The Morning After (Election Day)

Someone will win, someone will lose, and initiated measures will either pass or fail. NowVoting Booth that the election is over: the world is neither a better or worse place. The Sun will rise in the morning. Nothing has changed in the overall scheme. The happiness or relief sought from this election cycle has not, and will not come.

There has been a great deal of political wrangling over fixing the broken system, ousting corrupt politicians or bringing about dominance of one political party over the other. Prepare to be disappointed as this is not the first, or last election cycle where these things are on the ballot.

As time goes on, it’s clearer to me the system is not broken as much as we, the people are. Social media has become the dumping ground for political rants, threats and conspiracy theories. Friends attack each other, relatives issue ultimatums over family member allegiance to a politician or a cause. Made up statistics, unverified “news“ accounts related to history or political activity have rendered social media perhaps THE primary tool of misinformation rather than a source of entertainment. Unfortunately, politicians must use the same platform.

Terms such as misogynist, hate, corruption, liberal, conservative, fascist, patriot, traitor and others have definitions that are now fluid, changing with each generation and antifa-nov5sometimes with each new noteworthy event. If you don’t accept something or someone, you hate them. If you disrespect a woman you’re a misogynist. If you stick up for women’s rights you are feminist. If you support the president, you’re a fascist. If you are against the president, you’re a traitor. These things have nothing to do with politics or the political system but have more to do with people and are sometimes byproducts of media-hungry consumers waiting to be fed by antagonists. Our ability to influence others seems to be decreasing while our need to be heard by others is increasing. This noise is drowning out civility in our communities.

I ‘m not saying we are headed for civil war but we can certainly expect more civil and social dysfunction over our obsession with self-relevance on social media. Here are some points which could be important for surviving the effects of social media storms resulting from the midterm elections and leading up to the next election cycle:

  1. It’s OK if you don’t express your opinion publicly.
  2. It’s OK if you don’t react or respond publicly to someone else’s opinion.
  3. Neither democrats nor republicans are ruining the country.
  4. Different opinions are not wrong, they are just different.
  5. It’s OK (and encouraged) for you to become involved in government policy making.
  6. Arguing with others on social media does not constitute being involved.
  7. A Google search is not the same as research.
  8. Attacking your friends and family, especially publicly, will only create loneliness and isolation.
  9. Check social media post sources before you read them, believe them and especially before you share them.
  10. When in doubt, post about cats or children.

Political Corruption & Amendment W,

“In any case of a conflict between any provision of this Article and any other provision contained in this Constitution, the provisions of this Article shall control.”

Critical debate of the transparency and accountability of our government structures are exactly the conversations voters should be having with those you elect. It is fair and right for the citizens to demand a government they can trust. I wish that was the conversation we were having about Constitutional Amendment W. But it isn’t. Unfortunately, Constitutional Amendment W is not as much about accountability and ethical oversight for our government as it is about an outside group committed to selling an agenda. By Celebrities2using popular spokespeople, they hope that you won’t see the creation of an unelected, all-powerful board. By feeding off national partisan politics, they are hoping you won’t see all the problems that will be permanently written into our Constitution. And, by playing on your fears of out-of-control fraud, they hope you won’t pay attention to the massive increase in government spending.

A Massachusetts-based group called Represent US claims that Constitutional Amendment W would give the power back to the people. Wrong. Constitutional Amendment W gives power to professional campaigners by forcing an election every time any of the many details within the Amendment become outdated or the unintended consequences are realized. Campaign organizations, like Represent US, make millions promoting ridiculous measures across the country. Campaigning is an industry, and it is feeding on South Dakota, to the detriment of informed dialogue.

Celebrities 6I can’t help but take offense when people who couldn’t live further from the values of South Dakotans tell me the answer to our corrupt government is to give absolute authority over it to a Board with no oversight itself. And to give the Board guaranteed tax-payer funds that increases each year. Constitutional Amendment W would require the state to fund the Board at a pre-determined level without any say from the Legislature. What does this say about us? That we value a Board with absolute power over all levels of government more than we value educating our children or keeping our citizens healthy and safe.

The Rapid City Journal recently endorsed Constitutional Amendment W claiming in part that the State Government Accountability Board would be transparent because they are subject to open meeting laws. So is every level of government that they claim needs oversight. I’ve been unable to find, in the 8-page amendment, what guarantees this board is so ethical that it does not need to be subjected to checks and balances. Here’s an excerpt from the proposed amendment: “In any case of a conflict between any provision of this Article and any other provision contained in this Constitution, the provisions of this Article shall control.” This amendment literally overrides the South Dakota Constitution. I do not support the status quo, but this is serious overreach… all brought to you by celebrities and out of state interests.

Represent US has confused trust with agreement. Disagreement does not mean unethical action or behavior. It means we are having a thorough conversation about effective ethics and campaign reforms, where we agree on some things and disagree on others. Instead of letting South Dakotans’ work with our own system, they spend millions to promote a measure so they get their way regardless of negative impact to South Dakota.

Constitutional Amendment W gives power to an unelected Board to investigate citizens at every level of government, costs the taxpayers hundreds of thousands annually, and writes flawed legislation into our Constitution. We can do better. Please join me and others in voting NO on W.Vote No on w image

Yes, We Can afford a New Arena

The City of Rapid City currently enjoys a AA credit rating. This rating is given to cities such as ours for historically demonstrating responsible bonding/borrowing/repayment for projects Credit Ratingshistorically. Cities in South Dakota do not get bank loans, they sell bonds through an underwriter in order to create funding. There are generally two types of bonds to be used in this scenario:

Revenue Bonds

Revenue Bonds: The City sells bonds through an underwriter to create funding for a project. The City is responsible for paying the principal and interest to the bond holders through a trustee (usually 1st National Bank). If the City fails to pay the bonds, the bond holders sue the City.

Certificates of Participation

Certificates of Participation (COPs): The City sells bonds through an underwriter to create funding for a project. The City is responsible to pay the principal and interest through a lease agreement with a trustee (usually 1st National Bank). The trustee is responsible for paying the principal and interest to the bond holders. The trustee in this case is regarded as a lessor and the City is a lessee. If the City fails to make the payment, the project, in this case the arena, becomes the property of the Trustee. Similar to a person securing a bank loan for a car or a home and then failing to make payment. There is a repossession or foreclosure.

It is important to note that certificates of participation were used to fund, in part, the original Civic Center campus. Also, the state of South Dakota uses only certificates of participation when bonding is necessary for large projects. This is a legitimate and necessary funding mechanism and is not a “scheme” as two of the former mayors, Alan Hanks and Jim Shaw fondly referred to it. More importantly, the City has the ability to fund the entire project through cash down payment and revenue bonds. The decision of what bond types to use has not been made, and will not be made until it’s time to access the funds.

In 1972, voters approved a one-half cent sales tax to be used to build the Civic Center complex. At that time, the fund generated less than $1 million annually. When the Civic Center was paid off, the tax reverted to the citizens. Former Mayor Ed McLaughlin put the issue back on the ballot and Rapid City voters approved reinstating the tax in 1992. The new version of the ½ cent tax became known as the vision 2012 fund. In 1995, this fund generated $3.5 million annually. In 2017 the Vision Fund generated $12.8 million.

In March 2015 voters denied the City’s attempt to build a new 19,000 seat arena for $180 million in construction costs. There was no alternative plan at the time. In January 2016 the Civic Center Resolution Task Force was formed and charged with investigating options for moving forward with the Barnett Arena ADA compliance and marketability issues. Approximately one year later, the task force submitted their findings to the Mayor’s Office. We then put the findings into a presentation and began engaging the public on this important issue.

The funding mechanism consists of using just over 50% of the annual Vision Fund revenue collection. An annual bond (debt) payment of $6 million was chosen because it’s affordable and allows us to continue to fund important community projects with the other half of the fund. It also provides an important barrier in the event of a major recession.

Since early 2016, and in anticipation of an upcoming large expense, the City has been able to save $25 million in vision funds. The new arena being proposed will cost $130 million, and will include a 20% down payment. The City seeks to sell bonds through an underwriter for a maximum of $110 million in bond proceeds and will be paid over an anticipated 30 year period at $6 million annually.

One of the common concerns heard from citizens, is that the City should be putting this money into road repairs rather than a new arena. For perspective, please understand this:

  • The City’s annual operating budget is approximately $166 million.
  • The City will spend $180 million (same cost of the arena principal and interest financing) on roads and infrastructure over the next 6.5 years

Over the 30-year financing period, the City will make payments on the new arena, but it will also spend $1.16 billion on streets and infrastructure. The City has a need and responsibility to balance its interests, just like we all do. Putting all the money into one priority at the expense of other priorities is no way to live, no way to do business and no way to run a city government. Your city council understands this and I understand it. Not everyone can be made happy.

The Civic Center and other attractions bring outside money into our economy; without outside money, the economy cannot grow. This plan has never been pitched as the economic “magic pill” but it is an important plan for the long term well-being of the Civic Center, which is an important cog in the local economic wheel.

Also important to note: there will be no new taxes required to fund the arena or the ongoing Street and infrastructure expenses.

 

 

New Arena will Benefit Local Economy

Part One of Three: Economic Benefits of a New Arena

In just one week, we will know the outcome of the primary election and the future of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. On the ballot is an issue to authorize the City to bond for up to $110 million to build a new arena on the Civic Center complex.

A “yes” vote gives the complex new life and sets us on a course for larger and improved events, more economic impact and enhanced quality of life. A “no” vote, will place a Band-Aid on the Barnett Arena and will keep its current decline in progress. By my Arena Pro Formaestimation, in as few as 10 years we may be faced with the decision to infuse General Fund tax dollars into it, board up, or demolish the Barnett Arena. This would certainly close what has been historically a very popular, well-used and beneficial component to our community. A new arena will be financially self-sufficient and will not increase taxes.

To date, I have held a total of 57 presentations on the matter, and have spoken to over 2100 people face-to-face about this issue. I have come to learn that there are still sticking points and need a better explanation or justification. One of them is economics.

Rapid City is a visitor destination and we have been regarded as such since 1890. In Pennington County, there are 10,131 jobs that directly or indirectly exist due to the visitor industry.

In a 2017 scientifically-valid survey, Rapid Citians rated economic stability and growth as the number two priority behind Public Safety. Rapid City has little problem attracting visitors during the “on season” and since 46% of our general fund budget revenue is Survey Chartmade up of sales tax, we are left with significant reductions in revenue following the tourist season until Christmas and after Christmas until the beginning of tourist season. Rapid City doesn’t need to spend a great deal of time and energy trying to get more visitors here during June July and August. The off-months are the challenge and are historically the months when the majority of arena activity occurs. With the slow but steady decline in the usage of the Barnett Arena due to it’s outdated architecture, this is only making matters worse. A new arena, although never promoted as a ‘magic pill’, would certainly serve to bring visitors into our area in the off-season. Our visitors spend money, and a great deal of it. What’s more, the 10,100 people employed in full or in part by the visitor industry spend a great deal more money all year long.

A local economy is a closed system until it figures out how to bring in outside money. This can be done with exports such as manufacturing widgets to sell to people from other states or countries; it is done with agriculture when we export our livestock, farm goods and trees. This is also done with tourism, yet we don’t have to manufacture anything other than providing a welcoming destination for visitors from all over the world to travel. An economy only grows with outside money, it remains stagnant with the lack of it.

Building a new arena is a smart economic decision. It will benefit us all, even if we don’t attend events there. More sales tax revenue means less dependence on other revenues, such as property tax. It also provides more options for entertainment, recreation and quality of life.

Tomorrow’s topic: Parking

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:

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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.

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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!

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Civic Center Fix Won’t Defund Streets

two cents photo 4-1-17This recent submission to “Your Two Cents” is from a writer who believes the Civic Center Arena proposal (not yet presented for consideration) will take much needed funding away from street repairs. The writer is incorrect, but not without basis.

The proposed replacement of the Barnett Arena, rejected by voters in 2015 caused a whirlwind of rumors and false information. Once out, these rumors became the common theme of communication surrounding the proposal. One such rumor, was that street or other infrastructure repairs would be placed on hold for a number of years. Anyone hearing that rumor had reason to question the City’s ability to fund such a project as the $180 million arena. I won’t try to correct the last proposal’s issues but I will share a preview into the current, yet incomplete proposal: (1) No money designated for street improvements will be used to fund modifications to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, and: (2) Taxes will not be raised to fund the modifications. The funding will come from 50% of the current “Vision Fund” tax collections which is a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. The fund has contributed to many community projects ranging from swimming pools to parks to soccer fields. This fund has not traditionally been used for streets and was originally used to build the Civic Center. We have received a debt service projection for scenarios including repairing or replacing the Barnett Arena, each with annual payments of $6.5 million or less. There is much more to come on this subject.

Finally, the writer speaks of a “$25 million shortfall” to fix our streets. This phrase came from a City Council meeting during which Councilman Jerry Wright presented a report on the status of infrastructure funding and concluded that we were $25 million behind in achieving a realistic repair and replacement plan. No one can disagree with the report from an engineering or technical standpoint, but the overall goal of perfect streets is something needing more discussion. Without doing any real math on the subject, it seems pretty clear that in order to raise an additional $25 million for streets and infrastructure without raising taxes, we would have to eliminate parks and pools, all recreational operations including golf courses, maintenance of bike trails, eliminate the library, sell the Civic Center, de-fund code enforcement, risk management, community development and much of the Planning Department and strip our police and fire departments to the bare minimum, not to mention ending funding to all arts and other community assets that exist to enhance our community and its members. Then, voilà! enough money to pursue perfect streets!

Street and infrastructure funding is a concern in Rapid City, just like it is in every city in America. Rapid City will continue to fund street repairs and is actively looking for ways to divert funds from lower priority programs as one means of doing so. In the meantime, see the pothole or crack in the road as money spent on other important community needs.

Citizen input is needed, but uninformed criticism cannot help solve this issue.