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Criticism Continues Of Mayor’s Panel

November 11, 2010, 5:52 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Criticism Continues Of Mayor’s Panel
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The mayor of Sioux Falls says he's cleared the air and defended his decisions, yet the criticism over the makeup of a ten-person panel continues.

That group will be in charge of deciding who gets to design a new events center for the city. But those who spoke up when the team was unveiled on Monday still say they have an uneasy feeling about the group.

Half of the ten-person panel is made up of representatives from Sioux Falls area schools, universities and the sports authority. The other half is composed of five city department heads. And since they answer directly to the mayor, some feel that’s just not right.

Minnehaha County Commissioner Anne Hajek was attending Monday night's Sioux Falls city council meeting when she felt compelled to speak out as a concerned citizen. The team assembled to pick the events center design firm wasn't sitting well with her.

"Everyone, everyone selected on that committee is dynamite, is stellar. But when you have five paid employees, I think any results that come back are going to be suspect," Hajek said.

Hajek understands that if the group is merely selecting who receives a contract for service that it must be chosen by city employees. However, she feels this group will have to make other decisions.

"Architects and engineers can't just randomly do a drawing.  They're going to have to look at the sites. Somebody in this group is going to have to say, 'What if we build this here versus here,'" Hajek said.

That's why Hajek says she stands by her words at Monday's city council meeting and hopes city leaders will revisit the composition of the group.

"The credibility of a study really gets much, much better if you have a very impartial group. So I would say at the most maybe two employees.  Then you have eight others in the community and again it would be very nice if you could get the city council to be part of that selection process," Hajek said.

Another issue the mayor has been criticized about with the group is its lack of diversity because it’s absent of anyone representing a minority group or a woman.

However, Hajek says she can understand that because finding a qualified, experienced and diverse group in the Sioux Falls area can be difficult.

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