Simplified: Sioux Falls has a growing population, and one of the greatest challenges in managing that growth is figuring out where those people will live. Meanwhile, the city is looking at what downtown looks like in 2035.
Sioux Falls Simplified asked all 10 candidates the same questions in these subject areas. Here are their answers. (Candidates are listed in ballot order.)
Let's talk about housing and workforce shortages
Question: Sioux Falls is seeing low unemployment, limited housing options – especially for people who make $15/hour or less – and now a number of new jobs coming to the area with places like Amazon and CJ Foods. What role should the city play in the challenges that arise when those three dynamics (more jobs, fewer workers, not enough housing) converge?
Sarah Cole (At-Large A)
Cole would like to see Sioux Falls working with the state to bring more affordable housing to the area.
She also said the city can do more to lead the way and incentivize things like housing, flexible options for employment and more child care centers to help families, as well.
"If families feel like there's flexibility there, there's less strain on the family as well," Cole said.
Janet Brekke (At-Large A)
Brekke wants to see a strategic approach to the accessible housing crisis, and she's looking to create a variety of ways for people to own their own home.
"I would really like to discourage us from putting up large, massive apartment complexes as a short-term fix," Brekke said, adding that this is an opportunity for Sioux Falls to "grow our city properly."
Bobbi Andera (At-Large A)
Andera said she doesn't personally agree with Amazon coming to Sioux Falls right now, given the number of already unfilled jobs in town.
"We've really got to work with these companies that we're bringing to also provide us solutions," Andera said, referring to existing housing shortages.
Pam Cole (At-Large B)
Cole said the main issues is workforce support, which she describes as including affordable housing, child care and the elimination of food deserts in town.
She wants to see Sioux Falls not only identify the problem but also come up with a strategic solution including incentives and tax-based funds to execute the work.
"We have to get to the point where we're more sustainable with this," Cole said.
Rich Merkouris (At-Large B)
Merkouris wants to see the city and business community working together to address housing needs.
"I am open and willing to consider public investment in workforce housing, as long as we make an investment that doesn't need ongoing subsidization," he said.
Another related community issue, he added, is re-incarceration rates in the area. He wants to see more ways to train individuals coming out of jails so they can enter the workforce and break the cycle of recidivism.
Cody Ingle (Southeast District)
Ingle said the job growth in town is exciting, and, while it's not the city's job to provide housing for people, the city and council can make a space for generating ideas and then move out of the way so people can provide those innovative solutions.
"We could really work with developers to try to come (up) with solutions to incentivize them to build these first-time homes," he said.
David Barranco (Southeast District)
Barranco noted a skills gap in Sioux Falls where the people looking for jobs don't necessarily match the skills needed for those open positions.
He'd like to see the city incentivize companies to train people.
"There's no topic I'm more passionate about than (that) people need productive jobs," Barranco said.
Jim Burzynski (Central District)
Ultimately, the market will catch up with the labor shortages as companies raise wages to attract new people, Burzynski said. The bigger problem is housing.
"We have giant single family homes, and giant apartment complexes," he said. "There's nothing in between."
He wants to see the city incentivize smaller developers to improve existing properties as well as update zoning to add more duplexes, fourplexes, etc.
Emmett Reistroffer (Central District)
Reistroffer wants to see a permanent housing commission in the city that can review and update the city's Shape Places plan.
"We need to put the brakes on urban sprawl and invest more in our core," he said.
When it comes to workforce, Reistroffer said he wants to see more diverse opportunities, particularly in middle-class jobs.
Soehl emphasized the importance of the city working really well with partners like the Chamber of Commerce, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, Downtown Sioux Falls, and more.
He also said the city should be proactive with infrastructure and the use of TIFs to encourage development.
"It's not just a Sioux Falls problem," Soehl said. "It's also an issue that we have to engage with Tea, Harrisburg, Crooks, Renner, Valley Springs – we have to do this as a larger community."
Let's talk about downtown
Question: Sioux Falls is in the process of looking at the future of downtown with the 2035 plan. What do you want to see and advocate for during that process?
A big priority for Cole is safety downtown.
"I think the biggest thing I've heard is concern for the homeless population," she said.
She also noted the importance of walkability and a desire to add more green space.
Brekke wants to see downtown build up with taller buildings and more development.
"We're not overgrown downtown," Brekke said. "We're in this really lux situation to actually grow and grow new downtown ... I think we need to take advantage of this opportunity."
In addition to density, she wants to see revitalization in neighborhoods surrounding downtown.
Andera noted big developments downtown like the Steel District and said building high-end puts the city in a "precarious position."
"It feels like we have our own hyper-inflation going on," she said.
She doesn't want to see Sioux Falls turn into a place like Vancouver where everything is expensive. Instead, she wants to see a resurgence of shops that keep a small-town feel.
Cole described downtown as "already really vibrant," and a draw for people who live here.
"But as we look at the surrounding areas ... one main thing that I don't want to have happen is gentrification," Cole said.
Especially moving east on Eighth Street from downtown, she wants to see improvements offered to the people who live in those lower-income homes.
"I want to see some clarity regarding what they want the bounds of downtown to be and how they want to transition from downtown to existing core neighborhoods," he said.
He noted Eighth Street as the prime example where there are apartments renting for upwards of $1,200/month blocks from a homeless shelter.
He wants to see intentionality in how the city interacts with both the people who are homeless and the people moving into the apartments.
Sioux Falls needs to have a strategic plan, Ingle said, to help balance the more expensive living options with those that can accommodate first-time homeowners or single-income people, for example, people who work in the service industry downtown.
"How can we create an environment for those people to stay and walk to work and have housing close by," Ingle said.
He'd also like to see continued support for local businesses and a business-friendly downtown.
One of Barranco's big concerns is traffic, especially on the weekends. He'd like to explore the possibility of street closures on certain weekend nights, with the option for people to shuttle to off-street parking outside of downtown.
He's also concerned about noise.
"A lot more people are starting to live downtown," he said. "We need to be enforcing noise ordinances later in the evening."
Burzynski said downtown is one of the things that's kept his family living in town, but he wants to see more focus on core neighborhoods.
He also wants to see less focus on big downtown developments that require tax dollars in financing projects like Village on the River and the Steel District.
"We're ignoring the existing parts of the city where a lot of people need help," he said.
"I think we need to make sure downtown isn't just an amenity for the rich," Reistroffer said, adding that he'd like to see more affordable apartments.
He also mentioned East Eighth Street and the need to address chronic homelessness, perhaps by building a second safe house in town.
Reistroffer also wants to see downtown better connect to the surrounding neighborhoods.
Soehl noted that as the city builds its 2035 plan, 10 years in the life of downtown is very short.
"I think we've got to look for those quick hits of what is coming, what developers have already got in the works," Soehl said.
Soehl also noted the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty downtown, saying it'll be an issue of how the city adapts to that intersection moving forward.