Entries Tagged 'Bunker Ramp' ↓

Sioux Falls City Councilor Selberg should recuse himself from Bunker Ramp negotiations

During the informational this afternoon the council discussed what next to do with the Bunker Ramp;

A public parking ramp that took nearly a decade and more than $20 million to build in downtown Sioux Falls could be sold to a private developer.

During a Tuesday informational meeting at Carnegie Town Hall, city councilors urged Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration to consider all options when picking a new partner to build at the Mall Avenue and 10th Street site.

And that includes selling the entirety of the seven-story ramp that opened in July 2020 and is equipped to handle up to eight additional stories. The site has gone undeveloped since a mixed-use parking ramp project fell apart in 2019.

I do agree with councilors that they should take the best deal and I also agree with councilor Soehl that we need to use a 3rd party to vet the investors properly. I am also partially in agreement with what councilor Merkouris said;

Rich Merkouris said he’s apprehensive about giving any tax breaks to the eventual buyer unless they use the space to add residential stock downtown.

“For me personally, I would struggle incentivizing anything outside of housing unless it was a part of the bigger package,” he said.

I would go a step further and say there should be NO incentives. Anyone who takes over this property is being given a site in a plum location with an opportunity to do well. The taxpayers have already incentivized this project, there is absolutely NO reason to hand out more candy. Find an honest free market developer who has a solid plan to make it successful, then you don’t need to worry about tax incentives. It was also pointed out it is in an opportunity zone which means there will be some incentives to build there without city tax payers help.

But what what really pissed me off was having councilor Selberg sit in on meetings and negotiations for future use. NO councilor that helped approve this pile of sh!t should be involved. It should either be handed over to a new councilor or Pat Starr who opposed this. It would be like hiring the guy who rear ended your car to fix it. Any councilor who approved this should not be in closed door meetings trying to cover up their mistakes. We need councilors with a clear conscience to negotiate this deal with a focus on hyper transparency.

These knuckleheads learn very little from past mistakes.

Lipstick on a pig

The new and improved city government failure;

Joe Kirby critiques Sioux Falls city government on his new blog

While there are many parts of the Home Rule Charter and Strong mayor form of government I don’t like, Joe’s perspective on its current status is spot on;

We intended that the city council would be a strong partner of the mayor. The council is a part time, legislative body with control of the purse strings. As the city charter says, “all powers of the city shall be vested in the city council.” We thought the council would provide the long-range policy guidance needed to complement the mayor’s focus on daily operations. While many incredible people have served on the city council over the past thirty years, it has never quite performed as we intended.

The council sometimes seems to lack a strong, separate identity. All too often, it has done little more than rubber stamp the mayor’s proposals, both good and bad. That has occasionally created big messes, such as the ugly and incomplete Village on the River project in downtown Sioux Falls.

That project was rushed through the approval process without much transparency or chance for public dialogue. Some city council members and many citizens raised good questions about it. A pause would have been appropriate, and perhaps likely if the council had been able to do its job right. Instead of the promised fifteen-story building housing two hotels and a bunch of retail, we are left with a homely seven story parking garage with an unclear future.

Oh, but it gets better, he brings up why we don’t need the mayor chairing meetings and breaking ties (a tie vote would result in failure of an item);

Another related problem with the city government model we put in place is that the demands on the mayor can sometimes be too great. Some mayors have told me the job can be overwhelming, especially when they must run city council meetings after a tough day at the office. Given all that, I think I know what would fix these problems.

We went too far in our effort to ensure strong, centralized leadership by the mayor. We failed to adequately separate the executive and legislative functions in city government. Of course, the mayor is the city’s chief executive. Unfortunately, we also provided that the mayor chairs city council meetings and even casts the deciding vote on ties. In short, the mayor has a large measure of control over the council. All things considered that was a mistake.

He outlines why it is important to separate the council from the mayor’s office;

Separation of powers provides necessary checks and balances on power. In government it is a tried-and-true way to avoid the pitfalls of an individual or group exercising too much power. Can you imagine the President having the power to run congressional sessions? Or the governor running the legislative session? Of course, that wouldn’t work well for federal or state government, just as it doesn’t in our city.

Based on what we have seen, I would amend the city charter to separate the executive and legislative branches of our city government. I have proposed this idea a couple of times to the charter review commission, but they aren’t interested. Inevitably, those who are part of the system aren’t motivated to rock the boat. As they say, “you can’t fight City Hall.”

Yeah, the CRC isn’t big on doing anything. Those meetings are a graveyard of good proposals.

I hope Joe continues blogging, and I hope he brings a petition forward to let voters decide if we should make these changes. Now is the time to take the mayor’s power away and return it to the council.

Another Bunker Ramp update. Let me guess, we have winner!

It has only been a couple of weeks since we were told they were going put lipstick on that gigantic concrete pig, now we are getting another update;

• Downtown Parking Ramp Update by Erica Beck, Chief of Staff

More than likely this is an update with the mural selection process, but you never know, they may have an interested party. A few months ago I heard a rumor that Councilor Neitzert was telling some constituents he wanted to do an investigation into how the Bunker Ramp got so messed up. I almost died laughing. I told this person we could save a lot of time if we just handed Greg a mirror.

They will also be amending the Shape Places;

• Shape Places Ordinance & Proposed Amendments by Jason Bieber, Senior Planner

I find the expedited timeline of getting these changes in place interesting. This means many of them have been in the works for months without the knowledge of the public or council.

Top Floor of Bunker Ramp CLOSED to the public

I noticed this winter that the top floor of the ramp was blocked off with vehicle barricades. Didn’t think much of it, figured the city was saving itself snow removal money by not having to clear it. But as Spring arrived, it was still closed off (to vehicles). I have continued to ride my bike to the top to take photos (like the one above) and was there tonight. As I was leaving a private security guard came barreling out of the elevator telling me I couldn’t be up there (on my bike). I said, “Why?” He seemed befuddled and said, “Because the city doesn’t want anyone up here.” I again asked, “Why?” He seemed more befuddled and said nothing, so I told him I would leave since I have more respect for rent-a-cops then I do for the regulars.

But I really want an answer to that question. Why is the top floor closed?

Maybe the city is afraid if people park on the top floor of the ramp they will become complacent and not want to park in the mostly unused other 6 floors 🙂

*If you haven’t been up there, it is an excellent place to snap photos of the Sioux Falls skyline.

The Bunker Ramp big reveal

The deputy mayor is coming out of hiding at Tuesday’s informational;

Downtown Ramp – Next Steps by Erica Beck, Chief of Staff

There are NO attached documents, so this mean several things;

• They found an interested party for developing the property

• They are looking for interested parties

• They want to consult the council on how to move forward

I have suspected for a while that there are several developers in the hopper waiting to pounce on the project and all they needed the city to do is handle the legal part.

Since the city doesn’t do RFPs anymore, the administration and planning can pick anyone they want to develop the property with ZERO input from the council and the public. I think they already have an interested party and this presentation is just smoke and mirrors to make it look like they are going thru a transparent process.

With the economy the way it is, I guarantee who ever wants the ramp is going to be asking for all kinds of tax incentives from the city to develop this property.

I also don’t have much confidence in this administration or council to do the right thing since they have been doing the wrong thing for so long when it comes to this disaster of a project. Two councils, two mayors, and a payout to the scammers says all we need to know about how the project will be handled moving forward.

Maybe when it is all said and done we will finally get a public apology from the public officials for this major f’up . . . followed by pigs flying from my ass.

An Unjust Ending to the Bunker Ramp Debacle

As I suspected yesterday, an announcement was made that a settlement was reached in the Bunker Ramp debacle.

But was it a good settlement for the taxpayers? Hardly.

Fortunately the only good thing to come from today’s announcement is that it is finally over and it took a mayor almost his entire first term to write a check from our bank account to a failed developer who defrauded us.

The developer(s) didn’t do it on their own, they had the help of two mayors and several former and current city councilors who have yet to apologize to us for the terrible decision they made based on fraudulent information and even obvious information that investing with this group was a bad idea.

I remember sitting in the council chambers listening to citizen (item #44) after citizen come to the podium and plead with the city council to not do this. But even after that initial approval, a second mayor had an opportunity to undue the bad decision of the last mayor and councilors.

He chose to steam ahead because the banksters and bondsters involved needed to make their buck from the bonds. We could have refused the bond and paid a fine and moved on.

Councilors Starr and Stehly tried to do just that and were scoffed at. I told Starr today if any taxpayer asks you about why this sloppy settlement was done this way all he has to say is, “I didn’t vote for it. Go talk to the councilors that did.”

But what makes this announcement even more egregious is listening to what the city attorney and mayor said about the settlement;

“For that reason, the settlement agreement includes reimbursement of $500,000 from the city of Sioux Falls to VRG for a portion of the hard costs it’s leaving on-site, and reimbursement of the $150,000 developer fee previously paid to the city,” TenHaken said.

What about the additional costs to taxpayers to seal off empty floors with cinder block since the developer never finished the project?

Also our litigations costs of $300K.

And why are we paying those costs and the cost of the settlement out of, I am assuming, the general fund? Shouldn’t it come out of the Parking Enterprise funds?

Like I said, glad this is finally kind of over with (we still need to find someone to complete it) but the way this was handled says tons and tons about how the majority of the city council and this mayor has ran this city the past four years . . . on perpetual cruise control and little else.

Dakotanews has a peculiar view on Investigative Journalism


I was a little puzzled by this story they posted yesterday;



The I-Team has learned that the city of Sioux Falls has hired an outside attorney to represent the city in a lawsuit against the Village River Group.



I am assuming the I-Team means investigative team. Besides the fact that I posted about this on January 18, it wasn’t some secret since it was on the public agenda at the January 18 meeting in the consent agenda in which Councilor Starr pulled and asked the city finance director and city attorney where the money was coming from.

They both kind of fibbed a bit (the real story here).

Still wondering why it took supposed investigative journalists 6 weeks to figure something out that was posted on a public agenda?

Historical LED lighting & Secret(?) Bunker Ramp budgets at the Sioux Falls City Council

We will start with the regular council meeting last night. It was a very short meeting with virtually zero questions or discussions. The only fireworks were the expected obstruction from Lead City Attorney Stacy Kooistra, who likes to make things up when he doesn’t want to answer questions. I call it (I didn’t sign up for this) lying. It’s like he doesn’t want to lie, but he has to because the mayor made him accept an appointment because he was childhood friends with Mrs. Poops, or something like that.

Councilor Starr pulled the legal agreement for the Bunker Ramp from the consent agenda and asked Kooistra where the $150K is coming from? Stacy said it was coming from the project budget. Pat asked how much was remaining in the budget, and Stacy couldn’t answer the question without input from finance (who were in the lobby at the time) but the $150K could be covered, than chastised Starr for not giving the question in advance (their normal excuse). Than Pat asked how do you know if there is enough in the budget to cover the $150K if you don’t know how much the total budget is? Stacy then changes gears and says he can’t say publicly out of the best interest of the city and pending litigation, into which Starr replies, what about the best interest of the public and citizens and is the budget really that big of a secret?

It’s not.

The irony is that all of the information is publicly available because it is in the budget book from last year. I guess the fund started at around $1.2 million and now because of all the counseling and lawyering we are whittled down to around $800K and some change. The rumor from the developer is that he was made an offer and declined. Some officials on both sides think this will go to trial, which I welcome. I could care less of the outcome, it will just be nice to hear how this all fell apart in a court of law and the public will truly see how poorly negotiated this was on both sides.

During the last agenda item at the meeting, the finance director (you know the guy that wasn’t supposedly there earlier) presented the delinquent accounts for the year. Starr asked him what the total was since it wasn’t on their presentation. Shawn said he didn’t add it up, then Pat says, “Do you know how much is in the Bunker Ramp budget?” You can guess the answer.

HISTORICAL LED LIGHTING?

During the city council information meeting they discussed all the splendid savings we are receiving for the Pavilion roof repairs. We are actually saving quite a bit of money because we are using $6 million of Covid relief funds we budgeted last year. The consultants said that the roof would cost $3.6 million without the spindles and $4.2 million with them and a little extra for LED lighting. What I found humorous is that they want the spindles to keep the historic look of the building, but they want to add LED backlighting? Is that historic? NOT. It seems like since the kitty is full of Federal money we should just go whole hog, I agree, but we should spend the money on something else, like affordable housing opportunities. I personally don’t think we need the spindles or the LED lighting, fix the cornice cap and more importantly fix the roof and move on already.

Maybe I should put LED backlighting on my roof vents so people notice their architectural beauty ðŸ˜Š

Has the City of Sioux Falls reached a settlement agreement with the Bunker Ramp?

Either they have or it’s very close. In the consent agenda (Item #7 – Sub Item #12);

City Attorney, Engagement Agreement for Legal Services for Village on the River, Fuller, Williamson, Nelson & Preheim, LLP., $150,000.00

I do have a few concerns with this 1) It seems like a very large dollar amount for legal services to just draw up a settlement agreement and 2) I’m not sure the city has ever used this local law firm before.

So what is this? I have a couple of guesses;

• This was the developer’s law firm and they are getting a cut of the settlement OR the city has agreed to pay the developer’s legal fees as part of the settlement?

It will be interesting to see how much of this plays out in the public and media. Will we ever know what the settlement amount is to the developer? Will there be some kind of announcement? NOT HOLDING MY BREATH.