As I have mentioned earlier today, both the Active Transportation Board and the Parks Board tabled the recommendation citing ignorance of E2 technology.

And that is FAIR.

As I told Councilor Neitzert after the first meeting, I would much rather have NO recommendation then one from a group of volunteers that don’t understand the topic.

While Greg wants to rework the ordinance, AGAIN, and bring it back, I told him to just bring it to the council as is. Councilor Starr agreed and further added that we gave these boards an opportunity to make a recommendation and they passed citing their lack of knowledge on the topic. So what would make you think they would become any wiser in a month or two?

I think the council has at least 5 votes to pass this, and there will be public opposition and support. Even if it fails, you can use the experience to figure out what needs to be reworked. Or better yet, pass the ordinance with an amendment that funds a year long study of the effects of E2s on the trails and speed limits. After a 12 month review the city council can come back and tweak the issues, or expand the availability. This isn’t rocket science folks. You could even put a 12-month cutoff on the temporary ordinance with the intent to re-introduce or make permanent.

One of my friends who recently moved back to Sioux Falls after living in the Southwest for the past decade is an E-bike fanatic and was really involved in her last E-Biking community and she was amazed by how far behind Sioux Falls is when it comes to regulating the technology. We are essentially 5 years behind the rest of the country (ironically when they passed this stupid ordinance to begin with).

We want to be big kids when it comes to parking ramps and hotels on the river but we play like tots* when it comes to modernizing city policies. I think I am going to start handing out binkies at these meetings moving forward.

*There was an ‘incident’ at the Parks Board Meeting that I will posting about in the near future.

As I have discussed in the past many cities throughout the US provide FREE public transit. Kansas City introduced it in 2019 to boost the working poor and has found great success. I guess Chapel Hill, NC has been doing it for 20 years.

During the city council meeting last night they approved a resolution;


During discussion before the vote, Rich Merkouris suggested FREE fare for our public transit system. He acknowledged it would be a heavy lift to get the public on board but when we are only collecting $500K a year in fares and spending $7 million a year on the program, what’s the point? Just think with the money we are spending on the 6th Street Bunker Bridge and the DSU research facility we could have had 40 years of FREE fares. Councilor Starr and Merkouris both suggested that the frequency and usage of the transit system needs to improve and experimenting with different approaches, like FREE fares, may get us better results. There was a suggestion that city officials have been sitting on their hands for the past 20 years when it comes to transit. I would disagree. They are not sitting on their hands they are using them to spread their butt cheeks so their heads can easily be placed.

To be honest with you, I think our current public transit system is beyond fixable. I would much rather see the city dismantle the whole system and bring in a new contractor.

Patrick Lalley of wrote an interesting article about how the city council doesn’t have any staff advocates, I’m not sure that is the problem;

The council has some research and legislative assistance. They may need more of an ombudsperson who advocates on their behalf.

The city council has three full-time clerks, an operations manager and and legislative person, I am not sure they need more (I have even suggested they cut back to 2 clerks and an operations person).

The problem is council vice-chair Jensen and chair Soehl who were both re-elected by their peers last year to the same positions. Their main responsibility is to be the connection between the mayor’s office and the council, not only negotiating with the administration but informing the rest of the council what is in the pipeline.

In fact we still have gotten NO reason why Shana Nelson left as Audit Manager (she was appointed in a public meeting) and joined the administration as a Housing Compliance Manager (which garnered her a $7,000 raise).

Not only has council leadership failed the council when it comes to transparency but they have failed the constituents also.

I would suggest the rest of the city council hold a special election and appoint Starr as chair and Merkouris as vice-chair and get some adults in those seats.

During the informational this afternoon the council discussed what next to do with the Bunker Ramp;

A public parking ramp that took nearly a decade and more than $20 million to build in downtown Sioux Falls could be sold to a private developer.

During a Tuesday informational meeting at Carnegie Town Hall, city councilors urged Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration to consider all options when picking a new partner to build at the Mall Avenue and 10th Street site.

And that includes selling the entirety of the seven-story ramp that opened in July 2020 and is equipped to handle up to eight additional stories. The site has gone undeveloped since a mixed-use parking ramp project fell apart in 2019.

I do agree with councilors that they should take the best deal and I also agree with councilor Soehl that we need to use a 3rd party to vet the investors properly. I am also partially in agreement with what councilor Merkouris said;

Rich Merkouris said he’s apprehensive about giving any tax breaks to the eventual buyer unless they use the space to add residential stock downtown.

“For me personally, I would struggle incentivizing anything outside of housing unless it was a part of the bigger package,” he said.

I would go a step further and say there should be NO incentives. Anyone who takes over this property is being given a site in a plum location with an opportunity to do well. The taxpayers have already incentivized this project, there is absolutely NO reason to hand out more candy. Find an honest free market developer who has a solid plan to make it successful, then you don’t need to worry about tax incentives. It was also pointed out it is in an opportunity zone which means there will be some incentives to build there without city tax payers help.

But what what really pissed me off was having councilor Selberg sit in on meetings and negotiations for future use. NO councilor that helped approve this pile of sh!t should be involved. It should either be handed over to a new councilor or Pat Starr who opposed this. It would be like hiring the guy who rear ended your car to fix it. Any councilor who approved this should not be in closed door meetings trying to cover up their mistakes. We need councilors with a clear conscience to negotiate this deal with a focus on hyper transparency.

These knuckleheads learn very little from past mistakes.

Ever since the Reagan administration introduced trickle-down economics governments across our country have experimented with it. It simply doesn’t work. The concept is that if you give tax breaks to the very top it somehow will help the ones below in better jobs and housing. In fact it has done the opposite, expanding the wealth gap.

The cat was let out of the bag during this interview yesterday that the TIF sponsored housing development in SW Brandon was depending on the tired old broken system of trickle-down;

Meanwhile, Karl Fulmer, the executive director of Affordable Housing Solutions in Sioux Falls, told DNN that these TIF-paid city developments are an effective way of addressing affordable housing.

“The benefit of just building more houses in the $250,000 to $400,000 range still provides the unit, and you can see the transition out of more affordable units from those who might make enough to buy homes in that price range”, Fulmer said.

In other words, these new houses in new “accessible housing” developments actually are not for those most struggling to find affordable housing the most. They are far those who bought smaller, older “starter houses” in town that cost less than $250,000 and are ready to move out of them.

The true affordable housing comes in those starter houses. And the more new “accessible” houses funded by city TIFs that are built, the more those older, smaller houses become available to lower income people.

[insert laughter]

If you speak with anyone in the real estate business they will tell you that these homes are usually owned by lower income people, families, retired folks or rental property, they are not the Jeffersons moving on up. And even if what he was saying was true, most of the homes being sold in this development will go to NEW homeowners not people looking for a step up. In fact, I have argued that many of the starter homes in the lower price range (mostly in the core of the city) have more square feet and bigger yards (and basements) than what these new homes will have.

A better approach would be addressing the housing crisis we have with the people who are having the crisis;

Pat Starr, who represents the northeast district, also told Dakota News Now on Monday that city government is continuing to “dig a hole” by continuing to dig literal holes to build homes partly funded in part by Tax Increment Financing (TIFs).

“We need to talk about the real causes of the housing issues in our city rather than trying to put a band-aid and build 65 houses, which is what this program will do.” Starr said.”

“It’s not the program I’m concerned as much about as as I am figuring out who we’re trying to help. And, it seems to me we have a wage issue more than we have a housing issue.”

We must be giving a helping hand to those who are at the bottom first to lift the other boats. The city has decades long programs in place including low interest Community Development loans and grants. We also need to upgrade the existing infrastructure in our core such as streets and lighting. We can do all this using existing money in our 2nd penny and Federal dollars.

The president of Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, which helps people with payment on houses in rural and suburban communities surrounding Sioux Falls, disagrees.

“If you look at wage growth around the country and in the Sioux Falls market in the last three years, it’s been astronomical,” Jesse Fonkert said.

While wages have increased in SF, inflation and housing costs have been beyond astronomical and have wiped away any wage increases.

But Fonkert does agree with Starr’s assessment that continuing these city-funded housing projects is not solving the affordable housing crisis.

“It’s a challenging situation, because if you spend too much money on government programming, you’ll have companies that will just hike their prices up,” Fonkert said.

Notice the Sioux Steel District and Cherapa II projects didn’t announce they were building hundreds of units of affordable housing after receiving a combined TIF payout of $50 million. Developers will always go where the money is, and that is how a FREE market system works. But tax rebates for parking ramps attached to condos isn’t fixing anything it’s just making that wealth gap larger.