Happy Wednesday! Megan here.
Weather check: Hot and potentially smokey
Good news: Sometimes it's easy to forget that we live in a pretty cool place. I often work from the Startup Sioux Falls building downtown, and it occurred to me that I'm a very short walk from Falls Park most days. But my head is always buried in my laptop instead.
- So, yesterday I took a little walk, and, man, it was such a fun reminder of the awesome stuff that's all around us all the time. So go find some local awesomeness today.
This week, it's a LOT of city government news. But don't worry – it's all important stuff, and I keep it as simplified as I can for ya. I'll explain how the city is looking to once again change the process for how businesses get liquor licenses. You'll also learn how some councilors are looking to find alternate options for weekend recreation after changes to community centers, and the city's top health official is out.
And now, news:
How the city wants to change the liquor license process
Simplified: The city is looking to replace a random lottery for liquor licenses with a system that awards the licenses to the highest bidder. But some councilors are concerned the change will hurt small businesses.
Why it matters
- Cities are limited in how many liquor licenses they can have based on population, which means the licenses can be a hot commodity for folks looking to open a bar or restaurant. It also means that as the city grows, more licenses are becoming available every two years.
- City Council voted unanimously to advance a proposal Tuesday night to switch from a random lottery to a sealed bid system. It's the second change Mayor Paul TenHaken has brought in only a few years, and the city has only held one lottery since that system was implemented.
- The goal is to make the process more fair and market-based, Finance Director Shawn Pritchett said – as well as bring in additional money for the city. But some councilors expressed concerns about what the new system would mean for small business owners.
"I don't want to give anything away," Councilor Pat Starr said Tuesday. "If we're going to sell something, we need to get the full price for it, but maybe not at the cost of hurting small businesses."
Tell me more: How would the new process work?
And what's keeping people from gaming the system? Details here.
What's next for public event spaces as community centers shift focus?
Simplified: City councilors are asking the parks department to find new options for community members looking to host events and find weekend recreation as the school district takes over responsibility of Sioux Falls’ five community centers for a new after-school program.
Why it matters
- The latest changes to a 25-year-old agreement between the city and the school district shifts primary oversight of community centers from the city to the schools. That means city-run open recreation programs will cease, and the community will also no longer have the option to rent out (at no charge) meeting spaces for events, birthday parties and more.
- Between January and April this year, more than 8,000 people used the community centers on weekends for open recreation, and another 8,500 used meeting room spaces.*
- Councilors Rich Merkouris and Sarah Cole – both of whom support the new after-school program – brought a resolution Tuesday urging the city parks department to find other options for the public when it comes to hosting indoor events. And Cole said it’s also adding urgency to ongoing conversations about building an indoor recreation center in town.
"That's even more reason why we need to push that to the top of the agenda," Cole said.
Tell me more: What’s changing with community centers?
And what happens next?
*That number also includes Sioux Falls School District events using the community center event spaces.
Super Simplified Stories
- Lock your cars. City Council on Tuesday voted to advance a proposal to spend $50,000 on a community awareness campaign to remind people to lock their cars in an effort to combat larceny and stolen vehicles. Some councilors expressed a desire to see this campaign focus on the importance of keeping unsecured guns out of unlocked vehicles. The final vote will be next week.
- Augie offers new summer camp. Augustana University's "Augie Access" program is hosting its first-ever summer camp experience this week for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The goal is to let 11th and 12th grade students know what post-secondary options are available to them. Learn more here.
Public Health Director Charles Chima is out. What happens next?
Simplified: Public Health Director Dr. Charles Chima has resigned, city officials confirmed. His last day on the job was Monday. Here's what we know so far.
Why it matters
- Chima was appointed by Mayor Paul TenHaken in April 2021, approved by City Council and started work in June. He replaced former Public Health Director Jill Franken, who retired in April 2021 after two decades leading the city health department.
- City officials won't say why Chima resigned, and TenHaken has declined comment. City Human Resources Director Bill O'Toole sent the following statement and declined to answer further questions.
"Chima submitted his resignation, and his last active day at work was June 12, 2023," O'Toole stated.
THIS AND THAT
What I'm falling for this week:
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