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.

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.

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.