New Arena Facts vs. Fear

The Two Cents has again provided another gut-feeling, non-researched opinion on the operation, construction and ultimate success of our proposed arena. The election on this issue is just 15 days away, so of course, I felt you deserved to hear the other 98 cents on the matter.

Two Cents cost overruns

“The new arena location is bad” – (FALSE)

The proposed new arena location will be conjoined to the remainder of the Civic Center Campus, thus reducing overhead and staff costs. The location is surrounded by our major roadways of Omaha Street, North 5th Street, and the new and improved I-190 interchange. In addition, it is within walking distance of several hotels, and the downtown core which encompasses numerous local businesses that assist in collecting sales tax to help drive our general fund. A Civic Center by definition is meant to bring people together, but building a new arena on the outskirts of the City would limit the ability of the Civic Center to acquire new or to expand current events.  Just the infrastructure costs of the new arena in an off-site location would drive the cost so high, we would not be able to afford it. It would also not generate the revenue as a stand-alone facility to cover the operation and overhead costs, let alone make a profit.

“Taxpayers are responsible for the debt if revenues do not meet projections” – (While that is technically true, it is baseless)

The feasibility study and pro forma financial projections are based on a market analysis for the region which the Civic Center reaches, and these projections are conducive for building a new arena. The same fearful statement could have easily been said 40 years ago when the Civic Center came about, and I imagine it was, but look what a great addition it has been to our city. The Civic Center is one of the City’s greatest assets, which requires regular updates to remain viable. A new arena is just that.

“There is no way to control cost overruns and they will be huge” – (FALSE)

There absolutely is a way to control project costs, and the City team has researched this for years. We will not use the same method of acquiring design and construction services used in the 2006-2008 Ice Arena construction debacle. Then Mayors Jim ShawTwo Cents Ice arena debacle and Alan Hanks worked together to bring the ice arena to fruition with the bids coming in at $22.2 million, or just over 56% higher than the original cost estimate of $14.2 million. Additional funding was committed through the Vision Fund and the project was completed for a grand total of $25,766,288. This total included more than $650,000 worth of change orders. No wonder people don’t trust the government.

Even though the project was complete, the building was unusable because it was not furnished. The Civic Center had to spend over $2 million to buy furnishings such as Zambonis, netting, seats, ticket systems, spotlights, concession equipment etc. The Civic Center also had to borrow $1.5 million to create the east parking lots. But the building was still unusable for hockey. The Civic Center was out of money, so the Rapid City Rush Hockey Team borrowed $2.15 million to complete the furnishing of the building so they could play hockey. They’ve been paying on that loan for the past 10 years, with three years to go. And Hanks and Shaw want to lecture us on how to build an arena?

The City has used a competitive process to select a construction manager, as well as an architect. The ‘Construction Manager at Risk’ is a construction manager who is hired to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price. All potential surprises are evaluated in advance and unforeseen cost increases are absorbed by the construction manager. There have been very detailed cost estimations accomplished over the past several months and a final budget has been set. $130 million, lock, stock and barrel. The City (taxpayers) will not spend a dollar more.

We have also hired an owner’s representative: a company who uses their expertise to look out for the tax payer’s interests. The owner’s representative, TEGRA has managed projects in 37 states, and not once has a project been over budget. This same company has served as the owner’s representative for both Black Hills Energy’s Horizon Point and the Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

These significant changes to the process benefit our taxpayers and make this a safe project with no surprises. With 15 days left before the future of the Civic Center is decided, I encourage those who have not researched this topic to do so. Email me with your questions (mayorsoffice@rcgov.org), or view the full presentation at www.barnettarena.com.

 

The Anti-Gossip Column

“Words have no wings, but they can fly a thousand miles”  ~ Korean Proverb

It should be no surprise to any of us: facts cannot easily be distinguished from fiction, after all, fiction is passed on at a greater rate than facts. Here are some recent Two Cents comments from the Rapid City Journal, and, my response:

IMG_0219

FALSE: A quick look around the nation tells us naming an arena after a mayor is highly unusual. Don Barnett is a man who led the charge for the original Civic Center complex and helped Rapid City recover from the 1972 flood. He was deserving of naming the current arena after him.  Naming the next arena will be a business arrangement, not a political one. Money talks, and we will be looking for advertising sponsorships.

IMG_0228

Great idea.  Wish we would have thought of that. A new manufacturing plant is being planned and construction will start this Spring. It will involve 10 acres of land, 100 jobs right away and 200 within a few years. We have a team of folks recruiting, incentivizing and helping to facilitate smart growth. The government cannot create jobs, but we can create an environment where jobs can be created. It’s not a matter of EITHER an arena or bringing in companies, we can have both. Also, don’t forget agriculture and tourism is who we are. These industries have helped Rapid City and South Dakota as a whole, become and stay successful.

IMG_0226

No one EVER said the building was about to collapse into a heap.  Yes, additions and improvements have been a part of the Civic Center complex.

Renovation history

Maintenance and upgrades are necessary in facilities such as this. These expansions were driven by demand; the renovations driven by age.  You will note the Barnett Arena was never upgraded.  It’s structure is the problem more than the aesthetics. It is an old building, it looks old, it feels old and the architecture is obsolete.  The former Rapid City Auditorium located at 7th and Quincy Streets from 1928-1973 was demolished in its 45th year.  The Barnett will be repurposed as a multi-purpose room to compliment the new arena and complex.

IMG_0231

The City spends $25-$30 million per year on the things mentioned in this comment. In other words, the amount spent on roads and infrastructure every five years is $130 million. The amount being requested to build a new arena that will last another 40 years is $130 million.  It’s not a matter of having either an arena or road and infrastructure repair, we can have both. It’s a balance.

The person writing this comment believes the Civic Center is a drain on resources.  FALSE: The Civic Center funds 75% of its operating and capital expenses with revenue generated within the complex. The other 25% comes from the Gross Municipal Receipts tax, or the BBB (bed, booze and board) tax – a 1% tourism tax created for the operation of event centers and for promotion of our City. No general fund money is used to subsidize this operation. These false claims made by people who don’t care to ask the questions are destined to be the downfall of Rapid City. Ask the questions!

IMG_0240

Not only is this person misinformed, but they believe “cooking the books” is going on. The entire Civic Center complex has been brought up to ADA standards. On-going maintenance and upgrading has and will continue to occur at the complex. “That magnificent building” will not be demolished. No one ever said the building would be demolished. The proposal is to add a new arena, next to the Barnett Arena, repurpose the Barnett Arena into a multi-purpose room to compliment the new arena and complex. The only thing being proposed is a new arena. Nothing will be demolished! Am I repeating myself?  Yes, I am, and I am hoping the person who wrote this comment, and others like it will be open to hearing the truth.

Let’s face it, rumors and gossip travel faster than the truth. It always has and always will. My only hope is, for us to be open to hearing the truth as much as we are open to hearing rumors.

For those who have not seen a presentation (all of these two cents authors) here it is: www.barnettarena.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rapid City Needs a New Arena

RPCC

This is a transcript from a speech I gave at the February 26th 2018 City Council meeting, in support of a new Civic Center Arena. It’s long, but it may contain information you are looking for:

“Good evening everyone, thank you for being here tonight. I wouldn’t expect any less attendance and involvement on such an important issue as this one. I’ll start my presentation with a summary of where we have been, and how we got to the point we are at today.

From approximately 2012 to 2015, a great amount of effort was put into planning for, designing and presenting options for new Civic Center Arena. The main emphasis and motivating factor at the time was the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On December 1, 2014, the City Council voted to build a new arena for $180 million in construction costs. A mixture of revenue bonds and certificates of participation was presented as the funding mechanism with 100% of annual Vision Fund collections as the funding source to be used for debt payment.

A task force was involved, there were several public meetings, paid advertising from opponents and proponents of the arena

On March 10, 2015 a public election was held at which time the funding for a new arena was defeated. The alternative of building a new arena was a $70 million rehabilitation of the Barnett Arena – a figure that was immediately thought to be bogus by industry professionals and many citizens. Three months later, in June 2015 a City election was held and a new City administration was installed.   In February 2016, I appointed the Civic Center Resolution Task Force. 11 members from the community, none with ties to the visitor industry, and none with a previous known investment in the 2015 ballot issue. The task force was weighted heavily with financial advisors, economists and business owners. A retired schoolteacher and baseball coach as well as a member from the disabled community were included.  On January 19, 2017, the task force work was complete.  The task force largely concluded that the new arena was the smarter financial decision. This opinion was not held unanimously among the task force members as there were two who believed the evidence was not conclusive to support a new arena at this time. In late January 2017, I began assembling a presentation to be delivered to the City Council and the public at large.

On June 7, 2017, I began formal presentations of the issue at hand: To renovate the Barnett or to build a new arena. Since that time, I have made 34 public and private presentations to 1228 individuals. Seven of those presentations to 467 people were held at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and included a tour of the Barnett Arena. At this time, four more presentations are scheduled through March 13th.

Each public presentation I hosted was structured with a presentation to include the history of the Civic Center, the challenges we are facing with the Barnett Arena, and the pros and cons to either remodeling or building a new arena to remedy these challenges. Following the presentation, a question and answer period was provided, along with a tour of the Barnett Arena for any interested attendees. After the first presentation on September 14, 2017, I decided to start conducting an informal poll after each presentation to collect input and gauge where a portion of our residents stand on this issue. This began on September 25, 2017, and it was done for my benefit at the time; however, I believe the raw information may now be of benefit to you as well.

This informal exit poll was simple and straightforward consisting of a box to check for either “remodel” or “build new,” along with a blank space for comments. Not all presentation goers participated, and the figures do not necessarily represent an accurate sampling of Rapid City residents. Nonetheless, this poll was available to 443 community members, and 288 took the opportunity to participate and provide their input. As a courtesy, I thought you might be interested in what they have to say as well. Here is a summary of our informal findings:

Remodel                   8.5 out 288                (2.95%)

Build New                 274.5 out of 288       (95.31%)

Undecided                4 out of 288               (1.39%)

Both                          1 out of 288               (0.38%)

In addition to the polls, I’ve had the opportunity to mingle with the community over this extended period of time. As you might imagine, when you are mayor of Rapid City, you are mayor all of the time… at the grocery store, the hardware store and around the neighborhood. The face-to-face feedback I have received over the past year and a half, has been overwhelmingly in support of a new arena. In that feedback, I can’t tell you how many times comparisons to the old plan and this one were made. This is consistent with the feedback received over numerous presentations and other public gatherings. The majority of people in Rapid City appear to prefer investing in a new structure rather than expending millions on the old one. This was when I made the decision to engage with Stone Planning and TEGRA to assist with this project. This is also the reason the feasibility study was not made available sooner. I would not have expended funds for consultants had the feedback been negative.

Rapid City has a rich history as being one of the nation’s leading markets in the visitor industry. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874 by then Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and his men. As a result, this caused a massive influx of gold seekers. Rapid City was unofficially founded in 1876 as Hay Camp by a group of disappointed miners – based on the reality of there being no gold near Rapid City. The first Rapid City settlers dubbed Rapid City “gateway to the Black Hills“. One square mile of land was used as Rapid City’s border with six blocks designated as the business district. The new focus: to supply the miners. Officially founded as Rapid City in 1882, tourism had become a major industry by the 1890s. By 1900, Rapid City had survived a boom and bust yet was established as an important regional trade center for the upper Midwest. There were a number of important developments in our area that shaped who we are today: 1927 – 1941 the construction of Mount Rushmore. 1940  – The Army Air Corps Base (now known as Ellsworth Air Force Base) was opened. Rapid City’s population doubled between 1940 and 1948 due to the influx of military personnel and the economic benefits of government payroll. In April 1972, Rapid City voters approved a measure to create what we now refer to as the Vision Fund. The 1/2 cent sales tax at the time was to be used to fund the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. At the same time, voters also approved the 1% gross municipal receipts tax, otherwise known as the BBB tax. Two months later, in June 1972 the Black Hills suffered a devastating flood and in addition to the loss of human life, the property damage in Rapid City alone was $100 million at that time. $600 million in today’s money. A good portion of Rapid City’s infrastructure was severely damaged during this time, yet plans moved forward to build the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Construction of the Civic Center began in 1975 and was completed in 1977.
Rapid City and its Civic Center has enjoyed being South Dakota’s largest and most used convention and entertainment center from 1977 to as late as 2014 when the Sioux Falls Sanford Premier Center opened. The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center including the Barnett Arena have been in operation for the past 41 years. The biggest change in the past 41 years – the entertainment and convention markets have changed for the better. The music industry has changed significantly. There are now 83 million millennials living among us. In a recent study, 84% of those millennials report regularly traveling the U.S. seeking events and entertainment. It is a priority that baby boomers such as myself cannot fully understand. The fact remains, we are being outsourced by what is now the largest generation in America, the millennials.  What has not changed in the past 41 years – the Barnett Arena. By the way, the Rapid City Auditorium at 7th and Quincy Street was demolished in its 45th year. These buildings have a useful life, not so much as it pertains to durability but to functional usefulness. Times change.

Rapid City has enjoyed decades of benefits from the visitor industry. It’s only fitting and proper that we reinvest in it from time to time. Each option on the agenda tonight has a risk versus reward ratio: The rehabilitation option appears safer to some primarily in my opinion, because it’s known, And less money. The risk could be seen as minimal or moderate but with the exception of becoming legally and ethically compliant in our agreement with the Department of Justice, there is no reward. We will not sell a single additional ticket. In fact, less seating will be available for purchase. No additional square footage will be created so our current events needing to expand, such as the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo, LNI, Sport Show, and the upcoming Home Show will not gain space. We will not attract a single additional trade show based on the remodel. The rehabilitation option is an expense. The build new option appears to have more risk because it represents the unknown. What if? say the doubters. That is a normal and expected response. So how do we bridge the risk gap? With data, market information, facts and an acknowledgement of the changing times.

The risk of the new arena is limited to a couple major issues: The Future success of the facility

  • The force multiplying effect of the Sioux Falls Sanford premier center.
  • The entertainment industry’s renewed priority of traveling shows.
  • The ability for our current signature events to expand.
  • The ability to attract new trade shows.

More information on this topic will be presented from Stone Planning and also Civic Center Director Craig Baltzer.

The ramifications of expending $130 million can be intimidating, but there are important facts to consider:

  • Approximately $25 million has been saved in anticipation of the approval of either option. In the case of building a new arena, this means that around $105 million in bonds would be needed to accomplish this option.
  • A combination of revenue bonds and certificates of participation will likely be used which will mean the City will not encroach on its debt limit set by South Dakota state law.
  • 54% of the current Vision Fund collections will be used for debt service, as opposed to 100% in 2015.
  • This will keep approximately $5.5 million available for funding important projects for the community.
  • This will provide in the scenario of a major recession, a 46% safety barrier to protect against the urge of future administrations to raise taxes or reduce services in other areas.

Let’s talk about and acknowledge the opposition to building a new arena: It has been mentioned government should not be in the “entertainment“ business. Our history shows, and I am here to reiterate that we are not in the entertainment business but we are in fact, in the visitor business. It has been mentioned we have great infrastructure needs and that spending more than $100 million on an arena would be unjustified based on our current infrastructure. This thinking is understandable, however I don’t believe our City Council or the citizens at large would allow the Vision Fund to be converted to infrastructure spending. Further, we are just as behind, and no more, on infrastructure than any other city in America. We must always look to balance the interests in government. Even following the Rapid City flood and the massive recovery efforts that ensued, Rapid City continued building the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center when it could have easily used that money for infrastructure. There need not be a dilemma regarding infrastructure or an arena. We can have both.

I’ve had a great amount of feedback regarding the Vision Fund and I know many citizens voted no in 2015 because 100% of the funds would be used for the arena. The Vision Fund is a sales tax paid by everyone, including our visitors. Although there is room for debate on this issue, I am simply stating that the City will not likely divert $100 million in vision funds to infrastructure as an alternative to funding the arena and other projects.  It has been mentioned Rapid City lacks the population base to support a large arena. Think back to 1972 when Rapid City’s population was slightly over 40,000. Our arena capacity was 10,500. Today’s population is nearly 75,000 and our arena capacity is between 6800 and 8000 depending on the type of event. In addition, Rapid City citizens have never exclusively filled the Barnett Arena. Not even once. We have documentation that for concerts and tradeshows, the majority of attendees are from out of town and many are from other states. Just recently, Old Dominion, an up-and-coming country western group, played to a small audience of 3300 in the Barnett Arena. 20.9% of those attendees were from 27 other states. This is a consistent trend that is seen in our large venue events. People travel for events including entertainment and trade shows.

I have heard that Sioux Falls opening their Sanford Premier Center will preclude Rapid City from being successful with the new arena. The data shows the opposite. Major promoters are looking for show routes and recently, Sioux Falls officials have indicated a recognition that they are missing traveling show bookings because there is not a logical next venue to the west on I-90. Sioux Falls having an arena is a force-multiplier rather than a competitive challenge. I receive comments about high ticket prices and even a suggestion to subsidize ticket prices with taxpayer funds. Amazingly, people‘s willingness to travel for entertainment makes a ticket price an apparent minimal inconvenience. I believe the market is genius when allowed to work. Concerning the traveling show industry, the market is working. It’s true that concert tickets costing upwards of $200 seems to be cost prohibitive for some. I must admit, I would have a hard time philosophically paying $200 to spend a few hours being entertained. The new arena and the shows it will attract will not be for everyone, but will benefit everyone. The location is been brought up a number of times and suggestions have been made to move the arena near I-90 for convenience. Practically, this move is cost prohibitive. Functionally, this move would not allow us to expand existing trade shows/sporting events or attract new ones. Fundamentally, this idea flies in the face of our philosophy on infill development. Parking has been brought up more than a few times. The former mayors article referred to current parking as “scarce”. The fact remains, today at the Civic Center we are parking less cars with more parking spaces than any time in history. In 1977 and for approximately the next 15 years, we were able to seat 10,000+ audience members for a concert. This, without the aid of the east parking lots. Central high school with its expansion has also expanded their parking lot. Where did the 10,500 spectators who attended the Elvis Presley concert park? Anywhere they could find. It’s not that the parking situation couldn’t be better, and it certainly is a few times a year inconvenient, you might even say with events going on at the high school, theater, ice arena and other meeting rooms, parking is a problem. That said, it is not a $30 million problem. Nor would a $30 million parking ramp be the magic pill that alleviates all parking issues. Rapid City has just as much and in many cases more available parking for events then other arenas in our region. If we build a new arena, we will have similar parking availability as Sioux Falls. It has been said the Sioux Falls arena has an advantage over our proposed arena because they are privately managed and Rapid City is publicly managed. The difference or advantage of private versus public management is not a financial one. For a city that’s never had an arena before, it should look to private management to acquire an adequate level of expertise in facility management and event coordination. In Rapid City’s case, we have an event center management legacy that offers 41 years of success as its resume. Additionally, Craig Baltzer, the executive director, has experience both in private management and in public management. There is no perceived advantage over converting Rapid City’s management strategy from public to private.

Comments have been made regarding the ticketing system used by the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Some have stated our ticketing system does not offer advantages as other ticketing systems such as “ticket master“. The Civic Center’s ticketing system is “Paciolan” (Pack-e-o-lon) which has an impressive record of event ticket sales.

  • 37+ years serving live entertainment organizations
  • Over 500 organizations that sell through this system
  • Over 120, million tickets sold annually
  • 85 professional sports organizations use the system as we do:
    • 19 regional ticket partners
    • Over 100 arenas and convention centers
    • 75 performing arts venues
    • Over 170 clubs, theaters and other venues
    • 120 college athletic teams

Paciolan is known as one of the leading ticket sales organizations in professional sports as well as arenas and convention centers.

And finally, perhaps the elephant in the room is the idea that the Mayor, City Council or just the City in general is “shoving this issue down the voter’s throats”. Obviously there are some emotions tied to this sentiment and some of the 60% of the 31% of voters who voted in 2015 take offense to this issue being brought to the forefront. South Dakota law requires a one year waiting period on initiated measures, but no such waiting period exists for referred measures.  Clearly it’s not a legal infraction and it is ethically appropriate to bring this issue back three years later based on:

  • The fundamental differences in the 2015 plan and the 2018 plan;
  • The financial ramifications between the two options; and the disorganized and perhaps even disingenuous campaign that culminated with the public election in 2015.

Fundamentally, I cannot see how offering this issue again, which is just as referable as it was in 2015 shoves anything down anyone’s throats. Failing to bring this issue back to the public under the circumstances would be a dereliction of duty on my part given the potential consequences and benefits that await.

There is a desire for the City to bring this issue forward as an initiated measure rather than putting the people in a position to refer it to public vote. The City‘s position is that it lacks the legal authority to initiate measures. Recently, a South Dakota legislator as well as a former mayor and former legislator cited South Dakota codified law 6-8 B-3 as an authorization for cities to do so. After a legal analysis by City Attorney Joel Landeen as well as the City’s bond counsel Jennifer Hanson from the Dorsey and Whitney law firm in Minneapolis, we disagree with the assertion that our City is legally authorized to initiate measures. The City Attorney can explain further but I will just say, it is an issue of the provided statute being referred to, out of the context of other related statues.

I contacted a member of the South Dakota legislature and inquired about legislation to enable cities to initiate measures. The response was not favorable and urged that the City Council be put in a position to perform their prescribed duties then let the citizens refer it. In other words there’s a process to get this to a public vote and no other process is needed.

One question has been brought up repeatedly regarding the ultimate fate of the Barnett Arena should we build a new one. If the council then the voters approve building a new arena, there will be a 2 1/2 to 3 year time period for design and construction. I believe that three-year period is more than adequate to design a plan, find related funding and adopt an plan execution timetable. Conversely, it does not make sense to come up with an ironclad plan not knowing if the council or the voters will approve a new arena. Please keep in mind, the only thing we have to do with the Barnett Arena to achieve compliance is stop using it as we use it today. The large majority of the ADA issues in the Barnett are above the floor level so for some period of time the floor space could conceivably be used to complement the new arena. I want to be clear about this: The proposed plan to build a new arena does not include $25 million to rehabilitate the Barnett, nor does it suggest we do so. I believe some deconstruction will occur with the Barnett to transform it into a multipurpose venue. It is important to note that constructing a new arena is complementary to our Downtown Master Plan as well as Rapid City’s Comprehensive Plan. Furthermore, it reflects the values and priorities documented by a recent citizen survey which is a scientifically reliable survey with a very small margin of error. People and communities including Rapid City, want recreation, entertainment, and a place to gather. Quality-of-life is a major concern of our millennial generation.

A major local employer indicates difficulty hiring young employee talent based on the lack of amenities in our area. Local young professionals commented recently that the lack of modern entertainment options is one of the deciding factors in young people leaving our area and a deterrent to young people considering moving to our area. We have something in common with the city administration and the city voters who approved the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in the 1970s. We are not building it for ourselves as much as we are building it for future generations. Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I have to confess that in 2015 I voted for building a new Civic Center Arena. I did so solely on faith. Decades of success at the Civic Center as well as knowing the community as I did at the time, made me feel positively about it. Knowing what I know now, I’m glad that measure was defeated. It was the wrong plan. The priorities were not aligned with the needs of Rapid City and our visitors. It was excessive. If this issue goes to a public vote, I will vote yes again but this time I will base my vote on data, market information, facts and the reality of changing times. Tonight the City Council has on the agenda two options: to rehabilitate the existing Barnett Arena or to build a new arena. In other words, one option is to invest in our future and the other is to expend funds on the present. I am asking this City Council to show Rapid City what you stand for. Make a decision that will benefit all of us for decades. A decision that will show this community we are capable of having and committing to a vision. I’m asking you to vote tonight in favor of building a new arena.

 

 

 

Tear Down That Statue?

One of my favorite stories is about the destruction of the cotton industry in Southern Alabama around the turn of the 20th century:

Beginning in about 1890 the Boll Weevil started what would be a 20 year migration from Mexico into Southern Alabama.  By 1910 Enterprise, Alabama was a town of just over 2000 souls, most of which earned their living from agriculture, namely cotton farming.    Shortly after 1910 the Boll Weevil was in many Alabama cotton fields, making short work of cotton crops.  Naturally, this was a major concern for farmers and in fact, Tuskeege Institute’s George Washington Carver warned farmers to diversify their crops and plant things such as sweet potatoes, soy beans, and peanuts.  I am certain many farmers wished later that they would have listened.

By 1915 Enterprise’s cotton crop was decimated by the Boll Weevil, leaving farmers in a wake of destruction and regret.  Guess what they did next?  Yep, they planted a variety of other crops, including peanuts.  It took two years to recover but by 1917 Enterprise was not only back on its feet, it was one of the leading producers of peanuts and peanut products in the country.  Two years later in 1919, Enterprise City Councilman Roscoe Fleming proposed that the city celebrate the Boll Weevil for helping turn the economy around.  So that’s what they did.

The Boll Weevil monument stands today in downtown Enterprise as a reminder that good can come from bad.  That sometimes in defeat, comes victory.  That tragedy can bring opportunity.  Enterprise was right to build the monument.  I like this story because Enterprise was humble enough and smart enough to recognize what brought them to their knees was ultimately a blessing and not a burden; it helped them get to where they are today.

The simplest and least effective response for Enterprise and for us all, would be one of anger and outrage.  An important lesson here is the initial tragedy could have been avoided had the farmers listened to the experts. Another and maybe the most important lesson however, is the farmers aren’t tearing down the statue today because of the pain it caused at the time. The Boll Weevil statue was not erected because it was positive, or that people today wish for another infestation, it was erected to remind the people of Enterprise of the bad days of yesterday so they could see more clearly the good days today. 

Another Year, Another Memory

MemorialI haven’t written or commented much on the five previous anniversaries of the murders of Officers Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong and the attempted murder of Officer Tim Doyle. I suppose I’ve had my reasons but as I think about it today, the only reason I can think of, is that I may not have wanted to pick at a healing wound. It’s certainly not that I haven’t thought about the men who died on this day six years ago, or that I haven’t seen Tim Doyle since and while talking with him, visualized the bullet fragments still in his head, neck and chest.

As I drove to work this morning, there was a man in my neighborhood wearing a “Heroes Wear Blue” T-shirt. I thought it was nice, since a quote from me is printed on the back, and especially nice since the T-shirt signifies support for the Armstrong, McCandless and Doyle families. It also signifies support for law-enforcement, but I think what’s most important about it, and most meaningful to me is that the T-shirt was purchased and first worn during a time when many communities would have burned to the ground. There was tension and turmoil in our City; concerns about a race war; rumors about police retaliation and at times for me and those around me, anguish, but people bought T-shirts as a sign of solidarity. People bought T-shirts to reaffirm the meaning of community and to show love and support for the grieving families. When I see a six-year-old T-shirt hanging off the back of a community member, what I really see is a six-year-old commitment to Rapid City and the people who live here. It was a terrible time and a beautiful time for different reasons obviously.

During the middle of today’s work, a man came to my office requesting to see me. I invited him in and could immediately see he was holding back tears. He wanted to thank me and the men and women of law-enforcement for the commitment and sacrifice given while serving the community. He then went on to tell me how he had been feeling all day, and that he had gone to the memorial site on East Anamosa Street to pay tribute to the men gunned down there six years ago today. He felt bad and he told me so a number of times and for one of the first times there was really nothing I felt I could do or say to encourage him. I suppose I was feeling a little discouraged at that time myself.

Just after supper, I went to the intersection where the shooting occurred.  There, the Churchmemorial stands as it has for years, surrounded by beautiful landscaping installed by Nick’s mother Kim. At the base of the stone, someone placed four roses. The church building at that site stopped some of Ryan’s bullets as he returned fire – a different kind of memorial for me.

When I think about the events of August 2, 2011, I think about the commitment and obligation law enforcement officers feel toward this community. I think about the men and women who serve, receiving in return little more than a meager paycheck. I think it’s awful that good men and women sometimes die at the hands of a desperate criminal – who if it any point in his struggle would have just asked for help, they would have done everything in their power to help him. Maybe, in a way, that’s what happened.

I am proud of who Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong were, and who Tim Doyle is today. I am especially proud of the people of Rapid City and the surrounding communities who six years ago, stopped everything to lend a hand. I am grateful.

The Importance of Voting

Ok, let’s get right to the point: There is no justification for only 12.7% of registered voters turning out for our recent election. Two weeks of early/absentee voting and 12 hours of voting on election day provide plenty of opportunity to vote.  Since I’ve taken to public shaming, I have received several excuses from people about not voting. Here are a few:

Allender says no excuses

You’re right, it is an excuse.  But not a good reason. First of all, who are “the people”? Just you? You and a couple of friends? If you are not voting because you are not getting your way, then you don’t understand how democracy works. Think about it this way: the majority of voters DO get their way. Their candidate wins; their ballot issue wins; and winning for them has never been easier because people like you stay home. If you are discouraged at the way government works then I guarantee the wrong thing to do is give up: that is NOT the way our country was founded.

Didnt want anything

Again, who is “we”? And as far as doing what “they” want, “they” were elected by the majority of voters to make decisions on your behalf. If you disagree, isn’t it your duty to become involved?

bad time for people

Perhaps there is more to the story, but if your response is to withdraw rather than engage, then it doesn’t matter. Imagine if your teenage child told you what they wanted, but you, acting under your authority as a parent knew there was something the child was not considering… would you try to explain? Would you do what is right over what is popular? Would you be willing to make a decision that affects, at least temporarily, your relationship with your child? Or, would you take the path of least resistance and give-in? Leadership can be hard – that’s why most people don’t want to subject themselves to unjustified (and mostly anonymous) criticism.

Starting next week, there will be a great deal of media coverage on the Civic Center plan so I won’t go into that specifically, but I will tell you this: There is always more to the story.

Our government, whether national, state, county or city, is made up of people put in those positions by other people. If the government doesn’t operate to your liking then congratulations – you and I have something in common. If you choose only to complain, yet do nothing to improve things, then you will never be satisfied.

 

 

 

 

Why Consultants are Utilized

Good government requires the people being engaged and ready to hold public officials accountable. The following question was submitted to the Rapid City Journal’s “Two Cents” column.

two-cents-consultants

The City of Rapid City as well as most other municipalities in America utilize professional contracts for architecture and engineering services for a number of reasons.

1. Consultants have the resources to get the jobs done in a reasonable time.  Due to a general and varied workload, City staff members do not have the ability to dedicate a solid work day or work week to complete specialized projects.  In addition to managing multiple projects, City staff is continuously responding to questions and requests from customers such as citizens, business owners, other agencies, other City departments and elected officials.

2. Consultants have specialized expertise.  It is not cost effective for the City to employ staff that has the expertise in designing complicated projects such as a Government Building, a Street, a Swimming Pool or Dam spillway replacement that are rarely constructed.  In addition, the specialized computer systems and software necessary for such specialized projects would be very expensive to maintain.

3. Consultants have industry knowledge.  One example is the recent utility rate study contract awarded to a national engineering firm, HDR Inc. This contract was awarded based on their experience in performing this type of work to published standards. These standards are in place to make the rate structure legally defensible.  They also continuously work on rate studies across the country so they are very efficient in what they do and provide a best practice or industry standard perspective.  It would be nearly impossible to have City staff members gain the knowledge base and experience in conducting this type of study and have the support staff available to accomplish this study in an accurate and professional manner and in a reasonable time.

4. Consultants offer a non-biased professional opinion without being politically influenced. The City’s customer, the people, deserve objective evaluation of important issues that if left up to the local political environment may face short-cuts or alterations that could threaten public health and safety.

To answer your question Mr. anonymous question-asker: Yes, the Mayor and Council are paid to make decisions, and they do. Based on the enormity of some decisions and the potential risk to the community, some decisions cannot be left up to elected officials.

You may be interested to know that in 2016 the City of Rapid City spent nearly $500,000 less on consultants than in 2015.  Another $400,000 reduction is expected in 2017.

As for task-forces, virtually all of them could be avoided…if we didn’t care what the people felt about important topics facing our City. (see the first sentence above).