City of Sioux Falls Director salary increases at a minimum

I was actually surprised that large salary increases for directors were at a minimum this time around. Click on links below to view documents;

2022 salaries

2023 salaries

The list is pretty short of who got big ones. As I projected when the debate about giving the mayor a raise during the last election was floated and turned down by the voters, that due to inflation, the mayor and city council would still get very good pay increases even without voter approval.

• Mayor Paul TenHaken: $12,000+

• Angie Uthe, Assistant Director of Human Resources: $9,400+

• Kurt Peppel, Assistant City Engineer: $9,000+

• Matthew McArearey, Fire Chief, $8,400+

• Dr. Jennifer Tinguely, Chief Medical Officer: $7,800+

• Shana Nelson, former Audit Manager and now City Housing Compliance Manager went from making $90K to $97K. A $7,000 raise isn’t bad for jumping the council’s ship. Still would love to know what happened. Maybe one of these days Alex Jensen who was her direct supervisor as council chair will spill the beans, yeah right!

• Erica Beck, Mayor’s Chief of Staff: $6,000+

Speaking of directors, I have noticed lately that the city council loves to spend several minutes at each informational meeting complimenting the directors and mid-managers who are doing presentations. That’s great, and everyone appreciates a thank you when you do your job. But the gushing is out of control. Many directors receive at least a 6-figure salary, a pension and other benefits. They are well compensated for ‘doing their jobs’. A simple ‘Thank You’ should suffice. Selberg, Jensen and Soehl are the worst of the bunch (Barranco is even joining the ‘your so wonderful’ crowd). Like I said, everyone deserves a thank you for a job well done, but the plump paychecks these public employees are taking home should be thanks enough.

I also find it ironic considering the piss poor job the engineering department did on vetting the bid for the 6th Street Unity Bridge and the fact that Council Chair Soehl is continually bitching about how long the meetings can go. Maybe grab director Bob in the hallway and tell him thank you after the meeting instead blowing smoke and gobbling up time with your requiems of appreciation.

Sioux Falls City Council has a leadership problem

Patrick Lalley of wrote an interesting article about how the city council doesn’t have any staff advocates, I’m not sure that is the problem;

The council has some research and legislative assistance. They may need more of an ombudsperson who advocates on their behalf.

The city council has three full-time clerks, an operations manager and and legislative person, I am not sure they need more (I have even suggested they cut back to 2 clerks and an operations person).

The problem is council vice-chair Jensen and chair Soehl who were both re-elected by their peers last year to the same positions. Their main responsibility is to be the connection between the mayor’s office and the council, not only negotiating with the administration but informing the rest of the council what is in the pipeline.

In fact we still have gotten NO reason why Shana Nelson left as Audit Manager (she was appointed in a public meeting) and joined the administration as a Housing Compliance Manager (which garnered her a $7,000 raise).

Not only has council leadership failed the council when it comes to transparency but they have failed the constituents also.

I would suggest the rest of the city council hold a special election and appoint Starr as chair and Merkouris as vice-chair and get some adults in those seats.

Local Governments across the nation are limiting public input due to MAGgots

This story in WaPo addresses something I have been seeing across the nation;

Across a polarized nation, governing bodies are restricting — and sometimes even halting — public comment to counter what elected officials describe as an unprecedented level of invective, misinformation and disorderfrom citizens when theystep to the microphone. As contentious social issues roil once-sleepy town council and school board gatherings, some officials say allowing people to have their say is poisoning meetings and thwarting the ability to get business done.

This tired old excuse comes up all the time especially at our local board meetings. I have told commenters as along as you are addressing the body as a whole and are NOT threatening physical harm, you can speak about whatever you want to;

In Rochester, City Council President Brooke Carlson said one of her primary concerns is making sure meetings remain welcoming to people of all viewpoints and identities. The council’s once-monthly limit on commenting has helped, she said, though it did not please regular speakers.

“You are supposed to be servants of the people,” one, Othelmo da Silva, told the board, according to a video of the meeting. “You should be here to listen to us for as long as you need to, because we are technically your bosses.”

That is a view shared by Barry Sanders, a city council member in Taunton, Mass. Last fall, the council briefly suspended public input after a speaker chastised a council member by name over a dispute that began on social media, violating a requirement that comments be “respectful, courteous and not personal in nature.” Sanders opposed the suspension.

“That’s what the First Amendment speaks to: the right of the public to have their grievances heard. Not the right of the public to say nice things about their elected officials,” Sanders said.

I am not opposed to complementing elected officials but the public comment portion of the meeting should be for bringing up concerns in our community. If you want to say something nice send them an email, text or card (you know that thing you used to put in an envelope with a stamp).

There are people in this community and those who sit on the dais that believe our community is so well run and safe they are surprised that someone would dare to show up to the meetings and question what they are doing. Just off the top of my head I can give you several issues these bodies need to tackle, including homelessness, affordable housing, wages, violent crime, public transit, food deserts, and the utter lack of open and transparent government.

There seems to be a fear if the public knows to much, they are dangerous, and now they are treating the City Council the same way by only giving them a few days to approve a 100% cost overrun. There is a reason governments ramrod projects and it isn’t because they are champions of transparent government, they are likely hiding the devil in the details.

If you truly want people to stop coming to public input, instead of banning it, make our city, county and school governments more transparent. It’s hard to bitch about something that is right in front of your face.

Sioux Falls the 7th most whitest city in the nation

While we were in the Top Ten in 2022 we have dropped off in 2023;

Heavens to Betsy, Sioux Falls, South Dakota sure is white. And not just caucasian. I mean pale and pasty white. It’s pretty cold and dark here for a majority of the year, meaning the white population here has to find all sorts of creative ways to remain occupied for long stretches of the year. That means long hours spent indoors watching Friends reruns and playing parcheesi.

But people seem to like it here – the population of Sioux Falls has increased 22% in the last ten years.

South Dakota is home to Mt. Rushmore, which is a big mountain with four big white men on it.

If you live in Sioux Falls, odds are you drive a pick up truck, drink Budweiser and chew tobacco. Sioux Falls and the greater surrounding area isn’t all hicks and Indian Casinos, though. There’s plenty of golf courses in the area, and they have a zoo. White people like zoos. They also have a butterfly house. Do white people like butterflies? OMG YES!

Obviously you get a lot of snow in this part of the country, and Sioux Falls has lots of stuff for white folks to do – snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding are all very much white sports.

Is Sioux Falls conservative? You betcha. In fact, practically the entire state of South Dakota voted for Trump.

No surprise we came in at that number. I recently saw a news story that said 40% of people who moved to South Dakota were 55 or older and have an income of $100K+, in other words we are NOT attracting young workers and professionals, just a bunch of tax dodging retirees.

UPDATE: City of Sioux Falls posting 2022 spreadsheet for salaries

UPDATE: The city has the correct 2023 salaries posted now. I wonder what poor sap in IT had to upload this at 8:05 AM today?

It’s that time of the year, a quick look at what kind of salary increases city directors received this year. If you go to the link and click on it, you get this;

Oops! It even says that the city posted the new spreadsheet on January 13, 2023.

This of course is NO surprise. The city really struggles with dates on public documents. Probably have to hold a staff meeting and special council meeting to remedy it.

Sioux Falls 6th Street Bridge Project could have been broken up into smaller projects

Some may ask why the city even has an engineering department. Well, for starters they identify projects and determine the best way forward to tackle the project. At least they used to.

Building anything big like a bridge, a swimming pool or an Events Center, you likely would use several subcontractors. The contractor chose to do the bridge project awarded by the council last night on a 6-2 vote (Neitzert and Starr dissenting) will likely have to job out different subcontractors to complete the work that includes demolition, utility work and actually constructing the bridge. The engineering department could have easily broke this project up to make it more appealing to bidders and probably would have saved the city millions.

It wasn’t just the incompetence of the administration and the city council that approved this blindly, it was an utter failure of the Public Works department to NOT take another approach to this to save taxpayers money.

Then there are the questionable and cozy relationships certain contractors have with the city, and that was on full display last night when the council approved this 100% cost overrun with only ONE bid. (Councilors Merkouris and Barranco also changed their votes the last minute I’m assuming to save the Mayor from casting the tie-breaker, which he would have broke and approved).

The precedent set last night by this council and administration was not good and the genie is now fully out of the bottle. Infrastructure projects in Sioux Falls are going to become very, very expensive moving forward.

Who is running for the next mayor of Sioux Falls?

I know, I know, a little early, but you would be surprised how much chatter has been going on already about the next mayoral race. The below predictions are PURE speculation based on convos I have had with city government nerds;

• Mike Huether, the former mayor has been actively reaching out to potential supporters and it is highly likely he will run.

• Greg Jamison, Greg currently serves in the SD legislature, but I have a fishy feeling he would love another round with Mr. Huether.

• Christine Erickson, she is coming off a very successful campaign against the stinky folks, and she has the ego to take a stab at this.

• Alex Jensen, not sure what to think of this, but his name has been floated out there by TenHaken worshippers.

• Greg Neizert, not sure if he is interested, but it seems like the most logical next political step.

• Theresa Stehly, I doubt she will run, but I can almost guarantee if she does run she will be in the runoff.

I’m sure there will be a couple of other Zombies (SNARK!) entering the race, but I have a feeling we will see a very crowded and diverse group.

Happy 15th Anniversary DaCola!

Like most things in my life, I’m a little late. My first post was June 24, 2007.

While I have made very little money over these 15 years from the blog I have pushed change and open government. I have worked on many city campaigns. I have won and I have lost many battles.

Historical perspective is a good thing, and when I find myself engaged in conversation about city government the cobwebs of my mind remember the past and how this city has managed many of those things very well and has also failed. It is of no consequence.

I wish 3 things in the new year from our city leaders;

• Open and transparent government

• Hold the line on tax and fee increases and be fiscally responsible

• Make our community more safe and free to live in

“The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes, the greater the need the prince has of money to distribute among his partisans and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance and enable him to plunder at pleasure.” Benjamin Franklin

It’s been fun, and I am not going anywhere.

UPDATE: City of Sioux Falls Engineering Department off 100%+ on cost overrun projections for 6th Street bridge

UPDATE: Here is a copy of the final bid tabulation: 6th Street Bridge

I understand inflation and cost overruns, but I am not certain how you can be off by 100%?

Recently the city had a change order (cost overrun) on the wastewater project for over $500,000 with NO explanation. With the 6th street bridge, the council gets a short email from Public Works Director, Mark Cotter (Click on the attachments for Item #27)

Good Afternoon City Council and City Council Staff,
On December 22, 2022, we bid the 6th Street Downtown Project. The major elements of this project include a new bridge over the Big Sioux River, extensive underground public and private utility work, a large bore through quartzite rock under the railroad tracks to allow for the utilities to cross, and the elements for the future quiet zone/whistle reduction crossing. The project came in significantly over the engineer’s estimate at $21.8M. There are a number of drivers that make this project difficult to estimate:
• Limited bidders – This is a very complex project coupled with fact that there is a significant amount of bridge work in the region and several contractors are full or are nearly full for the year,
• Project access is a challenge and primarily must be built from one side, the east side,
• Limited staging area coupled with risk of high river flows with spring rains/runoff,
• Tight labor market and continued high construction cost inflation,

*The original cost estimate put out for bid was $8,867,228 with it expecting to come in at 12,919,000 (as of 12/22/2022) that bid came in at 100%+ overrun of $21,821,916 with an additional add on of $238K for a steel railing (*Bid tabulation from the SF Public Works Engineering Department).

I get it, cost overruns occur, but maybe the city council needs to be asking Mark Cotter how they can be off by over 100% when inflation last year was around 7%. Something isn’t adding up.

UPDATE: Augustana closes interfaith room for food storage

UPDATE: I figured once Herseth-Sandlin got wind of this all things would go back to normal;

Augustana spokeswoman Jill Wilson confirmed the meeting was canceled, that the students will get their room back and that Sandlin intends to call such a meeting to meet with students on the interfaith space in the future.

The interfaith leaders also suggested Augustana send its senior executives for training in religious and cultural sensitivity, and said the university should have handled the sacred items with due respect.

The students should be applauded for doing the right thing and contacting the media about the situation. Shedding light on injustice can open many doors.


Augustana can do what they want to. They are a private college. But in light of the recent crying over drag shows at SDSU and long hair at O’Gorman you kind of wonder what the true motivation is behind closing the room;

After contacting several administrators, we were told that the Interfaith Room was removed to give Sodexo, our dining service, more room. 

The Interfaith Room in the Commons has served as a place to discuss and learn about a variety of religious traditions, as well as to provide all students with a sacred place to pray and worship, regardless of their religious background. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, Sikhs, Agnostics, and Atheists have visited the space and contributed their perspectives and experiences to the campus community. It is a crucial part of the faith infrastructure on campus, one that cannot be replaced.

In my early 20’s I was a volunteer DJ at Augie’s radio station, KAUR. I remember how the University handled that closure, after a few protests they moved forward.

I am not sure of the outcome of this situation, but I find it a bit alarming that a private university that should embrace all faiths in essence are turning their backs on students of different faith.

And it isn’t about money. Augie has spent millions on their sports programs (something that has very little to do with religion or faith) and if they have this kind of money, I’m sure they can find another room to accomodate the students.

I think the closure of the room without any notice are grounds for non-Christian students to file an internal discrimination complaint. It would be different if the students were fighting to implement a new room, but to take away something this important without notice to the student body is troubling.