UPDATE: What Happens Next with the 6th Street Bunker Bridge?

UPDATE: Shelby Foote concluded that most historians are “so concerned with finding out what happened that they make the enormous mistake of equating facts with truth…you can’t get the truth from facts. The truth is the way you feel about it”

Not sure what is so ‘exclusive’ about the only daily paper in Sioux Falls interviewing the only mayor of Sioux Falls, but it makes for good fluff and puff and drama;

In an exclusive interview with the Argus Leader this week, Mayor Paul TenHaken said he firmly believed the bridge project was a crucial infrastructure project, but he added he’s actively listened to the complaints from the council.

“Is there some things I would like my team and myself to do differently on the communication of this?” TenHaken asked. “Absolutely.”

Sorry Paul, you have had almost 5 years to figure out how to communicate to the public and council, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, you never will.

As to the incorrect language on the meeting agenda, which an assistant city attorney has already called “unfortunate,” TenHaken agreed.

“I would chalk that up … that was an oversight,” he said. “That was a mistake, and we’ll own that.”

There are small legal language mistakes the administration has made numerous times, which probably has cost taxpayers but this ‘mistake’ is costing taxpayers $10 million dollars! Sure the bridge has to be fixed, and we have plenty of money in the reserves to do it, but it is the fiscal responsibility of city employees, the mayor’s office and the city council to get the best bang for the buck. If we saved $10 million on this project we could spend that money on other infrastructure projects. The timing is also questionable. I would think it would be way more convenient to do this project next year after the Cherapa and Sioux Steel projects are completed so the contractor doesn’t have to play whack a mole to find staging space. It could also be broken up into smaller bids. This could be negotiated better.

But he also raised concerns about how such fights could hurt the Sioux Falls, adding “when we make these smaller issues such big issues on a public stage,” it can lessen the interest of some to work with the city.


Government’s job isn’t about making contractors and developers happy, it is about making taxpayers happy and giving them goods and services in an honest and truthful manner while being aware of the fiscal responsibility.

Throwing our hands in the air and saying ‘oh well’ doesn’t cut it, this was a failure of local government on many levels. The Mayor’s number one priority is to be the city administrator responsible for directing the different departments to do their job right. Either this was gross incompetence by all involved or this was collusion. Either would be hard to prove in an ‘exclusive’ interview with the mayor, but public ethics hearings on all those involved would go a long way. We have learned nothing from our brief history of cost overruns and hidden agendas on projects like the Denty, MAC, City Admin, Pavilion and the infamous Bunker Ramp which should have prepared us for how to handle this.

You know what they say, “Developers run this town”.

The Sioux Falls City Council plans to meet Monday February 5th. They are meeting early due to Municipal Day in Pierre on the 6th.

At least one Councilor, Sarah Cole, has expressed to the media that she may vote to reconsider at the next meeting. She is allowed to do so since she was in the affirmative when it it passed. Any councilor may 2nd the motion (which I am sure Neitzert or Starr would). The problem is ‘do they have the votes’. I don’t think they do. They would have to get Merkouris and Barranco to also vote for it to attain the 5 votes to avoid a tie-breaker. TenHaken would likely vote against the bid denial.

What makes this more interesting is how councilors were mislead and even lied to about the urgency of the project. Even if the council swallows this (I strongly urge them NOT to) they could easily file ethics complaints towards the mayor, city attorney, finance director and public works director and any employees under them that participated in this hoodwink. It would likely require a councilor(s) to file the complaint.

Let’s have a public ethics hearing and find out what happened?

All that aside and the $21 million dollar bridge that we are getting whether we like it or not (reminds you of a certain parking ramp) many engineers have reached out to me, councilors and other reporters, and when we all match up notes, we are wondering how the winning bidder was allowed to submit ONE bid for the entire project when they were required to get at least 3 bids from subcontractors (SOP)? Enquiring engineers would like to know.


#1 Steve on 01.28.23 at 9:47 pm

I believe many would like to know which of those three Dept. Heads lied directly on their own accord or by direction of the Mayor. Will be interesting to see how Bridge-gate rolls out. Who will be thrown under the bus to protect the Mayor’s office?

#2 Mike Lee Zitterich on 01.29.23 at 5:16 am

I do not believe anyone lied, nor was their any means to mislead the council. I believe it is irresponsible to make accusations, let alone inappropriate comments against the Mayors Office, let alone any city official without first investigating let alone looking deeper into the situation.

The City Council approved not only $11.3 million dedicated to remove and replace the bridge, they also approved the work done to the Bike Trail, the 6th Street Bridge, and the nearly $1 billion dollar private investments in the Steel District, the Cherapa District, let alone continuing to invest in the East Bank itself.

At that point, the Mayor’s Office has the “administrative power” to seek out and sign a contract, collect bid to do the work. So long as the Mayor’s Office remains within the Annual Budget, let alone remains within the confines of the Ordinances adopted, the Resolutions approved, he was well within his rights to sign the contract.

The contract was written in such manner, that it allowed for the developers to spend upwards of $21,800,000 to get the word done so long as the Mayor’s Office can find, and get the money approved of.

It is NOT like the Mayor intentionally went around the Council’s back, let alone, he is NOT seeking to increase the budget, nor spend more than the approved $700,000,000 in 2023 budget.

I believe, when it was discovered there were issues, the Mayor’s Office proceeded to move fowarded to seek funding from within the 2023 Budget, without asking to increase the budget, it was also learned of, that the Minnesota Street Project would not, could not proceed forward due to issues related to getting supplies.

Furthermore, in order to proceed with the 6th Street Bridge, while delaying the Minnesota Ave Project, while asking for $3,000,000 from our ‘cash reserves’ – the Mayor acted in the best interest of the City to move foward with the 6th Street Bridge Project, especially since landowners, property holders, were making a billion dollars of private investment within the area, let alone the 6th Street project was being done, let alone the River Green Way Projects were improving the area as well.

If the Mayor wanted, he could have done an EMERGENCY DECLARATION and simply asked the Council to grant him the money permanently, however he did NOT do this, he acted within his administrative powers to move finances around, then asking for permission to take money from our “reserves” which are what they are designed to do.

The Council, furthermore, has now accused, or caused to make statements that the Mayor’s Office misled them, when all the office has done was come to them to explain the siutation, and furthermore, utilize annual funds, pre-aproved of for 2023.

Also lets remember, if the Council is or was worried that it has given up its power to the Mayor’s Office, it was their own passive doing over the past 10 years of NOT doing their job, cause the CHARTER itself explains that the Mayor’s Office and the City Council Office are “EQUALS” and have equal power over the City Departments, Offices, Agencies, City Staff, let alone Corporate Partners.

Whereas the Mayors Office has Administrative Power over the city offices; the City Council Office has Investigative Power over the city offices.

Mayor’s has his City Boards, Commissions, Committees advising him over city related issues, the City Council have their own Committees, Commissions, and Task Force to advise them over city related issues.

The Mayor can appoint his directors, whereas the City Council can appoint and hire their own City Clerk, City Staff Appointees, and Officers.

The Council never lost any of their power, they simply chose NOT to use that power over the City Departments, Offices, Agencies, Corporate Powers.

IF the City Council was really concerned here, they would hold an Investigation by subpoening City Department Directors, Officers, City Staff, let alone the Mayors Office, let alone Journey Group Officers, requesting documents, public records, opening up the contract, to investigate further the decisions made, let alone go line by line with the contract to determine for themselves the true costs of the project, let alone trim costs to move the project forward.

The council really has themselves to blame, the Mayors Office acted within its power, within the approved 2023 Budget, let alone found the money to move the project forward.

#3 Fear & Loathing in Sioux Falls on 01.29.23 at 9:32 am

Every “Bridge-gate” I’ve known involved paying the ferryman:


#4 D@ily Spin on 01.29.23 at 10:03 am

It seems the DT developer wants the 6th Street bridge as ‘pretty’ as the 8th Street bridge. It would help promoting Cherapa, Sioux Steel residential, and the Arc of the River. I’d say do what the oligarch developer wants or there will be more entertainment palaces. Realistically, the Falls Area and 10 blocks south is becoming a nest for upscale snobs. Making it ‘pretty’ will drive out the homeless and low income. Maybe add security gates and guard towers. How about make a new 6th Street bridge the only Toll Bridge in South Dakota?

#5 D@ily Spin on 01.29.23 at 10:17 am

Is it just me? Mike’s dissertation is most relevant but hard to get through. Instead of a chronicle, how about a simpler summary outline?

#6 Steve on 01.29.23 at 3:35 pm

Another essay by Mike, how heartwarming!

#7 Further Fear & Loathing on 01.29.23 at 5:07 pm

What if Mike is actually Paul?

#8 Steve on 01.29.23 at 5:30 pm

Brevity is the soul of wit – Mike “LEE” Zitterich.

#9 Mike Zitterich on 01.29.23 at 7:01 pm

I simply wanted to explain what may or may not have occurred here. A lot of the issues between the Mayors Office and City Council tend to be many people do not understand the charter. I have put a lot of thought into this, and I cant blame the Mayor for the issues with the bridge, could the issue been handled differently, yes, however, humans are not perfect, and ‘we’ often get caught up in the moment. The Council claims they have given up their power, which shows their lack of understanding of the charter. And one has to understand, they gave the Mayor directive on a annual budget, project plan, and that is what gave him the consent to sign a contract. Now, if the council wishes, they can come investigate, which is what I tried to convince them to do last Tuesday, there would have been nothing wrong with delaying the $3,000,000 million, but they could come back investigate/discuss further to ask more questions, get more answers, and amend the resolution, or create new resolution. There is nothing wrong with having to pay more, we are in a bad economy, things like this happen. Council needs to understand their powers.

#10 Steve on 01.30.23 at 8:04 am

Mike, you’d get better responses if you used 90% less words to say the same thing.

#11 l3wis on 01.30.23 at 8:53 am

The assistant city attorney has already admitted to having the wrong language on the agenda. The mayor has admitted to it. There is NO debate whether or not the council was mislead, they have already admitted to it. The city charter is clear, the mayor is the city administrative head, any thing his employees do under him is ON him. If his employees acted alone without his knowledge, we have a bigger problem here having rogue city employees shaping policy. As for the budget, this is also the duty of the council. They can offer their own budget but choose to let the administration do it, so that is on them.

#12 Cheryl on 01.30.23 at 11:18 am

Something tells me the mayor selfie and a councilor or two are besties with the bidding firm.

#13 Jeff Barth on 01.30.23 at 4:35 pm

Bottom line.
The buck stops with the mayor.

Mike, try to more “simply explain.”
You have reasonable points but word salad is not persuasive.

#14 Blasphemo on 01.30.23 at 6:33 pm

Just a handful of years past, the “STOP THE FUNDING” large scale petition drive in Sioux Falls saw 6400 voter signatures invalidated due to a few incorrect words on the petition template the City Clerk ‘overlooked’ when he furnished and stamped the petition. This “oversight” played right into the agenda of the powers that be who wanted an expensive new municipal building instead of a lower cost remodeling of a suitable existing building. Concerning this 6th Street bridge boondoggle with a similar “language oversight”, no adult should be so naive as to think missing language on a meeting agenda was an innocent omission. This is clearly a back room decision related to “begging forgiveness rather than asking permission.”

#15 somebody makin' coin on 01.30.23 at 7:33 pm

let’s find out how much journey marked up bids from subs on this project. sadly, but not unexpectedly, cotter and tenhaken rolled over. this should have been a “do-over.” also concerns me that 49th st. bridge is in worse shape and yet can wait 5 years. difference being no lloyd and no cherapa boy on 49th street. once again taxpayers get hosed.

#16 The Guy From Guernsey on 01.31.23 at 7:42 am

Attorneys worth their salt are paid to prevent “oversights” and “mistakes”.
The incompetent staff members of the City Attorney’s office, not so much it appears.
No wonder all their work is farmed out to private law firms.
The staff of the City Attorney’s office can’t even do meeting agendas on an accurate and legal basis.

#17 The Guy From Guernsey on 01.31.23 at 8:07 am

“when we make these smaller issues such big issues on a public stage,”

FYI Paul – government IS a public stage.
(notwithstanding your incorrect representation of a $10 million, 100%, project cost variance as “these smaller issues”).

Public obligation and responsibility (see also, Municipal Government, Proper Roles of)
Public money.
Public stage.

#18 Pauline on 02.01.23 at 12:45 pm

But the mayor knows how to take a selfie and act when there are cameras around!