for women and stores for kids and jewelry stores and a food court and sporting goods stores and game stores and stores that sell worthless crafts and little niche stores like a music store or collector coin store or leather goods store or designer shoes store etc, etc. And yes you even need the annoying little vendors that pack the hallways selling their made in China garbage or their embroidered quilts – because it all adds up to be a true diverse shopping experience that appeals to a wide sector of the populace.

Many of the stores in the Empire Mall would likely not survive in an open air mall – or at the very least they would be much less profitable. But they also could never exist in a facility that didn’t get the number of visitors the Empire gets – thus any indoor mall will need to be large with 75 – 100 or more stores in order to be successful, which is probably why we won’t be seeing another indoor mall anytime soon.

It is much easier to fill a strip mall that contains four or five stores than it is to fill an indoor mall that looks empty if anything less than 80% of the stores are filled.

This is a very interesting discussion – but not sure it really has anything do to with Staggers of Huether at this point…sorry about the derail.

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[…] Huether has this to say about it. […]

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