Entries Tagged 'Downtown Sioux Falls' ↓

The Photographic Backdrop of Falls Park forever ruined

Ever wonder why no one takes a picture of themselves at Falls Park with their camera pointed North?

Oink! Oink!

It seems we have another hog trough to the South of Falls Park except these pigs are gorging themselves on TIFs.

I often wonder if the architects, developers, engineers, investors and city planners behind this project ever thought about the skyline they were creating when families and tourists take photos at Falls Park? Maybe they knew exactly what this obstruction of pre-fab concrete would look like and why no mention of the future skyline.

When planning large developments around tourist attractions (our only one) the city planning office should have been more cognizant of the final skyline.

I also wonder if Experience Sioux Falls will change all of their marketing photos of Falls Park showing off the new condolicious skyline of our namesake?

I’m not sure what this ‘One Sioux Falls’ thing is all about, but it certainly isn’t about community collaboration and input.

Mayor TenHaken’s advice on Civility

In The Dakota Scout’s print addition that appeared today, Paul has a column about his goals for 2023. Most of it was wordy unreadable or confusing double-talk. But I found this item curious;

Is he calling out himself?

Only truth, honesty and transparency can unify a community. Discussions don’t become inflammatory unless you are doing something, behind the scenes, that are concerning constituents. Like a $10 million cost overrun on a bridge, changing a recommended sustainability study that took volunteers over a year to compile or rejecting a mural selection with NO explanation (or even what this supposed mural looks like).

Honestly, I have no idea who likes to have an inflammatory discussion about local government policy (I kind of do) but other then this outlier, most people just want their local leaders to be competent, trustworthy and transparent and they would rather not engage city hall. The proof is in the low turnout in our city elections.

Division in city government doesn’t start with the low man or woman plowing or patrolling our streets, it begins at the top in leadership, specifically our policy body the city council that sits around and waits for crumbs from the mayor and the mayor himself.

If you want people to stop criticizing you, it begins with YOU! You would be amazed at how positively people respond when you are honest with them.

Speaking of our policy body, they have a shingig Saturday morning at Leonardo’s Cafe at the Washington Pavilion from 9-10 AM.

While I applaud this event, I also think the location and time is perfect, ON A DIFFERENT SATURDAY! There will thousands of people downtown Saturday celebrating St. Pats, not sure they are going to be driving over the top of each other to attend this event. Either move it to a different Saturday or different location.

City Hall ends press briefings after only 2 weeks

There is one thing you can say about Sioux Falls City Government, it is predictable. After having two consecutive weeks of these supposed weekly Wednesday briefings we have radio silence. Nothing on YT, FB or the city website (there isn’t much there anyway).

I actually thought there would be at least 4 or 5 consecutive weeks before they threw in the towel. Maybe the new communications person with all of her food truck reporting experience they could setup the briefings in a parking lot where the food trucks could participate?

“We are still investigating the homicide that occurred yesterday, but no worries because the pulled pork sandwich I just got is bang’n! Oh, and have you heard, the price of bridges are going up!

I also find it a little ironic that the new press briefing room that the taxpayers spent gazillion dollars on isn’t equip for the media to ask questions (that we can hear).

Of course, they will probably poke Detroit Lewis in the eye tomorrow with a press briefing . . . I guess I am it.

What happened to David’s Granite Pedestal?

As I have pointed out several times over the years, I am still wondering where the original pedestal for The Statue of David went in Fawick Park, Downtown Sioux Falls?

In this article I wrote in 2002 for Etc. magazine, I mention the removal of David in 1997 and how the city fought to bring him back because they needed a new pedestal. My question all along is where did the original pedestal go?

No doubt that the structure of the original pedestal probably needed to go away, but it had granite inlays.

Over the years I have pressured current and former city staff where the inlays went. Nobody has said a peep. The closest I got to an admission they were taken was a person said to me, “Let’s just say some VIP in town has quite the treasure.”

I have also heard the granite placards were returned to the Fawick Family.

Either way, it would be nice to know where they went. Probably the same place the images to the Bunker Ramp mural went.

City of Sioux Falls & Mayor TenHaken being sued for ADA violations

I had heard about this lawsuit this past summer, but I couldn’t figure out who was filing it or what it was specifically about. It was first filed in June of 2022 and amended in September;

Mayor Paul TenHaken and the city of Sioux Falls are being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The suit is filed on behalf of Sioux Falls resident Robert Elliot. It claims that the city has failed “to design, construct, maintain public facilities and enforce city ordinances related to sidewalks for ADA compliance, access ways, sidewalks and roads that are fully accessible to, and independently usable by persons with disabilities.”

The lawsuit also claims that barriers also violate city ordinance.

Besides the residential sidewalks (the adjacent property owner’s responsibility) the ‘barriers’ have been an issue for years. As a person who has rode the sidewalks in this town on a bike for years I have often been astonished with how bad the sidewalks are mainly on Minnesota Avenue and 41st street. They look like sidewalks in a war torn country like Ukraine.

I was curious why the city decided to spray paint to their heart’s content thousands of sidewalks last year and offer a neighborhood grant program to fix them. Looks like they were trying to play catchup. As it was explained to me the city could not use ARPA money to fix adjacent sidewalks due to liability. In other words if the city just used ARPA money to fix the sidewalks they would take on the liability of the sidewalk if someone got injured falling on a crack, BUT the city could have used the money to fix barriers and put in ADA accessible ramps to the sidewalks.

Which brings us to this claim in the suit;

The lawsuit also claims the city has the ability to pay for repairs and construction. As an example of ability to pay, it cites the several million dollars the city received in federal COVID funds in 2021 and that the city spent zero of that infrastructure aid money on ADA compliance.

This lone sentence in the lawsuit is the kicker. While the city literally threw money at butterflies, tennis courts and ‘other stuff’ at the DSU (private) research facility they spent NO money fixing ADA problems.

Let’s not kid ourselves, a Federal lawsuit like this will be in the courts for years and the city will likely fight tooth and nail with our tax dollars instead of doing the right thing and just complying.

The city should really just work on a compromise and a plan to do the right thing but with a lead city attorney with one foot out the door I have a feeling this is going to end badly.

Should the city be mitigating risk when it comes to public art?

This is a rendering I did of what I was told the Bunker Ramp mural would have looked like. A Native American taking a nap next to a river dreaming of buffalos frolicking in a rainbow sky. I still have NOT seen the image.

Mr. Lalley is suggesting that is what the mayor exactly did when rejecting the selected mural choice and cancelling the project all together, mitigating risk;

This wasn’t a commissioned piece, as Boice had to explain to me, which could include parameters on the theme or content.

In this case, the intent was to allow the chosen artist “control the narrative,” as Boice put it.

That’s new.

It’s a great idea when you’re fostering and supporting artistic endeavors in your community.

For a government, for people who want other people to approve of what they do, it’s risky.

But you have to know that going in.

Rejection from the wider public is always a possibility. In my experience uncertainty is the artist’s constant companion, whether they are painters, musicians, sculptors, writers or quilters.

There’s always risk in art.

City government is inherently about mitigating risk.

We may never know the content of what was intended as a short-term mural, that was recommended by the Visual Arts Commission and rejected by the mayor.

Which highlights a more perplexing theme.

We may never know if the mural in question was patently offensive to one or more groups of people in the community.

We may never know if the mayor was reacting to some real or perceived public consequence if he approved it.

With public art comes public scrutiny.

Artists usually want that.

Government usually does not.

While I still struggle with this supposed offensive mural, you can only look a block away to a naked dude that has been standing there for 50 years (with a short stint in a parks and rec boneyard).

While it appears that the mayor was mitigating risk, it also suggests to me he was more worried about what Taupeville would think of the mural and not everyday folks.

Just another shirtless Native American in front of the Bunker Ramp of Democracy.

Which brings us to Ben Black Elk;

As the unofficial greeter at Mount Rushmore, Black Elk spent 27 years welcoming guests and promoting Native American culture. A Huron Daily Plainsman article noted that he posed for an estimated 5,000 photos daily during peak tourist season, earning Black Elk the distinction of being the most photographed Native American in the world. In addition to his photo record, the Sioux City Journal reported that Black Elk was the first person to have a live image broadcast over the Atlantic — via the Telstar satellite that launched in 1962.

It seems the state did a fine job of mitigating the risk of having a shirtless Native American pose for pictures in front of Mt. Rushmore now if we could just figure it out in Sioux Falls.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Visual Arts Commission to meet Tuesday morning

UPDATE: As I suspected, the artists involved with this fiasco were not happy about the lack of transparency and appreciation for their time commitments and work;

Amber Hansen, Reyna Hernandez and Darcy Millette sent the statement to Sioux Falls Live in advance of a meeting of the Visual Arts Commission, which meets at 9 a.m.

“We are grateful to the Sioux Falls Arts Council, the Visual Arts Commission, and MarketBeat for their support during the city’s selection process for the 10th Street parking garage mural. As of now, we do not know the reason behind the Mayor’s decision to override the VAC’s unanimous selection of our design, ‘Buffalo Dreamer.’

As local artists and community focused muralists, we are disappointed by the exploitation of time, energy, and resources that the city’s process demanded from those it claims to serve. Despite our disappointment in what has transpired, we are hopeful that this experience ignites a conversation surrounding issues of transparency and systemic power plays concerning who determines and shapes the arts and culture in the city of Sioux Falls and throughout the state of South Dakota.”

I was glad to see they acknowledged their disappointment in the process. What has NOT surfaced is the actual rejected image. I doubt we will ever see it.

This is why I have pushed back on the mayor having a full-time arts coordinator in his office. Decisions about public art should take a village, not a dictator.


The VAC will be meeting at 9 AM at the City Center Admin building downtown in City Center Conference Room 110. There isn’t really anything special about the agenda except for public input could get interesting.

There has been a lot of hoopla surrounding the rejected Bunker Ramp mural project. But without knowing what the rejected mural looks like (there have been several accusations that it was insensitive towards Native Americans and the LGBTQ+ community) it is hard to make a judgement call as to if this all to do about nothing.

Some have said that the image cannot be released due to artist permissions and copyright infringement, but my experience with being in a juried exhibit or competition those rights can be waived. I have not seen the image but I encourage the artists to release the image to the public so that the public can make that call.

Transparency goes a long ways, and in the case of rejected art, showing the image to the public would bring a greater understanding of what the artists intended and what the jurors and mayor perceived.

I doubt these three artists worked this hard to win the selection only to dupe the public into a secret plan to offend them with controversial art. If you think that you truly are ignorant to how the process of creating art works. It’s not like they suggested putting a statue of a naked dude in DTSF for 50 years.

I struggle with the notion that 6 members of the VAC who unanimously approved the initial concept would be so naive to move forward with a piece of art that would offend a certain group of people.

Me thinks the only people offended by the concept are not really affected by it’s message just butt hurt they were NOT honored and obeyed.

*for the record, I found out about this when a friend of mine casually said, ‘Have you heard what is going on with the parking ramp mural?’ I said no. So I decided to go read the agenda minutes from the VAC meetings and found a missing narrative in the January meeting. Not only were the minutes initially missing as to what the planning director discussed about the mural, the agenda page incorrectly listed it as a Jan 11 meeting instead of Jan 17. I contacted someone who may have been in attendance and they confirmed to me that the planning director came to the meeting and told the VAC the mayor had selected the other mural concept. This is another reason I have suggested that ALL city board/commission meetings be recorded and live streamed on YouTube.

The Mayor has the right to reject the recommendation, just like the city council has the right to reject zoning proposals from the planning commission. What he cannot do is bully all of the participants that were involved in this long and complicated process.

Mayor TenHaken proposes extra penny sales tax to pay for stadium nobody wants

If you watch the mayor and representatives from the Riverline District speak at the Downtown Rotary meeting on Monday they seem to be pushing an agenda that the public needs to be SOLD on the idea that we need some kind of sports recreation facility at the location even though the online comments have been strongly against building a stadium in the area.

Once again, supposed leaders in our community know better (that’s how we ended up with an events center in the middle of nowhere) and they seemingly want to just ignore the actual opinion of residents and push another narrative that just doesn’t exist.

One of the panelists said in reference to the negative online comments against a stadium downtown that she wishes the people who approach her in public like at the grocery store (the famous line) and say they want a stadium would express those feelings online. Are Sioux Falls voters really that naive to continue to believe the grocery store poll? Maybe the reason they don’t comment online is that they don’t really exist? And why are people so opinionated at the grocery store?

The group admitted there is challenges in the area including one of the busiest train lines in the city running through it. There is also NO mention of the water issues from Drake Springs (one of the reasons the new Drake Springs pool was built to the North).

Another tidbit that was revealed at the meeting was that earnest money and a purchase agreement has been already drawn up for the land at a cost of around $9 million. What was unclear is where this $9 million was coming from and the mayor leaned towards the taxpayers of Sioux Falls would be picking up the tab. At this point not one single city councilor has spoken publicly in favor or against the project. Where is our legislative policy body on this project? Apparently in the dark. The council is turning into the old dog chained up in the basement. Maybe we should let them roam around the aisles of Sioux Falls grocery stores so they can get a real pulse on what is going on in Sioux Falls 🙁

Remember, this has all been concocted behind closed doors and maybe the reason there is very little buy in from the public is the public hasn’t been involved or informed up until this point. How did we go from 0-60 in a couple of weeks? Because this has been planned in very dark board rooms for months.

But the whopper of the day was when Mayor TenHaken suggested we do like Oklahoma City and propose an extra penny sales tax to pay for a stadium (that nobody wants);

“We are a low-tax state, and we do not have a lot of revenue sources,” he said as he gave potential examples. “I’m nervous, we’re talking about all this. But a baseball stadium’s $80 million, you want an indoor recreation space with 100,000 square feet, that’s $40 million. We’re at $150 million. How are we going to pay for this? No idea.”

First the obvious. Once an extra sales tax is approved, it never goes away or sunsets this is an incredible myth. We only have to look towards the Washington Pavilion and the 3rd penny sales tax on entertainment which was supposed to be sunsetted after the bonds were paid off, they have never gone away, and as of November 2022 the tax raised over $9 million last year. In other words, there is plenty of money in existing coffers to pay off bonds without creating a new tax. I have suggested for years that the 3rd penny be used to pay down bonds on the EC and other facilities instead we squander it on decorations for a roof that nobody looks up at.

But what makes the proposal even more troubling is this;

TenHaken compared the program to a local option sales tax, though didn’t say if he’d want to see the funds overseen by a citizen advisory board, as is done in Oklahoma City.

TenHaken isn’t comparing apples to apples with Oklahoma City which has the public weigh in heavily on the extra tax proposals with extensive public engagement and a public vote (which should be 60% in South Dakota with a taxing/bonding proposal instead of a non-binding ‘advisory vote’ like we did with the EC). Remember, the city council approved the bonding on the EC, not the voters.

What was even more startling was how the panel didn’t seem to concerned about selling the public on their idea.

I go by the old adage that if you have to be sold something you probably don’t need it. It seems the Riverline District reps and the mayor want to sell us on a project they really want (and all of the tax incentives the taxpayers will provide) but the public isn’t to keen on.

I support redeveloping the area, but the city should really only be involved with infrastructure upgrades like utilities, streets and green spaces (not facilities) and let the private sector determine it’s best purpose (which should be housing).

Leave it to an authoritarian like TenHaken to take the beneficial aspects of a bonding proposal and manipulate it to hoodwink Sioux Falls voters into approving another play palace we don’t need.

Bunker Ramp mural project becomes controversial

Just ask Mikey A. after he reluctantly accepted the Sistine Chapel ‘ceiling’ project. His ideas and timeline for the project got him into a lot of trouble with the Pope. It has been a mis-understood piece of art for centuries.

Fast forward to an attempt to put lipstick on a concrete pig downtown and all of a sudden a temporary mural (to only last about 18 months) has been blown way out of proportion.

The Sioux Falls Arts Council in coordination with the Visual Arts Commission and City Planning Staff put in motion a plan to have an opportunity to decorate the Bunker Ramp. As far as I can tell the planning was going smoothly. the SFAC had private funding in place and the VAC had a jurying process.

Where it hit a snag was the mayor’s office or representatives from the planning office made the decision to pull the selected winner and recommend 2nd place.

Two pieces of the puzzle that I am missing is a supposed letter sent from the VAC/SFAC to the mayor’s office offering their dissatisfaction and the image of the rejected mural concept. I doubt I will get either, especially the image which is on complete lockdown.

From what was described to me, the image was chocked full of Native American symbolism and some shirtless males. Let’s just say certain folks were worried certain folks would be offended by such imagery.

It is still hard for me to make a judgement call without seeing the image, but my guess is there is absolutely nothing offensive about it.

Just think you can walk less then a block from this location and see a statue of a dude with his shmeckel hanging out.

After the pissing match went back and forth the mural seemed to be in jeopardy, but now, the rumor is, a temporary painting will be installed at the location. Not sure what that will be or who will be paying for it.

As I said from the beginning, all this could have been avoided by simply selling advertising to DTSF businesses to advertise on a building wrap to cover the wall. It would have been paid for and we would have avoided all the controversy over shirtless native men.

As a local journalist said to me today, “This all could have been avoided with transparency.”

I think we have a winner! Maybe that is what we should paint on the side of the ramp?

Sioux Falls 6th Street Bunker Bridge began demolition today

As I had mentioned in the past, the project is so large that the general contractor couldn’t possibly have all the resources to complete it on their own, they would have to use sub-contractors which is common practice in the industry.

Imagine not being surprised this afternoon when I shot this photo and observed three other trucks with the same labeling begin initial demolition today. No where to be seen were the red trucks of the general. That’s right folks, we could have split this project into smaller bids with separate smaller contractors instead having a middle-man (general contractor) skimming our tax dollars.