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.