Sioux Falls, SD
It's the first time Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether's getting face-to-face with the general public to talk about the event center. This comes more than a week since he presented his vision for a future project.
During his weekly Saturday morning session with voters, the mayor spent more than his fair share talking about what everyone else is talking about.
Most weeks, Mayor Huether and other city officials take questions from voters for around 90 minutes. But with his absence at last week's session, and with no city officials by his side, the mayor spent nearly two hours talking about the proposed Sioux Falls Events Center.
"If the mayor can't speak directly to the people, if he or she can't deal with the tough, challenging questions of the public, they shouldn't be the mayor," Huether said.
There wasn't a lot of opposition to the events center itself at the session, but many questions on how it's moving forward. Some voters are concerned the recent request for architectural design proposals doesn't include an economic study.
"If we go ahead and do this design work and we do the design phase, let's say at the Arena site and then, a year from now, it comes back that the greatest economic stimulus is going downtown, we've spent all that work on the arena site," Sioux Falls resident Rich Merkouris said.
Huether says he agrees an economic comparison needs to be made, but only after other details are handled first. And while he understands there will always be opposition, he cautions people from rushing to judgement so quickly after his proposal.
"There's so many differing opinions," Huether said. "There's so many differing aspects involved with a such a major project like this. I want to heed them all, I do, but it's very, very trying."
But Huether says the only way to get away from the talk and move toward action is to get to a public vote late next year or early 2012.
"I think the mayor and I agree we should build an events center," Merkouris said. "The question is how do we pay for it and where."
"I knew when I was elected mayor, that if I followed through with what I said I was going to do, which was to lead a new events center for this town, that it was probably going to take five to ten years off my life," Huether admitted. "And ultimately, I think it's going to. It's unbelievably challenging."
Huether will be gone from next Saturday's session, but he'll host another one on his own on October 30th.