Happy Wednesday! Megan here.

🗳️ Status check: Election Day is coming up quickly. Don't forget to register to vote by Oct. 24 (that's Monday, so act fast!) Also, if you don't know who/what to vote for, keep checking back on our SoDak Simplified Election Guide. We'll keep adding more on everything you'll find on the ballot come Nov. 8.

Weather check: Warming up to the 60s and 70s (but be extra aware of fire danger with current conditions.)

This week, I'll tell you how a couple of City Councilors are looking to regulate video lottery in town. I've also got a look at what's next for the nearly-100-year-old Whittier Middle School building, and you'll see the latest on the city's newest affordable housing project.

And now, news:


Why two councilors are looking to tighten the reins on casinos

Simplified: Two Sioux Falls city councilors are looking at ways the city can have more say in how many video lottery licenses are approved.

Taken in an casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada.
Photo by Steve Sawusch / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • The city has seen a marked increase in requests for video lottery licenses in the last few years. In 2018, only five licenses were requested, compared to this year, where there've been nearly 30 licenses requested through October.
  • These licenses are often issued to businesses whose sole business is as a casino, something Councilor Greg Neitzert said goes against state law.
  • Other South Dakota cities have placed caps on the number of video lottery placements (i.e. how many different businesses can have the per-state-law maximum of 10 machines). Rapid City, for example, is capped at 75 placements. Right now, Sioux Falls has 216 active licensed video lottery establishments.
  • Councilors Neitzert and Rich Merkouris in recent weeks have been visiting casinos across the city. Neitzert told Sioux Falls Simplified they've seen several violations of state law, as well as some unintended consequences of a 2019 city ordinance change related to video lottery.
"This has gone on so long, everyone knows the state is looking the other way (regarding violations)," Neitzert said. "It's our city, and it's time to act. We can't look the other way."

OK, give me a little background here

And what can the city actually do moving forward? More here.


Whittier Middle School is about to turn 100. What's next for the district's oldest building?

Simplified: Whittier Middle School is close to turning 100 years old. It's a big milestone, but it also might be the last big milestone birthday for the building as administrators plan for its future replacement.

Why it matters

  • Whittier is the oldest school building in town that's still being used as a school. It opened in 1923 as an elementary school and later was expanded to become a middle school.
  • Discussions about replacing the old building have gone on for some time in the Sioux Falls School District. A historic $180 million bond passed in 2018 included funds for the district to start acquiring properties in the neighborhood to eventually replace Whittier.
  • Those acquisitions are underway, and while specific plans haven't been put into place, it's not a guarantee that Whittier Middle School will be around to celebrate its 110th birthday.
"It'll be close," said Jeff Kreiter, director of operational services for the district.

Tell me more about future plans

And what happens next?


The 10 scariest things people have tried to recycle

This is a paid piece from Millennium Recycling.

Simplified: It may come as a fright to learn, but not everyone follows the rules when it comes to proper recycling. In the spirit of spooky season, Millennium Recycling compiled a list of the scariest things they've found that do not belong in recycling bins.

Why it matters

  • When people recycle items that aren't meant to be recycled, it can injure team members and cause extensive damage at Millennium, the small, local company that sorts your recyclables after they leave your house.
  • It also means items may end up in the landfill that could have had another life elsewhere, or that should've been disposed of in a more appropriate manner.
"It can be scary to see what people think belongs in their recycling bin," Communications Director Marissa Begley said. "We've seen everything from full diapers to a full urn."

Top 10 scariest things people tried to recycle

See the full list here (and be prepared to go, "Ew!").


Super Simplified Stories

  • Share your thoughts on the future of public transit. The city is hosting two open houses this week to give the public a chance to join a conversation about the future of public transit in the city. Join Wednesday (today) from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the downtown bus depot or Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the downtown library.
  • Don't forget to register to vote. Did I already put this at the top of the newsletter? Yes. But it's that important so here's another reminder. If you're eligible to vote in South Dakota (i.e. do you live here and are you 18?), you need to register by Monday, Oct. 24 to vote in the November election. Don't know what you're voting on? I've got you covered.


How tax incentives will help make a new affordable-ish housing project happen

Simplified: City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to use a special incentive – known as tax-increment financing – to bring a new affordable-ish housing project to northeast Sioux Falls.

Why it matters

  • It's unusual for City Council to use tax-increment financing (TIFs) on a housing development – a point that led to much discussion during Monday's council meeting.
  • TIFs are a tool to incentivize developers to bring large projects to Sioux Falls by offsetting their costs. Historically, TIFs are used for large multi-use developments like Cherapa Place and the now-under-construction Steel District.
  • As the city tries to address an ongoing housing crisis, the planning department has been working on a plan to use TIFs to help offset construction costs on new homes in an effort to keep prices under $340,000 for homebuyers.
"We are targeting this toward those who are ready for home ownership, but have struggled getting there because of price," Planning Director Jeff Eckhoff told council Monday. "(And) we wanted to make sure whatever we came up with worked in the market."

Tell me more about this project. (And can we really call $300,000 homes affordable?)

Details here.


What I'm falling for this week:

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Reach out

What story do you want to see simplified? Falling for something local? Send any news tips, attaboys, missed typos or ideas for what to do with all the apples I've picked this month to megan@sfsimplified.com.

Thank you

Thank you to Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors, including Millennium Recycling, Midco, the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance, the Great Plains Zoo, Selah Space and Silverstar Car Wash. When you support them, you're also supporting Sioux Falls Simplified.