Sunday, August 16, 2015

SD pays less for education than most states

"NORTHERN HILLS — When it comes to education spending, South Dakota is definitely in a slump and has been for quite some time. As a result, local school districts struggle to keep programming alive and teacher salaries competitive.                    
According to U.S. Census Bureau data assessed recently by the Black Hills Knowledge Network, South Dakota spends about a third less than neighboring states on education as a proportion of personal income.

Already last in the nation for teacher pay, South Dakota also ranked last regionally and 47th nationally in 2012 for its spending on K-12 education as a proportion of personal income, according to the most recent U.S. Census data available.  "

This is ridiculous.  Education is hugely important for every aspect of a person's life and for a community.  We are hurting ourselves by pretending that taxes are evil or whatever.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rapid city finds more money for teachers

"According to a news release from the district, the linchpin of the deal is an agreement to divert $4 million in capital outlay funds toward general fund expenses, and then use the freed-up $4 million in the general fund to raise teacher pay.
The budget maneuver is allowed by a state law that was adopted in 2009 and was supposed to sunset in 2012 but has since been renewed through 2018."

This is where our money should go first. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

divert construction funds to schools?

"Board Vice President Matt Stephens, who said he sees both sides of the argument, said that when voters in June rejected raising their property taxes to give the district more operating money, they sent a message that they think the district has enough money to raise teachers' pay.
'It sends a mixed signal when we start building projects, but not giving increases to the staff,' he said.
The discussion on how to spend the capital-outlay money probably will continue at the board's first meeting in August. "

I like this idea.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mayoral candidate Allender's view on Civic Center expansion

"I believe that if the Civic Center expansion would have passed the public vote, it would have been a successful endeavor. I also believe that there were many errors made during the planning process, public information process and marketing campaign. Overall, no one in their right mind could have expected a majority of Rapid City residents to accept the expansion plan after being kept in the dark for over three years. Plus, $180 million is too much money.
While the $180 million Civic Center expansion project was the most expensive purchase proposal in the history of Rapid City, Mayor Kooiker sought to shield himself throughout the entire process. There are people in Rapid City who voted for Sam Kooiker because he promised to protect them from big government. There are also people who voted for him because he promised economic development. Ironically, when you try to play both sides of the coin, you can’t win.
Unfortunately, during this massive failure, the City spent $700,000 for studies and design and we are no further ahead on this issue than we were three years ago. In fact, the City has taking a giant step backward, if the original intent was to merely bring the Civic Center Arena into ADA compliance.  One thing is for certain: we now have a legal, binding agreement with the federal government to bring the Don Barnett Arena into compliance with ADA codes. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent doing so, and in the end, we will have the same Civic Center arena we have today. Is this progress?"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Facts about the civic center expansion vote

1. Almost 13,000 voters
2. costliest proposed project ever
3. "last stand-alone special election"
4. 1 of 14 districts voted in favor
5. only 1 voter in Seeger district voted in favor.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sasso; time for a survey

"How do we get more people involved? I believe Rapid City should invest in an online survey. A popular service such as Survey Monkey would likely cost less than $2,000 to implement.
An online survey would be much cheaper than mailing surveys that wouldn’t be returned. It would make sense to have both short and longer surveys with the key questions up front.
The survey could include general questions about infrastructure and the Vision Fund dollars. What do people think about those? I know some people voted “no” because they don’t like the location, the parking or that teachers aren’t being paid enough (which is a completely separate pot of money).
Most people have access to a computer. If not, computers are always available at the library."

A survey sounds like a great idea.  But I think both sides want the ADA problems fixed, and at least some tweaking of the center.   How much to spend?  That's tricky.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ed Randazzo opinion; let's get moving

"We still have a problem to solve and the citizens told you what they want, a state-of-the-art facility that increases square footage, allows for the proper access for the handicapped, provides for adequate parking and traffic management, and that is affordable without increasing taxes or placing infrastructure funds at risk. We are capable of accomplishing that goal and there is no reason to delay doing so. We were told by the stakeholders of the urgency of approving their plan but now that their plan was rejected, we are told to lower our expectations of progress in tackling this issue."

Nice article. By the way, I post snippets of opinions here. You need to see the original site to read the whole post.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meeting; what now?

"More than 60 people turned up to offer their input on how to move forward.
Former city council member Malcolm Chapman led the group -- that included both opponents and proponents -- of the expansion plan in a wide ranging discussion about what to do with the nearly 40-year-old complex."

 also see:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let's change back the vision fund process, says alderman

"Rapid City's drainage and streets need repairs, Alderman Ron Weifenbach says, so the city should revert to its former policy of directly devoting city sales tax money to them.
Not so fast, Mayor Sam Kooiker says. By shifting back to the old ordinance dictating use of the sales tax, he says, the city will miss new opportunities to issue bonds for ambitious projects.
Just as they did in the recent voter-rejected referendum on spending $180 million for an expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Kooiker and Weifenbach have opposing views on what the city should do with the proceeds from a 1-cent sales tax.
By a previous city ordinance, half of proceeds of that tax went to the Vision Fund, which has paid for Main Street Square, among dozens of other amenities scattered throughout the city, and half went to the Capital Improvements Project, which funds such citywide public-improvement projects as street and drainage repairs.
Weifenbach, whose top priority is spending on roads, infrastructure and drainage, wants the city to revert to that split.
As part of the expansion project, however, the city council passed a new ordinance combining the proceeds from the Vision Fund and CIP. That combination, expansion proponents argued, would secure a low interest rate on the $180 million in bonds that would have financed the expansion."

This article brings up a question for me. What other huge spending project is Mayor Kooiker thinking we'll need this new fund method for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Letter to Editor; Thanks Fix the Plan committee!

"I just wanted to shout out a big thank you to all of the Fix the Plan committee members: Richard Wahlstrom, Steve McCarthy, Ed McLaughlin, Keith Carlyle, Jim Shaw, Alan Hanks, Jerry Munson and everybody else who worked so hard to defeat this idiotic scheme. I, of course, am referring to the civic center expansion. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by 60 percent of us.
— John Kammerer, Rapid City"


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sioux Falls' view of the expansion vote

"City 'leaders' in Rapid City were so consumed with the thought of keeping up with Sioux Falls that they overextended themselves and reached too high. Building sports and entertainment facilities with large amounts of public money are delicate political matters that need to be handled deftly, not with a swashbuckling attitude of 'We'll pay for it later! This place is going to be huge!'
Any degree of recklessness or lack of clarity regarding major public expenditures can lead to election-night disasters, and astute politicians understand and respect that. Those who don't and choose to barrel ahead with blinders typically doom the project and don't stay in office for long."

How much did envy of Sioux Falls play in the city fathers pushing this huge plan?  The timing is suspicious, just after Sioux Falls opened their new civic center.

City council starts move on ADA fixes

"The city council's decision means that a committee will be formed with help of Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Executive Director Craig Baltzer to find a new plan to update the arena.
The city council has a 30-month deadline to comply with the ADA under an agreement they made with the Department of Justice earlier this year."

I'm not quite sure why another committee is needed unless it's just to put the next steps in proper order?  Hasn't this problem been around long enough that they already know what to do?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

David Rooks: think big on a smaller civic center

"In other words, opportunities are always present, side by side, with difficulties. If nothing else, the reaction to the treatment of the American Horse students at the civic center two months ago revealed a longstanding wound in the greater Rapid City community. But it is a wound that, oddly, could become Rapid City’s greatest opportunity.
It’s the perception, deserved or not, that this town is unwelcoming to Native Americans. The city can change that. With the aid of its native families, many of whom have several generations in this community and ties built up with non-native Rapid Citians going back nearly a century, this town could become a showcase for its least appreciated asset: the native community.
How about a Gathering of the Nations Pow Wow timed just before the Sturgis Rally. How about a native-themed park on the north side built to host the pow wow? Maybe a summer LNI?"

More community-related stuff would be fine. Especially since there won't be as much overhead now.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Opinion from John D. Wagner; go carefully

"...Future plans for expansion have to be reconsidered in view of the vote. They must be based on clearly identified and justified needs. The business plan should be much more convincing. Options should also include building a regional event center in a less congested area of the city with plenty of room for future parking and development - perhaps a 50-year development plan...."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Agreement on how to move forward

"Mayor Sam Kooiker said the plan would be based on three principles: Fixing Americans with Disability Act noncompliance and other code issues at the arena; minimizing the effect on existing arena events during that work; and completing updates to make the facility more marketable for new events.
And a former city official who fought the expansion plan that Kooiker embraced agreed with those principles.
Richard Wahlstrom, the spokesman for the Fix the Plan Committee that battled against the expansion, said the fourth principle has to be: not as expensive."

This is looking good.  And I do agree a new team needs to be in place from here.

LNI still might move from Rapid City

"PINE RIDGE—The Lakota Nation Invitational has been a mainstay in Rapid City for decades, however, in light of several recent incidents in the city organizers will now begin entertaining offers from other potential host sites.
Longtime tournament director and former Oglala Sioux Tribal President, Bryan Brewer Sr., confirmed in a phone call to Lakota Country Times that the Lakota Nation Invitational Board of Directors will travel to Sioux Falls next week to meet with city officials who would like to see the event and the $6 million annual economic stimulus package Rapid City has enjoyed relocated east of the Missouri River."

You never know what the future holds.

Stan Adelstein responds to vote

"1. Rapid City should immediately notify the Department of Justice of the city’s intent to seek modifications to the agreement that was negotiated with the DOJ. The first order of business is to eliminate the thirty month time frame, which is allowed under item #21 of the agreement.
2. Rapid City should immediately, before the end of the month, employ TSP, the A & E firm which previously evaluated and reported the needs of the Civic Center, to develop plans and specifications to address the handicapped access concerns and other critical needs. The plans should be completed by May 15, 2015 and include a timeline to address the accessibility concerns in a timely manner while developing a phased  construction plan that would allow for maximum utilization of the arena during the construction period.  The easy fixes like addressing the need for additional handicap parking should be addressed immediately..."

This all sounds good to me.

city council members respond to loss

"Rapid City Council President Jerry Wright said he was disappointed by the outcome, but said he wasn’t surprised."

"Alderman Ron Weifenbach, who had expressed misgivings about the project, said he was pleased that the turnout was better than expected."

Oh boy, they're already talking about maybe bringing this same plan up in a year?  Time for new aldermen?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Expansion vote fails to pass

"With all precincts reporting, the proposal was defeated, with 5,089 votes for and 7,813 against.
Voter turnout was 32.03 percent."

Where does it go from here?  I'm hoping they'll just spend the $36 million (NOT $72 million as Mayor Kooiker said) to upgrade the ADA problems, and then we can use the rest on our roads, sewer lines, etc.  And then we need to find a way to fund our schools.

Also see KOTA

Monday, March 9, 2015

Journal endorses expansion

"...All of those things are valid reasons for opponents of the project to attack the concept, and ultimately vote no. And if that is the vote result, we will accept that and support community efforts moving forward to draft a new plan to improve the civic center and fix the disability access issues.
And yet, for nearly 40 years, the civic center has delivered on its promise to make Rapid City a more vibrant and relevant community and has pumped millions of sales tax dollars into our coffers
.The current and historical positive impacts of the Barnett Arena and the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center are undeniable. But we need a bigger, better facility in order to hold onto the major events we have now, such as the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo, the Lakota Nation Invitational tournament, state prep sports championships, and the many conventions and events both big and small that already use the facility. And in order to reach higher, to lure in bigger, more lucrative events, we need a newer facility that sparkles and has the technology and amenities that prospective entertainers and events may demand."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

KOTA on sales tax

Stephen Wesolick; remember to vote!

"...I thank all those who attended and participated in our Feb. 27 luncheon event, and I commend all the other organizations that worked so diligently to raise awareness in a positive manner. I encourage all citizens to vote on March 10. It really does matter.
— Stephen Wesolick, Rapid City"

The Journal's summary of the situation

"The business plan
The business plan for the proposed expansion assumed that the facility could attract such top-tier acts as Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. At the same time, the plan acknowledged that the region's sparse population and limited income, which is lower than the national average, may counteract its ability to do so.
City and civic center officials and other expansion proponents now maintain that those types of acts would not be the staples of the new arena. Rather, smaller concerts and events like the Lakota Nation Invitational and Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo would be the mainstays for the new facility.
To reach the facility's projected operational revenue, the report also assumed the city would need two new professional sports franchises.
Craig Baltzer, the civic center's director, has said, however, that those options are not on the table and would not be pursued. The two sports teams account for nearly half of all new events at the proposed arena, according to the report.
The business plan also assumed the civic center would start charging up to $5 for on-site parking during all ticketed events. Baltzer says that option has not been, and cannot be, addressed until a final design for the expansion is completed.
Options to make up for those shortfalls have not been publicly presented."

Saturday, March 7, 2015

former mayor Jerry Munson; vote No

"I started my boat store in a small building on Jackson Boulevard in 1982. By 1988 things were going so well that folks were actually buying boats before they could be unloaded from the transport trucks in front of my store.
I began getting advice from trusted advisors that I should build a shiny new building out next to I-90, because "things are going so well."
I remember agonizing over the decision, because the promise of "huge success" also meant potentially devastating debt.
Then the rain stopped coming in 1989 and didn’t come back for three years. When the dust literally settled in the fall of 1991, Jerry’s Marine had barely hung on. Two of my larger competitors weren’t so lucky and went under. Business was so good, I sold out in 1995.
Why the personal story?
It’s because I believe our great city is on the verge of the same kind of decision and is getting the same kind of advice. 'Build this shiny new arena for $180 million' on the promise of 'huge success.'"

I'll tell a similar Rapid City story.  I was in a small church where the pastor had a vision.  If we would just build a huge church building with fancy doo-dads on it like a glass elevator, people would flock to our congregation, especially the rich.  Our congregation would grow like crazy.   So our small flock worked and scraped and let pretty much everything else go to the wayside as we built this monstrous (for our needs) building.  I left the church before the building was complete, partly because I didn't think it was really God's idea but rather the pastor's visions of grandeur.

The final result was that the congregation built this new building, but they barely grew.  So they wound up swapping another congregation that was growing for their older smaller building.

So I guess both the above stories are to ask, do we really need this huge Cadillac when all we need is a good reliable pickup?

KEVN; proponents and opponents speak



Today's opposing letters; West Shelton vs. Rick Kriebel

"...It is wise that plans are in place to expand the civic center so that events like the Stock Show and many others won't be displaced while the current arena is being renovated. It is also wise to reinvest in the engine that created the possibility of the Vision Funds in the first place.
Yes, we won't be able to continue spending on these smaller Vision projects for a handful of years, but in the end the city will be better off passing the vote on March 10.
— Wes Shelton, Rapid City"

"...Advocating $200 million worth of debt on the backs of taxpayers while telling them they lost their right to speak is outrageous. It is my hope that the taxpayers will express their indignation by voting no on March 10.
— Rick Kriebel, Rapid City"

Friday, March 6, 2015

Young Professionals want it, John Kammerer doesn't - March 6 opinions

"....For us, the civic center expansion is about opportunity — opportunity to build upon a wonderful quality of life, opportunity to grow in our chosen profession and opportunity to be a part of the next big vision for Rapid City. We ask you to join us in our support of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center expansion on March 10.
— Rapid City Young Professionals Group"

"...Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels remarks a few days ago regarding South Dakota’s economic predictions for the fiscal year. He stated that it is not going to be even close to what was predicted. I believe the new expected figure was approximately half of what was originally forecast. One has to think this has to have an effect on Rapid City’s sales tax figures. Also Darla Drew’s insistence that the LNI would never go anywhere should be in question. There is serious talk of moving it for at least one year or at the very least encouraging people to boycott.
My mother and dad always said: 'Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.'
 — John Kammerer, Rapid City"

Both looking to the future.  One wildly optimistic and one careful.  I also want to look forward in Rapid City, and I see the need for road repair, an additional fire station, and things like that. The expansion, while not adding to our tax burden, will simply suck up so much of our taxes that other projects will go begging.  

Stan Adelstein's take on expansion

"It’s too expensive and we are borrowing to capacity, and beyond.
  • We had to do some fancy bookkeeping to prove to the bank that our city can afford the proposed, colossal expansion—we had to combine The Vision Fund and the Capital Improvement Project Fund (CIP Fund).
  • The city’s own Finance Officer was on KOTA as saying this was necessary to get financing: “Sumption says the accounts were combined in order to show lenders that the city has enough revenue to pay off any debt obligation that would be incurred from the expansion.”
  • The Vision Fund is funded by a half-cent sales tax and the CIP Fund is funded by another half-cent sales tax."
Great summary of information from Stan.

Final? debate before March 10 voting

"At the debate sponsored by The Garage, in Rapid City, nearly 50 people listened as Tony DeMaro, in favor of the expansion, and Richard Wahlstrom, opposed, fielded questions from retired 7th Circuit Judge John Delaney. The debate was part of The Garage's monthly Morning Fill Up conversation series.
While both DeMaro, proprietor of Murphy's Pub and Grill, and Wahlstrom, finance officer for Rapid City from 1990 to 1995, called the civic center a valued community asset, they disagreed about how to change it to meet future needs.
'It needs to be a clean, fresh, well-managed and financially sound (project), and whether or not any of those characteristics necessarily need the additional footprint that's being proposed in this proposal, I'm not convinced of that,' Wahlstrom said.
But DeMaro said the proposed expansion is an opportunity to boost Rapid City's economy and improve its quality of life for years to come.
Expansion, DeMaro said, is an opportunity to go above and beyond simply fixing the arena; rather, he said, it would increase the marketability of Rapid City as a destination and procure a return on investment."

Both sides agree on the ADA fixes. Both sides look ahead to see what's best for the city. One side thinks investing a huge percentage of our assets into one project will work. The other does not think we need such a big project and can spread our assets around for better effect.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Civic Center ticket prices, plus longer-term costs - Opinions today

"...Three remarkable events cost $55 or I can see one event at the unexpanded civic center, Flashdance, for $52.50 to $62.50. Frugal/greedy me, I think I’ll choose three.
— Carol Merwin, Rapid City"

"...Furthermore, they want to build it right away on the grounds that every month of delay will add another million dollars to the total cost due to inflation. As the existing funding plan stretches the city’s ability to take on long-term debt almost to its limit, additional borrowing to cover unforeseen circumstances would likely be at higher interest rates than those quoted so far.
This project could ruin Rapid City’s credit rating for a generation, resulting in higher taxes to keep the city government running.
— Arnett Dennis, Rapid City"

I do wonder whether we might be able to compete with other venues based on price if we didn't spend $180 million that we'd then have to charge more (right?) to pay back.

ADA questions answered

"Meeting the Challenge assisted with a survey of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The survey identified 400 ADA issues and estimated the cost of repairs and retrofits to be $36 million. On Tuesday, voters will consider the $180 million expansion that, instead of merely fixing the arena, would add on a new 100,000-square-foot arena, re-purpose the Barnett Arena as a multi-use space, and add a parking garage, correcting all ADA issues along the way.
The required ADA fixes are spelled out in a voluminous settlement agreement between the city and the federal Justice Department, which was signed by the feds this week after being signed by Mayor Sam Kooiker in November. The agreement resulted from negotiations following a 2012 Justice Department inspection of the arena."

There's that $36 million price tag for fixing 400 ADA issues.  So where does Mayor Kooiker and the proponents of the expansion come up with $72 million?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tom Udager; money needed elsewhere

Industry has four major requirements of any city that they may consider for expansion:
  • Good infrastructure;
  • A skilled and educated work force;
  • Availability of residential properties;
  • Quality recreational opportunities.
The streets of Rapid City are in a state of disrepair. While city planners assure us on an annual basis that streets are a priority, the deterioration continues. We are faced with some major drainage problems in Rapid City and the possibility of replacing a water treatment plant. More, not less, tax dollars should be invested in recruiting industry to our area, but instead we stand on the brink of encumbering all of our resources on one project."

I agree. We don't need to just ask "would the expansion be good for the city?"  We also need to ask, what will not get done that could have gotten done?

John Tsitrian; build the thing!

"...My sources and my common sense tell me that the sales tax dollars gained from these confabs are likely to be sizable. Some hard economic cost and revenue projections impossible to list here have surfaced (you can find plenty of data from news and online resources), and they add up to an impressive potential return to Rapid City.
Beyond that, there's a point about marketing the area in general. What better way to raise the public's consciousness about our first-class entertainment and recreational activities than to have Rapid City highlighted in news and marketing journals because of the activities and events taking place here? This facility has the potential of being the crown jewel of the Northern Plains."

Rosy predictions about the future.  I hope he's right.

To summarize;

we can't afford it — Allen McPherson, Rapid City

we're proud Americans, vote yes — Tyson Steiger, Rapid City

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3 opposing letters to the editor

"...Rapid City is growing, that is a fact and something that cannot and should not be hindered by backwards thinking people who oppose progress in our city (flashbacks of the Main Street Square vote). I’m voting yes on the civic center expansion and urge all voters to do the same. Because if we’re not moving forward, we’re sliding backward.
 — Debbi Fitch, Rapid City"

"...There are no detailed plans for this project; it is basically just a concept with many unknowns. Can we get or do we even want two additional professional sports teams? What will the interest rate be (I understand it’s a variable rate)? Has the parking issue been addressed sufficiently? Is this even enough money to complete the project? How does this improve our quality of life? We see public debt growing at all levels with no end in sight.
— Dan Mulally, Rapid City"

KOTA's "Civic Center Crossfire" page

Good stuff.

US attorney filed the ADA complaint

"Johnson said Monday it was because of him. Not only had he heard concerns from Rapid City residents, he said, but he’d also personally noticed accessibility issues in the arena. Johnson’s father, Tim, a former U.S. Senator now retired from a long political career, uses a scooter because of stroke-like mobility problems caused by a cerebral arteriovenous malformation.
'I can’t speak for other U.S. attorneys, but I can just speak for myself,' Brendan Johnson said. 'I’ve got a problem with facilities in South Dakota that aren’t handicap-accessible.'
Johnson said he personally contacted officials at “main DOJ” — Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. — sometime prior to August 2012 and asked them to conduct an evaluation of the arena’s ADA accessibility.
Back in February 2012, six months before the arena inspection, Pennington County, of which Rapid City is the county seat, had already been notified that it was selected for an ADA review as part of Project Civic Access, a program of the Disability Rights Section of the Justice Department’s Division of Civil Rights. In that program, locales are selected for ADA compliance reviews as part of an effort to spread compliance across the nation, oftentimes without any formal complaint to instigate the reviews.
Jeff Stroot, human resources director for Pennington County, said the multi-day compliance review specifically targeted Pennington County-owned facilities. He was not aware that the review would include the city-owned arena, and he didn’t learn until later that the arena had been inspected.
Why did the inspection team members venture over to the civic center? Johnson suspects his request had filtered down to them."

But I don't think anybody is trying to stop the ADA fixes.  Both sides agree this must be done.  What there seems to be no agreement on is the cost.  This article says $40 million. The mayor says $72 million. Another source says $36-38 million.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Opinion page; one for, one against

"...Perhaps what I’m most disappointed about is the timing of the “Fix the Plan” campaign. Throughout this process there have been ample time for this committee to voice their thoughts, yet they have waited until now to do so. Why? Their actions seem politically motivated at the expense of what’s best for the community.
 — Marcel Wahlstrom , Custer"

"...I do not think they and those who promote this project have demonstrated to the voters neither the benefits they will derive, nor the real financial analysis required before embarking in a project of this magnitude. Therefore, a no vote is called for. The rosy picture presented by these advocates of the economic growth the city will achieve is just that — a rosy picture. The recent news on the front page of the Journal about the state's "economy has grown much less than predicted" means less revenue for the state and should give pause to those who are promoting the rosy picture they foresee for the city. I hope they consider this as a warning.
— Orlando Ortiz, Rapid City"   

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Meanwhile, our education...

Opinion; build for the next 40 years

"...The people that supported the project over 40 years ago have been able to enjoy the current facility. The young people who support this project will be able to do the same, investing in Rapid City’s future for the next 40 years. Voting yes on civic center expansion is voting yes for our young people and the future of Rapid City. Let’s do it right, lets invest in Rapid City's future."
— Domico Rodriguez, Rapid City

But our young people are being shafted on their education.  I don't think that's a good trade-off.

final forum gets Q&A for city officials

"Resident Jordan Mason also questioned whether a market the size of Rapid City can support such a large, costly facility, and whether air travel and hotel options are adequate to accommodate big shows and crowds.
Baltzer replied that he believes the city has already begun to lose out on events that require upgraded technology, better stages, and a more modern space than now offered by the 40-year-old Barnett Arena.
Rapid City Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Julie Jensen said the CVB has an aggressive event marketing plan and works closely with hotels and airlines to improve access and options. Jensen said that when the Barnett was newer, Rapid City could compete with much-larger metro areas to attract events, many of which are now held elsewhere.
'Our Barnett Arena is not relevant anymore,' she said. 'We're not going to bring them here with what we have now. We cannot sell without a relevant building, plain and simple'."

This final answer still has me wondering if we could compete on price (not having to spend $180 million on expansion) rather than size of venue.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Current civic center is a zero sum game

According to the AECOM study "the complex generated a net income of approximately $430,000 and $860,000 in 2012 and 2013." [p. 30]

I don't suppose a comparison has been made about this, but I'm wondering what the difference in income to the city would be between the civic center fixed up to ADA standards as opposed to the expanded version.  In other words, would we be better or worse off, just as far as actual civic center income, with one or the other?  Or is this farther in the AECOM report, since I'm only on page 30?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rochester, MN civic center to cost $85 million

"It looks likely that the Rochester City Council on Monday will award Knutson Construction the contract for the $85 million Mayo Civic Center renovation and expansion, which is expected to get underway in late March or early April....

In addition to the construction cost, other expenditures for the renovation and expansion project include about $2.6 million in architectural and construction coordination services and about $3.4 million for fixtures, furniture and technology equipment, Krogstad said. In addition, about $2.8 million has already been spent on Mayo Civic Center improvements, which are part of the overall project, Neumann said."

I'm just posting this for a comparison.

200 attend forum

"That's one thing both sides here were able to agree on. Former Mayor Alan Hanks says facility is a gem that must be maintained and improved. But he argues that the current plan, favored by Mayor Sam Kooiker but opposed by Hanks and four other former mayors, is too big, too expensive and too risky. Hanks wants a new plan.
Downtown businessman Tony DeMaro insists that the real risk is in failing to reshape the city's aging Civic Center so it can serve the community's future.  Project supporters agreed with that."

Also see

Opinion; expansion takes city over it's borrowing limit

"Our Legislature sets legal debt limits for every municipality to insure residents will not be subject to excessive debt. Rapid City's limit is $212 million. Currently, we have $92 million in outstanding bonds, leaving a maximum of $120 million in bonding capacity.
The civic center expansion is projected to cost $180 million. That's $60 million (30 percent) over our legal bonding indebtedness. To pay this difference, the city will issue Certificates of Participation to investors. The city will then survey and plat that $60 million construction portion and commence a sale-leaseback with investors. Once the city repays investors, ownership reverts back to Rapid City."

Interesting point. And I agree, this is too many eggs in one basket.  I'm beginning to think this is all about Sanford Premier Center envy.

Thursday panel discussion; some agreement, some dispute

"The opponents Thursday night agreed that the arena needs to be updated, but they said the current plan has not been vetted thoroughly enough to ease the financial risks involved for the costliest public project in Rapid City history. If the expansion is denied March 10, the next step is developing a plan that can pass muster and pass a public vote, Wahlstrom said.
Project proponents said Thursday it is entirely possible that the $180 million option put before voters may come in over budget and require downsizing, Demaro said. In such a case, he said, the door would still be open to make the proposed arena fit the $180 million budget.
Ultimately, if the project fails during the citywide referendum, the next step would be to go back to the drawing board to find a compromise proposal that will pass, Demaro said.
'Here's what I do love about our situation right now; we talked about this, no matter what happens on March 10, we're going to get together and shake hands and put everything back together,' Demaro told the crowd of nearly 70 residents."

Also see

Thursday, February 26, 2015

former Mayor Barnett answers questions

"Do you think citizens will vote in favor of a new arena, and why?
Absolutely. I think every neighborhood in Rapid City has benefited from the civic center during the last 40 years. The basketball tournaments and the other events: the rodeos and the concerts, the conventions, the fine arts auditorium, the symphony, so many, many users. I think without a doubt, the people know that they have a public treasure at the civic center, and I believe the people will strongly endorse what the City Council is courageously doing."

Letters to the editor with opposing views

Jerome Wright questions the motive of the Fix the Plan former mayors.

Ed Randazzo questions the method of paying for the expansion.

Here's the AECOM expansion study


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Parking fee to use new structure?

"The 'Fix The Plan – Vote No' Committee held a conference to discuss the AECOM study, which proposes charging for some parking if the expansion plan goes through.
Spokesperson Richard Wahlstrom says if the project is approved by voters next month it would dramatically increase the cost, and the consultants say in order to make up for the operating deficit the center should begin charging for two thousand parking spaces on the lots surrounding the building ranging from three to five dollars.
Wahlstrom says, 'Before you vote to build a $180 million facility, you've got to know how it's going to be paid for, and you need to be aware that a $5 parking fee to park where you used to park for free on the grounds here at the Civic Center is a part of that.'"

Also, Fox News will have a program Sunday about the Civic Center.

See also,

If you build it, they won't care? LNI may pull out

"LNI is the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center's second largest event of the year, so talk of moving out of Rapid City is a concern for the Rapid City Chamber and Visitors Bureau.  'It's a big economic impact especially the time of year. Obviously the week before Christmas is when this takes place, so we're looking at over three million dollars in direct spending and that's just basketball,' Domico Rodriguez with the Rapid City Chamber and Visitors Bureau said.
Rodrirguez says local restaurants and shops get a huge boost each year from LNI tournament goers.  He says the Chamber has a great relationship with the LNI Board and he's hopeful that they'll keep the games here.  As of right now, that's the plan. the LNI board voted earlier this month to keep the tournament in Rapid City.
If the LNI board sticks with their decision to keep the tournament in Rapid City, tribe leaders say they'll ask people who live on the reservation to boycott the event. "

We need to be careful about predicting the future. In the case of the Civic Center expansion, we NEED to try to predict the future. But we should not be dazzled with glorious predictions that may not be based in reality.  A bigger place might give us more events, but on the other hand, we might have already lost events to Sioux Falls in the meantime.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Promotions, promotions everywhere. Not so much from the opponents

That's a promotional web site for the civic center expansion. I've seen lawn signs, a billboard, heard a radio commercial. newscenter1 is basically a promotional media outlet for the expansion.

Meanwhile, it's very hard to find the opponents except in news stories. What gives?  I mean, obviously the people who want the expansion the most are businesses, so no doubt they are pushing this. But where are the opponents?  Five ex-mayors speak at a press conference, but where are they online?  I don't see resistance to this project online anywhere.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why the huge discrepency in ADA fix price?

In this KOTA article, the price for fixing the ADA problems in the Civic Center is $38 million.  But in this Newscenter 1 interview, Mayor Sam Kooiker says it's $72 million. Why the huge difference?

Opinion; listen to 5 previous mayors

"It is hard to get two politicians to agree to anything so when our previous five previous mayors stand up at a press conference and say “Vote No, Fix the Plan” we should listen to their combined experience and wisdom."

I keep looking online for any presence of "Fix The Plan" but haven't found it yet.  that's one reason I started this blog.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

vehicle access problems at Civic Center

   To the north of the Civic Center is a hill that prevents any road access from North Street.  To the south is the city park that has no vehicle traffic going through it.  So vehicle access is only from the west and east.
   I have been through 5th Street on the east side and Mt. Rushmore Road on the west when large events are happening at the Civic Center. It is a mess.  Not only vehicle traffic clogging, but people trying to cross the road from other parking areas to get to the Civic Center.  I don't think this traffic problem has been addressed in the new civic center plan?  If it's bad now, how much worse will it be with bigger events, or two events happening at the same time?
   Please let me know if the traffic problem is addressed in the new design. I haven't seen any mention of it.

The view from Sioux Falls

"For nostalgia buffs, this east-west facility battle harkens back to 1972, when Rapid City approved a referendum to increase sales tax to pay for a new arena that could lure state basketball tournaments, which had been held exclusively in Sioux Falls since 1965 and were held out west only once before that.
City efforts ultimately led to the opening of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in 1977, with late-era Elvis Presley playing the first concert and the big-school (then Class A) basketball tournament arriving the following year.
Since three-class basketball was adopted in 1985-86, Sioux Falls and Rapid City have rotated Class AA and A boys tournaments while waiting for the next facility shuffle, which occurred when Sioux Falls voters finally grew tired of an arena that was built in 1961.
Now Rapid City's arena is faltering, with city officials claiming it will cost "at least $70 million" to resolve violations of the American with Disabilities Act involving elevators, stairways, restrooms and railings. For several years, the narrative was that an anonymous complaint had been filed against the city, leading to a federal inspection and ADA settlement.
But at a news conference last week, city attorney Joel Landeen revealed in a Perry Mason moment that there actually was no complaint, providing fuel to project opponents who want to study the issue further to find a less costly means of moving ahead.
Just as Sioux Falls settled for a 12,000-seat capacity arena to keep the price palatable for voters ($173 million if you count interest), it would make sense for Rapid City to explore less grandiose ways to revamp its sports and entertainment center."

This is a thoughtful piece that gives another perspective on just what events might come to Rapid City if a larger facility is built.  Proponents should think long and hard about this question; what if you build it and they don't come?

Promotional video from Midwest Marketing

No comment.

Newscenter 1's "Power of the Penny" is promotion, not news coverage

This is a one-sided puff-piece, not an example of journalism. 
   I would note that Mayor Kooiker says just fixing the ADA problems would cost $72 million. That is much higher than the $38 million I've seen elsewhere.
   The notion that the civic center would have to be shut down for 2 to 3 years to make the ADA fixes makes no sense to me.  I would like proponents of the expansion to explain why this would be.  Can't you fix, then stop a bit for a big event, then start again?  I'm confused on this point.
   Also, the fear that Sioux Falls would permanently scoop up any events that would otherwise come here is always a potential issue, regardless of whether the civic center closes for a time or not.

If voters approve, construction could start in June

"If funding of the arena is approved in March, completing the final design could take up to eight additional months, depending on when the Rapid City Council approves the contract for that design, according to city Operations Management Engineer Rod Johnson.
'There is still a lot of design work to be done that the council isn't going to authorize, depending on the results of the election' Johnson said.
He explained the sequence of events this way: First comes the completion of a final design; next comes opening the project to competitive bidding; then, after the awarding of bids, construction begins.
Heavy construction on the proposed expansion could begin this fall but ultimately span into the winter, Johnson said."

This is a confusing article. On the one hand, it sounds like construction will start right away with the current price tag. On the other, it sounds like construction is still a ways off, and meanwhile the price could go up in some unknown amount.

former mayor: Vision Fund not just for Civic Center

"To combine the Vision money with the Capital Improvements Program, alter the selection process, and hijack the entire fund to fulfill the bonding requirement for one $180 million entertainment facility is wrong. The public trust has been violated. I vote no.
— Ed McLaughlin, Rapid City mayor 1991-1997"

Too many eggs in one basket.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Are we bold (vote for civic center) or timid (vote against)?

"The time has come for us to reinvest in one of our community’s signature economic engines. The proposal to expand the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center by building a new multi-use arena and highly functional convention space has been methodically vetted by a diverse cross-section of seasoned professionals and citizens over the past three years.
Some of these folks have a lot of valuable history in Rapid City and others represent a new chapter in Rapid City’s history, including today’s young professionals and our youth population. That’s really what this opportunity is all about. What we are being asked to do is not that much different than what leaders and citizens in the 1970’s did for future generations, including many who will vote on March 10. We can best honor that vision by perpetuating it, not simply watching it die a slow death.
We need a new arena in order to compete with our peer cities over the next half century. Competing for people — people who will examine the civic infrastructure and lifestyle amenities of the community before deciding to call it home; people from the entire Rushmore Region who will choose to spend their time and money on entertainment, sporting events, conventions, trade shows and much more in Rapid City; and the millions of people from even farther away who visit our community every year for special events, tourism-related activities and upon whom we will be making lasting impressions for years."

I don't consider myself timid for being against this plan. I consider myself prudent.

Parking expansion not enough for larger civic center?

The current expansion plan calls for 500 new parking spaces total.  Many believe this is not enough. Plus, a lot of the new parking will have a fee.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Will higher income from a larger civic center actually appear, of are other city projects to be starved?

"Don Frankenfeld is a consulting economist who also serves on the Civic Center board.  Frankenfeld says, 'I think the ultimate question is what sacrifices are involved in making the decision in going forward with this $180 million expenditure.  There will be costs and what will those costs be?'
The $180 million expenditure for the civic center expansion means that for five to seven years, no additional Vision money will be available for other projects that have tapped into these funds.  That would include such projects as the Hospice House, Storybook Island, Canyon Lake dam reconstruction, the Club for Boys, and the soccer complex on Elk Vale Road.
Even after that time period, each year for the next 30 years, about $11 million of the Vision Fund will be allocated to pay off the expansion debt. "

The assumption seems to be that the larger civic center will produce larger income for the city.  But will this larger income offset the huge expense?  I think not.

ADA changes would cost $36-37 million

"Jerry Wright says, 'What we have is a report that was done by Forefront design and backed by a comparative estimate by Mortensen and it was 36 million and other was 37 that's the ADA. These are our numbers right here our reports. If they got another report lets see it.'"

Will the Rapid City civic center be in competition with Sioux Falls?

"The Denny Sanford Premier Center [in Sioux Falls] opened in October of 2014. It cost $117 million to complete. The Premier Center can seat up to 13000 and it added 30,000 square feet of flat floor space to the adjacent convention center and arena.
Compare that to the proposed Rushmore Plaza expansion in Rapid City. The new arena in Rapid City would cost $120 million dollars. That's in addition to the $40 million cost to rebuild the Don Barnett arena. It would add about 50,000 square feet of floor space and add another 10,000 seats."

I'm not sure whether this is a good argument against the Civic Center. If an act could fill both Civic Centers as it travels across the country, why wouldn't they?  On the other hand, what act could fill both?

Have proponents of the expansion been lying?

"We get to the $70 million price point when we add the estimated' order of magnitude' SWAGS of $30,640,659 for general repairs and updates (click here to see the estimate), far beyond what is necessary to address the ADA violations. Look at the estimate and you will see that it includes sound system upgrades, a kitchen remodel and expanded storage, stage equipment, sport flooring, and a stage and back stage addition. The $70 million would get us a brand new arena, for uses which might or might not be in our citizen’s best interest.
The next alarm is the claim that if we don’t approve the plan as presented to us, we won’t have sufficient time to complete the repairs required by the DOJ settlement—a settlement that has not to this date been signed by the DOJ.  Even if the Mayor’s 'deal' did exist, look for yourself at the required actions listed in 'Attachment A' of the supposed DOJ settlement.
These actions can easily be completed with a separate design and bid contract within the next twelve months. They must be completed by the deadline whether we build a new arena or not—building another arena during that timeframe just complicates the matter."

This is a very compelling article with a lot of documentation.  Well worth considering.

"If you build it, they will come"

"So how does that affect the revenue projections? KOTA Territory News spoke with the authors of the AECom Feasibility Study who said that if the city is not planning on obtaining two new sports teams, it will have to make up for the shortfall in revenue some other way. Opponents to the plan want more details on how that would be done.
Former Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks outlines is concerns. 'All the projections, the economic studies, all include two additional sports teams that are supposed to be residents of the new arena but yet the city officials said publicly that, although they are included, at this time the city has no desire or intent of getting two new teams and that's fine but you are going to have go back and adjust those projections.'"

But hey, it worked in the movies right?  Is the new Civic Center plan a "field of dreams"?

Voting information from KOTA radio

"Residents wishing to make voter registration changes, request absentee ballots or to vote early for the March 10 special election must do so by 5 p.m. February 23 at the Pennington County Auditor's Office.  Early voting also begins February 23. 
Applications are currently being taken for absentee voting and requests can be made by mail or in person with the Auditor's Office.  Ballots will go out in the mail beginning February 23 and absentee voting is open from February 23 through March 9.
A sample ballot will be published March 4.
No changes will be made in polling places for the March 10 election.
For more information, contact the Pennington County Auditor's Office at 394-2153.  Information is also available at or"

thank you KOTA

Ballot language might be confusing

"The language voters will see on the ballot in the March 10 special election that will decide the fate of the proposed $180 million expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is 'somewhat confusing to the average voter,' according to independent assessments by a trio of political science professors, two from South Dakota.
And those experts tended to agree that the dense nature of the explanatory language may hurt the measure's chances of being approved.
Meanwhile, Rapid City Attorney Joel Landeen, who wrote the ballot message, said recently that state law restricted his explanation to just 200 words and that he, too, worries the issue was too complex for a boiled-down summary account. Landeen encouraged local residents to use available resources to educate themselves before casting their ballots."

"The ballot language voters will see on March 10
            A 'Yes' vote is for approval of the resolution and authorizes the City to issue the sales tax obligations and proceed with the current plan for renovation and expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
            A 'No' vote is against approval of the resolution and prohibits the City from issuing the sales tax obligations and will prevent the City from moving forward with the current plan for the renovation and expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center."

As I see it, a No vote would require the city to upgrade the civic center to be under ADA requirements.  This has a price tag of $38 million, or $142 million less than the plan being voted on. Any city just has so much money, just like your own economic situation.  $142 million that the city fathers agree COULD be spent on the city would then be available for more pressing problems like our schools.

Facebook pages for both sides



Well, Stan's page is not specifically about the Civic Center, but he's against it.  It doesn't look like the no vote people are social network savvy.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The ADA shortfalls at the Civic Center

"The Justice Department has identified many ADA deficiencies in the Barnett Arena. The city accepted that all those items needed correction and has now entered into an agreement with the Justice Department to fix them. The items to be corrected are listed in an attachment to the settlement agreement.
Rapid City Attorney Joel Landeen says that the city did not try to negotiate around any of the items listed by the DOJ. 'e didn't want to argue about it, we didn't want to have litigation. All of the stuff in the balance of the facility we thought was legitimate' said Landeen.
The Justice Department noted that a pervasive problem in the arena is that there are not seats for people with disabilities at all levels of the facility. Right now, there is only one handicapped section. The other DOJ concerns mostly has to do with floor slopes being greater than 5 percent, counter heights, and bathrooms.
Proponents of the expansion say it will cost the city $38 million to address all the ADA concerns."

So from $38 million to $180 million. So that's...  $142 million more. Meanwhile, our schools are firing people because they don't have enough money to function normally.

I am proud of the education I got here in Rapid City, from kindergarten to the 9th grade.  I think that is the backbone of our community, not a place to have concerts.

Upcoming meetings to discuss civic center plan

"The first forum will be held at 11:15 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 27, at the civic center. It will be hosted by the Black Hills Forum and Press Club and the format starts with a debate between a supporter and opponent of the plan.
The forum is scheduled to last for two hours and will be held at the civic center. It features former Mayor Alan Hanks, who opposes the expansion plan, and Murphy’s Pub & Grill owner Tony DeMaro, who supports the project. Another former mayor, Ed McLaughlin, will discuss the history of the Vision Fund, which is supported by sales tax and has been tapped to repay the bonds issued to finance the project.
According to a release from the press club, the forum will last two hours and cost $15 to attend if you make a reservation by Feb. 24. The cost includes lunch. Attorney Stephen Wesolick, who is organizing the event, said that as of Wednesday 130 people had made reservations. For more information, call 721-7665.
The Rapid City Journal and the chamber of commerce forum will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 28 at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Classroom Building at 501 E. Saint Joseph St.
It is a free event where the public will get the opportunity to ask questions of a panel that includes city council member Charity Doyle, civic center Executive Director Craig Baltzer, city Finance Director Pauline Sumption, City Attorney Joel Landeen and Donovan Broberg of ARC International, which is part of the team that is designing the project."

Of course my weird work hours mean I can't go :(  I'm glad to see so much discussion and debate about this issue.

Five former mayors speak out against civic center plan

"RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Five former mayors of Rapid City are opposing a proposed $180 million expansion of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Former mayors Keith Carlyle, Ed McLaughlin, Jim Shaw, Jerry Munson and Alan Hanks have joined the Fix the Plan committee, which aims to rally voters against what would be the costliest project in Rapid City history. A public referendum is scheduled March 10."

Information at the Civic Center site

"Why not remodel the existing Barnett Arena?
To remodel the Barnett Arena for ADA, Life Safety, Fire Marshall, and Building Code Compliance purposes will cost at least $70 million and would result in the loss of several hundred seats.  Remodeling may take up to five years, during which time events would have to relocate or take a  hiatus. Some may choose not to come back to Rapid City as an event venue. Losing events due to prolonged remodeling work will have a negative impact on our local economy and our sales tax revenues."

Opinion; "Civic Center Expansion needs to get done"

"...To consider just making the updates to the arena would result in a smaller facility that would still not meet the needs of today’s events. Personally, that sounds like putting a pint job on a car with 500,000 miles.
The focus should remain on safety, most notably, for the disabled. I am willing to sacrifice the construction of park houses and swimming pools for a few years."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's just too big, say some

"Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker added: 'Building this facility for 2013 or 2014 doesn’t make much sense. We should really be building this for 2027.'
But for some, the plan isn't a dream but rather a fairy tale.
Former mayor Alan Hanks isn’t alone in those concerns. He stands with four other former mayors who say that the blue concept is overplanned and under thought.
The five mayors have banded together to form a committee called Fix the Plan."