Common Sense left the room at Carnegie Hall yesterday

Yesterday’s Sioux Falls City Council informational meeting was one for the books. By the time I got to give my public input, the first thing I could say was watching the meeting was ‘painful’.

As we know, the council in it’s current state is extremely dysfunctional, they displayed this dysfunction yesterday when they discussed their travel budget for well over 45 minutes. Besides the fact the staffer who is in charge of this is disorganized and lacks the initiative to put this together properly I found it an exercise in ignorance that never accomplished anything.

They first complained that they had to ‘VOTE’ on what they wanted, in which they really didn’t have to (they normally don’t vote at informational meetings). I reminded them in the past that the council just had a set dollar amount of $19,000 (I misspoke and said million) for the travel budget and when it came time to book the trip they discussed who would go. Not that complicated. But instead they were making decisions on trips that haven’t even been booked.

Councilor Neitzert felt the public was against these ‘junket trips’ because they were waste of taxpayer dollars, but not a $26 million dollar parking ramp with no tenants that we did not need and built in the wrong spot. But let’s split hairs on $19K.

Councilor Soehl felt these meetings were for staff not councilors. Stehly, Brekke and myself told Soehl that these are meetings for policy makers NOT staff, you know, the people who make policy decisions. His ignorance of the legislative process was shocking, to say the least.

They did however approve a facilatator to help with the council’s goal setting (I feel sorry for that person) and the mayor agreed to help pay for a neighborhood summit this Fall (possibly 2 in 2020) which is a great idea. They want to hold it at the new ministry center at the former school for the deaf because they offered the space for FREE.

But what got very interesting was the discussion over the donation to the State Theatre. They want to essentially give them $1.5 million out of the entertainment tax and have strings attached for 10 years. Councilor Starr pointed out that giving money from the entertainment tax would set up a precedent for other non-profits to ask for that money in the future. I agreed with Starr and said that it really should come out of the CIP as a one time gift.

Councilor Neitzert pointed out he struggled with having the option of the city buying the building if they went belly up over the next ten years, saying that the city owns enough entertainment facilities.

What is even more frustrating is that the council and mayor are doing this all based on a decision Denny Sanford made. I asked the council if this is how policy decisions are made, and if so, it was sad. I also told them that while most of the citizens in this community are excited about it being finished and opened, I have never heard anyone say we should be giving them tax dollars.

What is also troubling is that the State Theatre still has to raise another $2.5 million on their own to complete the project, and then there is the operating and maintenance costs. I’m not sure how they will manage that?

The good news though is that the gifting contract is NOT finished yet, and could be tweaked. I would prefer we don’t give the money, but if we do, it should come from the CIP, be a one-time gift with no strings attached, and if it can’t survive on it’s own it can be sold privately. As Greg said, we have enough entertainment facilities that are publicly funded.


#1 Mark Peterson on 07.03.19 at 1:45 pm

Before the City gives the State Theater one thin dime they should insist on an accounting of all funds raised to date. This place has been a money pit for years and will likely remain one. The City got stuck with the Orpheam Theater and they are still forced to subsidize it. At least they had a vote on the Washington Fiasco Pavillion.

#2 Theodore on 07.03.19 at 1:54 pm

Did they move the public input to the end of the meeting or has it always been that way for the Informational?

#3 l3wis on 07.03.19 at 2:15 pm

There was NEVER public input at informational meetings until state law changed last year requiring all public meetings to have it. It was up to the local bodies on how they would offer it, so they have been doing it at the END of the meetings. Which I actually like, because I can evaluate the whole discussion before commenting. I do however like Public Input at the beginning of the City Council meetings.

#4 D@ily Spin on 07.03.19 at 2:21 pm

Restoring the State Theater goes back decades. It’s not acceptable collateral for a loan. Therefore, it’s always been a donations thing. It seems that every few years there’s more contributions churning that need to be audited. A charity can bleed cash without a business plan. The city is about to become just another ‘Go Fund Me’ scam.

#5 "'Extremely' Stable Genius" on 07.03.19 at 2:57 pm

It would be a bad precedent to take from the entertainment tax, but isn’t the CIP for the most part the “Road Tax?”

If the citizens of Sioux Falls really want to give $1.5 million to roughly half complete the State Theater and kick the can down the road for its eventual completion, then shouldn’t it come out of general funds?

#6 peter Pischke on 07.03.19 at 5:29 pm

Tax dollars via the city shouldn’t be going to pay for this building.

This is a project that will always eat money, and will never turn a profit. Anyone paying attention knows that.

As a historical building I’d love to have it restored, but I don’t think Sioux Falls should be the ones paying for it.

#7 Blasphemo on 07.03.19 at 7:19 pm

“What is even more frustrating is that the council and mayor are doing this all based on a decision Denny Sanford made.” AGREED. As if Denny Sanford hasn’t gotten his way with Sioux Falls thoroughly already….he dictates that his gift depends on “the City having skin in the game.” We also know the State Theater refurbishment is a personal agenda of PTH’s as he has been a personal or business donor to the project at some level in the past. Sanford could have just “sneezed” a $10m gift (the cost of a single piece of artwork, etc. for a billionaire) w/o strings to cover all the capital that’s needed, plus enough left over to cover operating losses for a while. Instead, everyone gets entanglements and the project is still $2.5m short. Truly, “the gift that keeps on giving”.

#8 Medical device salesman on 07.03.19 at 9:04 pm

Maybe some local doctors could fund it all with their medical device schemes…..Wouldn’t that be: “….having skin in the game?”

#9 NO FREE SPACE HERE on 07.03.19 at 9:38 pm

the last thing we need to do is “hold it at the new ministry center at the former school for the deaf because they offered the space for FREE” so the public can be brainwashed. There is no such thing as a free space. Hold it at the Annie Zabel room even it it cost $1,000. We have all these spaces, we must support our own spaces.

#10 Matthew Paulson on 07.04.19 at 4:01 pm

I just finished watching the recording of the informational meeting. This is a great example of majoring in the minors. The city council should spend more time discussing million dollar issues and less time arguing about $20 event tickets and their own travel expenses.

#11 l3wis on 07.04.19 at 7:22 pm

That’s just it, this 45 minute debacle just shows how dysfunctional and incompetent this council is. Thank Gawd Erickson wasn’t there, it would have lasted another 45 minutes!

If they cannot decide how to spend $19K, how on earth can they make a decision on the big stuff? Oh, that’s right, they can’t, just look at the parking ramp.

#12 Where is Councilor Erickson? on 07.05.19 at 10:36 am

Councilor Erickson seems to be picking up former City Councilor Jim Entenman’s bad habit of thinking you show up for your job when it’s convenient for you!

You were elected as an At-Large Councilor, you are being paid by the taxpayers to show up at all City Council meetings. You are not being paid to attend soccer tournaments, go to the lake, take calls regarding “broken water pipes” on your many rental properties, etc….

Just how many council meetings are councilors allowed to miss in a year’s time?

#13 l3wis on 07.05.19 at 11:56 am

I think according to charter they are only required to attend ONE meeting a month. This came up when Staggers had a serious illness and they wanted him to resign. A couple of years ago, CC Gerald Beninga had knee surgery and participated in several meetings by phone, at least he made an effort.