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This week, I'll bring highlights from a recent chat with Mayor Paul TenHaken on what he's watching most closely in 2024. I also have a simplified look at Gov. Kristi Noem's State of the State address, and a bunch of Super Simplified Stories that include storm cleanup updates and good news for childcare providers.

And now, news:


Here's what Mayor Paul TenHaken is watching in 2024

Simplified: Mayor Paul TenHaken is entering his sixth year leading the city with a continued focus on public safety, housing and ensuring Sioux Falls is appropriately managing its growth as a city. He sat down with Cmtv News to get into the specifics of what he expects the city will be working on in 2024.

Why it matters

  • The city saw an influx of federal dollars during the pandemic, but much of that money is gone or already spoken for at this point. TenHaken predicts 2024 will be a "softer" year economically.
  • On the finance side, he is also concerned about the local impact of sales tax on groceries is eliminated. It's something that could become a reality if voters pass a proposed statewide ballot measure in November, and the mayor said it's an "elephant in the room" that would significantly impede the city's ability to serve constituents.
  • Beyond the budget, this year is going to be one to watch the parks and recreation department, TenHaken said – especially with big things like Jacobson Plaza construction, a new pool at McKennan Park, the Barb Iverson Skate Plaza and plans to redo some other city pools.
"There's just some good things happening in parks and rec," TenHaken said. "That's a quality of life issue, and that's why you have the people moving here that you do to fill jobs – because we're creating a very livable community."

What other big topics are on the mayor's mind?

The highlights: affordable housing, managing growth, recruiting police officers, news on the Riverline District, watching the childcare conversation and, as stated above, finances and parks.

Want more details? Here's a full recap of our conversation, Q&A style. TenHaken's responses reflect some minor edits for length and clarity.


How Noem's legislative priorities could impact Sioux Falls

Simplified: Gov. Kristi Noem kicked off South Dakota's 99th legislative session on Tuesday with a State of the State address focused on the top 10 ways that "freedom works here" – also the tagline for a recent state-funded marketing campaign to recruit workers to South Dakota.

Why it matters

  • Noem's address on Tuesday highlighted some of the legislation she'll be pushing for in a variety of areas from supporting farmers to education to rural ambulance services.
  • The governor also emphasized the "Freedom Works Here" marketing campaign – crediting the ads with attracting thousands of people to the state. It's also noteworthy that the campaign has faced some scrutiny from lawmakers (more on that from SD Searchlight).
  • Overall, the top 10 list didn't mention many specific proposals that would directly impact Sioux Falls residents. Noem largely spoke to her priorities in keeping the state a "pilot project for conservative principles."
"I am not going to slow down now," Noem said. "We can’t afford it. Not when people are flocking here by the thousands to see what we’re all about. Not when we are one of the few beacons of hope left in this country."

Tell me more about the topics that might impact Sioux Falls


How the library is expanding access across the metro

This is a paid piece from the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance.

Simplified: Siouxland Libraries has a long history of serving the rural communities in the Sioux Metro. Now, they're expanding services and programming to make it even easier for people in the region to take advantage of library resources.

person in white long sleeve shirt holding white book
Photo by Guzel Maksutova / Unsplash

Why it matters

  • The Sioux Falls public library merged with the Minnehaha County rural library system back in 1995 in order to share one computer system. After realizing that books and materials could be shared between the two systems, the two groups merged to form Siouxland Libraries.
  • In the decades since, both the city and county have grown tremendously, and with that the library systems have grown, too. Library Director Jodi Fick said they system now adds between 35,000 and 40,000 materials annually.
  • With that growth Siouxland Libraries is also finding innovative ways to support rural communities with its expanded access program – in which library card holders can go to the library even when there's no staff present. That program will be expanding to more rural branches this year.
  • That also means that people across the Sioux Metro can easily access up to 2 million physical and digital library resources.
"Basically our entire system is based on how we can give the taxpayer more bang for their buck," Fick said.

Tell me more about expanded access

And where's it expanding to in 2024?


Super Simplified Stories

  • Good news for childcare providers. The Department of Social Services last month announced changes to its Child Care Assistance program. The change – which took effect Jan. 1 – means more money for providers. Previously, providers could only get reimbursed for the exact hours a kid receiving assistance was in care, rather than for a full day. If a child only attends for four hours, the business still had to pay their full-time employee for eight hours. Now, providers will get full authorized payments regardless of temporary changes in child attendance. Find the full release from DSS here.
  • City election date set. City Council on Tuesday approved the spring election date for April 9. It'll be a joint election with the Sioux Falls School District. #savethedate
  • Great Bear opens with more runs to come. All the snow this week was good news for winter sports in the area. Great Bear Ski Valley is now open for skiing and snowboarding with limited runs. Tubing is not quite yet open. Find the latest on their website.
  • When will my street be plowed? Waiting on a plow? You can track live progress as the city clears streets. Other questions about how the city is responding to the recent storm? You can hear from public officials directly here, or catch a nice summary from the Argus Leader.
  • Nominate teachers. Nominations for the Sioux Falls School District Teacher of the Year are due by 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15. Know a teacher deserving of the title? Nominate them here.

More Simplified Stories

  • Fees for public records going up. City Councilors on Tuesday voted unanimously to increase the costs to access public records related to public safety for the first time in 20 years. The fee increase will be effective Feb. 1. Get the specifics on which fees are going up here. Spoiler: the fee to obtain an accident report remains unchanged at $6.
  • School board meeting rescheduled. Monday's regular Sioux Falls school board meeting was rescheduled due to the snow. The board will now meet at noon on Thursday. The board had also been scheduled to tour the Career and Technical Education Academy and get an update on career readiness – that's now scheduled for Jan. 22 ahead of the next regular meeting.
  • Washington Pavilion extending Performance series. Sioux Fallsians who want a chance to catch a Broadway show locally will now have even more chances to do so. The Pavilion announced this week it'll be extending its performance series from three nights per show to four. That also means existing season ticket holders will get a chance to snag better seats. More details here.
  • Nominate the young folks. SiouxFalls.Business is seeking nominations for the 2024 30 Under 30. Know someone under 30 who's doing awesome stuff and is someone to watch in the business community? Nominate them here.


What I'm falling for this week:


More Simplified Stories

What Sioux Falls-area lawmakers are focusing on in Pierre
Some themes that emerged in the event this week included support for counties, funding for infrastructure, a tuition freeze for state universities and the need to discuss the ongoing childcare crisis.
How an app could help connect parents with childcare
A number of city councilors on Tuesday expressed interest in helping the Helpline Center create an app that would give parents an easy way to see which childcare providers in the state have openings.
How to contact your state lawmakers
South Dakota’s 99th annual legislative session kicks off next 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 yummy mocktail recipes to megan@cmtv-news.com.

Thank you

Thank you to Cmtv News sponsors, including the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, Sioux Empire United Way, the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, Barre3 Sioux Falls, Midco, the Great Plains Zoo, the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance and Voyage Federal Credit Union. When you support them, you're also supporting Cmtv News.

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