Entries Tagged 'SF City Council' ↓

UPDATE: Open Letter to the Sioux Falls City Council about the (re)appointment of David Pfeifle for Lead City Attorney

UPDATE: Last night at the council meeting where David was approved 6-1 (Selberg absent, Starr dissent) there were no questions for the appointee. I guess now the administration is even skipping the job interview process in appointing directors.

I also like when the mayor yells ‘Oh my Gosh!’ during public input (FF: 1:21:40) he then says, “See this Boy Scouts you are learning about decorum and professionalism.” What PTH doesn’t understand is that decorum and especially professionalism applies to the body on the dais as well and saying ‘Oh my Gosh!’ to a public inputer who you are personally irritated by is certainly not decorum ‘like’. I get it that you have to shut down people after their 3 minutes are up, but at least let them finish their sentence or point before yelling ‘Thank you’ at them 4 times in a row. The Boy Scouts were probably wondering why the mayor was acting like a Cub Scout.

Cameraman Bruce Danielson sent this email to the council today about David’s record. The proposed appointment with city council approval will be tonight at the 6 PM meeting (Item #44);

I ask the City Council to consider the following thoughts and let these weigh in on the decision to rehire a flawed nominee for Sioux Falls City Attorney.

How will the nominee deal with issues arising between the City Council and the Mayor’s office and the City Employees?

• Will the nominee once again switch sides, giving up his City responsibilities and use City information to personally represent the mayor such as in an ethics complaint without a conflict release from the City Council?

• Will the nominee give up his City Charter duties and use City information and position to personally represent the mayor, such as in an ethics complaint in violation of the City Home Rule Charter and attorney-client relationship with the City Council?

• Will the nominee, in issues before the Board of Ethics, recuse when confronted with conflict or once again risk disbarment similar to his part in two 2014 Board of Ethics hearings involving the mayor?

• Will the nominee once again step aside from his Charter responsibilities to become the personal attorney for the mayor as he did in one of the 2014 Board of Ethics hearings?

What does South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance have to say about their Executive Director taking inside information back to their largest customer?

• Will the nominee force the city to obtain outside counsel every time there is an issue involving his former employer, SDPAA?

• How can SDPAA Board be comfortable with their former employee, who possesses confidential information about its operations, now being able to use it against them?

• Has the SDPAA Board given a formal conflict release for all future cases involving this appointment?

• In most situations when an employee of one organization (SDPAA) decides to take a position with a customer of the first organization (City of Sioux Falls), there is a customary time gap between the resignation and the accession to the other.

Why do think there will be better choices by the candidate then there was last time in city employ?  A sampling of some of the candidates prior issues is not a great recommendation. 

• Events Center hidden cost overruns resulting in the loss of building warranty.

• First time in history a vendor placed a mechanic’s lien on a major asset of the city resulting in a hidden settlement – the Events Center.

• Downtown parking ramp issues, including a building collapse, causing death and the illegal asbestos removal.

• Backdated paperwork on city property sales and projects handled by the city attorney office.

• Interference with public driven activities such as the Administration Building petition drive and others?

• Created the template for advocational education programs to sway public voting illegally using City resources in violation of the 1st Amendment and plain language in SDCL.

• Approved the unconstitutional property zoning changes without legal service to the city’s 66,000 properties.

• Allowed destruction of evidence once a notice of claim under SDCL 3-21 has been filed?

These are just a few of the issues the nominee has been involved in to strip the people of their voices and the people’s representatives, City Council of their oversight. The city attorney is not the personal attorney of the mayor, the city attorney must be someone who understands their loyalties are to the public and act that way every time.

I guess Coffee with the Council went well

(screenshot from Keloland.com)

I guess that’s what you get when you hold it so close to a funeral home.

Mayor TenHaken’s advice on Civility

In The Dakota Scout’s print addition that appeared today, Paul has a column about his goals for 2023. Most of it was wordy unreadable or confusing double-talk. But I found this item curious;

Is he calling out himself?

Only truth, honesty and transparency can unify a community. Discussions don’t become inflammatory unless you are doing something, behind the scenes, that are concerning constituents. Like a $10 million cost overrun on a bridge, changing a recommended sustainability study that took volunteers over a year to compile or rejecting a mural selection with NO explanation (or even what this supposed mural looks like).

Honestly, I have no idea who likes to have an inflammatory discussion about local government policy (I kind of do) but other then this outlier, most people just want their local leaders to be competent, trustworthy and transparent and they would rather not engage city hall. The proof is in the low turnout in our city elections.

Division in city government doesn’t start with the low man or woman plowing or patrolling our streets, it begins at the top in leadership, specifically our policy body the city council that sits around and waits for crumbs from the mayor and the mayor himself.

If you want people to stop criticizing you, it begins with YOU! You would be amazed at how positively people respond when you are honest with them.

Speaking of our policy body, they have a shingig Saturday morning at Leonardo’s Cafe at the Washington Pavilion from 9-10 AM.

While I applaud this event, I also think the location and time is perfect, ON A DIFFERENT SATURDAY! There will thousands of people downtown Saturday celebrating St. Pats, not sure they are going to be driving over the top of each other to attend this event. Either move it to a different Saturday or different location.

Is the City of Sioux Falls trying to play ‘Catchup’ with ADA sidewalk repairs?

A couple of interesting items on the consent agenda (Item #6, Sub-items 9-10)

Notice almost $1 million in sidewalk repairs. Is it just a pure coincidence?

The city also seems to think we need to spend $380K to design a new clubhouse at Elmwood (Sub-item #6).

Elmwood Golf Course Clubhouse; Agreement for professional services, Stone Group Architects, Inc.

While I understand there is design costs, we are NOT building a Nuclear Reactor, it’s a room where people can eat popcorn and drink beer and a lean two for parking golf carts. If it costs this much to design the facility, can’t wait for the price tag of the actual building? The new city engineering formula is estimate the cost, tack on another 10% and $10 million and call it good.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls City Council Consent Agenda includes expenditures for the Zoo and Indian Mound retaining wall

Sometimes you have to peruse the city council’s consent agenda a few times before you catch stuff (Item #6).

Sub-Item #14, Great Plains Zoo Master Plan; Agreement for professional services, CLR Design, $80K (as pointed out to me, non-profit’s subsidized by the city usually pay for their own master plans, at least the Washington Pavilion Management Company has in the past for theirs. What is even more troubling about asking city coffers to pay for this is the new the partnership the Zoo has with the Butterfly house. Is the city gearing up to becoming a bigger owner in the Zoo’s capital? I’m all for long range masterplans, but instead of a study on penguins and butterflies maybe the city council needs to have a masterplan for the long term growth of the city.)

Sub-Item #22, Indian Mound Retaining Wall Rehabilitation – Bank Stabilization – Evaluation and Preliminary Design; Agreement for professional services, Infrastructure Design Group, Inc., $52K

UPDATE: This is a different retaining wall closer to the bike trail by the Country Club.

Sioux Falls City Hall still pushing for a Full-Time Arts coordinator

At the informational meeting this Tuesday the mayor’s office is still pushing for this position after the council has already denied the position last year;

A. Arts Task Force Update on Arts Coordinator Position by Jeff Eckhoff, Director of Planning and Development Services; and, Janet Brown, Arts Task Force

If you read the attached documents you will see the position would work with the VAC (Visual Arts Commission).

After watching the Bunker Ramp mural debacle, I am even more confident that this position would give the administration the upper hand in making final public art decisions and as a position in the Mayor’s office they would do the bidding of the mayor making the VAC almost obsolete.

While I agree with most of what is being said when it comes to public art coordination I believe it takes an effort from multiple non-profits, artists and other stakeholders. An actual public art commission or committee would make more sense helping guide these organizations.

I’m not sure the council has changed their mind on the position, but with this renewed vigor, even after the failure of the mural, it makes you wonder what kind of deal is being cut with council leadership (Council Chair Soehl was the biggest opponent when first introduced).

I’m sure an argument will be made that the failure of the mural process is a reason we need a person making these decisions.

The mural didn’t fail because of the process, in fact I fully commend the artists, VAC and the SFAC for their due diligence and incredible work they did to bring forth a candidate. It was their first go around at doing this, and they checked all the boxes. The mural ultimately failed because ONE person was offended and that is NO way to institute public art.

City Employees getting a raise

I was glad to see that most city union employees are getting a raise (Resolutions 41-44).

While the police, fire and regular staff are getting a 6.5% COLA, council employees are getting 3.5%.

This really could have been negotiated last Fall when the administration knew there was high inflation. Instead they screwed around with a bonus before the election and now this first quarter raise.

Like I said, it is good to see this is happening as our city employees are taxpayer assets that need to be taken care of, I just don’t understand the piece meal approach.

City of Sioux Falls & Mayor TenHaken being sued for ADA violations

I had heard about this lawsuit this past summer, but I couldn’t figure out who was filing it or what it was specifically about. It was first filed in June of 2022 and amended in September;

Mayor Paul TenHaken and the city of Sioux Falls are being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The suit is filed on behalf of Sioux Falls resident Robert Elliot. It claims that the city has failed “to design, construct, maintain public facilities and enforce city ordinances related to sidewalks for ADA compliance, access ways, sidewalks and roads that are fully accessible to, and independently usable by persons with disabilities.”

The lawsuit also claims that barriers also violate city ordinance.

Besides the residential sidewalks (the adjacent property owner’s responsibility) the ‘barriers’ have been an issue for years. As a person who has rode the sidewalks in this town on a bike for years I have often been astonished with how bad the sidewalks are mainly on Minnesota Avenue and 41st street. They look like sidewalks in a war torn country like Ukraine.

I was curious why the city decided to spray paint to their heart’s content thousands of sidewalks last year and offer a neighborhood grant program to fix them. Looks like they were trying to play catchup. As it was explained to me the city could not use ARPA money to fix adjacent sidewalks due to liability. In other words if the city just used ARPA money to fix the sidewalks they would take on the liability of the sidewalk if someone got injured falling on a crack, BUT the city could have used the money to fix barriers and put in ADA accessible ramps to the sidewalks.

Which brings us to this claim in the suit;

The lawsuit also claims the city has the ability to pay for repairs and construction. As an example of ability to pay, it cites the several million dollars the city received in federal COVID funds in 2021 and that the city spent zero of that infrastructure aid money on ADA compliance.

This lone sentence in the lawsuit is the kicker. While the city literally threw money at butterflies, tennis courts and ‘other stuff’ at the DSU (private) research facility they spent NO money fixing ADA problems.

Let’s not kid ourselves, a Federal lawsuit like this will be in the courts for years and the city will likely fight tooth and nail with our tax dollars instead of doing the right thing and just complying.

The city should really just work on a compromise and a plan to do the right thing but with a lead city attorney with one foot out the door I have a feeling this is going to end badly.

UPDATE*II: City of Sioux Falls considering eliminating internal audit

UPDATE II: At their discussion today, Council Vice-Chair Alex Jensen said the reason audits have been down is because of staff turnover. They currently have only one full-time auditor. So why not hire more people! What a concept. As the city’s human resources department has been handing out hiring bonuses like candy maybe it is time to take that approach to finding more auditors. The city isn’t looking to hire a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist, if you hire a employment consultant to do a national search I can almost guarantee you would have qualified applicants within 30 days.

The committee voted to explore a hybrid model for the internal audit in which they would have internal staff and external auditors. I am adamantly opposed. It would make more sense to just hire a couple more auditors instead of fiddling around with private CPA companies auditing our departments. The name of the department is ‘internal audit’ and it should remain that way, internal.

If you look at the agenda for Wednesday’s Audit Committee meeting you will see this;

• Internal Audit Outsourcing

I was told today by a city hall mole that the council was unaware of this recommendation and that is likely coming from *COUNCIL LEADERSHIP.

While we do use some outside auditing for the city it is important to maintain an internal department that is a check on the administration and it’s financial systems. The council needs to be in control of this department. If we outsource internal audit there would no longer be an internal city government check on the mayor’s/department’s spending power.

Try not to wear gold watches when pleading your case

Last night during the public input time at the council meeting Vitaliy Strizheus who owns an unfinished house the city is scheduled to demolish on Monday came to plead his case to the council and public. I have avoided posting about this because 1) I really don’t care about the lifestyles of the rich and famous of Sioux Falls and 2) I do not know the details of the case including accusations that the city is discriminating based on race and what Constitutional property rights he may have. The city has a track record on this after ignoring their own building codes and allowing an oversized mansion to be built in McKennan Park.

Hopefully a Federal judge will block the demolition so we can get a clearer understanding of what is going on. But taking 10 years to complete a home is unacceptable and there should be consequences. Not sure charging taxpayers $85K to demolish and all the litigation expenses is really beneficial to the defendant or the public. I think this could have been solved in a different manner. Why can’t the city just take the home and sell it on auction?

But what I found most intriguing is while this guy is begging the city to spare his home he dawns a gold watch. He should have taken a queue from this guy at last week’s public input complaining about the uselessness of the pothole hotline. Maybe Carhartt Kent had a gold watch under his coveralls but I am guessing NOT.