City Administration Does Not Support Districting Parks and Recreation Board Members
Mayor Mike Huether and the City administration team do not support the proposal to require Parks and Recreation Board members to be appointed according to City Council district. Reasons include:
- The current process allows the City to select the most qualified or best of all of the applicants, based on such things as skills, knowledge, available time, and passion for the role. Anything less than the best applicant denigrates the quality of the board and the work they do on behalf of the entire city.
- The Parks and Recreation Board members already represent a diverse selection of the city’s citizens. Board members, past and present, have different backgrounds, skill sets, ages, genders, home and work locations, employment histories, educational backgrounds, goals, and interests.
- The Parks and Recreation Board role is to make decisions based on the City of Sioux Falls and the park system as a whole, versus a specific neighborhood or area of Sioux Falls. This proposal could create a “turf war” environment in our park system versus making the best decisions on behalf of the entire city, regardless of location.
- History proves that park investments in Sioux Falls are made all across the city based on need and benefit, not on location. Every park, the entire bike trail, and other park amenities are maintained and improved regardless of location. One great example is the Midco® Aquatic Center, which was purposefully constructed in a centralized location for easy access to public transportation and other services. Please see attached map that outlines park projects and investments since 2010 all across Sioux Falls.
- South Dakota law, as also written into the board’s bylaws, clearly states that the Parks and Recreation Board only has an advisory role, providing recommendations to the Administration and City Council. The Parks and Recreation budget, fees, and contracts ultimately are considered and approved by the City Council. Considerable checks and balances are in place regarding the Parks and Recreation Board.
- This proposal is a solution without a problem. There have been no instances provided or proven by the proponents where the existing policy was a deterrent to effective governing of Parks and Recreation in Sioux Falls.
- What is broken? On the most recent citizen survey (January 2017), 89 percent of Sioux Falls residents rated the city’s parks positively, and 88 percent rated the overall quality of life in Sioux Falls as positive. Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation is accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). Less than 1 percent of agencies have earned this national accreditation.
- The proposed ordinance sets a bad precedent. The City of Sioux Falls has 42 volunteer citizen boards and committees serving the entire city. Which volunteer committee will be negatively impacted next by the proposal?
- Filling City board vacancies is challenging enough today and this will be compounded if additional criteria are placed on appointments. Citizen boards and committee vacancies are heavily marketed, yet the City still struggles to find qualified people willing to serve. Remember, these are unpaid volunteers on the Parks and Recreation Board, along with the other committees and boards.
- The Parks and Recreation Board holds its meetings in various parks, community centers, and other park facilities across the city in an effort to encourage public input from the entire city and also to familiarize board members with the park system.
- Board members do occasionally move while serving their terms. Reconsidering board positions each time a member moves to a new area of the community would not serve the board or the community in a productive fashion.
- Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been provided as the example of a city where this policy has been put in place. The Minneapolis board serves as an independently elected, semi-autonomous body responsible for governing, maintaining, and developing the Minneapolis park system. Minneapolis proper is more than twice the size of Sioux Falls and has a significantly larger metro area. This is an apples to oranges comparison.
Sioux Falls Minneapolis Council Oversight Yes No Full Budget Authority No Yes Taxing Authority No Yes Compensation No Yes Board Selection Appointed by Mayor/
Appointed by District No Yes—6 of 9 members Board Authority Authorized by state law/
Created by state legislature
As you can see, the governance model in Minneapolis is vastly different than Sioux Falls.
- The Parks and Recreation Board has served the community well for 102 years. On June 6, 1915, the Sioux Falls City Commission named the first board, and the first meeting of the board occurred on June 29, 1915. Over that time, Sioux Falls has established one of the best park systems in America. Our community-focused volunteer board members are a big reason for that success.