Maybe if the zoo mounts were part of a food truck they would continue to cover it?

After this last week’s presser on the zoo mounts in which Paul chided the media about all the coverage, the media has been strangely quiet since.

I know, I know, there wasn’t a donation from Sanford or rejected mural designs this week, so it has been slow, but why not some followup stories;

• Speak with National and International Natural History Experts

• Talk with legislators about changing state law

• Interview ALL city councilors about their feelings on it

• When is it appropriate to have Executive Sessions? And what can be discussed?

• Elected leaders control of the media (this would be the best story).

• If not being disposed of in the landfill, where? (I think they will be cremated, which is really no different then throwing them in the dump).

It amazes me, that ONE elected official (out of 9) can just smack the media around for a couple of seconds at a press conference and the story runs cold. You could do HUNDREDS of stories about taxidermy, natural history, city history, open government, and the list goes on.


Every time I hear anything about the Bunker Ramp and Mural, I just shake my head because of a missed opportunity. I have been stating for a couple of years that you could put a BUILDING WRAP on the ramp that would advertise all the DTSF businesses. The best part is you could pay for the wrap with ad revenue and when the building is leased or sold, you simply roll it up and dispose of it.


While I haven’t priced one of these in a long time, my guess is it would be cheaper then the $30K it is taking to put up a mural (original art that will be destroyed). You could also incorporate images of DTSF intertwined into the piece.

With all the people working at city hall from media and marketing you would think at least one of them would have raised their hands and said, “Why not a building wrap?”

Oh that’s right, the ONE in ONE Sioux Falls stands for the only person making decisions in this city. No wonder he is stressed!

When you lack open government in a community you lack the ability to make positive change or progress for ALL of it’s citizens.

That is the ONLY INTENT of wanting to keep government closed, so that the specials at the top of the food pyramid eat plenty and the rest of us get crumbs.

This isn’t just about expenditures or policy because lack of openness can have grave repercussions on the reputation of a community, the economic stability of the public and private coffers, and cost taxpayers oodles of money in lawsuits due to incompetent decisions made behind closed doors with NO public input.

If government is keeping something from you, it’s NOT because it is a good thing, because if it was something good, wouldn’t they want us to know?

In just the last year several issues have arisen due to the lack of transparency;

• A childcare crisis (while I do agree that the city has few options to help with this issue besides directly funding programming, in which they do, they can put policies in place that encourage wage growth in our community without interrupting the private sector. Besides NOT having public pre-K, the real issue isn’t the affordability of child care, it’s WAGES! The city council and city hall have the power to make significant progress on this issue, but they would have to do it publicly, and that scares the living daylights out of them.)

• Several possible open meeting violations (threats of arrest made towards public inputers or they are openly mocked while at the podium by the mayor, agendas not posted correctly, Roberts Rules of public engagement ignored, public input ignored. And when you try to file a complaint they play a game of back and forth between the AG and State’s Attorney’s office until they finally come back and say ‘You need to hire your own private attorney’ You know, to the sue the very government that is supposed to be serving you.)

• Holding public meetings at inconvenient times and locations (This has actually been going on for decades but it has really been bad during this administration. If you go and just peruse minutes on this page you will see a reoccurring theme, NO one from the public to make comment and meetings held in the middle of the morning on a weekday in some public building downtown that you have to pay parking to. This is intentional folks. Any major open house to talk about large projects should be held over a weekend and any other board meetings shouldn’t occur until after 6 PM during the weekday. These are PUBLIC meetings and are for the PUBLIC. Wouldn’t you make it convenient for the public to attend?)

• Code Enforcement and Health Department out to lunch (selective enforcement is what many are calling it. I’m not sure how you have a functioning health department that refuses to make inspections and when they do, refuse to release that information to the public. Of course, this is of no surprise since our recycling rates have dipped so low, it is evident there is very little enforcement at the landfill to.)

• Several directors ‘leaving’ and being replaced by the Finance Director (Last I checked, Finance is running Health, Finance and the IT Department, heck they may be running several other departments, I don’t know? Anytime you have an accountant running multiple departments you have to wonder if something is askew on the books?)

• Internal Audit jobbed out (to this day no one knows why the Audit Manager left the city council to go back to work for the administration, not a peep. While I totally understand SOME personnel issues must remain confidential, I think the public has a right to know why a DEPARTMENT MANAGER left, after all, her departure triggered an almost total disband of the internal audit department. My uneducated guess is that someone in leadership probably screwed the pooch on this one, and maybe the reason they were not moved up the ladder.)

• Changing Ethics Code for elected officials to allow partisan groups to pay for travel (this of course all stems from the hearing held for Councilor Neitzert in which himself, Mayor TenHaken and then Deputy Chief of Staff, TJ Nelson took a trip to Texas paid for by a partisan group, but only Neitzert was implicated. Instead of taking the recusal of charges as a teachable moment they now want to make it OK to be influenced by partisan groups, slippery slope folks. It is no secret that certain elected officials and directors are taking paid for partisan trips on a regular basis. Did you know that when the mayor is absent from chairing a city council meeting that his absence is a secret, even councilors are not told of his whereabouts and whether his absence is business or pleasure. If an emergency occurs while the mayor is across the country or across the world will the council know how to react? Is there a cruise control button for navigating natural disasters?)

• City website has poor functionality (I joke with people that you would think that a guy who ran a successful web development company could figure out how to make the city website work better. Go ahead, try to find something on the actual site. If you want a lesson in frustration and have 30 minutes to kill, have at it. A city that makes it’s official website a tangled web of rabbit holes isn’t interested in telling you the truth).

• City struggles to find management employees (The city recently had to hire a recruiter to help with this. My experience is that organizations that struggle to hire managers have a leadership and IMAGE problem).

• Asking Bunker Mansion defendants to absolve the city of discriminatory intent (in other words, sign a piece of paper telling the courts that the city isn’t racist. I’m sure the letter is framed and hanging between an achievement medal and a truckstop hat in the garage. I wonder if a Sikh or Muslim could sue the city over the discriminatory nature of the Jesus Plows?)

• Sustainability Committee’s recommendations put in a meat grinder (after an all volunteer board meets for over a year, a policy advisor who once coordinated a pumpkin recycling program in San Diego takes a red pen to their recommendations. While I don’t agree with all of the committees recommendations, the amendment process should have taken place in a public meeting where members of the community could weigh in. Kind of how that democracy thing works.)

• Riverline District (This project is ‘stalled’ due to an economic impact analysis of the proposed development, in other words you pay a consultant to tell you the things you want to hear and you relay that information to the public at an opportune moment. While I support redevelopment, it is pretty obvious the public doesn’t want a baseball stadium and they sure as Hell don’t want to act as real estate agents. Besides common infrastructure around the area, the city needs to stay out of the baseball stadium business and go back to building regular parks).

• 6th Street Bunker Bridge (so how is it that a bridge that only needed resurfacing turns into a $21 million dollar project? Not sure. But I can almost guarantee there was a closed door meeting that got us to this boondoggle. I could start a entire blog around the speculation and rumors that lead up to this misguided project, but I do know one thing for sure, if this planning was out in the open, we wouldn’t be footing the $21 million dollar bill).

• Bunker Ramp Mural (this all started because the mayor thought there would be riots over a sleeping shirtless Native American man dreaming about flying buffalos and rainbows. Oh the controversy! The public process used by the Sioux Falls Arts Council and the Visual Arts Commission to push this project forward was how open government is supposed to work. Instead the mayor shredded the original proposal, met behind closed doors and presented us with a design he said a friend called ‘Ugly’. If you only want to have ONE example of the failures of closed government in Sioux Falls, this is a shining example. It was liking watching a juggling workshop for circus seals, maybe that is what the mural should have been.)

• Mounts at Zoo (This reminds me of when GW Bush said there was WMD’s in Iraq and all they found was aged weak mustard gas that caused very little physical harm. I don’t know all the deets on this matter, but keeping the decommission of the project from the public was a HUGE mistake. As a citizen jokingly commented at the recent coffee with the council, ‘Funny how these mounts have to be mysteriously disposed of right after the city announces a merger with the butterfly house.’ And that is exactly what this is about. More backdoor ranglings to hide the future taxpayer expenditures of the zoo expansion. I told someone the other day you could incorporate the mounts into a glass encased exhibit in conjunction with an aquarium. On one side of the display hallway you would have the aquatic life and on the opposite side the animal displays. It would be a unique exhibit for sure! But that would require planning, vision and oh, public input.)

• Link Contract (how is it that the city and county can fund a triage center and have that contract hidden from the public? I hope Forum News pursues the document, the public has a right to know who we are helping and what it costs.)

• Volunteer City Boards tabling recommendations (even though you could watch this 10 minute video and learn just about 90% of what you need to know about a particular topic, these 2 boards couldn’t seem to wrap their head around a bicycle with a battery mounted to it. While councilor Neitzert has spent months tweaking the changes to the ordinance to be as simple and straightforward as possible they decided to pass. I do understand they are volunteers, but the whole purpose of your board is to make recommendations, if you are not willing to do the research and make that recommendation it makes you wonder if other forces are at work, you know, like a non-list of parks that are not mowed or an event house that mysteriously goes into disrepair.)

Even if this stuff occurred over a span of the last 6 years I would be concerned. I recently told the Active Transportation Board that this is the darkest I have seen city hall in the 20 years I have been following city politics.

I am not sure what is driving this very intentional door slamming but if it continues for another 12 months, we may not have a functioning city government (it’s kind of on fumes right now).

As Joe Kirby put it so eloquently ‘The mayor’s office has become autocratic.’ Boy, you ain’t a kidd’in!

Besides an absent mayor and supplemental appropriations coming out of our ears at the city council meeting tonight, the council asked planning staff why they are continuing to tell applicants not to show up until 2nd reading.

We have suspected for awhile they were doing this and the council has nicely asked them to stop doing it, privately, that all changed tonight.

A planning staffer, Fletcher, that is a little green while addressing councilors, admitted tonight that he told the applicants to not bother showing up to the meeting until 2nd reading when the county commission will also be attendance (has to do with joint jurisdiction).

That was a mistake. Some councilors were very perturbed about it. Fletcher’s boss(?) Sam from Planning tried to deflect what Fletcher admitted claiming that since the county commission was not there, there was no point for the applicants to attend.

Wrong person to defend the position. Sam has dropped the ball so many times when it comes to open meetings and posting agendas incorrectly he is the last person to talk about open public meetings and when it is proper to attend them.

Councilor Starr wasn’t having it, telling the mayor and planning staff that they are on notice and they better not get caught doing it again (even though they will probably do it again tomorrow with zero consequences).

I often tell people, show up to the 1st reading, you get 3 minutes to dissent and you never know, you may bring up something the council will consider between the 1st and 2nd readings that will benefit your position.

It is pretty obvious planning staff is dong this ON PURPOSE! The city is ran by an authoritarian regime that must squash all dissent and I have no doubt this directive came from the corner office, or whatever playground he is doing jumping jacks on that day.

I’m surprised the council didn’t hand out flashlights before the meeting.

On Item #5, approval of minutes, Councilor Starr asked to amend the minutes since they don’t reflect what happened during the Informational Meeting of July 18 (FF: 20:00). Of course 7 councilors voted against amending, which is surprising in itself, because when you listen to the discussion it is obvious what is in the minutes isn’t what happened. Here is their version that was submitted for approval tonight;

As you can see they are claiming they made a motion to amend, the problem is they were already in executive session when they amended it (amendments must be made in public).

Selberg claims they were following law when it comes to what is discussed in the meeting. He is correct, but only after they amended the session. If you look at the image above you will see that they were first going to put this under personnel matters (this refers to individuals, not to the city council employees as a whole) this is why they probably decided to amend it, because it looks like they were discussing raises, bonuses, etc., which would be under contract negotiations.

Like I said, the amendment was justified, the problem is the amendment wasn’t made in public. Even the city attorney stumbles a bit when he tries to claim that since ONE person was sitting in the lobby of Carnegie and the doors to the council chamber were open (because he forgot to close it, complaining about the door stop being stubborn) that makes it all good. That would be like saying if I was sitting on the toilet in Carnegie’s bathroom and the door was open the meeting was technically open to the public 🙁

I have heard you can hear them talking when you sit in the lobby if the door is open, but unless you are actually in the room, you would have no idea what they were doing. It is a stretch to claim it was done in open, and Starr was correct to ask for an amendment.

Ironically, if anyone decides to file an open meetings complaint because of this, seven councilors just signed their own pink slips by voting against the amendment while Starr gave himself an out. Even more ironic, the 7 councilors went a step further by noting that Starr voted NO on the amendment and that should be reflected in the minutes. Starr happily agreed and voted with the rest of the council to include that in the minutes.

I wonder what it is like to have such a dislike for your fellow colleague you would risk violating open meeting laws just to stick it to him in a public meeting. Apparently seven of the toddler councilors didn’t take their nap before the meeting.


Talk about playing some legal gymnastics when it comes to approving this funding (FF 1:14). When I first saw this on the agenda Friday night I didn’t really read it very close and just figured the BID tax was for Downtown Sioux Falls, which I would fully support. I don’t think we charge enough BID tax in Sioux Falls when compared to other communities. This tax is paid for by travelers and is a great way to fund things like paying off a bond for an entertainment venue, instead the hotel will collect the tax, submit to the city then the city will turnaround and give the money to the hotel at Sioux Steel for public improvements.

As you can see, most if not all of these improvements will be made on the private property of the Sioux Steel Project so I am curious what are the public improvements? Access to the Greenway on your property is NOT a public improvement. And while the artwork will be technically ‘public’ because if someone is walking thru the district they will see it, it is still on YOUR property which is a benefit to you also.

The discussion gets interesting including Starr calling this a ‘NON-TIF, TIF’ and asking the question, “Why don’t they just finance this themselves and collect an extra $2 fee?”

Good question, but it is much easier to feed from the trough, or as councilor Neitzert points out, this is a way to blame government for the extra fees instead of the hotel itself (because, you know, it is almost impossible to hide hidden fees on a hotel invoice 🙁

Of course, Starr was the only one that voted against it, even laughing while saying NO!

Only in Sioux Falls and South Dakota would we think it would be okay to collect a tax from tourists and turnaround and hand that money over to the very business that is making money from the same tourists. It’s Bannaners!


I finished it out with 1,430 miles, which was a combination of stair stepper, regular biking and low setting on my E2. I didn’t count any throttling road miles. I rarely throttle my bike unless I am in a hurry.

I also had to chuckle about the Fitness Challenge last Thursday. As you know, I took pictures of the nasty goose crap that morning, and when I came by later that night, I was right, someone attempted to power wash the goose crap before the event.

The one thing that always holds true with city government – they are always predictable.

I would really like to know.

Why is this important? City Councilors have executive sessions with legal counsel almost weekly, by state law only certain legal matters are discussed, like pending litigation, current litigation or personnel issues (like potentially demolishing an immigrant’s unfinished mansion or disciplinary action towards a council employee).

Things they cannot discuss is potential policy changes (like creating new ordinances, advocating for consulting or outside assistance, or giving employees bonuses). Basically anything that is an ‘idea’ cannot be discussed because of the quorum.

Now councilors can have offline conversations with each other, and that is perfectly legit, but NOT as a group, those meetings and conversations must be public.

So why am I suspicious this is going on?

A few years back when that rascal Tex Golfing (Rex Rolfing) was on the council (you know the guy that beats the gavel puck like a rented mule) he was having policy discussions about having a car rental fee go towards some capital improvements. When opposition to his idea became aware of his backdoor policy discussions his plan crumbled.

This is an example of why you need to have public policy discussions, while his idea was horrible, what was even worse was he was trying to do it under the guise of pending litigation discussions.

Last week the council had a scheduled executive session, before the session they have to vote in public to go into that session. Forum News Reporter Patrick Lalley witnessed a councilor walk out before the session started telling Lalley that they left because they were not following procedure and they had no idea what the session was about.

But way before this incident several past and current councilors have told me about different policy discussions they have been having or had and I have been puzzled by how I have not heard of any of these proposals in a committee meeting or informational meeting (this is where policy is supposed to be discussed). I just assumed councilors were having offline convos with individuals but it seemed odd to me that after hearing about the proposals first hand all of a sudden they are on the agenda. These kind of discussions about in depth ordinances HAVE to be done with a quorum to be successful, playing phone tag won’t cut it, so obviously they are having these discussions somewhere, just not in the public eye.

Like I said, I would really like to know if the council is having policy discussions in executive session, because if they are, that’s a BIG NO NO and at least four of them should know better and the other four should have the common sense to distinguish between actual litigation and policy discussion.

The next time an executive session is called and policy is brought up I encourage the entire council to adjourn and walk out.

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Robert Louis Stevenson