Entries Tagged 'Rich Merkouris' ↓

Sioux Falls City Council has a leadership problem

Patrick Lalley of Siouxfallslive.com 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.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force meeting videos are getting more and more delayed

UPDATE: I was informed this morning that the meeting video will not be available due to the audio missing. Not even sure how that happened?

This is the 3rd time I have requested from Chair Merkouris that the video from the latest task force meeting be posted to YouTube. Considering it is Saturday now, it is highly unlikely we will see the video until Monday. I find it interesting the closer they get to making recommendations the meetings being posted are an afterthought.

Most people can’t make the 4 PM Monday meeting time, and why I have asked for it to be live streamed. I have not won that battle. For reference and someone who is familiar to how videos are posted to YT, it literally only takes a couple of hours to post a video, if that, and usually the computer does all the work with very little interaction from the person uploading the video.

A couple of things so far that has come from the meetings is funding a pilot program for a street teams, funding a Helpline software program (to connect the different services and clients) and possibly upping the funding to the different homeless services.

It’s time to get rid of our ‘Junky’ video lottery casinos

In her time in office on the city council, the Quen Be De and I agreed on very little. But one night De Knudson decided to take on video lottery, she was on fire, and I was in the chambers. She essentially wanted to close it down in our city and she said, “I’m tired of all these junky casinos on every corner . . . and if the state wants to sue us, bring it on!”

Well, they did, and they won;

And, if a business has a full liquor license (not just wine and/or beer), the city can’t really do anything to stop them from also offering video lottery. That’s because of a 2011 S.D. Supreme Court case – Law vs. Sioux Falls – that I will spare you the details of here.

Our state law on these things is crappy, because, well our state legislature is crappy. I recently talked to a South Dakota parole board member about the attacks on his group by Sheriff Milstead and Mayor TenHaken. I said, ‘Don’t you have to follow state law when granting parole?’ He said yes. Then I said, ‘So wouldn’t it be up to the state legislature to change the laws so parole opportunities are more rare?’ He said yes. ‘So why are they attacking you?’ He laughed.

Councilors Neitzert and Merkouris think they have state law on their side;

Councilors Neitzert and Rich Merkouris in recent weeks have been visiting casinos across the city. Neitzert told Sioux Falls Simplified they’ve seen several violations of state law, as well as some unintended consequences of a 2019 city ordinance change related to video lottery.

Oh, but that pesky SD Supreme Court, that makes it up while they go along, might have a problem with your arm chair lawyering.

I could walk these two into certain bars in this city at any given time and show them health code violations, video lottery violations, public smoking violations, over serving, and a whole host of other problems. To be honest with you, I have not seen POs in a bar doing random ID checks for about a decade.

Maybe enforcement and not state law is the real issue here?

I will commend Rich and Greg for teaming up to combat the ‘Junky’ casinos, but at the end of the day, you will probably lose in court, and I am willing to wager on it.

Sioux Falls City Councilor Selberg should recuse himself from Bunker Ramp negotiations

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.

Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force takes public input

Here are some takeaways from last night’s meeting (it only took 12 hours this time to get the video up, still don’t know why they don’t live stream);

• Several complaints about the mismanagement of Dudley House, the way they are treating clients, not taking care of situations, working with clients, interviewing them, etc.

• The public (city, county) is not properly funding the management of homelessness and there needs to be more police foot patrols.

• Panhandlers have taken over the neighborhood (Before the signs went up about not giving to panhandlers, my SIGN idea was to make it clear that GIVING to panhandlers out of the window of your vehicle while in traffic is ILLEGAL. There is NO purpose in giving violations or shaming panhandlers, it won’t stop them from asking, not to mention they have a 1st Amendment right to ask for money. The solution is making it clear to motorists that you can be fined for obstructing traffic. The only way we can get panhandling under control is shutting off the tap, that means cracking down on the contributors).

• The Dudley house is in a bad location. I suggested when they picked this location that there is plenty of space just north of the jail. Not only would it be close to law enforcement it would be within a few blocks of Falls Community Health and The Link. The Dudley house needs to close its current location and move.

• The 9th Street Alley that runs along the south side of the Dudley needs to be closed and fenced off.

• The clients need to participate in their recovery.

While nobody brought this up during the meeting, I know that there is a lack of transitional housing in Sioux Falls. The legislative/policy body of the city, the council, could write ordinances that require developers to provide so many efficiency, felon friendly, transitional units for every regular unit they build. They could also require rent control in these units that only have their rent increased with inflation.

City of Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force lacks neighborhood representation

Besides the fact that there was NO public call for membership to this group they have NO one from the neighborhood (residents or business owners) serving the on the group.

While we could certainly wait to see what this group accomplishes, it’s hard for me to have much confidence when the selection of the task force was done in secret and lacking transparency.

While some of the members of the board do work in affordable housing and social work, I’m not sure athletes, realtors and directors of business organizations really have a grasp of what is going on in this neighborhood. Where is the director of one of the homeless shelters like the Mission or Dudley house on the board? Or a rep from the Banquet? What about a pastor or deacon? A business owner or homeowner in this neighborhood would have been an excellent addition to the group. It is pretty much a group of bureaucrats that are going to craft policies that uphold the bureaucracy instead of fixing the problem.

The SFPD really needs a group of officers dedicated to outreach to the homeless. That would be a great first step. Instead of reacting to the problem, a proactive approach.

I live in the Nelson Park neighborhood, and to be quite honest with you I have never seen so many homeless people before, the problem has exploded.

I do wish them luck and I want to thank Chair Merkouris for wanting to take this on. I also think it is wonderful the meetings will be open to the public, and WILL be recored. Nothing can be accomplished in the dark.

UPDATE: Mayor TenHaken’s PAC dumps $17,500 into Dr. Sarah Cole’s Campaign

Bought and paid for.

That was my argument all along with Cole’s candidacy. A person who hasn’t bothered to vote in a local election the entire time she has lived here (another story our incredibly inept local media never touched). It’s one thing for the mayor to endorse a candidate running against an incumbent, it’s whole other ball of wax to dump this amount of money (after the final financial disclosure before the election) towards the challenger.

You have to be one major bitter, vengeful, vindictive person to go above and beyond to eliminate an incumbent, who ironically voted for almost 99% of the mayor’s policies.

Notice how the listing of the PAC is also improper (it should be Next Generation Leadership PAC). It is also concerning that the PAC itself has yet to file their July financial report. Yesterday at 5 PM was the deadline.

You will also notice that Cole spent almost $23K on advertising and over $5k on consulting. Ironically, Rich Merkouris almost spent the exact same amount on advertising. Cole never voted in a municipal election before. She never raised her own campaign funds and it appears she had little to do with running the campaign.

UPDATE: I did find the PAC’s filings on the SOS website. The original filing was in May and an amended one in June. It is pretty clear that the entities and individuals who gave to the PAC knew exactly where the money was going;

Sioux Falls City Councilor Merkouris proposing a Homeless Task Force

At the Tuesday’s Informational meeting during open discussion councilor Rich Merkouris proposed a resolution to form a Homeless Task force that focuses on east 8th street downtown.

This of course is long overdue and I applaud Rich for taking the initiative to tackle this at his 3rd meeting.

One of his fellow new councilors, Sarah Cole decided to skip her 3rd and 4th meeting of the council. Of course, councilors only have to attend one meeting a month, but it doesn’t look real good skipping your 3rd and 4th meeting after just being newly elected and not even phoning it in. I do understand she is a medical doctor and emergencies do happen . . . one of the reasons I didn’t think she had the time to dedicate to the job. Nothing against her personally or her profession, I just don’t think they work well together.

*Sorry I was out this past week on a little R & R, so I am a little late on this stuff.

Sioux Falls City Council Candidate Merkouris doesn’t believe our Police should follow National Standards

During the council debate on Thursday night Janet Brekke said she will work with Chief Thum to try to implement some national standards for the police. In her recent mailer she said;

• Secure a stable Police Department training budget so our officers have the latest instruction available.

• Support Chief Thum’s 3 new initiatives to engage young people so they don’t become offenders.

• Strengthen relationships between patrol officers and neighborhoods.

Apparently this really irritated candidate Merkouris who went on this rant;

While I would partially agree you don’t take all National standards and hope they work in Sioux Falls, you still have to look at what could work. I was very surprised how agitated he got over it, considering the problems we are having with our police and other city employees. There have been 4 arrests over the past couple of months of city employees. Two for abuse and two for child porn.

There was also some other ‘dog whistles’ on other candidates postcards;

David Barranco said this;

I have two strong boys . . .

and continued on the back;

We must not assume someone who shares our values will prevail on April 12.

You can take that how you want to, but I think Barranco is painting his opponent as someone who lacks values and it is a low blow.

Sarah Cole also made some false claims on her latest mailer;

I am not a politician.

I hate to break it to you Sarah, but when you run for office you become a politician. As a recent female business leader said to me when TenHaken made the same claim, “He is extremely tone deaf.”

Politician; a person who is professionally involved in politics, especially as a holder of or a candidate for an elected office.

Sarah continues her rant;

The people of Sioux Falls deserve a city councilor that will serve with integrity and respect for others. I won’t play games or pick petty fights.

The timing of this statement after TenHaken tried to intimidate Brekke is interesting to say the least especially coming from a POLITICIAN who has never voted in a single city or school board election in the community she wants to serve.

I think on Tuesday, your choice is very clear; Reistroffer, Brekke, Pam Cole and Cody Ingle.

Sioux Falls City Council Candidate Merkouris will not protect your right to Public Input

The Sioux Falls Election is bringing out the best of the worst, including this endorsement of taking away citizen rights by City Council candidate and preacher Rich Merkouris was expressing in 2018. 36 Citizens who gave impassioned Public Input on June 12th, 2018 were wrong? They are according to Marshall Selberg and Rick Kiley. The Mayor and 4 Councilors are saying “Stay away from our meetings, quit interfering!” We’d like to say, “Good Bye!” The Mayor is being encouraged to shove our civil rights up our backsides by the TenHaken best friend, Rich Merkouris. The City Council candidate Merkouris who doesn’t want audits of the millions of dollars he has received from the city coffers? Yup.