Entries Tagged 'SF City Council' ↓

What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing.

You will notice that I erased the parapet from the top of the Pavilion in this photo and kept the cornice, I actually think it looks better. I sometimes wonder when Washington HS was built some greedy contractor talked the school district into the railing to begin with? Some things don’t change.

Mayor TenHaken’s word games

I guess the best cliche you could use when it comes to how Mayor Poops has run the city is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. He is constantly changing directors and managers and titles, with little fanfare, and he likes to do word reworks on certain departments and boards, he is at it again;

Ordinance Update: Event Center Complex Advisory Board by Shawn Pritchett, Director of Finance

Basically they are changing the name of the EC advisory board, even though nothing has really changed, including taking any recommendations.

I look forward to the council discussion on this, I have a feeling several of them will have a unique opinion of such a failed district.

Historical LED lighting & Secret(?) Bunker Ramp budgets at the Sioux Falls City Council

We will start with the regular council meeting last night. It was a very short meeting with virtually zero questions or discussions. The only fireworks were the expected obstruction from Lead City Attorney Stacy Kooistra, who likes to make things up when he doesn’t want to answer questions. I call it (I didn’t sign up for this) lying. It’s like he doesn’t want to lie, but he has to because the mayor made him accept an appointment because he was childhood friends with Mrs. Poops, or something like that.

Councilor Starr pulled the legal agreement for the Bunker Ramp from the consent agenda and asked Kooistra where the $150K is coming from? Stacy said it was coming from the project budget. Pat asked how much was remaining in the budget, and Stacy couldn’t answer the question without input from finance (who were in the lobby at the time) but the $150K could be covered, than chastised Starr for not giving the question in advance (their normal excuse). Than Pat asked how do you know if there is enough in the budget to cover the $150K if you don’t know how much the total budget is? Stacy then changes gears and says he can’t say publicly out of the best interest of the city and pending litigation, into which Starr replies, what about the best interest of the public and citizens and is the budget really that big of a secret?

It’s not.

The irony is that all of the information is publicly available because it is in the budget book from last year. I guess the fund started at around $1.2 million and now because of all the counseling and lawyering we are whittled down to around $800K and some change. The rumor from the developer is that he was made an offer and declined. Some officials on both sides think this will go to trial, which I welcome. I could care less of the outcome, it will just be nice to hear how this all fell apart in a court of law and the public will truly see how poorly negotiated this was on both sides.

During the last agenda item at the meeting, the finance director (you know the guy that wasn’t supposedly there earlier) presented the delinquent accounts for the year. Starr asked him what the total was since it wasn’t on their presentation. Shawn said he didn’t add it up, then Pat says, “Do you know how much is in the Bunker Ramp budget?” You can guess the answer.

HISTORICAL LED LIGHTING?

During the city council information meeting they discussed all the splendid savings we are receiving for the Pavilion roof repairs. We are actually saving quite a bit of money because we are using $6 million of Covid relief funds we budgeted last year. The consultants said that the roof would cost $3.6 million without the spindles and $4.2 million with them and a little extra for LED lighting. What I found humorous is that they want the spindles to keep the historic look of the building, but they want to add LED backlighting? Is that historic? NOT. It seems like since the kitty is full of Federal money we should just go whole hog, I agree, but we should spend the money on something else, like affordable housing opportunities. I personally don’t think we need the spindles or the LED lighting, fix the cornice cap and more importantly fix the roof and move on already.

Maybe I should put LED backlighting on my roof vents so people notice their architectural beauty 😊

Washington Pavilion presenting their Bazillion Dollar roof on Tuesday

In other news from the Pavilion, there will be a presentation tomorrow for the new roof and their parapet replacement (you know, those spindle thingies on the top of the building that no one knows are there and if not replaced, most people would not notice);

Washington Pavilion Cornice and Parapet Replacement by Scott Rust, Purchasing Manager; and Steve Jastram, Arch, Inc.

As we know, there have been several numbers thrown out there about fixing the roof, the highest is around $6 million. Even councilors have asked if they don’t do the parapets could it be cheaper. But what most people don’t know is that the roof has to be fixed because 1) the parapets are about to fall off and 2) it wasn’t constructed correctly to begin with. When the center of the building was gutted during construction they were supposed to replace the entire roof as a complete roof, instead to cut corners they matched up the new roof over the Great Hall with the existing roof over the outside office space and lobby. It would be like backing your Ferrari into a telephone pole and fixing the cracked fender with duct tape and spray paint. They were warned it would not work, and it didn’t. In fact it leaked from the very beginning and was/has been causing water damage in the building and over the years they kept applying more duct tape and spray paint. As for the parapets, they should just go completely, they are a hazard, even if the new ones are made from fix-a-flat foam or something.

What is interesting about this proposal is that the Pavilion hasn’t released a financial report in 1-1/2 years, but recently they changed their reporting period from July-June for the fiscal year. We have NO IDEA what the finances were from July 2020-June 2021. But if you look closely, even during the first half of Covid the Pavilion did pretty good (pages 27-28). What is interesting is that expenses in 2020 were around $8 Million while in 2019 they were $13 million, yet the books level out at the end.

Hmmmmmm.

I just think the Bazillion has some splaining to do before asking the tax payers to blow $6 million on a roof from the entertainment tax when they have some money in their kitty to help pay for it.

Has the City of Sioux Falls reached a settlement agreement with the Bunker Ramp?

Either they have or it’s very close. In the consent agenda (Item #7 – Sub Item #12);

City Attorney, Engagement Agreement for Legal Services for Village on the River, Fuller, Williamson, Nelson & Preheim, LLP., $150,000.00

I do have a few concerns with this 1) It seems like a very large dollar amount for legal services to just draw up a settlement agreement and 2) I’m not sure the city has ever used this local law firm before.

So what is this? I have a couple of guesses;

• This was the developer’s law firm and they are getting a cut of the settlement OR the city has agreed to pay the developer’s legal fees as part of the settlement?

It will be interesting to see how much of this plays out in the public and media. Will we ever know what the settlement amount is to the developer? Will there be some kind of announcement? NOT HOLDING MY BREATH.

UPDATE II: Is Mayor TenHaken considering City Employee Retention Bonuses?

UPDATE II: Today I heard chatter that the city employees have been openly talking about the bonus they may receive and many are happy with it. One employee mentioned this recently happened in Rapid City;

After two failed motions by the Rapid City Council Monday, 430 city employees will receive $500 in COVID-19 bonuses.

The Rapid City Council voted 6-4 to approve the bonuses for non-public safety employees who worked during the pandemic in 2020. 

Notice they are calling this a Covid bonus. I can see why it almost didn’t pass. While Sioux Falls virtually had NO shut down in the private sector a large portion of Sioux Falls city employees were allowed to work from home.

I also find it ironic that Mayor Poops is considering such a bonus (like Rapid City) after receiving this endorsement;

In the police briefing today it was mentioned that new recruits would get a hiring bonus. I am not opposed to this, because it is a normal practice for the private and public sector to offer hiring bonuses.

But it got me thinking. I thought I heard TenHaken talk about this recently;

“Our city employees are seeing the bonuses and incentives and work-from-home opportunities and every kitchen sink being thrown at employees … so we have to continue looking at how we’re being aggressive in retaining our people and making us an employer of choice,” he said. “We have to get serious about how to compete with the private sector. I have a lot of unfilled positions causing stress for the city.”

First off, besides the corner of 8th & Indiana and a couple dozen panhandlers, the city is running just fine. If we are short on city staff, it certainly isn’t being seen. Day to day operations are not any different then pre-covid.

I don’t know how the city could possibly give retention bonuses. I don’t think it has ever been done before. It would also be a troubling move for the city union(s) to accept a bonus instead of a raise. A bonus is a one time payment that really doesn’t do much to advance your salary. Every year the city council rubber stamps a property tax increase by a certain percentage, and based on their argument this is good because that compounds over the years. Raises also work that way. It would be much better for city employees to negotiate a permanent pay increase instead of a lousy stimulus check from the city and signed by Poops.

I also don’t think it is appropriate to give retention bonuses to current city employees. Studies have shown that current city employees are already some of the best paid in the region AND further more, the city is not a for-profit institution. What would this bonus be based on? Tax collection? Which is also concerning because that means we are collecting too much if we have money to throw around for bonuses to employees who are only measured by their service instead of profits. Also consider around 30% of city employees don’t even live in Sioux Falls or contribute to the tax base.

Further more, where are we at with tax collection last year? Does the mayor have some kind of inside information he is not sharing with the public and a bucket of money he can just throw at the city employees. Why not spend the money on fixing more infrastructure?

But the biggest red flag is the ethics of giving out bonuses right before a city election. It is nothing else but a huge bribe for the city employees who are eligible to vote in April. I’m not even sure that is legal?

If any of this is true (who knows with all the babbling Paul does in the interview), I encourage the Unions to reject the bonus and ask to go back into negotiations for a percentage increase instead and throw this bribe back in Poops face.

UPDATE: This was just posted on the SF City Council agenda for Tuesday informational. So there must be something going on? Bonus or Raise? We will see.

*Some of my city hall moles have told me there is something else brewing. I guess there was some secretive meetings held this week with (some select) councilors and directors in Poops Quarters about some kind private/public partnership with developers and a possible higher education institution. Probably to assist TenHaken’s Tool Team at DSU? 🙂

UPDATE: City of Sioux Falls Financial Director reveals how remodel will be paid for

UPDATE: If you looked at the finance reports I posted a link to earlier in the week you will see that Matt Paulson and Craig Lloyd were the top two donors to candidates. Heck, even Councilor Nutzert donated a $1,000 to a candidate to challenge incumbent Brekke. Which I find strange considering 1) Janet has more qualifications than anyone sitting on the council and 2) Has voted with the rubber stampers 99% of the time. As I have mentioned in the past, this is why you can’t get regular people to run, because the money elite will donate to the rubber stampers that will do their bidding. Also notice there is a lot of talk from Paulson when it comes to remodeling the new building, but once again nothing in writing and only days after council approval the dollar amount they were floating around has suddenly disappeared from the discussion;

Earlier this week, the Sioux Falls City Council approved a deal that will allow Startup Sioux Falls to move into the former Parks and Recreation Department building at Sixth Street and Phillips Avenue. The agreement provides a 10-year lease for Startup Sioux Falls at the rate of $1 per year. The space will be completely renovated at Startup Sioux Falls’ expense, creating offices for its staff, a modern co-working space and an event space for startup community events. This move will place the center of activity for new business formation directly in the heart of downtown.

As usual, follow the money, the rich give out their tokens and they receive the goodies from the taxpayers.

I had no doubt the city council would vote 8-0 to approve the new Zeal/Startup Center last night, but it didn’t stop me from testifying about the lack of transparency in the contract that should mandate they HAVE to spend $1 million or more on the remodel.

Of course several board members walked to the podium (after I testified) and talked about all the wonderful things . . . blah, blah, blah, but none of them, any city employees or councilors counterpointed what I said about having it in the contract in writing.

One councilor asked the finance director about the naming rights deal in the contract. Shawn admitted that the remodel plans haven’t been drawn up yet so they don’t have a price tag yet (even though they are fine with renting the facility for $1 a year). Then he explains that the money needed for the remodel will be likely generated by naming rights. In other words, there is the possibility Matt Paulson will likely front the money for the remodel in return for hanging his MarketBeat sign on the building.

I don’t care what kind of charitable giving people do in their personal and business lives, but it always pisses me off when that gift has strings attached when it involves public/private partnerships. Can’t these people just write a check and be done with it? Of course not, they need something in return, as if the $1 a year lease for 10 years isn’t enough? I understand naming rights when it comes to the Events Center and other facilities like that, but now we are doing it in parks and buildings that we should just liquidate. Why does the public have to be involved with this very scrupulous deal to begin with?

When Shawn said that the council ‘Will have to approve any naming rights.’ I just laughed, as if they would vote anything down at this point. What a bunch of Clowncilors.

Once again, another handout with the taxpayers holding the bag.

There will never be ‘Regular People’ serving in Sioux Falls city government ever again

We saw the writing on the wall when Alex Jensen and his cabal of donors had to spend $127K to beat a self-employed piano teacher by around 90 votes. The regular guy/gal is no longer allowed to compete.

Just look at the usual donors on the financial reports (someone should tell Andera that she can’t add her smaller contributions up twice 🙂

It is the same group of rich Republican businessmen and mysterious dark PACs (so some of these rich people can hide their identities) that are once again funding the campaigns of the NON-regular people (except Islam who seems to have half the state of Michigan gunning for her and they all work at the same hospital 🙂

You have to chuckle when Clowncilor Marshall Selfish actually suggested that the reason the members needed a bigger salary is so more regular people could run. That’s rich considering he never mentioned that you actually need the money up front.

We could change this with a couple of easy steps;

• Get rid of the Home Rule Charter as it exists and give more power back to council and,

• Publicly finance the races so everyone is on the same playing field.

We of course first must throw out the current charter, and there is a stew brewing on that one along with some other goodies I will share very soon.

So it looks like we will have yet another city election where a handful of people vote for the very people who are lining their pockets with donations from the banksters, bondsters and developers that are turning our city into a corporate welfare state.

This is the current lineup for the election;

Mayoral Race; Paul TenHaken, David Zokaites, Taneeza Islam

Central District; Curt Soehl (No challengers)

Southeast District; David Barranco (No Challengers)

At Large (A); Janet Brekke, Bobbi Andera, Dr. Sarah Cole

At Large (B); Rich Merkouris, Pam Cole

Zeal lease contract with the City of Sioux Falls is based on empty promises

Before we dive into the current proposed agreement (Item #18) watch these videos from 2018 (FF to 9:30 in the first Q & A and listen to the Mayor’s answer about personal guarantee);

So why do I bring this up? The deal that took place back than echoes what is going on with ZEAL.

Let me make this clear, I SUPPORT, Zeal & StartUp Sioux Falls moving to this building, I support their vision for the facility, I even kind of support the $1 a year lease. But let’s face it, most people in this city are worried about where their next paycheck and meal is coming from and not starting a business so there is absolutely NO reason the taxpayers need to partner with them. In fact DTSF has several private properties available for a facility like this without the city needing to get involved.

The main issue with the deal is the handshake promise that they will spend $1 million remodeling the building. It is true that in the contract they will be responsible for general maintenance and have to carry insurance, but like the Bunker Ramp deal there is NOTHING in writing that they must spend this money, even though the city promises to reimburse them if they break the lease. The mayor also has authority of what improvements can be made, which is good. But like the deal with Jeff Lamont that was based on a flimsy piece of paper that he was ‘good for the money’ ZEAL has NOTHING in writing they will spend the $1 million.

Did we learn nothing from the $26 million dollar pile of cement?

What baffles me is that while this mayor and the past one claim they are running the city like a business, NO ONE in the private sector would sign a contract like this if the promises were not in writing and approved by their legal counsel.

This is just another handshake deal between the mayor and his rich buddies with NO (legal) accountability, and while it frustrates me these backroom deals persist, I think for the most part the massive conflicts of interest sadden me when we could have just done better. I know the mayor shares a deep friendship with some of the individuals involved, but this isn’t the mayor personally borrowing his lawn mower to a buddy, this is a tax payer owned asset and we must dot the I’s and cross the T’s to protect OUR asset NOT the mayor’s friend’s asses.

Some may argue that this is NOT like the Bunker Ramp deal, which when it comes to value, they are correct. But when it comes to a private/public partnership almost everything is identical, including nothing in writing. We just don’t seem to learn from (recent) history when it comes to contracts with these partnerships like the cost overruns and shoddy work with the Pavilion, Admin Building, Events Center, Midco Aquatic Center and Bunker Ramp. I have even heard there are now millions in cost overruns with the Water Treatment and Public Safety facilities that are not even completed yet.

I don’t expect my council and mayor to be geniuses when it comes to these negotiations, but at least look at history and rely on your 6-Figure a year staff to give top notch advice and draw up contracts that value accountability.

City of Sioux Falls Finally gets it together on housing, maybe?

So after our unemployment rates drops to almost zero, and we have more warehouse jobs than workers, the city finally engages on a housing plan, read it HERE.

While Director Matt Tobias’ (not sure what his title is since the Poops Admin likes to make up fancy titles every 3 months) presentation was the best I am not sure why it took a decade and a massive board to finally implement a plan just a couple of months from a city election. Matt made great points that I have been harping about for years like promoting the community development programs, increasing the income level of qualification and pushing for up to $30K loans at 0% interest.

Like I said, glad to see the wheels turning, but I am also wondering why it took so long. We have known for over a decade that the city was growing at an enormous rate and density in our core was crucial. Many administrations, private non-profits, councilors and developers have talked about it. In fact I attempted to bring in the Strongtown’s founder over 10 years ago to speak on it, but I couldn’t get enough people to help donate to his gas money and hotel room. When he eventually came, I had to chuckle when people said to me if I had heard of him.

I will tell you why it has taken so long to get the ball rolling; GREED and the cornfields are running out.

Just listen to what Greg Neitzert said about it, once again defending the developers and contractors and how gosh darn it, they need to make money or the plan won’t work. I agree, anyone in business for themselves needs to make a profit and they need to eat, but I have rarely met a large developer in this town that is living in central Sioux Falls in a 900 sq ft home. With their profit margins, no state income tax, low labor costs and multiple tax incentives, they do ok. There is absolutely NO reason why they can’t do projects in the core building density and NOT make money.

I also look at this as LOCAL economic development. Most of the smaller contractors that do this kind of work are local, they live here, their workers live here and likely they buy materials and tools here. That all gets recirculated into the economy.

Don’t fool yourself, these policies have been researched for a long time, but like most things in this city and even country, if someone can’t figure out how to gouge the consumer the feckless leaders don’t act. This is one of the main reasons it infuriated me that they are asking for a raise. I guess they think they need to be paid more for doing less.