Entries Tagged 'SF City Council' ↓

Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force meeting from Oct 3 has yet to be posted

I was unable to attend last Monday’s meeting and I have noticed that after 8 days it has yet to be posted on YouTube. I still don’t understand why the meetings cannot be live streamed as they are recorded at Carnegie, but to take 8 days to post a video that can easily be converted and uploaded to YT within a couple of hours is troubling. So unless you could have left work early last Monday and attended in person you have NO idea what was discussed. Transparent government at its best!

But what about our original stink?

Ms. Schwan asks the obvious question when it comes to the ballot initiative, ‘What about Smithfield’s?’

Second, my biggest issue with the initiative as written is that it allows Smithfield to continuing expanding downtown.

Not long ago, I stood on the top floor of the new 10-story Bancorp building at Cherapa Place and looked out at Smithfield in the distance. If we’re going to have a conversation about the suitability of certain locations for meat processing, my hope is that we also can talk about how we might persuade Smithfield to build somewhere else – or even partner with Wholestone, as Hormel did. That conversation can and will never happen if Smithfield’s only option is to expand downtown. The company owns enough land to do so, and by passing this initiative, our community will ensure that’s the only place Smithfield’s growth will occur.

This has been my issue with the petition to begin with. If we are going to ban these kind of operations, we need to ban all of them in the city limits.

I wish the community didn’t have to vote on this at all and that those opposed could have worked with Wholestone to ensure the highest possible mitigation of any environmental factors of concern. That’s typically how we do things in this community.

Yes, prior to Shape Places, the council would have been all over this.

This is why local government matters, because if you don’t pay attention to the baby steps you miss Bigfoot stepping on your head.

With Non-Profit Mergers you wonder what they have in the bank

This week was busy with another non-profit merger;

The Butterfly House & Aquarium has raised $4.2 million toward its capital campaign to expand aquarium exhibits, which can be applied toward the project, Otto-Pepper said.

Of course the Butterfly House is merging with the Zoo and it seems they have raised a lot of money.

LSS is also merging with the Multi-Cultural center, which I fully support, and probably is long past due.

But you have to wonder what is going on with their bank accounts.

As you know, the Levitt has yet to release numbers from their 2021 season even as their 2022 season has been finished for over a month.

The Denny Sanford Premier center is up for contract renewal and they are taking in millions in profits and commissions.

According to the Pavilion’s annual report in 2021 they had over $5 million in the bank. This is after basically skipping a year due to Covid. You also have to remember that we not only give the Pavilion a yearly operational subsidy but we give millions each year fixing the building due to the poor construction of the facility to begin with (windows, roofs, etc.)

Maybe it is time the city council takes a hard look at how much we are subsidizing these facilities taking into consideration how much is in their bank accounts. Do we really need to subsidize the Pavilion, the Zoo, the Denty and other facilities when they may have millions in their bank accounts. I don’t think so.

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

UPDATE II: It is interesting that someone can be PUBLICLY appointed but when they depart from their job it is all of a sudden a personnel issue;

Sioux Falls’ former internal audit manager, whose appointment drew controversy and conflict of interest claims from city councilors three years ago, has been serving in a different position since August, according to city officials.

But the reason for the move isn’t clear.

Asked whether she had applied for the position or been moved to it, and whether the move had anything to do with her spouse’s position in the city, O’Toole said that the city could not release confidential personnel information.

The city council publicly appointed her and they have a duty to tell the public why she decided to leave council to work for the mayor. It could be as simple as a press release.

But three years after her appointment divided the council, Nelson is now serving as a housing compliance manager for the city, according to Human Resources Director Bill O’Toole

The topic was raised in an informational meeting of the council on Tuesday, as the city’s internal audit program presented findings from several recent audits.

Starr asked about the lack of a statement from Nelson in a damage recovery billing audit, saying it needed to be more clear that she had not been involved in the audit.

During the discussion, Starr said, “the public doesn’t know she’s gone, so we can’t use that as an excuse.”

The hatefest towards transparency continues in city government.

You have to wonder why the mayor would hire Nelson while she was serving as the Internal Audit Manager? Did the council approve of this? It would be one thing if she quit to run her pet store or she was terminated, but if she quit on her own fruition why would the mayor promote her and take a council employee? Weird stuff.

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.