The Chamber announced they are replacing(?) Debra Owen;

The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that Mitch Rave has been hired as the organization’s vice president of public policy.

The son of former South Dakota House Speaker Tim Rave, he holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of South Dakota.

Debra confirmed to me she left the Sioux Falls Chamber and is happy to be moving on. Her husband David leads the State Chamber. Debra’s title was VP/Director of Public Policy, so I am assuming Tim is replacing her.

Mitch has some big shoes to fill. Besides years of government experience working for the City of Sioux Falls as clerk and a top legal advisor to Governor Daugaard. Debra also has a law degree and has extensive knowledge about city and state government.

In my dealings and conversations with Debra in the past, she was always fair and listened to your side, she didn’t always agree but was never combative and would always dig for answers, probably the reason former Mayor Mike Huether* pushed for her termination. City government has a knack at getting rid of the good ones.

Mitch’s dad, Tim Rave, is president and CEO of the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations and sits on the Board of Regents.


The list is still pretty short but it seems Mike Huether and Christine Erickson may be in. They have both been reaching out for early support (Mike more then Christine) I have not heard any more rumblings about Alex Jensen. Greg Jamison will also probably be exploring a mayoral bid, and I think if Huether officially announces he will jump in.

Another name that was floated was Vaney Hariri. I guess friends and colleagues have been asking him to run. I don’t know him personally so I have no idea if he is taking the encouragement seriously but he would be a great addition to the field.

I want Christine and Mike to know I have been greasing up the way back machine, and once I get it running it will probably start smoking once it’s gets to your government careers. Erickson has a much better record, and has shown to be a good campaigner. Winning both a school start date ballot initiative and the slaughterhouse vote (even though they mothballed the place).

I think any outside candidates are going to have fun watching these two duke it out on the debate stage.

Not sure. While rumors are going around that a decision to split was made very recently, nobody has said a word publicly, but the Sioux Falls City Council got an update about the possible decision at the 4 PM informational today in which a presentation involving the Falls Park Visitor Center Management Agreement was discussed and these changes;

9 month Term: January 1, 2022 – September 30, 2022
• Discussions are on-going between the Chamber and Experience Sioux Falls regarding potential
separate legal status for Experience Sioux Falls.

• 9/30/21 coincides with the end of the Chambers fiscal year.
• 60 day termination clause exercisable by City, which allows for transition of agreement once an
effective date of separate legal status is determined.

This was first presented at the Parks Board Meeting on November 17, but it was also very sketchy as to what was going on. They called it ‘legal status’ changes between the Chamber and CVB and are having ongoing discussions. Terri Schmidt, head of ESF (CVB) did say;

“ESF becoming independent from the Chamber, that process is really moving along now, and tomorrow there is a major meeting where we are expecting to probably either seal the deal, or being really close to sealing the deal. I don’t know if anyone on the outside will really know the difference, it will be more of back house of becoming independent.”

While NOTHING was said by the presenter at the informational about why this is occurring, the council, who must certainly know, has also chosen to keep this quiet or at least not filling in the blanks. Council Chair Curt Soehl even bragged about keeping it quiet and secretive by saying this at the end of the meeting;

“Thank all those involved for keeping their eye on the ball and realizing there is a lot of external noise going on at this time, for all of this, and to protect the city from everything they do.”

I find it interesting that the council is being publicly noticed about contract changes but during the presentation the public cannot be filled in on the details of a possible split. The hatred towards transparency in this city is even more troubling especially when the chair of the council brags about the secrecy. WOW! Surprised he didn’t just take a potty break during the presentation 🙁

It seems the head of ESF is the only one to at least give an inkling this was going to happen. So was a deal struck last Thursday? We may never know because of all the ‘External Noise.’

I also have a feeling if this was a simple matter of ‘back house’ deals and ‘legal status’ it wouldn’t be that controversial to release that information to the public, especially since it involves our tax dollars. I have a feeling this was a lot messier than they are putting on and they are hiding the sausage making from the citizens.

There are some fine points in this short article, but I found this paragraph fascinating;

In our dynamic labor market, workers are continually shifting between jobs or moving in and out of the market. Over on the employer side, jobs are continually being filled as new ones open up. Consequently, the individuals available for work and the jobs open are not the same from one month to the next, but the trend toward fewer available workers relative to the rising number of job openings shows, in broad terms, the increasing tightness of the labor market.

Of course, available workers vary in terms of experience, skills, and location, so they may not match the occupational, skill, location, and other needs associated with job openings. This “mismatch” problem becomes especially critical when the Worker Availability Ratio is relatively low, as it is currently.

These stats will eventually go topsy-turvy, in other words, there will soon be a shortage of skilled employees. Employers really will be ‘forced’ to not only pay higher wages to attract people but they will have to train those people also. In our state and city employers are trying to get taxpayers to foot the bill for this training, even starting blue collar job training programs as early as middle school. I don’t have an issue with that, but employers need to pony up also (some are) by offering on the job (paid) training and once that training is completed successfully, higher wages. Some say money doesn’t equal happiness, but I can’t buy groceries with a smile.

With Jason Ball leaving the Chamber (I wish him luck, Austin, TX is fantastic!) the Chamber had this to say about hiring a replacement;

The chamber board will use Waverly Associates to begin the search for a new executive. The firm previously has provided executive search services for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce. It also is the firm that brought Ball to Sioux Falls when Evan Nolte retired.

GET OUT! You mean when you are looking for someone qualified you would hire a recruiter?! Maybe pass this little tidbit of information on to Councilor Neitzert and the Audit committee. Oh, wait, several committee members and councilors told him they should use a professional recruiter. But that’s not how Greg rolls, he knows what is best because he does his ‘research’. You know, because it’s much cheaper to pay someone to train on the job instead of hiring someone qualified to begin with.

You can watch the 4+ hour council meeting above.

The Chamber Advocate uses some strong language when it comes to street vacations;

Resolution to vacate portions of S. Elmwood Ave to facilitate expansion of Lifescape parking fails

One of the longest public input periods and council debates in recent years led to a vote to not allow a requested street vacation at the Tuesday, Feb. 12 city council meeting. The decision may also increase uncertainty for future business expansion and development in Sioux Falls.

I was actually surprised that the Chair, Mayor TenHaken, didn’t implement a rule that the past chair used to do by limiting repetitive input. I counted well over 20 people who said the same exact thing “I’m a LifeScape employee concerned about the safety of the children.” While I support public input at all levels and think everyone has a right to be heard, I think after hearing it 4 times the chair should have asked the crowd to stand if they were going to testify they were employees of Lifescape that were concerned about the safety of the children. You could have easily shaved off an hour of testimony and it would have probably had a bigger impact seeing 30 people standing. I believe the chair allowed the repetitive comments because he was on their side.

Leadership of LifeScape, a non-profit serving children with disabilities, requested the partial vacation and street closures of portions of S. Elmwood Street. The street closure would facilitate planned expansion and alleviate on-street parking in other parts of the neighborhood.

The only evidence LifeScape provided was that they would gain about 15 new parking spots for employees and visitors for closing the street. I was disappointed that they provided NO evidence that the closure would make drop offs safer. If they would have, I think the vacation would have been justified.

City staff summarized their review of utility easements, traffic counts and projected traffic models. City traffic projections suggested that as LifeScape grows, there is likely to be increased on-street parking in the area if no additional parking is provided. Past right of way vacations in other areas for similar purposes were shown to have reduced traffic and on-street parking in neighborhoods. City staff recommended vacating the street as requested by LifeScape.

The only ‘growth’ LifeScape has committed to was building a parking lot for their staff since their lease was cancelled with the VA. There was ZERO discussion of expanding the actual facility.

LifeScape requested vacation of the right of way in order to add 148 on-site parking stalls. Numerous LifeScape staff and employees stressed the planned parking and expansion would facilitate student safety for those they serve.

Like I already stated, they continued to talk about how it would make it safer for the kids but never presented a plan as to how that would work. They did talk about staff crossing the street, but as I understand it, they try to drop off students at the door. Another fallacy is that closing the street and stopping street parking makes it safer. Actually street parking makes the street narrower which has been proven to make the area safer because cars go at a slower speed. By closing Elmwood, you would only increase traffic on streets surrounding LifeScape, and with employees not parking on those streets anymore, the speeds would increase. You could argue that the street closure actually makes the neighborhood less safe. Of course the Chamber, in all of their wisdom argues the exact opposite;

Councilors and public testifiers highlighted that irrespective of the council vote, the parking lot as proposed will be put expanded as LifeScape owns the property. The on-street parking would be reduced if the street vacation was approved. Likewise, street vacation will result in added safety for students, not only for children/students but for all staff and neighborhood residents.

The period for public testimony was very long, with nearly 40 proponents and opponents testifying on differing aspects of the project.

This was actually the best thing that came out of the night, public engagement by people who don’t normally engage their government (even though many of them were paid or forced to be there. I wonder if we will see them testify for other street vacations that don’t affect their employment?)

Councilors Selberg, Neitzert, Soehl, Kiley, and Erickson advocated for the street vacation – highlighting the importance of Lifescape in the community and the need Lifescape fills for students and families.

The Chamber has a long history of ‘Praising Councilors’ and shaming the ones that didn’t vote their way. I’m not sure the 5 that voted for this deserve praise. Voting to give away taxpayer property, a street that the public gets usage out of, to a private organization while telling it’s residents who live in the neighborhood to go to Hell goes against the duties of a city councilor. They are an elected representative of the taxpayers of this community. They should be looking out for OUR interests first. Councilor Neitzert made the comment that as a city councilor he needs to make decisions on what is best for the ‘city’. While their is some truth in that statement, he fails to understand who makes up this ‘city’. It’s residents who hold these neighborhoods together. When was the last time you saw a local non-profit or business donate to a neighborhood for it’s preservation instead of it’s destruction? I know that All Saints donated to the neighborhood after their expansion, which I felt was different because they owned the land they expanded on that was serving NO public good. And LifeScape is being afforded the exact same right. They are able to build a parking lot on the land they own, no one is stopping them from that. I am just puzzled how they lost Tuesday night?

Ultimately the council voted not to approve the street vacation as proposed on a 5 yes to 3 no vote. Street vacations require a super majority, hence it would have required 6 voting yes to pass.

The Chamber, economic development groups, and development companies in Sioux Falls monitored the process closely. Future business expansion and investment in core neighborhoods are anticipated lead to requests for street vacations in the future as the city grows.

This final statement while TRUE, is also extremely misleading and threatening. On one hand they are claiming they are investing in these neighborhoods. Quite the opposite, they are investing in their own business while divesting established neighborhoods, by eliminating affordable housing, decreasing personal home values while paving and institutionalizing established CORE neighborhoods. It’s all smoke and mirrors and it’s disgusting to watch our Chamber threaten elected officials in this manner. It’s also disgusting to watch 5 of the ‘praised ones’ roll over for the Chamber.