While I rant and rave about transparency and city government, sometimes a councilor lifts a finger. Merkouris sponsored and got passed this city ordinance last night (FF: 44:00, Item #10);

The proposal requires council approval of contract that are in excess of $100,000 per vendor, for each calendar year. Those contracts involving the expenditure of funds less than $100,000 will be noticed on the agenda. The proposal requires that all contract subject to council approval be delivered to the City Clerk and placed on the consent agenda. Contracts/agreements that are subject to the state’s executive session laws will no require council approval. Existing ordinances that duplicate SDCL are removed.

While I have stated before this a good ‘first step’ in opening up the contracts to the public, they need to make more bold changes moving forward.

But it was Rich’s testimony before the approval vote that stuck with me. Rich told a story about how his wife tells him he needs to tell his daughters he loves them, and he replies, that he provides for them, so they should know he loves them, and his wife tells him that you still have to say it. Rich uses this example to point out that the public doesn’t always know what is going on unless you articulate it (TELL THEM). He nails it! We can assume our government is open because ‘good people’ sit on the dais, but unless you actually tell us what is going on, we can assume anything.

Short-timer and world class vitamin salesman who decided not to run for a 2nd term suggested that the $100K was too low and it should be $500k because the council is too busy to be signing all these checks. Heck, Alex, why not make it $20 million so we can build more overpriced bridges for whiney babies who check their ‘decorum’ at the mayor’s office front door.

The CounTcilor’s term on the council has been truly befuddling. He truly proved a dead person could beat Stehly, because his actions and policy legislation has been truly DEAD.


CRC member, Carl Zylstra proposed today at the CRC meeting that a wage commission be formed to study wage increases for councilors and the mayor and gives them the power to increase their salary (but not during their term). While I would say a study would be nice, not in this case. The inflationary increases have worked well and keep politics out of the pay increase, in fact, I think the mayor got over a $10K raise last year just from inflationary increases. It works and the voters agreed almost 2 years ago, they are fine with what the council is getting paid and the current setup. Leave it alone.

While I might agree that the councilors do deserve more pay, they should have to punch into a clock instead and get paid hourly, because some of these folks would make $100K a year while some of them would be lucky to collect a paycheck (they should be handing out oxygen tanks instead).

“SELBERG! You are late again! And Paul, tuck in your shirt! And where are your slip free shoes?! All Stars?! This isn’t a 1976 meet and greet with the Globetrotters!”

The argument is that in order to attract good candidates the pay has to be higher. Really? All the insider deals isn’t enough for them? Also, if the pay is so bad, maybe we should have a cap on how much a council candidate can spend on a campaign?* Maybe it should be 50% of their annual pay? I don’t think anyone spending $100K for a job that pays $20K a year is to concerned about the pay, after all, this is public service 🙁

*I have often thought the city council should implement some campaign finance rules. I’m sorry, but spending 5X the amount on a campaign this job pays in a year tells me you are more concerned about winning and less about what it pays.

Sometimes what you say is as important as what you do. In the administration’s yearly stab at raising our property taxes (even with property values and housing costs thru the roof) they are now using language that says we basically have a legal obligation to raise your taxes (Item #61):

Background & Objective: This ordinance shows the budgets of the Governmental Funds for the year ending December 31, 2024, and the required revenues and sources.

Notice the word ‘required’ added to the description. There is NO requirement that the city raises our property taxes. Budgets are fluid when you are proposing them, and the city council can amend that budget so an increase would NOT be required.

Within the actual ordinance itself, the language is even more suggestive;

That the sums of money that are listed in Exhibit A attached hereto and made a part of this ordinance are appropriated to meet the lawful expenses and liabilities of the City in fiscal year 2024.

So does the city council have a legal requirement to pass this? NO. The only requirement they have is to either pass it or not and adjust the budget accordingly. They do have a choice in the matter and to suggest they MUST legally pass this to uphold the PROPOSED 2024 budget is a load of hogwash.

This will likely pass with maybe 1 or 2 dissenters, but I hope a couple of the dissenters get together and have an amendment discussion about removing the language that suggests they must LEGALLY vote for the increase.

Over the years when I have seen past administrations pull this stunt where they tell councilors they have a legal obligation to vote YES I ask the question? Then why are they even bothering to vote if they have NO choice?

Cut the crap! There is NO legal requirement to raise our taxes, but there is a legal requirement that our city council acts within the best interest of the public’s coffers, and with one of the worst economic downturns since 2008 and housing costs skyrocketing, that best interest would be to vote NO on an increase and let the administration make the cuts to the budget THEY proposed. Then let them have a poutfest presser calling out the council for doing their due diligence.


The council will also get an update on the disposal of the zoo mounts at the informational meeting, then they will be sucked into a series of executive sessions in which I’m sure they will be told they only have ONE option on the matter (because it is easier to bully councilors behind closed doors). It will also be interesting to see if the presentation includes any recommendations from experts.

During the regular meeting they will also be discussing creating an arts commission (Item #63). This is another initiative by the mayor’s office that has been shrouded in secrecy. While I support the concept of more public arts coordination with the city NOT under the current management.

On December 18, 2018, the Sioux Falls City Council passed the first E-Bike ordinance only allowing E1’s. Listen to the testimony for allowing E2’s also (FF: 27:00). Folks, nothing has changed in 5 years! The only thing that has changed is that E-Bikes have become safer, lighter, more affordable and technologically advanced. Just look at this ride, the battery is so powerful you can use it as a power source (it has an inverter) and can be ridden full throttle and full headlamp for 105 miles on one charge.

Councilors Starr and Stehly tried to amend it to allow all E-Classes and were voted down. Starr’s argument holds true today, this is an opportunity for people with mobility issues (old folks) to get some exercise.

E-Bikes are not going away, in fact I think in 10 years you will probably be hard pressed to find a traditional bike in a storefront and E1’s will be considered dinosaurs.

I had to chuckle a bit during public input, former Mayor Rick Knobe suggested they put signs on the rec trail that inform people to be ‘courteous’. LOL. He got his wish.

As I have mentioned earlier today, both the Active Transportation Board and the Parks Board tabled the recommendation citing ignorance of E2 technology.

And that is FAIR.

As I told Councilor Neitzert after the first meeting, I would much rather have NO recommendation then one from a group of volunteers that don’t understand the topic.

While Greg wants to rework the ordinance, AGAIN, and bring it back, I told him to just bring it to the council as is. Councilor Starr agreed and further added that we gave these boards an opportunity to make a recommendation and they passed citing their lack of knowledge on the topic. So what would make you think they would become any wiser in a month or two?

I think the council has at least 5 votes to pass this, and there will be public opposition and support. Even if it fails, you can use the experience to figure out what needs to be reworked. Or better yet, pass the ordinance with an amendment that funds a year long study of the effects of E2s on the trails and speed limits. After a 12 month review the city council can come back and tweak the issues, or expand the availability. This isn’t rocket science folks. You could even put a 12-month cutoff on the temporary ordinance with the intent to re-introduce or make permanent.

One of my friends who recently moved back to Sioux Falls after living in the Southwest for the past decade is an E-bike fanatic and was really involved in her last E-Biking community and she was amazed by how far behind Sioux Falls is when it comes to regulating the technology. We are essentially 5 years behind the rest of the country (ironically when they passed this stupid ordinance to begin with).

We want to be big kids when it comes to parking ramps and hotels on the river but we play like tots* when it comes to modernizing city policies. I think I am going to start handing out binkies at these meetings moving forward.

*There was an ‘incident’ at the Parks Board Meeting that I will posting about in the near future.

I had several city government nerds call me in frustration during the city council meetings this afternoon and tonight because the live stream was NOT working in SIRE (the online meeting portal). This has been happening a lot recently and on and off over the past decade with no fix or solution. The irony is the meetings still stream in citylink, so I just watch them there now instead of waiting for the Model T version of the meeting software to warm up. And how does that work? The cameras are rolling and feeding to CityLink but not to SIRE? Hmmm? I think the city deserves a Sooperhero award for at least being consistent over the past decade and not fixing the problem.


Remember how we got duped out of $20 million dollars for a bridge that is only having the decking replaced? Public Works Director Cotter told councilors during the run up to the funding that they will get a $1.5 million dollar discount because they changed the timeline of the project (extended it). During the budget hearings today he said that hasn’t happened yet and mumbled something about legal. In other words, it will be like the $1 million dollar EC siding settlement that was our money in a contingency fund. This administration and it’s lackey’s will stop at nothing to cross the finish line, including lying about possible cost savings.


Also during the meeting this facility was mentioned to be planned for in 2026. It is interesting that they have architectural drawings of a facility the public knows nothing about. Maybe I missed it, but this was the first I heard about this project.