Entries Tagged 'Charter Revision Commission' ↓

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.

Out Damn Spot; Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission

The CRC essentially had their last slaughter today before recommending NO citizen proposals for the Spring 2022 ballot. I believe they killed 5 proposals today.

On a side note, if Mr. Kirby wants to propose changes to city government he should really do it in person instead of sending his hitman Dave Knudson who had to pause his proposal to call Joe, who I would assume is wintering some place nice.*

You can watch the massacre for yourself, but the Commission seemed somewhat giddy after the guillotine dropped, 5 times.**

The arguments were about as tired and haggard as most of the members.

Commissioner Hajek explained their job was to only look at ‘tweaks’ to the charter. How dare we assume the commission called the ‘Charter Revision’ would actually allow voters to weigh in on reasonable changes to said Charter?! The shame! They are not true pugilists just middle schoolers giving titty twisters.

They also recommended that it was up to the council to make these critical changes, and if that was NOT good enough the citizens could do a petition drive, which of course would end in a legal challenge on many fronts and never make the ballot.

I’ve seen a lot of apathetic boards in this city, like REMSA and the Planning Commission, but the CRC takes the cake as the biggest jellyfish in the group.

I ask the question, “What do you care how the citizens vote as long as that vote and proposal are legal?” I will tell you why, because of the massive conflicts of some of the board members.

I think Commissioner Hajek filled us in on the sincerity of the board when she leaned into member Zylstra and said after learning when her term ends, “Thank you! I hope to get out of here!”

*My assumption is Mr. Kirby probably suggested calling in his proposal, but that was likely nixed because during Covid, I believe Councilor Stehly suggested public input should or could be done over the phone, which was quickly thrown on the heap.

**I can’t help to boast a little since two of my proposals at least got some votes of approval.

City of Sioux Falls Meetings, Dec 6-8, 2021

Audit Committee • 4 PM • Monday 6th

• Update on External Audit of City’s 2021 Financial Statements by Eide Bailly, LLP

• Annual Risk Assessment

• 2022 Proposed Audit Plan

Sioux Falls City Council Informational • 4 PM • Tuesday 7th

• Engineering Design Standards Updates

• 2021 Crime Trends & Statistics by Police Chief Jonathan Thum (So now the City Council is finally getting a presentation yet still NO links to the Power Point presentation).

Sioux Falls City Council Regular Meetings • 6 PM • Tuesday 7th

Item #6, Approval of Contracts,

Sub Item #7, RR Crossing Improvements, $82K (I would assume this has to do with some of the development going on with the RR Redevelopment. I recently had a few beers with a business fellar who works closely in this industry that flat out told me any major changes to rail traffic through this area MUST go thru the FEDS.)

Sub Item #11, Zoo design for Lion exhibit, $482K (I find it curious this is going thru Parks and Rec. So now our parks budget is being used to ‘Design’ things for the Zoo. Just think of using this money for actual improvements to our FREE parks system?)

Sub Item #17, (you will notice this has to do with a payout to the Chamber for BID taxes since the separation from the CVB that NO ONE in the media wants to talk about. There is also NO mention of the dollar amount).

Item #40, 2nd Reading, the mysterious alcohol licensing fees.

Item #47, 2nd Reading, Fire sale for parking lot for UN-affordable housing DTSF.

Item #50, 1st Reading, approving new districts in Sioux Falls

Item #53, Resolution taking money from streets to the Facade Core Revitalization Program, $120K, but who is it going towards?

Sioux Falls Parks Board Meeting • 4 PM • Wednesday 8th

Ironically, this meeting is being held at the Overlook Cafe at the same time as the CRC meeting. How convenient? There is one item on the agenda that sparked my interest under ‘New Business’;

Sanford Parking Agreement – Don Kearney

Not sure what this is about, but maybe it has something to do with the soccer and ball fields they are building right now?

Charter Revision Commission • 4 PM • Wednesday 8th

Well, well, well. It seems the CRC has decided to move this meeting back to 4 PM instead of 3:30 PM like last month. I wonder why? There seems to be a lot more agenda items this time around . . . this will actually be a really interesting meeting. While I support Kirby’s ideas about the mayor, I don’t support rank choice. But it really doesn’t matter because the CRC will KILL all of these proposals anyway.

Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission denies my proposals based on (non-legal) Opinions

As I told the Commission at the end of the meeting during general public input, I had NO doubt they would deny my proposals because the CRC kills all proposals unless it comes from the administration in the form of fixing a typo in the charter.

I have reminded the CRC in the past that it was not their job to deny proposals based on their personal opinions but based on the law and if they legally could be on the ballot.

I do believe they had a good argument against my TIF changes proposal based on inserting a whole new section in the Charter. I also think the legislature once again is going to fiddle with TIF qualifications this winter in the legislative session. No harm no foul.

But where I take issue is the comments coming from Chair Justin Smith and Commissioner Anne Hajek when reviewing the other two proposals (directors living within the city and public input) Both said that these measures are ‘micro-managing’ and that they are trying to fix something that ‘isn’t broken’. These are merely personal opinions not based on the legality of the proposals being on the ballot, and two commissioners agreed with me. Commissioner Carl Zylstra voted for both of the proposals and Commissioner Larry Long (a former Judge and AG) voted for the director residence requirement. He said if it wasn’t prohibitive of the city to help pay re-location expenses he could support it.

I offered plenty of evidence that public input at all the public board meetings is broken, but they hung on the fact that it was 5 minutes and Hajek used the tired old argument that the business people and poor school kids had to sit through public input. Once again giving no LEGAL basis why this could not be put on the ballot and be voted on.

At the end during general public input where I informed them they denied my proposals not based on legality and evidence but just personal opinions and assumptions, I also reminded them the reason why the only two people in the audience was Mike Zitterich and I was because they hold the meetings at an inconvenient time for the public. I told them that city government is turning into serving leadership and the city employees and NOT the public. They quickly adjourned.

I would like to thank the Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission for their Professionalism . . .

. . . while hanging me. I can certainly be upset that all 3 of my proposals were killed (as I assumed they would be) I have to admit that I did enjoy nerding out on city government this afternoon, I love talking about these things almost more then underground art and punk rock. Heck, I even got a former Attorney General and Judge, Larry Long to vote for one of my proposals and another commissioner to vote for 2 of my proposals.

I will write a synopsis soon about what happened and why the CRC failed to bring these fair proposals to the ballot, but it all boils down to a disregard of the public and what the ruling class wants. Stay tuned.

Sioux Falls Charter Revision to meet Wednesday, Nov 10, 3:30 PM

The Charter Revision will be reviewing my 3 proposals and I will be present for questions. They have written preliminary language if they agree to put them on the ballot. While I did ask for 30 days for a director to become a resident, Commissioner Zylstra is recommending 6 months, which I could agree to. We will see how that plays out.

I also see that Joe Kirby is proposing that the mayor be removed from the council meetings as chair and that city council elections be decided by plurality (or ranked choice). I have never agreed with a run-off in the council races. Another bone head idea from Rex Rolfing. I have also said that the Mayor should only have VETO power and NOT break ties or run meetings. If it is a tie, the measure should fail.

The Sioux Falls City Council meets Tuesday, Nov 9 at 4 and 6 PM

The two big items under 1st reading are the wastewater bonds from the state (inevitable) and the garbage container ordinance. Neitzert is basically providing an amendment to leave it as is. I have often thought that it should be up to the consumer as to where they place the containers. If they want to place at the end of the driveway, fine. If they want to leave by house, also fine. There should be NO extra charges for a valet service. Since this will most likely remain private for the foreseeable future it should be up to the consumers to dictate what they want. As for the drivers getting injured for grabbing cans, that is part of the hazards of the job. Wear the proper footwear. My mailman wears cleated snow boots in the winter.

Charter Revision Commission changes meeting time for NO good reason

From today’s meeting, the good news is that they will be discussing my proposals* at November’s meeting. The bad news is that they changed the meeting time from 4 PM to 3:30 PM, I’m guessing due to the whining and crying of the 1st Amendment Hater City Attorney, Stacy Kooistra. This from the minutes of September’s meeting;

City Attorney Kooistra reminded the Commission of the process for Public Input and the need for items to be listed on the Agenda for discussion or voting purposes. He stated there may be a need to reschedule future meetings to earlier in the day to allow for additional time.

No mention of how I cut him off during public input by saying they couldn’t ask me questions.

During open discussion at the end of today’s meeting they discussed the change (I love how they must have dress rehearsal before the meeting to make sure they can slip this stuff in and make it look legit). Commissioner Carl Zylstra mentions he went and tried to find a meeting longer then last month’s meeting of 1 hour 30 minutes and he could only find one longer in July of 2019 which lasted 1 hour 48 minutes. They quickly moved into a discussion about moving the meetings to 3:30 PM so that they could have more time to discuss items before 5 PM which city attorney Kooistra argued was the time staff needed to leave (there is NOTHING in the Charter requiring boards to adhere to staffers work schedules, if I am wrong, please notate in the comments section and I will update).

Only Commissioner Anne Hajek (partially) objected and said that the later time is to better serve the public (attending). But it fell on deaf ears as they all agreed to have November’s meeting at 3:30 PM so staff could leave at 5 PM.

As I have argued these public meetings are for the PUBLIC, NOT the city staff and I was extremely disappointed in the CRC for caving to the whims of the city attorney and his ignorant objections to long meetings.

This is also contributing to the constant destruction of open and transparent government by this administration and his hitmen. Maybe no one participates in city government because the meeting times are inconvenient. Yup. And they continue their madness with this change.

*Commissioner Carl Zylstra suggested my proposal for having city directors have residency within Sioux Falls could be easily inserted into the charter. So I still have hope that at least one of my proposals will make the ballot 🙂

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, Oct 4-6, 2021

The City Council and other boards have a full agenda this week;

• The Audit Committee has finally released some audits, been awhile. On Spectra (the people who provide concessions to several city owned entertainment facilities) they found a ton of non-compliance especially with insurance requirements. On the Midco Aquatic Center they have seen an over 50% drop in attendance since 2019 and around a 40% drop in revenue. They were also non-compliant on several fronts and like the Spectra Audit it seems our own Finance Department is not doing regular checks of compliance. For Travel expenses there was several instances of non-compliance. $137,000 travel reimbursements paid directly to travelers (city employees). Many of these results don’t surprise me. I have said the City Manager (The Mayor) is running a rudderless ship and when you have a poor city manager, it results in poor management under that person.

• The Planning Commission has decided to go full rogue by putting every single item on the consent agenda this month. Now items can be pulled for discussion by the Commission or Individuals from the public but I find this startling considering that all items are recommended for approval by the Planning Department and I am sure several Commission Members will recuse due to conflicts. Folks, this is what true cruise control government looks like. I am still puzzled why we even have a Planning Commission.

• The Charter Revision Commission will continue to review the Charter.

• City Council Informational will review building code changes.

• City Council Regular Meeting;

On the contracts and agreements (Item 6) in sub items 17-18 they are paying this consulting firm out of Florida to do this?

And of course sub item #38 where we are reviewing the Human Relations Commission.

Sioux Falls Charter Revision Commission Proposals

Below are my proposals to the CRC today. I present towards the end of the meeting during public input. I appreciated David Zokaites for defending my TIF proposal and I also appreciate the CRC for allowing me 15 minutes to present, putting my proposals on a future agenda for discussion and engaging me after my presentation (something City Attorney Kooistra tried to stop until I reminded the CRC that was at the discretion of the board) he of course couldn’t resist chastising the board at the end of the meeting for allowing the engagement and his concern for public employees ‘time’. Whatever that means. As I have stated before to the city and on this blog, city meetings have NO time limit laid out in charter. They can recess or go on as long as they wish regardless of city employees ‘time’. As I brought up in my testimony, they work for us, not the other way around.

Charter Revision Proposal Ideas, Scott L. Ehrisman, Sioux Falls, SD;

1) Application for TIF will only be accepted for projects that will eliminate blight, build density in the core, and simultaneously provide affordable and workforce housing. Home rule charter allows the city to be stricter then state law.

I believe since State Law has changed on TIFs the city has been abusing the use of TIFs. They were originally designed to help with blight and provide affordable housing, they are now being used to finance PRIVATE projects and build parking and condominiums.

2) General Public input will be at the beginning of EVERY city public meeting, including boards and commissions and will have a limit of 5 minutes per speaker and NO limit on the amount of speakers EXCEPT at the discretion of the chair of the meeting.

The city has NO standard policy on general public input at it’s public meetings. Per state law every meeting must have it, but the time seems to be all over the place depending on the meeting. This would just standardize it for ALL city meetings. It would also put the Citizens business at the beginning of the meeting where it belongs.

3) Every director or department head must be a Sioux Falls resident, or become one within 30 days of hire/start date. Current directors are exempt. Only applies to new hires appointed by the Mayor and City Council.

Many local government entities require this. I think it is most important for directors that deal with public safety. I also think it is an economic equity issue. Directors that have their salaries and benefits paid for by the taxpayers of Sioux Falls, should also pay taxes in the community that employs them.

I believe it is the duty of the CRC and the City Attorney’s office to determine the final ballot language and the Article it applies to in the Charter and whether the question is legal to vote on. It is NOT your duty to determine if it is appropriate or not, only if it is legal and a legitimate ballot question.

I have a Surprise for the Charter Revision Commission

If you watch the meeting today, you will see once again, under Chair Smith, they are back to a script, and no surprise he was Re-Elected as Chair (it’s always good to have a qualified director).

He of course gave his diatribe about how it is their mission to kill anything the Sioux Falls city government authoritarians don’t approve of. He of course worded as though they won’t kill anything. He really should be writing movie scripts, such wasted talent.

I started today working on a revision to the charter that I will present to the group for consideration. While I still have to do some research when it comes to the language of the proposal, at this point I can guarantee it is legal and eligible to be on the 2022 municipal election ballot. I can also guarantee if it makes it there, it will pass by a wide majority.

I can’t wait to see how the Commission handles my request.