Thoughts on Sioux Falls City Council Candidate Comments

City Council Candidates were asked questions by the Argus. Also HERE and HERE.

The one thing that disappointed me the most in all of the candidates answers was very little reference to open government. I believe that government works the most efficiently and fiscally responsible when the public sees the books and the process while actively engaging leaders on their terms. That has eroded over the past 4 years drastically. Making tough decisions is easy when you are honest.

Brekke;

I’m the most qualified candidate in my race. I respect and support hard-working families, civic and non-profit professionals, and business leaders in our community. But most importantly, I listen to Sioux Falls taxpayers and represent their interests on the city council. 

I have not been scared to ask questions, propose new ideas, or challenge the status quo. I’ve gone to the mat for all Sioux Falls taxpayers. I am never scared to disagree with another elected official, city employee, or citizen — but I am never disagreeable and always respectful. I take the people’s work as seriously as anyone ever has, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done.

Brekke is NOT only the most qualified candidate in this entire race (even more qualified then the mayoral candidates) but probably the most qualified since the Home Rule charter changed in 1994. I find it baffling that her fellow councilors are trying so hard to unseat her.

I’m not done. I’ve been implementing the initiatives I knew we needed for the last four years based on my 18 years as a city attorney. We’ve made significant progress, but I must see that we create a modern Sioux Falls Master Plan, solve our housing crisis, and provide the tools for our police to do their job effectively.

A Strategic Master Plan is something Brekke has been pushing for with a lot of resistance from her fellow councilors. Why is that? Because the rubber stampers know the bankers, bondsters and welfare queen developers run the city and they don’t want representative government getting in the way of that.

I founded and chaired the Women’s Section of the South Dakota State Bar Association, and championed the causes of troubled youth, abused women and children, those with disabilities and minorities. I’ll continue that same work in my second term.

This was Janet’s response to a diversity question. Janet has also pushed hard to get the city to fund a better ELS program with little help from her fellow councilors. Janet is right, the best way to diversify our workforce is to help people diversify their language.

I often think one of the main reasons Janet has failed on some of her initiatives over the past four years is because the rubber stamp council has fought her while she has supported many of their initiatives. When I have watched how they have treated her it reminds me of a bunch of children throwing sand.

Sarah Cole;

There have been a several actions and statements by Councilor Brekke that have baffled me and others. Most recently she refused to vote on the retention bonus for city employees based on a premise that it would benefit the employees. Being a councilor requires making difficult decisions. Every vote made in city council benefits someone. I believe that she let down our city employees who were counting on her for her support.

For the record, ALL seven other councilors voted for this, whether Janet voted or not really didn’t matter. As for conflicts, that is up to the individual councilor. I believe she made the right decision, this was too close to an election for her to weigh in, which brings us to Sarah’s position on voting;

Local decisions impact our quality of life every day in Sioux Falls.

So while you complain that Janet didn’t vote, and you believe local decisions are important, why haven’t you EVER voted in a local election? What I find baffling is that someone is out there asking for people to vote for them even though they have never cast a vote in a local election. Everyone knows you are a puppet, everyone knows you were recruited. Why not just admit it? At least Janet has the integrity to tell us why she didn’t vote, do you have the integrity to tell us why you haven’t? Maybe Greg Neitzert can concoct an answer for you?

Andera;

I believe we have lost sight of our biggest asset for solutions, which is the people.

Full disclosure, I went to HS with Andera. Ironically I had to be reminded by my brother. Bobbi comes from a very large family, I have lost count of her siblings, but I will say, she is spot on when it comes to the people of Sioux Falls, it’s just too bad she is a Trumper.

Barranco;

Disasters befall cities that fail to manage growth wisely.

I wondered if Barranco was sending us an omen with this statement? As a newcomer to SF, does he see what some of the rest of us see with mismanaged growth?

And I’m pro-student, backing programs that let kids thrive academically, athletically, and artistically.

Why do so many people running for city council think they are running for school board? It is so annoying.

While rejecting socialism, I agree that local government can and should play a role in solving these problems.

Maybe someone should inform him that we live in a socialist democracy. Local governments collect taxes and provide services, that is called socialism. I would also add that SF has become very socialist . . . just ask our developers that are swimming in tax incentives.

Burzynski;

Last year, my wife and I were nearly hit by a car while crossing the street at 14th and Phillips. I wrote to the mayor and my councilor, but never received a response.

And you are surprised? Our council hasn’t had a member that interacts with the people since Stehly and Staggers.

I disagreed with Councilor Soehl’s support for TIF funding for the Sioux Steel district. The purpose of a TIF should be to fund a project that benefits the community; 

Ding! Ding! Ding! This hasn’t happened in years and the reason the next council needs to banish TIFs in this city for good.

Reistroffer;

We need to balance our outward growth with vital investments into our city core, through infrastructural improvements and neighborhood revitalization. We need to target development at addressing specific community needs. We need to break the cycle of crime, poverty and addiction through intervention and support. We need to have a long-term vision for community planning. We need to attract better paying jobs, so everyone can benefit from the best Sioux Falls has to offer — we shouldn’t have a divided ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ class, but a strong middle class, and we will do that by keeping our young people here, offering job/skills training, diversifying workforce opportunities and ensuring adequate housing is available.

Reistroffer nails the number one issue facing our city, the redevelopment of the core while providing density and affordable housing. It is crucial we have a council that takes this head on in the next term.

Downtown has flourished while we have lost accessible housing, not helped by poor urban planning. People are pushed out of their neighborhoods because of dramatically increased tax burdens. 

I wouldn’t call it poor urban planning, I would call it NO urban planning. While there is nothing wrong with uplifting new development, you should always take care of what you have first. It’s sad to me that it takes a 32 year old to inform our city leaders that they have failed keeping up with the growth. As I told former council candidate Zach DeBoer once, “You know what Minnesota Avenue looked like when I moved here in 1991? The same as it looks now.”

I will admit I have a bias towards Emmett, I met him when he was 18 and have been involved with many of his political endeavors. The one thing I have always taken away from him is that while he is a little quirky, he is brilliant and brings fresh perspective to issues, he is also genuine and doesn’t back away from a fight. I can guarantee if you elect him to the council, he will see things thru and not BS you. He told me recently he went DTSF to talk to business owners and was astonished by how so many of them didn’t know who the incumbent was and if they did, couldn’t distinguish what he has done in the last 4 years. I told him, ‘It doesn’t surprise me.’

Soehl;

This includes prioritizing resources to address public safety, demands on infrastructure, and holding landlords and developers accountable.

Sadly, this is the only useable quote I could find from Curt and I am wondering when he has held any developer or landlord accountable while our core is crumbling. While our mayor has certainly been inept over the past 4 years, I struggle to figure out what Curt has brought to the table.

Ingle;

We’re not ready for the influx of crime that comes with low-paying jobs, the shuttering of businesses, public transit, and the lack of housing.

I would like to find ways to bring back the public into conversations and deliberations so taxpayers can shape policy.  

Cody brings up a great point. When are we going to bring the public to the table? While I don’t know Cody personally, I have engaged him several times and he has always come across as a pleasant person (this is coming from a cynic who often sees the corruption in people). I think if we elect him to council you will see an incredible change in decorum and compassion. His record on diversity and equality alone would transform the policies of the council in dramatic ways. Of all the candidates running in this election, his nomination would be the most transformative.

Merkouris;

The top three issues from my perspective all relate to making sure we provide safety, opportunity and affordability to the whole community. 

I have a willingness and desire to go directly engage in an open forum with neighborhoods and believe that could have been beneficial in helping neighborhoods specifically consider zoning issues around increasing density in their area.

I will just say it. I like Rich’s ideas, I just don’t trust him. How can you run for office yet fail to even mention once you are a pastor of a church? Why is that? I don’t know. Okay I do know, because whether you are religious or not, or believe strongly in the separation of church and state, I think Rich knows you can’t be a Pastor and a Politician at the same time. I love his passion and vision, I just think he isn’t out to fool the mayor and council and trick them into his vision once elected, he seems to be out to fool us into voting for him. Rich has got to know the manure he is pitching during this campaign will never happen once elected. He has too many ties to big money in this community, just google it. I still remember what Councilor Staggers said to me once, “Never trust a politician who wears their religion on their sleeve.”

Pam Cole;

I believe the Sioux Falls City Council has failed to work through a Strategic Planning process. Currently, the mayor’s executive branch, city departments, and ad hoc committees develop their own individual proposals. City council legislative leadership needs to balance the executive branch in developing a city-wide policy-action plan.

We need to gain understanding about racial, social and economic diversity, and incorporate this better as a council in the decision-making process. 

Unfortunately, city level elections have an overall low turnout, with 80% of the voters over the age of 50. Addressing this alongside efforts to get more people of color, and younger people, should be an overarching goal. 

I will admit I needed to be sold on Pam, but after listening to her in the last debate I think she has the experience and vision that qualifies her to be a trusted councilor. Surprisingly the one thing that has astonished me about Pam is her willingness to talk about her divorce (something another candidate steers away from) and the lessons learned. I appreciate candidates that are willing to put their personal struggles out there and not hide from them, it tells me a lot about their integrity and honesty.

I voted today, and my choices were clear for city council, Reistroffer, Brekke and Pam Cole (Ingle is in SE and could not vote for him, but encourage you to).



3 comments ↓

#1 My Mistake Mike on 03.29.22 at 8:53 am

The cynic in me needed a few laughs to start my day, so I tuned in to Belfrage for a few minutes. Heard a commercial with GOP puppet master / snake oil salesman Craig Lawrence endorsing Merkouris. “Pastor Rich” you’re a product of the company you keep. No question now, vote Pam Cole.

#2 "Woodstock" on 03.29.22 at 11:48 am

“Just how ‘Rich’ is he?”….

#3 The Guy From Guernsey on 04.01.22 at 10:09 pm

God bless the direct and succinct brevity of Janet Brekke’s responses to these questions!