City Council Vote on Tuesday Will Decide Fate of Parking Ramp, Hotel Project [OPINION]
The debate over whether the City of Sioux Falls should build a parking ramp downtown as part of a hotel and retail complex comes to a conclusion tonight (Tuesday).
It likely will pass -- and it should.
It's a $50 million project total that eventually will be a full-service hotel on top of the city-owned parking facility. You can watch it online here. The meeting starts at 7:00 PM.
The discussion points have centered on:
- Whether the city should be entering this level of partnership with a private business. It's a level of cooperation we haven't done in the past.
- Is the ramp too expensive at about $26,000 per stall versus the average of $20,000? Early reports had that number much higher but that was because the mayor's office didn't provide complete information, which just confused the issue.
- Who will benefit? There are calls for more transparency in terms of the investors, given that it's a public partnership involving public money. The question is who is making money off our money?
- Do we really need more parking?
There are other points that have come up but I think those are the big ones. You can see all the details here.
It's been a lively and mostly constructive discussion by the administration of Mayor Mike Huether and a few members of the City Council. These are legitimate questions that do need to be answered.
But I think they have been.
What I think has complicated matters more than necessary is the lack of cooperation and transparency by the mayor's office. That's become the norm and that's unfortunate. The opaque nature of city government these days creates an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion around a very exciting project for our beautiful downtown.
That doesn't mean it shouldn't pass.
Councilor Theresa Stehly has pushed for a deferral of the decision until after a new mayor takes office. She has raised these core questions of cost and transparency, as she should. Scott Ehrisman on the SouthDacola Blog presents these questions and his positions, which parallel Stehly's, in a definitive way. Read all that here.
In my mind, however, Councilor Greg Neitzert has answered these questions. Neitzert was on The Patrick Lalley Show on Monday after releasing a detailed reasoning about why this is a good project. It's unfortunate that the explanation and reasoning for a project as large as this fell to a part-time city councilor who took it upon himself to do the research.
That should be the responsibility of the administration. In this case, the administration failed miserably.
Legacy Development should publicly thank Councilor Neitzert for his commitment.
There is one large question that remains, however, which underlies the suspicion that remains. Will any current public employees -- or their close friends or associates -- profit from this deal?
We will never know. The responsibility for reporting such things rests with any official who might have a conflict to disclose that conflict. That's a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
The mistrust that has developed under this administration shouldn't harm what appears to be a necessary and progressive project for downtown Sioux Falls.
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