Sioux Falls City Councilor Neitzert’s unfinished business

Last night during the City Council meeting there were quite a few accolades going towards Greg for his work on updating the Audit Committee ordinance. I would agree, he has put a lot of time into it.

But over the past year Greg has failed to follow through with a number of things he had told me at one time he was ‘working on’ only to find out from other councilors he dropped the issues.

The first one was overturning Rolfing and Erpenbach’s horrible ordinance that would require runoffs in council races. As I understand it another councilor took up that and it will be coming soon to repeal the ordinance and move it back to getting a plurality (34%).

The other was Downtown noise ordinance changes and a possible study. I haven’t heard a peep about this for well over 6 months. It is pretty obvious to most that the Downtown noise levels are a lot higher then the rest of the city (just with the trains alone). This seriously needs to be looked at with more development downtown and the Levitt Shell going in.

So why has Neitzert dropped the ball on these things? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling a few ‘elites’ in the Downtown development community got to him. Not sure why he backed off of Rolfing’s horrible ordinance.


#1 Greg Neitzert on 02.05.19 at 9:11 pm

Taking both in turn…

I spent a long while on the noise issue including listening to decibel levels downtown late at night to see what 55, 60, 65 db sounds like. I would be immensely cautious about increasing decibel levels too much. Also studying a lot of other jurisdictions and what they do. What seems simple turns out to be really complicated. The law of unintended consequences has its fingers all over this issue. Thanks to Icon management making major investments in their venue they dropped the decibel levels escaping their building substantially, to their immense credit and have now been in compliance for months including many times they were checked unannounced. Their changes for the most part addressed the pressing issue. The Jones building and a few of the tenants also made some modifications on their end. It’s not perfect but it is going pretty good. There are various ways we could go including raising the limit, increasing building codes downtown to require more sound proofing in new venues or in residential. All of these have major pros and cons. Where I largely got to was deciding we should let it live for a while and see if the problem has been addressed or if we need to change standards. We still may have too, but Icon is in compliance and there have been no complaints for months. Most of this was achieved by both sides working together as well as health department assisting in helping them get into compliance and helping to get both sides to communicate. A pretty good outcome. Essentially, with the problem largely corrected is there a pressing need to make changes? I think there may be a logic to making one standard downtown, and I still contemplate that, the big question being what would be the one number we would settle on. The difference between 55 and 65 is pretty dramatic as an example. Still worth a conversation but its urgency has dropped substantially. One other major complication – most noise violations are based on the clearly audible standard in our code, not the decibel level. Only health has the equipment to measure the L90 decibel level. Police do not, unless we purchase it. In practice police enforce almost all noise violations. Health gets involved when there is a pattern of complaints. We certainly could get police the equipment and have them do it, but we also would have police spending quite a bit of time taking measurements of noise downtown when they could be on other calls. We could change the clearly audible standard, but that is fraught with complications. Point being we could make the decibel level 70, and if we do not change the clearly audible part of the code nothing would change on the ground, the police would still enforce on clearly audible, which is by definition I can clearly hear beats, rhythms or vocals on my property from noise emanating from your property. That was a major monkey wrench, realizing changing the decibel standard does nothing and would not have fixed Icon unless we got rid of our changed the clearly audible standard. Given that their have been no complaints in months and compliance has occurred it is hard to justify making major changes at this point.
Levitt likely will not have major issues because sound levels are allowed to be higher until 1030pm when they will finish prior to that plus the distance and berms from their venue to the nearest residential across the street. As mixed uses thrive and downtown continues to be what it is, we may have to address it. Icon based on recent years was a major outlier. Most noise disturbances are not from venues, it is from vehicles and rowdy inebriated patrons leaving bars at closing time for the most part.

In regards to the 34% or 50% threshold for Council elections, I thought it was a solution looking for a problem and I still do. I don’t like the current ordinance. That being said I struggle with the idea of elected officials messing with their own vote thresholds. That’s why I tried to get the charter revision commission to address it. Optimally I think the voters should decide. My choice not to pursue it myself was based on the struggle with the idea of an elected body changing how they are elected. It really shouldn’t be something we decide. It should be up to the voters. If it is not submitted to the voters, maybe we have to address it. My opinion on the policy has not changed, I think it still is unnecessary and could create more runoffs for no good reason, but I also struggle with advocating to change our own election thresholds. I don’t think the charter authors ever envisioned we would be doing this, and they were silent because I think they did not contemplate it or left percentages to state law. The charter actually prohibits council from referring changes to certain parts of the charter to the voters, one of them the section dealing with our elections. That clearly indicates to me their vision was what common sense dictates, we should be messing with our election thresholds if we can help it. But the current is lousy policy, so it’s a struggle. I have been interested in if there would be a way to put a choice to the voters instead of just one proposal, as perhaps that would be more palatable for the commission to send to the voters, but we ran into some legal obstacles trying to figure out how to do that.

Two important issues I spent a lot of time on, but as with most things they get really complicated. Both worth continuing to look at however, but mitigated by facts on the ground.

And no, for the record, in either case nothing to do with anyone exerting any undue influence.

#2 l3wis on 02.05.19 at 9:48 pm

First I will say I do think you are influenced, but that is an argument for another day.

The Charter Revision Commission will never put this on the ballot, they have proven they have no interest in their current state to defend what the people think. Either way, it is a moot argument. The council is the body that put this into ordinance, it is the council that should repeal it. I have not spoken to a single citizen who thought it was a good idea.

As for Downtown, as a person who has worked and lurked and lived downtown for over 20 years, I can tell you it has changed. It is time the noise ordinance downtown changed, and it has nothing to do with Icon or the Jones building, it has to do with progress. Downtown is noiser, it is time to address it.

#3 Sierra broussard on 02.05.19 at 9:51 pm

Well said greg I always liked greg and always will . Maybe somethings he voted on people may or may not like . You learn from the people you disagree with . Get to know greg on a more personal level . Greg puts in alot of time and effort and investigating every agenda item that comes across to him . Greg let me know if I say something that isn’t true but every decision that greg has made he can lay down at night with a clear conscious that he did the right thing.

#4 D@ily Spin on 02.06.19 at 9:55 am

Well said Sierra. Sometimes we expect to much from an honest hard working councilor. Rolfing and Erpenbach should have never been elected. They sided with the past corrupt mayor and developers rather than what was good for the city. Greg has his opinion. He has inside information that is not apparent (transparency) to the people. Realistically, he gives more than should be expected and has a regular life that is full time.

To me, Charter revision or replacement is important. Citizens are denied due process and ordinances are antiquated. We need Greg for when this happens.

#5 Bruce on 02.06.19 at 3:12 pm

The ordinance must be returned to pre rolfing – kiley election rigging. The change was made weeks before the 2016 election season to make it possible to slant the election toward their chosen candidate.

The optics look like this right now, when it is time to possibly use an incumbency situation we shouldn’t correct a bad law? Marshall and Greg, you don’t want to risk the optics and ramifications before we get to vote.

#6 "Very Stable Genius" on 02.07.19 at 4:40 pm

“Quiet everyone! I can’t hear the results from the election run-off….”

#7 anonymous on 02.08.19 at 10:01 am

Neitzert is influenced.

Time for some self-reflection.