UPDATE: City of Sioux Falls is using the backdoor for rental assistance

UPDATE: This was the explanation from council staff;

$250k is from the Planning and Development Services budget.

The administration is requesting the Council to appropriate an additional $750k  from the General Fund available fund balance (reserves) to support the One Sioux Falls Fund.

The funding for the Community Foundation is for $1,000,000; $250 (P&D) funds and $750 (General Fund Reserves).

The funding is one in the same.

I want to thank the city for finally contributing to rental assistance, and I think they will have to do a lot more, but I do have some issues with how this assistance is being delivered;

AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF SIOUX FALLS, SD, PROVIDING SUPPLEMENTAL EMERGENCY APPROPRIATIONS FOR HOUSING.

WHEREAS, on March 12, 2020, the Mayor issued Executive Order No. 218 declaring an emergency to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19); and

WHEREAS, the Mayor has collaborated with the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation to establish a One Sioux Falls Fund (the “Fund”) to help local residents and businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 in Sioux Falls; and

WHEREAS, the Fund will consist of both public and private sector contributions; and

WHEREAS, the Fund will be used for public, charitable, or humanitarian purposes and accommodation. Specifically, the funding shall focus on any of three critical areas: health, housing, and food security; and

WHEREAS, Section 5.07 (b) of the Charter of Sioux Falls allows for an emergency appropriation to be made to meet a public emergency affecting life, health, property, or public peace;

I don’t take issue with the amount of funds themselves ($750K) because I think we are going to need a heckuva a lot more.

NOTE: THERE IS ALSO A $1 MILLION FIGURE IN THE CONSENT AGENDA WHICH IS CONFUSING – ARE THESE SEPARATE EXPENDITURES?

What is wrong here is the delivery system because it lacks transparency. It would be logical to assume no matter who pays for this the money will be direct payments to the property owners of the rentals. But by transferring public dollars to a private fund, the taxpayers will never see who is receiving these funds. Once again, I will stress, this is not about knowing the names of the renters, they will not be an equation in this because they will never see the money, it’s about knowing what property owners are receiving the payments. Will it be the big guys? The little guys? Will it be evenly spread between them? We will never know because the city will be giving up their rights to transparency by having a private non-profit distribute the money.

So what is the fix? The property owners need to apply for the funding from the city themselves so that all transactions are open and transparent. I keep telling people that during a time of crisis, full transparency is the key, this is just another example of a backroom deal that doesn’t need to happen to accomplish the ultimate goal.

But there is another issue with this money transfer, the city council was not consulted on the ordinance before it was posted (or at least some of them weren’t) they also were not asked to help draft it or the amount. While the mayor may have some emergency powers, the council is the legislative body that is in charge of drafting legislation like this. Some have even suggested to me that the mayor is violating charter and ethics by proposing this distribution before consulting with the council. It should be an interesting meeting to watch.



5 comments ↓

#1 The Guy From Guernsey on 03.28.20 at 3:06 pm

As I noted last week, totally supportive of contributions from private individuals to the philanthropic effort coordinated by SF Area Community Foundation.
But entirely inappropriate for public money to be channeled in this way.
These ‘foundations’ which receive public money, both through annual appropriations or by special actions such as this, are simply the vessels for laundering public money to private projects.

#2 The Guy From Guernsey on 03.28.20 at 3:23 pm

And screw the lame rationalizations from the chamber-of-commerce* crony-types (“bigger bang for the tax dollar by combining with private money”; “better ROI for investment of tax dollars”).

* small c’s throughout denoting an ideology, rather than official membership to an organization.

#3 D@ily Spin on 03.28.20 at 3:52 pm

The city providing social services, must be freezing in Hell. If they take care of the people they can build all the empty parking garages they wish.

#4 "Very Stable Genius" on 03.28.20 at 10:48 pm

“…. are simply the vessels for laundering public money to private projects.”

And less blatant than a TIF, I might add.

#5 SouthernExposure on 03.30.20 at 12:30 am

ne legal pickle and a bit of discovery will leave many with much to answer. What braintrust of bad faith could ever justify such blank check activity. This is a bald expression of lack in judgement. Does one’s signal of virtue outweigh accountability ? This takes the dirty business of the non profit scheme to new heights !

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