Entries Tagged 'Floodplain' ↓

Stupid SF city council decision comes to fruition

I still think this was one of the dumbest city council decisions in a long time. In fact two councilors told me they were opposed to it, and still voted for it anyway;

The city of Sioux Falls is issuing $30.8 million in bonds to pay for higher levees and other flood-control measures along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek.

The bonds were to be issued earlier this year, but the offering was shelved because city officials thought the Army Corps of Engineers would get about $11 million in federal stimulus money to finish its share of the project. That money never materialized.

Sioux Falls officials decided to pay for the project after the Federal Emergency Management Agency expanded the flood plain in the city, meaning about 1,600 more properties had to have flood insurance.

The city is pledging sales tax revenue for the bonds but might eventually be repaid by the federal government.

First off, like I have said in the past, we shouldn’t be subsidizing the FEDS, and secondly, we should not be borrowing money to build bridges, it should be budgeted into our 2nd penny budget, but since that kitty is dry from buying rock and wood thingies at McKennan Park for Quen Be De’s favorite park it looks like we are behind the eight ball once again. I can’t wait for the insanity that will be caused by closing 41st street down to 2 lanes next summer.

An Interesting Email Exchange

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Councilors Litz and Staggers had a protest vote against FEMA’s floodplain maps at Monday night’s council meeting, they knew it would pass without their votes but were basically telling Washington they didn’t approve of the way this matter was handled. The city was forced to accept this map. I sent this email to Staggers and Litz shortly after the vote, Litz was the only one to respond, I found what he had to say, interesting to say the least;

Kermit-

I applaud you and councilor Litz for voting against the floodplain map, I have been saying all along it is bogus (or something like that).

Scott L. Ehrisman

LITZ: One federal agency , the Corps is told by another federal agency FEMA they didn’t get the  job done so if your house is insured in part by another federal agency HUD you must buy insurance from another federal agency. Kafka couldn’t have done it better.  The trouble is the comedy of errors involves real peoples money…..blitz

ME: I do understand that the council had to vote for this (forced) but I still wish there would have been more vocal protest. I will have to say, that for once I am not disappointed in city government on this one, I am disappointed in our Washington delegation in not doing more, your hands were tied.

Good luck, Scott

LITZ: We are powerless against our Federal Government…blitz

ME: Really? Dissent is a powerful thing. It created this country.

Sioux Falls taxpayer’s to subsidize the Federal government

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Only in Sioux Falls would our city officials make it’s residents pay for something the Feds are responsible for. I am amazed how the city will bully it’s citizens into paying higher taxes, higher rates and turned the city into practically a police state with their code enforcement, but when the Feds tell them NO, they roll over like a dog and play dead.

Sioux Falls officials are moving ahead with plans to issue bonds for a major flood control project, two months after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to fund its share of the project.

This is silly for many reasons. 1) The levees are Federal property and the responsibility of the Federal government not the city of Sioux Falls. 2) FEMA, a Federal agency, created this bogus floodplain, they should be responsible for fixing it 3) Only 11% of the Federal stimulus has been distributed. Who knows, we may still get the money.

The amount of the bond is calculated at $29.4 million, which would include the Corps’ share as well as about $12 million for the city to reconstruct the 41st Street Bridge. It could be the last major bond issue for Mayor Dave Munson, who leaves office next year.

Yes, as a city we are responsible for fixing the bridge, the bike trails and landscaping, but that’s it. But there is more to the story;

The bonds were sold competitively and garnered five bids. The winning bid had a 4.13 interest rate on the life of the bonds – much lower than officials expected. The difference between the low bid and high bid amounted to $1.4 million in interest costs.

Hmmmm. 4.13% interest rate? Boy I wish I could get that for my mortgage. Kind of sounds like the hub-bub about our tax petition drive affecting interest rates for bonds was COMPLETE BULLSHIT! Just another fear and smear tactic by the misleader in Chief, King Dave.

The success of Tuesday’s bond, as well as the potential for low borrowing costs on the upcoming flood control bonds, rests in part with the high credit rating issued to the city by Moody’s Investors Service, a credit rating agency.

In a report issued Monday, Moody’s indicated that Sioux Falls is likely to “continue solid growth over the long run after emerging from its mild recession, fueled by above-average population growth,” low business taxes and “high-wage employment opportunities.” The report noted that unemployment remains low when compared to the national level.

Don’t you mean NO BUSINESS TAXES and LOW-WAGE opportunities? Apparently Schwan is working her magic with Moody’s to. But I found this next piece of info interesting;

“Restructuring of John Morrell’s operations nationally is a risk,” the report said, as well as uncertainties in the city’s financial services industry.

Gee, haven’t heard anything from City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce or the Development Foundation about how they are going to try to keep JM’s here. Typical of supposed leaders in our community, “Just ignore the problem and it will go away.”

Jessica Cameron, a senior management consultant with The PFM Group in Minneapolis said, “Sioux Falls is considered by the rating agencies to be very vibrant.”

 

Cameron, who is serving as the city’s financial adviser, said there hasn’t been a date set for the flood control bonds.

Well Jessica ‘too good to drive to Sioux Falls so I take a plane on taxpayer’s dime everytime I come here’ Cameron, isn’t it your job to promote vibrancy in our city? Isn’t that what we pay you for? And while we are on that subject, why do we need to pay a financial advisor when we have 22 people working in our finance office?

Officials are eager to get started. But before they can, the Corps must sign an agreement that allows Sioux Falls to advance it money, Public Works Director Mark Cotter said. That agreement, after making the rounds at various offices, is at Corps headquarters in Washington.

 

“They have up to 60 days to review it,” Cotter said. “We’re hoping to cut that down to two weeks if they’ll do it.”

No, let’s hope they decide to fix what they own with their money, not ours.

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Now Thune is getting talking points from rappers?

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Temporarily closing the city bike trail may save us from the Apocalypse

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Apparently the Four Horseman could be riding in on the Big Sioux Creek, but don’t expect them to be on bikes.

I see city officials are sharing talking points when it comes to levees, floods, and spending Federal money;

Sam Trebilcock, a city transportation planner, said the trail will close from 49th Street to the dam just north of where the river and creek meet northeast of 26th Street for a city flood control project to raise the levees by 5 feet and build a dam.

“You know very well what happens in the news if we don’t do that,” Trebilcock said. “Grand Forks happens. What happened in huge catastrophic (quantities) in New Orleans happens if you don’t have a good levee system.”

First off, Sammy, Sioux Falls isn’t a soup bowl sitting below sea level. In fact you and I both know the real reason why the levees are getting built; an overly paranoid FEMA after Katrina started running around the country like a chicken with their heads cut off. Secondly, several studies have shown Sioux Falls is experiencing a moderate drought, and everyone knows we have low water tables here. I find it ironic that the same city that is begging the Feds for money to build the Lewis and Clark water pipeline (That we have borrowed millions to build, well because, we don’t have much water in Sioux Falls) would be going to the same Feds to ask for money for our levees.

Does Sioux Falls have the potential to flood? Sure, and precautions should be taken, but don’t act like it is the end of the world and cut the crap.

So how much did the levee circus cost Sioux Falls taxpayers?

I guess it never really crossed my mind until yesterday when Quen Be De praised Northside Davey in the informational meeting, “I just think Dave has done a great job of working with our Washington delegation in getting us funds for our projects in Sioux Falls during his administration. I just hope the next three mayors can even come close to what he has been able to accomplish.” (paraphrasing). After I puked in my garbage can I started thinking about that statement. First off, we still are waiting for Lewis & Clark and railroad relocation funds from the Feds, something Dave has not accomplished. Also, they are still in discussions with the Corp of Engineers as to how much money we are gonna get for the levees. And lastly the only reason the levee bonds were called off was because FEMA said that people in the affected area don’t have to buy flood insurance. Go figure. This was all about saving business men and developers insurance premiums not about our safety, because if they were really concerned about our safety, the project would still be moving forward.

Business as usual in city hall.

But how much did this runaround cost us, even if we ditched the bonds? Last Fall councilor Staggers asked the city to give him a list of consulting fees paid out in 2009. He still has not received the list and they continue to deny (a sitting councilor) the numbers. They say he wants to use it for political reasons. My guess is that the amount is so high, that it will for sure become a political issue if it is released. If I had to ballpark it, I would guess the city probably spend close to $12-15 million a year on consulting fees, which includes legal advice.

This has gotten me wondering how much it cost taxpayers to explore the bonds to begin with (including flying a consultant in from Minneapolis in an attempt to scare off our tax initiative petition drive). Just because we only took out a portion of the bonds for the bridge, doesn’t mean they weren’t charging us by the hour. Ironically, the bridge could have been paid for out of the CIP budget, so no consulting fees or interest would have been paid at all.

Why all the secrecy around consulting fees? Because I have a feeling if we knew the real numbers we would have to clean our drawers. I hope the next three mayors aren’t even close to accomplishing what Munson has done, in fact, I hope they go in a completely different direction.

Seems the Argus had a change of heart, big surprise!

As the AL reported on January 6th they felt the Levees were needed, even though I stated differently.

Now all of sudden, they are not needed (well duh). Funny how these things work, huh?

Some things just make good common sense.

City officials say they’ll delay issuing more than $40 million in bonds to pay for flood-control upgrades.

Damn right, it is common sense. Myself and Councilor Costello were saying that all along, but nobody was fricking listening!

That means 1,600 new properties that previously weren’t included in the floodplain are included now.

So no one is going to die now? That’s good news.

Although timing is critical with this project, Munson is on the right track.

Since when?! He has been driving the crazy train for far too long.

It’s more than worth the extra time to investigate options for saving the city money, especially when we’re talking about $40 million.

And where was the Argus before the vote about ‘investigating options’?

Apparently asleep and cheerleading Mayor spendy pants.

And they wonder why the subscriptions are going in the toilet. I’ll give you a clue.

Another uninformed decision by the SF City Council

This could be us, if we don’t act now. “Heh, Heh, the fishin’ pretty good in Sioux Falls, huh daddy?”

Though it is disappointing that our intitiative bit the dust, I am more disappointed in the seven councilors who voted for the $38 million dollar bond to pay for the levees. Do I think the project needs to be done? Definately. But it all comes down to timing and Federal money, and FACTS, not gut feelings.

Some things the councilors did not take into consideration;

– They could still negotiate with FEMA. FEMA is the federal agency that created this flood plain, it should be the Federal government’s responsibility to fix and pay for the problem and last I checked people in Sioux Falls pay Federal income taxes, the Feds owe us.

– Though it is true we have to foot the bill for the 41st Street bridge ($12 Million) we could have pulled that money from the CIP (where it originally was) but instead it was thrown into the loan so the city could spend the $12 million in the CIP on WANTS. Very, very, fiscally irresponsible considering our interest on the loan will be over $8 million to pay back.

– This city hasn’t had a major flood since the 1950’s and there hasn’t been ANY studies done for at least 20 to 30 years about where we stand for floods. We also have been in a drought for the last 4 years, at least, in SD. (ironically why the Lewis and Clark pipeline is so vital) There have only been two incidents in recent years that had nothing to do with the levees or the floodplain. In 1996 the spillway had to built up because it couldn’t handle the Spring thaw and in 2005 we got two torrential rains that backed up into people’s basements do to inadequate sewer and street drainage. The levees held then too. I have said to this day, that happened because for the past 20 years the city has been putting bandades on infrastructure while going gungho on new development and growth, and they continue this practice to this day. You can thank Steve Metli, former city planner for that.

– Individual property owners are responsible for their own flood insurance, not the city. If they don’t want to pay for the insurance for the next couple of years, don’t buy it or move. Ironically not one single property owner of the 1,900 properties in the proposed floodplain came last night to plead with the council to vote for this loan. NOT A SINGLE ONE! Yet Munson told us there was many concerned citizens, but I guess not concerned enough to show up to this important decision that would affect their property. He also said he “Feels for people” on fixed incomes that may have to buy this insurance. Well, if you are so concerned about fixed income people, stop raising our taxes on food to pay for streets that we don’t need. That’s a start.

– And lastly, my biggest argument why this loan was a bad idea was because once we pay for this up front, what obligation does the Federal government have to pay us back? None. The argument is we would save money on bonds and bids if we do the project now. Which is a dumb argument, considering if the FEDs pay for it, instead of us, who cares what it cost, we won’t have to pay it back. The objective of Obama’s stimulous package is to create 5 million jobs. What incentive does the Obama administration have to create jobs for infrastructure projects in a city that has a low unemployment rate and the credit rating to pay for these projects on their own?

The solution?

Even though Staggers voted for the project he tried to get an amendment to push the bridge back into the CIP (where it belongs) so we could reduce our loan. Nobody seconded the motion.

I think we should pay for the bridge out of our CIP and make cuts to wants. I think we should get on the horn to Ironic Johnny, Timmy come lately and Stephanie Herseth-Sandals Vaction and get them in on the stimulous package to get us Federal aid for the levees.

Of course now it is too late. Councilors voted with their emotions last night (and made me the butt of several jokes about being opposed to it). Councilor Litz even talked about global warming and Katrina (can’t remember the last time we were hit by a hurricane).

In an Argus Leader interview, Councilor Costello, the loan dissenter had this to say;

“You have to measure the risk with the cost,” he said. “We know we have flood protection.”

Of course the AL editorial board gave the decision a big old thumbs up;

And it would be sad if the bond vote-repeal effort connection somehow becomes a campaign issue in the 2010 mayoral race.

Oh, it will be an issue!

Yes, the council has a duty to gather all pertinent information that might influence its decisions, and that includes the effect of the bond vote on the repeal effort.

But given that due process has been upheld, it was appropriate – indeed necessary – for the council to move forward.