Entries Tagged 'SF City Council' ↓

UPDATE: This is why the Sioux Falls City Council internal audit division is important

UPDATE: During the informational meeting today, Councilor Starr did mention that the internal audit manager was no longer working for the city council. During public input I asked how long the council was going to wait before they told the public.

Even though it seems the department is without management (still waiting for the city council to tell us if a very publicly appointed ‘Rockstar’ internal audit manager has left us) the two internal auditors still working for the city council seem to be accomplishing the important work. They did two audits, one on using Lewis Drug for Falls Community Health pharmacy needs;

Finding 1: Lewis doesn’t implement any inventory optimization processes, such as product
minimum/maximum levels, which makes it hard to ensure sufficient inventory levels.
Finding 2: Lewis does not utilize a ‘tracking system’ to retrospectively review dispensing
reports and verify patient eligibility, which is a requirement of the agreement.
Finding 3: 20% of prescriptions tested did not have a designation that the patient was
eligible for 340B drugs. It is a requirement of the agreement that Lewis only dispenses
340B drugs when the prescription form designates the patient as 340B-eligible.
Finding 4: Lewis is not currently providing all of the required quarterly reports listed in the
agreement.

The other audit was on how the city invoices damage repair to city property;

Finding 1: Materials invoiced with an overhead charge in one City department
Finding 2: Estimated labor rates utilized for invoicing in one City Department
Finding 3: Billing for damages to City property claims procedures not formally
documented

Once you read the details of the audits (that reveal NO fraud) you can assess there are many operational issues that needed to be addressed. Besides the city pulling damage repair estimates from their butts you kind of wonder how Lewis manages their private clientele if they do this poor of a job with Falls Community Health?

Just looking at these two audits shows us why internal audits are important, with or without management.

Sioux Falls City Council limits Video Lottery when it suits them

Like the recent property tax hike and ignoring the zoning amendments when it comes to Wholestone Foods, it seems the city council only does the right thing when it suits them;

Tuesday’s council meeting finally saw a vote on a series of video lottery terminal requests and malt beverage license approvals applied for by Commonwealth Gaming and Holdings that, taken together, would comprise four establishments holding 10 video lottery terminals each, all within one building near East 69th Street and South Cliff Avenue.

“It just completely violates the spirit and the intent and the letter of state law, which is that it’s supposed to be separate businesses with 10 machines,” said Neitzert in an interview.

So why did you vote for this reach around of state law in the past? The city council has had the ability to limit Telephone Booth VL casinos for years, and NOW they are realizing they can do these limitations?!

Part of the issue is a 2019 ordinance passed by council which allowed separate casinos operating under one roof to share cooler space and employee access points.

It was a compromise that followed several denials of licenses that CGH had applied for, as city ordinance says alcoholic beverages cannot move from one establishment to another, and that walls must separate businesses that hold licenses to sell alcohol.

Neitzert, who voted in favor of the ordinance, said CGH had always said they were looking to operate two establishments under one roof, not three, four or five.

I figured when they passed that ordinance that casinos would find a way to expand it even more. While I wasn’t a 100% sure this would happen, I initially opposed the change because the city council should be doing everything in their legal power and authority to limit VL casinos and not just automatically approve new venues when they come before the council. While they like to cry about a couple of Med MJ dispensaries they seem to have no issue with a junky VL casino on every corner in this city. Video Lottery has destroyed more lives in this state than MJ could ever do and the tax revenue just gets wasted in the general fund. Besides contributing to more crime, addiction and bankruptcy, a job at a casino isn’t exactly a career move unless you own the place.

When the latter two video lottery terminal requests came to a vote, they failed in a 5-3 vote, with Councilors Curt Soehl, Marshall Selberg and Alex Jensen voting in their favor.

And you gotta wonder what these three clowns were thinking? Further proof our city council is NOT truly citizen representatives.

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.

The Sioux Falls City Council could have stopped Wholestone Foods

A group filed paperwork today in opposition to the Wholestone Foods ballot initiative. But all of this legal wrangling could have been avoided.

The mayor and council have stated several times there is nothing they can do to stop WF from building a slaughterhouse, but that isn’t true.

As I have mentioned in the past, after Shape Places passed both the council and voter’s muster it was set in ordinance (city charter law) but that doesn’t mean the city council can’t amend it. They have already amended it several times when it comes to signage and building codes.

As it stands right now, the power of the council to either accept or reject conditional use permits for large projects like this was eliminated in Shape Places.

BUT, after the ballot initiative signature drive started the council could have easily amended Shape Places within 30 days and brought back conditional use permits for projects of this nature. They could have rejected most of the permits, especially when it comes to water usage.

The mayor and council are telling you they are powerless to stop this train, but that isn’t true.

UPDATE: Levitt Sioux Falls had a stellar 2022 season, still wondering what happened in 2021

UPDATE: I wanted to note that ALL the arts non-profits in Sioux Falls that receive city taxpayer funding should be giving the public their full financials each year. I was told today that the Pavilion hasn’t done this for a long time. One of the reasons is that they are rumored to have millions in endowment and savings (not under the city umbrella but under the management company) which means if the management company was ever terminated they would take the money with them.

I will admit, putting on 50 FREE outdoor concerts in SoDak and not having one single cancellation is quite an accomplishment. I also enjoyed seeing Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats (pics below) for the finale.

But after wrapping up a successful 2022 season, the Levitt has yet to tell us the financials from last year’s season. I find this even more ironic considering the Director of Levitt, Nancy Halverson ripped the city council a new one at the last meeting (they deserved it) for wanting to contract the Pavilion to do an arts study and running the municipal duties of the arts in Sioux Falls. Nancy stated that it was a huge conflict of interest since the Pavilion already receives arts funding from taxpayers. It is. But has that ever stopped the Pavilion before?

First off, government needs to stay out of the planning and implementation of arts programming in the city and just cut the checks.

Secondly, it is easy to complain about different organizations when you have hardly been transparent.

ALL of the arts programs and arts non-profits we have partnerships with should do a very public presentation of their annual reports in a very timely manner.

Is there any reason why we have never seen a 2021 annual report from the Levitt? It’s almost October 2022.

While they all want taxpayer money, they seem to struggle with telling us how that money is being spent. I’m all for my tax dollars going towards the arts and I have had incredible experiences at the Levitt, who have a dedicated staff that goes above and beyond, and a director that knows her sh!t!

If any thing, they ALL have conflicts of interest if they can’t tell us the financials.

The brother and sisterhood we have with our arts community is essential, but that love and trust comes from telling us where our money is going towards. It’s NOT a heavy lift.

StartUp Sioux Falls Downtown Location already costing taxpayers $202K

Remember when they told us the reason they are only paying $1 a year for rent is because they were going to take care of the renovations . . . just not all of them (Item #6, Sub Item #16);*

Centralized Facilities Improvements – Milwaukee Depot Dock Renovation; To award a bid, 605 Companies, $202K

I did remember there was something in the lease that said they would only be responsible for interior renovations, but that seems like an awful lot of money to turn a loading dock into a patio. Do they sell gold plated decking?

I remember reading this caveat in the contract and thought to myself, “This is gonna cost us.” It didn’t take long for them to come to the feeding trough.

We should have made this into another overnight homeless shelter, probably would have cost us less.

*I also like their attempt in burying this as the last item on the consent and calling the building by it’s historical name. Sneaky.

City of Sioux Falls Finance Director claims not approving property tax increase would cause ‘structural deficit’

Them’s some fancy words from our chief finance bull thrower (FF 52:00)

So what is a structural deficit?

the amount by which a government’s spending is more than it receives in taxes in a particular period, whether the economy is performing well or not

Mr. Pritchett made this wild claim at the city council meeting last night, and six of the councilors agreed with him.

It is total nonsense.

As one citizen pointed out the way to not produce municipal debt is to budget better, in other words do the job we elected you to do. He also pointed out that this $2 million dollar increase is less than 1% of the total budget and can easily be made up.

The problem is for decades the city has implemented the piling on approach to building the yearly budget instead of doing zero based budgeting each year. This has caused bloated department budgets.

As for property taxes, valuations in Sioux Falls have skyrocketed over the past 3 years driving property taxes up with or without government intervention.

Even if the economy was doing great right now, this natural FREE market increase makes up for any inflationary increases we may need.

We also have given millions away in TIFs.

It cracks me up that the city council would nickel and dime $50K for the Siouxland Heritage endowment fund and $68K for an arts coordinator, but doesn’t blink an eye approving $50 million in TIFs for parking ramps attached to luxury condos.

That’s our council doing the important work, making sure developers, banksters and bondsters are happy and well fed.

I’m starting to think the only structural deficit the city has exists between the ears of our councilors.

Top Down approach to affordable housing is a ruse

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.

The water problem with Wholestone’s packing plant

Recently Joe Kirby wrote a post about why another slaughterhouse is NOT a good idea for Sioux Falls;

Slaughterhouses are a horrible fit for our community. Affordable housing and workforce availability are already huge concerns. The idea of adding lots of difficult, low-paying, low-skill jobs, the type that have traditionally been a drag on our progress and success, makes no sense to me. And expanding the presence inside our city of an industry which has long caused pollution problems in our river and air makes no sense. I simply don’t understand why we would want more of this in Sioux Falls.

I agree, I don’t want another slaughterhouse built, but I would much more prefer there was an effort to not only STOP Wholestone but to close down Smithfields.

The issue with this entire fiasco has nothing to do with Wholestone vs. the Citizens vs. the City, it has to do with South Dakota voters, including right here in Sioux Falls who vote against their own interests. When the City Council passed Shape Places, several citizens said this was a bad thing and wanted to see some changes to the zoning ordinances, so they referred it to a vote. The development community along with some councilors said nothing to see here, move along, and the voters ultimately passed the original plan.

The argument then is still the argument today, Shape Places took power away from the council to make conditional use decisions, and when you take power from our citizen representatives, you take power from us.

I think if the council still had that power instead giving total control over to the developers Wholestone would have been denied by the Council or scaled way back and it has little to do with water quality or air quality, it has to do with water supply.

Where do you think WF will get their water? The reason WF is building within the city limits has nothing to do with the labor market, it has to do with using city resources, they will be using a lot.

Besides letting the developers take over almost all branches of city government we have also let them plan this city instead of the government and citizens;

Granted, the city does a lot of planning. It has a parks plan, a capital spending plan, a downtown plan and much more. But I am not aware of any sort of comprehensive plan for our city with direct participation of the mayor and council.  In support of that, some council members and candidates have told me they wished they could be involved in that sort of big-picture, strategic planning. If there was such a plan, I doubt it would have included the phrase, “add more slaughterhouses”.

This is something Janet Brekke stressed in her entire 4 years on the council. Her colleagues on the dais ignored her and did nothing. I think if she would have gotten re-elected and we would have changed a couple of other seats, Brekke would have been successful moving it forward.

Once again, in Sioux Falls and the rest of the state we continue to vote against our own best interests, and until that changes, you will see NO change in the status quo; DEVELOPERS RUN OUR CITY.

Sioux Falls City Council Agenda, Sep 12-13, 2022

CALENDAR LINK

Homeless Task Force • 4 PM • Carnegie Town Hall • Monday Sep 12

• Understanding & Discussing current operations of the County

• Understanding & Discussing opportunities to support Bishop Dudley Hospitality House

• Understanding role of the Helpline Center’s Network of Care

• Opportunities for Housing Families & Potential Ideas

• Open discussion and public input

(I think this meeting will be a turning point for the homeless task force. They will actually put the meat on the table of what should happen. I had the opportunity to have coffee with chair Merkouris a few weeks ago and told him that I think we know what needs to be done, but the heavy lift will be the council implementing the policy and getting taxpayer buy in. Most people want to see homelessness reduced and the panhandling to be under control, but I think people think this will come only thru policy. It will take a lot of taxpayer capital to make the policies effective. Are people who live in the extreme NW, NE, SE, SW willing to put up tax dollars to fix a problem that only effects the central neighborhoods and downtown business owners? We will see how much the ‘good Christians’ in these districts are willing to sacrifice.)

Informational Meeting • 4 PM • Tuesday Sep 13

• Commission report; Audit Committee: Thursday, August 25, 2022 (Council Members: Jensen (Chair), Barranco, Merkouris, Neitzert) (We will see if we finally get an admission that the Internal Audit Manager has left the city council staff and went to work for the administration. When I talk about transparency in city government I am NOT just talking about the Mayor’s office or his departments, I also speak of the council. This is a gross failure of leadership by council vice-chair Jensen who is in charge of the council’s staff. When a manager leaves a position, whether transferring or leaving for the private sector, the public should be made aware immediately via a press release. She was appointed publicly and her departure should be made public. There hasn’t been sh!t! When were they going to spring this chicken?)

• Main Street Business Improvement District Growth Plan by Joe Batcheller, President of Downtown Sioux Falls, Inc. (I had a very productive phone convo with Joe on Monday. He explained to me that this proposal will end the million dollar property cap. As of right now whether your property is worth $1 million or $30 million in the district you pay the same bid tax, it is a sliding scale on those under $1 million. In other words it is a regressive tax under $1 million valuation and a pretty good deal over $1 million. This is what they want to change. There are also a lot of other details he will touch on during the presentation.)

Regular Council Meeting • 6 PM • Tuesday Sep 13

• Item #7, Change orders, highways and streets, Full Depth and On-Call Concrete Repairs; Unknown conditions, Dakota Contracting, $26,651 (I don’t have a issue with change orders, things happen, but saying ‘unknown conditions’ just doesn’t cut it for transparency for me.)

• Items #13-20, Deferred from the meeting of Tuesday, August 16, 2022; New 2022-23 Retail Malt Beverage License for Deuces Casino 13, 6010 South Cliff Avenue, Suite 101, with Conditional Use Permit (016569-2022) being approved on July 6, 2022. Pending final inspections per Health and Building Services. (this is in the former Bonus Round bar on Cliff. It is total BS that they can use the parking lot as a secondary address to put in 20 machines, I also don’t know how 20 machines will fit. This place is falling apart and one of the reasons the Bonus Round left the place. As I understand, the landlord also owns the rental house to the South that is in shambles. If you wanted a code enforcement hay day, this would be the place to go. I am hoping the council denies the casino, not suitable owner or place and tells code enforcement to do their job and get both places condemned and bulldozed. It would be a perfect location for affordable apartments.)

• Item #22, 2nd Reading: AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF SIOUX FALLS, SD, PROVIDING APPROPRIATIONS AUTHORIZING AN INCREASE IN PROPERTY TAX REVENUE PURSUANT TO SDCL 10-13-35 AND THE MEANS OF FINANCING FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 31, 2023. (this is the unneeded property tax increase, Starr will offer an amendment to not increase, I assume this will still pass 6-2. Our tone deaf council will approve millions in tax increases in the middle of an inflationary economic crisis, because that is what they do best).

• Item #37, A RESOLUTION DECLARING IT NECESSARY TO LEVY AND LEVYING A SPECIAL FRONT FOOT ASSESSMENT FEE FOR STREET MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR. Sponsor: Mayor, Background & Objective: This resolution approves a $1 front foot assessment fee for street maintenance and repairs to be levied in 2023. This is an annual approval with no rate change from 2022. (this is just another tax hike they have put on cruise control since 1992. It started as $.40 and has shot up since. There is absolutely NO reason to increase frontage fees). CORRECTION: This is NOT a $1 increase just that it will remain a dollar for next year.

Item #40, A RESOLUTION RECOMMENDING THAT THE CITY ADMINISTRATION NEGOTIATE WITH WASHINGTON PAVILION MANAGEMENT, INC. TO ACCOMPLISH THE OBJECTIVES OF THE ARTS TASK FORCE AND THE CITY’S VISUAL ARTS COMMISSION AND THE RESPONSIBILITIES THEREOF. Sponsors: Council Members Merkouris and Jensen, Background & Objective: The resolution recommends that the City administration negotiate with the Washington Pavilion Management, Inc. to accomplish the objectives of the Arts Task Force and the City’s Visual Arts Commission. The City Council will also consider a supplemental appropriation to execute this provision if successfully negotiated in the new management and operating agreement. The agreement with Washington Pavilion Management Inc. expires on Dec. 31, 2022 (this seems to be a back door effort by these councilors to stop the full-time arts coordinator position. While I agree 100% we don’t need this position, I don’t agree the Pavilion should have it either. I was thinking today about the role of local government in terms of this position. Is it the role of government to determine the best path for the arts in this community, or to be involved with ANY cultural endeavor? Yes and No. The city should encourage and foster the arts, they should also get out of the f’king way. Arts flourish thru independent thought. While I love it that a city administration wants to foster art, I really am not on board of them dictating it. Art and artists work best when they are allowed to create, tourism and business getting involved only throws turpentine on that painting.)