The mayor had to call in clergy to defend his plan. The Sustainability Director of Augustana and Professor of Christian Values had to tell us that we need to follow our (Christian) values and love thy neighbor. He was inferring in his sermon that the Mayor is doing just that and we need to get on board even if we disagree because the mayor is righteous in his sustainability goals.
There was one good thing that came out of this presser, lot’s of fertilizer.
It was unfortunate, as one commenter stated, that the mayor wasn’t in the chambers to hear it. The city had a presentation on the gutted sustainability program presented by a coordinator whose only experience in sustainability is with the city over the past year or so (she does have an environmental degree).
Before public input councilor Rich Merkouris asked the question, ‘How can we call this the city’s plan if the city council wasn’t involved with that plan? Help me understand that.’ They gave a non-germane answer.
But the public input was where the meeting really got interesting. From not upgrading the 2009 environmental building codes, to the mayor caught in his lies about collaboration and meetings to the basic tenants of open and transparent government. It was so fast and furious I could barely catch my breath just listening. Of course the Homebuilders Association is just fine with ‘leaving it up to the consumer’ and how well has that worked?
As I have told a couple of people on the steering committee, we must first have open government in Sioux Falls then we can tackle some of these bigger issues. We must first STOP this precedent of the mayor forcing his policies and ideas onto the public and council.
The funniest or should I say most troubling thing to come from this re-written program is that the mayor proposes we further study the issue right up until he walks out of office right after they break ground on the can kicking park.
It certainly has become polarizing, but NOT by those who are trying to make change, but those who are trying to prevent it. It’s no longer a debate about when or how;
Sustainability. Climate change. Climate Crisis. The Green New Deal. However you phrase it, protecting and conserving our environment has unfortunately become a polarizing and political topic, no matter which side of the conversation you’re on. There’s a broad set of opinions and variables that need to be considered and as with most government decisions, “the devil is in the details.”
I am not in denial that our climate is changing.
I heard Bill Clinton once make a similar proclamation.
If there is one thing the voters of this community can expect based on my five-year mayoral track record, it’s that I am a consensus-building leader that brings pragmatic solutions to challenges, not giving undue attention to loud special interest groups.
In order to build consensus you must first meet with the affected groups IN PUBLIC and have a discussion. Consensus building doesn’t mean just meeting with your ‘team’ and making your managers deliver the bad news of your decision (this is what he did with the 6th street bridge project, bunker ramp mural rejection and sustainability study). When it comes to climate change there is only one special interest group; MANKIND!
While some special interest groups have mischaracterized listening to dissenting opinions as discounting their voices, it’s quite the opposite.
Instead of penning a letter and emailing it to a couple of local papers, maybe you should hold a Climate Change Town Hall so the community can come and talk about it. Tell us your side, and let them tell there side. By trashing their report and effectively ignoring them on the public stage sends a clear message of discounting their voices.
While the last round of rate increases adopted in 2018 ran through 2023 and ranged from 3 to 6 percent, it’s unclear what the new rate increases will look like.
That’s because the city is still calculating what level of rate hikes are necessary to keep up with anticipated population growth, operational needs and anticipated revenues, according to the Public Works Department that oversees municipal utility services.
“We are in the process of developing the operational and capital budgets which will inform the utility rate models,” Public Works Director Mark Cotter told The Dakota Scout when asked about the hikes, how far into the future they will be scheduled and why they’re necessary. “I expect to finalize this process in the coming weeks.”
One thing that happened during the Munson administration was an effort from city hall to encourage water conservation. Heck, the city was even giving away toilet rebates! If I recall the public works director, Mark Cotter, who is still the director, said the conservation efforts were making progress and people were consuming less water. Tack this onto growth and more users and you should be able to keep above water, no pun intended, without raising rates too much.
The problem is the water and sewer department depend on user fees to fund their operations, this is called enterprise funds. You pay your bill and that money goes directly to the maintenance and operation of the facilities. While enterprise funds are a good idea, they don’t always work well when you have major expansions because we also use the funds to pay down bonds for the facility upgrades. I have argued for awhile that major infrastructure projects should come out of the 2nd penny capital budget, like new water reclamation plants and bunker ramps (the Parking division which is ran on enterprise funds is also running lean probably due to paying bonds on a parking ramp that is not completed).
Some would argue that the enterprise funds should also pay down bonds, but I ask this question; “Do the wages for people who work in water reclamation come from the 2nd penny operations fund, like all other city salaries, or do they come from the enterprise fund?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but whether it is an enterprise fund OR sales taxes it is still coming from the same pot. With $80+ million in reserves we can easily takeover the bond payments for the water rec out of the 2nd penny and avoid any rate increases.
TRANSPARENCY WOULD SOLVE THIS PROBLEM
We could come to a compromise by sitting down with the public in public forums to discuss different options when it comes to increasing rates;
• More robust conservation efforts
• Using the 2nd penny or even reserves to pay down bonds
• Even higher rates for excessive users
We don’t need to raise rates, there are other solutions but we need to discuss them in a public forum and our city council NEEDS to demand it.
While I support the efforts of the sustainability folks to call out the administrations lack of transparency I asked someone yesterday, “Where were these folks 6 years ago when this guy rolled into office?” and this person replied, “Where were they in the last election?” Basically saying we let Paul and his endorsed candidates roll over the competition without a fight.
Transparency effects more then just climate change. It also has to do with utility rates, art censorship, insider bridge deals, free facade money to political donors, purchase agreements for welfare developer queens, banning drop boxes from public libraries, demolition orders from VIP neighbors and the list goes on.
We have a bigger fight then just sustainability when it comes to city hall, we have an communication problem. Once we shine light into city hall, most of these difficulties would be less difficult. The mayor says he wants a ONE Sioux Falls (still not sure what that even means) but he seems to be the only ONE not understanding that the ONE doesn’t stand for his bureaucrats but it stands for US, your constituents.
UPDATE: 1. Bundle up and come to the Earth Day rally tomorrow (Sat). Meet at 3:30pm at Fawick Park (Statue of David) for a walk to the city hall at 9th & Dakota.
The group will be asking the mayor to restore the Dec.’22 consensus Sustainability Plan and also to do the following:
2. Whether you go to the rally or not, ask Mayor TenHaken to accept the $1 million EPA Climate Pollution Reduction Grant that is on the table. It’s a planning grant available to our city and Rapid City because the governor did not accept the $3 million offered for the state. The Rapid City mayor already accepted their $1 million. The deadline for Mayor TenHaken to say Yes is next week, April 28.
Meet at Fawick Park (Statue of David) & walk together to City Hall (9th & Dakota) for speakers.
On Earth Day, we’ll be walking together from Fawick Park to City Hall to show our support for a strong, community-driven Sustainable Sioux Falls Plan.
Join us as we call upon Mayor TenHaken and the City Council to commit to real, meaningful action for a sustainable future. Sioux Falls needs a sustainability plan that reflects community voices and meets the moment to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges.
Wear green, bring a friend, and come make your voice heard for a sustainable Sioux Falls! All ages welcome!
Co-sponsored by Change Agents of SD, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Sioux Falls, Common Grounds Indivisible SD, Dakota Rural Action, Ironfox Farms, LEAD South Dakota, Sioux Falls League of Women Voters, The Mindfill SD, SoDak Compost, and SoDak 350.