I was just thinking about this the other day . . . and for me and the good pastor, Sioux Falls City Councilor, Rich Merkouris, to have the same inquisitive thoughts, it was a little eerie.

During the informational Rich asked our housing specialist, Logan Penfield, what was going on with the North Brandon project and Logan responded by saying he wasn’t sure and had to get back to Rich.

Seems a bit odd doesn’t it?

Councilor Merkouris just stepped into the vice chair leadership position a few weeks ago. So now with a few weeks of insider baseball under his belt he seemed to pull this question from the sky . . .

. . . and after doing a long presentation on a housing action plan you would think Mr. Penfield would have the answer to that question on the tip of his tongue. But Mr. Penfield has experience in good old Washington, a place where it is best to ignore the hard questions.

I was thinking about the project because after all the fanfare you would have thought there would have been a ribbon cutting already with dirt moving? Instead a staffer from the administration (who is in charge of projects like this) hands over a big fat I don’t know with a shoulder shrug.

While the administration may think it is Sioux Falls ONE it is more like Sioux Falls IDK.

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 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: 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.

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.