Entries Tagged 'Public Works' ↓

Who was mocking Theresa Stehly at the Sioux Falls City Council meeting last night?

I think I know the voice of the gentleman softly mocking Theresa last night during public input of Item #51 (click on the item and the video will fast forward) but I will let you make your own assumptions.

Theresa was reminiscing about her time on the council and the presentation of the new waste water treatment plant when she started to bring up her recollection of the process.

She said she requested an amortization schedule from Public Works Director, Mark Cotter, at the time for paying off the waste water bonds. During her input you could hear someone on the dais quietly mock her. When Theresa says that we may have cost overruns on the project, ‘someone’ on the dais mumbles into their microphone ‘Oh Yeah? Really?’ in a sarcastic voice. Stehly also talks about the public being left in the dark and this same passive aggressive voice whimpers from the dais ‘Hmmmm’ and later ‘Uh Huh.’

Like I said, you have a pretty good guess who was being a brat from the bench, but the individual doing this doesn’t really matter. The fact is the public is constantly told by the chairs of these council meetings that we need to practice ‘decorum’ at these meetings because gosh golly three cub scouts showed up while all the time they are personally acting like kids who got their ball stolen.

Someone needs to tell these folks it’s study hall time not recess time.

Sioux Falls water plant expansion should be bonded thru 2nd Penny

Sioux Falls water and sewer is funded thru enterprise funds (user fees). Those fees go towards maintenance, operation, general expansions and pipe replacements. They also go towards paying the salaries of the employees of this department (while all other city employees are paid thru the 1st penny operational fund).

While the concept of enterprise funds works well for normal operation, paying salaries and bond payments for major expansions out of this fund is what is draining the coffers and a cause for fee increases.

The 2nd Penny fund was created for road maintenance and soon got hi-jacked for all infrastructure projects. But that is what is it is for, major infrastructure like an expansion of our water and sewer plant.

This is really about allocation of tax money.

We say we need to pay down the bonds for this facility with user fees but we don’t use user fees to pay down the bonds for the Events Center, Pavilion, Zoo, Tennis Courts, Midco Aquatics and the list goes on.

It is ludicrous to have $80 million in a reserve fund for infrastructure projects while raising water rates to pay down bonds for a needed infrastructure project.


Why not re-finance the bonds thru the 2nd Penny fund and avoid a water rate increase? I wonder what Bloomberg thinks of that?

UPDATE II: Is the City of Sioux Falls still sharing data with Bloomberg?

UPDATE II: The mayor put out a brief statement about his trip. He didn’t mention that he took Shawn and Mark;

“Local government is the catalyst for community progress, and I know our City’s participation in the City Data Alliance will help us double down on our data efforts to ultimately benefit residents.”

So you have been participating in this program for several years now, wondering when you are going to start sharing those benefits with the citizens?

I also found it interesting that out of the 11 American mayors participating only one was Republican, TenHaken, and one Indy (who leans Democrat). All the other mayors were Democrat.

UPDATE: A South DaCola foot soldier pointed out to me after posting this earlier today that there is another issue with this trip.

The city pays a consultant for the software that helps with sharing data thru the Bloomberg initiative. As I understand it, that money DOES NOT go towards trips city employees or elected officials may take in coordination with Bloomberg.

‘IF’ and only ‘IF’ Bloomberg Philanthropies paid for the trip and NOT the taxpayers of Sioux Falls that is an ethics violation because of quid pro quo. By Bloomberg providing an all expense paid trip to the mayor of Sioux Falls, or ANY mayor or municipal employee for that matter, there is an appearance that Bloomberg provides these conferences and in return gets to use the data from the city, probably even sell it.

I am NOT sure who paid for the trip, but if it was Bloomberg, Paul and his cohorts have some explaining to do.

I’m wondering when they are going to start sharing information and data with the citizens?

I see that the city was not only represented by Mayor ONE, but the Public Works Director and the Finance/Tech Director at the conference. I wonder who was running the city . . .

I understand the concept behind the data sharing, but what I am curious about is how this is helping us in Sioux Falls? There have been NO major initiatives by this administration to use the data sharing with Bloomberg to improve our city. On Demand is a joke and will be repealed, so that doesn’t really count. But when it comes to crime, neighborhood cleanup, infrastructure, transparency, climate change, housing and better wages we sit at a standstill. Heck, we can’t even approve a mural!

So what do we get when the 3 most important people in city government spend a week yucking it up with Bloomberg?

We will never know.

Maybe this is the reason Sioux Falls is limiting credit card parking meters

So what do most people do if they are in a hurry? They say ‘F’ck it’ and move on. If someone is in a hurry and they find a parking spot DTSF but don’t have any change to feed the meter (that doesn’t have a CC reader) they will probably not go looking for another spot and just risk the ticket. Maybe that is what the city is hoping for.

You can either listen or read the interview;

GRABAR: I think so. Essentially, parking enforcement serves as a subset of what is now known as revenue-driven policing. And the idea here is that cities take advantage of these parking laws to try and get as much money out of people as possible, but not in the way that you would think, right? I mean, I think this is a common misconception. Meter rates are actually, for the most part, pretty low in most cities, which is to say they are below the market clearing price that would create empty spaces on every block. Most cities make more money from illegal parking fines than they do from meters and garage taxes put together. So, for example, New York City in 2015 made $565 million in parking fines. It’s the biggest category of fines that the city issues. But they made just $200 million from parking meters.

So what’s essentially being run here – and I don’t know if cities are conscious of this – is a system that is poorly designed that almost seems like the incentives are in favor of illegal parking because for the city, that’s where they make their money.

I would have loved to been a fly on the wall when the Parking Director, Matt Nelson and Mayor TenHaken had a conversation about getting creative with raising more parking fees. Probably went something like this;

Nelson says, “Paul, we just gotta find a way to get people to park in the ramps more.”

TenHaken responds, “Thank goodness I stopped that naked Indian mural, because that certainly would have drove drivers away.”

Canton proposes building swimming pool with garbage fees

You got to hand it to them for being creative;

  • Right now, Canton has private garbage services, meaning residents choose whichever provider they’d like to come collect their trash.
  • In a city-run garbage collection system, Canton would put out a bid to trash collectors and choose the lowest offer.
  • Because the city would take care of billing logistics, Gannon anticipates collectors would offer much lower rates to the city than they’re able to offer directly to customers.
  • Customers’ bills won’t go up, but because costs are lower, the city would have extra income from garbage collection to then help pay for the pool.

While I will leave it up to the citizens of Canton to determine if they want to pay for their pool with garbage fees, I do support the idea of municipal garbage. I have argued for a long time that if the City of Sioux Falls did this you would save consumers because the billing could be processed thru your water bill and the private contractor(s) the city would hire wouldn’t pay tipping fees and would have shorter planned routes.

I also would implement a city ambulance service since right now the city is already assisting in mutual aid, sometimes showing up before the private ambulance, and we are getting NO reimbursement from the private ambulance provider for our aid.

Some argue against having these services provided by the city, but if done correctly they can be very beneficial and cost effective for citizens.

Is the Carbon Pipeline really for Carbon?

It’s not what is in the pipeline but who is burying it.

There has been a lot of chatter about the proposed carbon pipeline and some of the extraordinary actions taken to get it in the ground.

Of course none of this is surprising considering some of the players in this and everything done so far has worked in their playbook.

I asked someone recently who has been around in politics since the late 60’s, “Do you think there is some kind of other agenda when it comes to this pipeline?”

Let’s be brutally honest, grain ethanol is NOT the solution to our energy problems. Green energy is. We should be using all the available farmland we have to grow crops that feed PEOPLE not create waste with an energy source that really isn’t that sustainable. Which brings us back to the ‘agenda’ question.

This person pointed out to me that once the easements are set and the pipeline is approved and buried in the ground the servicer of that line can transport any material thru the line like oil from North Dakota or Canada.

Is it much easier to sell a carbon pipeline that will somehow trickle down to benefit farmers or an oil pipeline?

We know the answer to that question.

The affected landowners need to start asking the carbon pipers what exactly will be in this pipeline because right now there is something flowing and it ain’t carbon.

Sioux Fals Landfill EV plan

While the city is struggling with a sustainability plan, it seems they are all over it for this (Item #7. Sub Item #10);

I am assuming, but don’t know, that this is for EV battery disposal.

Mixed Use Zoning in Sioux Falls is needed

The administration has been busy pushing it’s agenda onto the city council just waiting for their rubberstamp approval;

The new zoning districts, referred to as “midtown mixed use,” are specifically aimed at increasing population density and walkability in fitting parts of the city. An ordinance that would introduce them into the city’s zoning options passed to a second reading unanimously Tuesday.

They range from three-to four-story buildings that could fit near single-family homes to seven- to 10-story buildings that could only be built along some of the city’s busiest streets, or perhaps a whole city block.

Councilor Rich Merkouris said increases in this type of zoning could hopefully be accompanied with improvements to the city’s transit system, and Councilor Greg Neitzert said bicycles should be taken into account while sidewalks and roads around the buildings are developed.

With most proposed city ordinances, the devil is in the details.

I support building density and finally cleaning up corridors like Minnesota Avenue, but I’m starting to get the feeling this will be more like the old Westerns with the fake main street facades. We can clean up the curb appeal of Minnesota Avenue all we want but it is what is behind the street that concerns me more.

When cleaning up neighborhoods it starts with the lowest rung on the latter, that means a total overhaul of our core neighborhoods FIRST then we can concentrate on the window dressing.

And Rich and Greg are correct, there are many other issues we must solve first in our core before dreaming about moving next door to George Jefferson in the high rise with an awesome view of the Pita Pit roof.

Of course Wealthy Welfare Developer Queens have their prince on the council;

And Councilor Alex Jensen said there would need to be incentives to make the zoning appealing, saying it was easy to go buy land on the outskirts of the city for a one-story project, if the location made sense. Convincing that hypothetical landowner to get into the core of the city could take some extra work.

Which means tax rebates and TIFs. Ironically there is a natural incentive to those who actually play the FREE market system fairly, instead of waiting for government handouts, you get to build 5 to 10x the square footage on the same plot of land in the core as opposed to a cornfield next to Brandon.

Besides transit and walkability I also have other concerns about transitioning these buildings from well established core neighborhoods. So does councilor Soehl;

“If Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been living in their house for 40 years and now we’re gonna put a seven-story building in the same city block, explain to me how you’re gonna alleviate the city council from making that hard decision,” Soehl said. “Because it’s gonna end up with us. The complaints, the packed room, it’s gonna end up here to make those hard decisions.”

Once again councilor Soehl is choosing to take the safe and easy road and wanting to throw out the entire proposal based on the fact he may have to make a decision. This kind of zoning WILL require a case by case basis review and approval. DUH! What works well at 18th and Minnesota may not work at 33rd and Minnesota, I think the public and developers get that.

Building density is always a good idea, this is NOT complicated.

Transparency would solve many problems for Sioux Falls City Hall

Recently the administration said they want to increase water rates again;

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.


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.

Is the city data mining with the FREE dump pass?

The city has already been using a private contractor at the recycling center that uses the special software to scan your driver’s license and they will deny you if you abuse the dropoff;

The Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill now will scan driver’s licenses or state ID instead of collecting the free passes. It’s still one load per household address and up to 10,000 pounds. The goal is to start the digital approach April 3 and allow residents to use the pass until the end of the year.

While I agree mailing out postcards can be costly and apartment dwellers deserve the passes as well, I think they are making this more complicated then it needs to be. You simply keep a data base of all adult residents residing in Sioux Falls with their address and when they present their ID (not scanned) at the dump, their name is searched and removed from the list after utilizing the opportunity. This could be done in under a minute by simply doing a search of the name in the data base.

Many residents have reached out to me telling me they don’t want there DL scanned and this may be an attempt to data mine more information from citizens.

While this kind of information gathering is allowed by law where it gets grey is if this information can be shared with private political campaigns or candidates. As I understand it, it can be. Mayor TenHaken learned thru his Bloomberg connections how to data mine on citizens, but what is stopping him from using this data personally to run for higher office?

The rumor mill says that Marion Mike Rounds will likely run for governor leaving a Senate seat and Congressional seat open. Dusty Johnson will likely run for Senate (with maybe a primary challenge from Noem) and TenHaken is gearing up to run for Congress (you know, the guy who hates politics and isn’t a politician 🙂