You can accomplish anything when you haveÂ your parents credit card.
UPDATE: I thought I would re-post this today (form January 2018) after reading the Argus Leader’s analysis of Huether by reporters Whitney and Sneve.
I often hear it from friends and enemies,
“Why do you pick on the mayor so much Scott? He has gotten a lot of things done.”
I often agree, he has accomplished a lot. And if you don’t believe me or them, just ask the mayor himself. But when you really look at what has been ‘done’ it was done using other people’s money or borrowing other people’s money. The problem with that is that it’s the taxpayer’s money, OUR money, not the little dictator’s at 9th & Main.
These ‘accomplishments’ or ‘WINS’ as the mayor likes to call them, are not really wins at all, but just expenditures that I believe could have been done in other ways to save taxpayers millions while providing those services better. They wereÂ nothing more than playthings built to attract more overpaid doctors to town.
While Huether says our debt is the same amount as it was in 2010, what he fails to mention is that he created NEW debt at the tune of almost $250 million while the debt that was paid off was already scheduled for repayment or paid off early due to over 50 fee and tax increases over the past 8 years. There have also been repercussions over these fee and tax increases. Sale tax revenue has continued to go down percentage wise even though we have has an explosive population growth. I believe this has to do with a couple of factors. Wages have not stayed in line with these increases in taxes, healthcare costs, housing inflationÂ and the widening gap between rich and poor. In fact a majority of the middleclass in Sioux Falls has seen no growth or negative growth over the past 8 years. Even with all the quality of life projects, financially the middleclass isn’t doing much better or even worse than we were in 2010, the numbers don’t lie.
Our roads are also still at the same rating they were 8 years ago, 7 out of 10. Which is still good compared to other South Dakota municipalities, but ZERO improvement. One reason may be because our roads fund, the 2nd penny CIP is being robbed by mortgage payments to new entertainment facilities that don’t pay for themselves.
But when it comes to Huether really expanding services to ALL ofÂ our residents, what really has he done inÂ 8 years?
The massive annexation Huether has implemented has only pissed off neighborhoods, cost millions in infrastructure upgrades (handouts to the corporations that asked for these annexations) and caused a riff with un-annexed islands that were created after the intentional urban sprawl whileÂ our core has become a meth crime haven.
Speaking of that, Huether has done little to combat crime. He hired an un-experienced police chief, a fire chief who lives in Canton (because, as he says, it is safer to raise his kids) fired the former fire chief for allegations of child pornography (but let him keep his pension). Screwed the Police union on raises while giving corporate like raises to directors who have followed marching orders like spiking the Finance Director’s salary over the past two years by $16K right before his retirement.
He has done little to improve project trim to become either free or more affordable to taxpayers. Has cut back street cleaning and snow removal, cut bus and paratransit routes while insisting on charging more and offering ZERO solutions over the past 8 years how to improve service and make it more equitable. I actually look at the do nothing attitude of public transit by Huether as one of his biggest failures as mayor.
He has costÂ us AND the citizens of SD (Public Assurance Alliance) millions in legal battles that we didn’t have to fight because of the incompetent and non-transparent administration he runs.
Water rates and regulations have only gone up in numbers while sales tax revenue has tumbled, only to take this extra money and put it in a savings account.
But besides the ‘WINS’ he decided to pass up, as I said above, let’s look at the things he called accomplishments by spending our money and borrowing in our good name;
The Denty. This project started on a bad note to begin with. Instead of bonding the entire building we had other options. I think we should have used a combination of private investors, cash reserves and state revolving funds to bond remainder. The vote was also a sham. It was an advisory vote which wasn’t legally binding, ultimately the council had to approve the bonds. In reality, with that much bonding it should have been a legal bond vote which would have required a 60% threshold from voters. It was also built in the wrong place. While Downtown would have been more ideal, I think anyplace but next to the Arena would have been better. The location has only contributed to the money vacuum the Denty has become, sending millions out of town. Than there was the cost saving measure to put flat siding on a curved building that caused a SD Supreme Court case and troublesome siding that will cost us millions to replace over the years. He also lied about the settlement, a lie the very media that sued him continues to peddle. They still claim we got at least $480K, which we did not, that money came from a savings account that was supposed to be protected for future repairs to the facility. Essentially we got ZERO. Proof of this is in the pudding and the reason the money could never be used to fix the siding, because it doesn’t exist. I think we could have built an Events Center, but Huether’s plan has been a complete disaster because of several bad decisions by hizzoner.
The Railroad Redevelopment project has cost Federal Taxpayers (and local taxpayers) well over $27 million. In return we got dirty land for $62 a square foot. The trains are still switching downtown and running more frequent. This boondoggle, while expensive, has done nothing to improve downtown. I consider this one of the biggest failed negotiations of the Huether administration. And if we see another derailment like we just recently did and it’s something other than corn (like ethanol or a chemical) it will take a heck of a lot more than $27 million to clean up.
The city administration building was a gigantic middle finger to the taxpayers of Sioux Falls that was decided by one person who manipulated his executive powers and crapped on 6,400 petition signers. The irony is this $25 million building wasn’t needed. We exchanged a $100K a year lease payment for a $1 million a year mortgage that doesn’t include maintenance costs. There is nothing in city charter that requires the city to invest in office space capital. In fact, the city’s finance director Turbak said it was more equitable to lease space. This is a lie that also continues to be peddled by the mayor. During yesterday’s ribbon cutting he claimed their was ‘collaboration’. There was no collaboration, not with the public, the city council or other government entities.
The indoor aquatic center was poorly planned and based on a campaign of lies and confusing ballot language. The location can not be expanded and built on land the Federal government has the quit claim deed on. We also robbed millions from a repayment of Federal levee bonds that should have been used to repay the bonds. We could have built a larger facility at the Sanford Sports Complex with a public/private partnership with Sanford. It would have also been located by all the other special interest sports clubs. We now have a facility we will have to subsidize up to $400k a year or more in a bad location.
Huether allowed the city to go into a parking ramp agreement with a developer that is facing Federal criminal charges and that has illegally dumped asbestos into our landfill with a penalty that was waived. But even if we picked a good developer, the deal doesn’t add up. We are paying over twice as much for fewer parking spots and a lease agreement that wasn’t based on any appraisals. This deal should have never been penned.
Choosing Paramedics Plus for our ambulance contractor was troublesome for many reasons. Not only their pending legal issues nationally, conflicts of interest with the consultant that recommended them and the ‘Phantom’ ambulances, we could have saved consumers $$Â while helping to fund our Fire Department. Since the Fire Department already shows up to medical emergencies, sometimes faster than PP, I think a more prudent decision would have been implementing a public ambulance service. While the initial up front costs would be expensive, the fees charged to consumers would help pay for itself, and help to subsidize the Fire Department. As taxpayers we are already paying for the FD to respond to these emergencies, why not get reimbursed for it?
As you can see, the Mayor likes to talk about ‘dreaming big’ and ‘getting things done’ but he has done all this recklessly and by racking up our credit card. The next mayor and city council will be battling these bad fiscal decisions for years to come, and at the end of the day the taxpayers will be footing the bill for all of these ‘WINS’.