|Mayor Sam Kooiker|
(photo from www.rcgov.org)
First of all, it’s important to know that no mayor or city council can take full credit for the City’s economy, nor full blame. Yes, we do have a role. City government can either stifle growth or facilitate it. However, it is up to the business community to create it.
Using a history that starts in 2006, before I became Mayor and before the great recession, my opponent wrongly asserts that Rapid City's economy is stagnant. His criticisms, accompanied by his lack of solutions underscore a lack of understanding of how the private sector works.
If you look at the data from 2010 – 2015 there is every reason to be positive – and the data includes a number of industrial permits as well. March 2015 was the 3rd highest month for building permits since 2000. And we know there are additional large permits coming this year. In addition, the numbers for the last few years include a minimal number of government building permits (23.2m in 2011 vs 1.3m in 2014). The numbers for 1st quarter of this year aren’t as great as 1st quarter of last year, but that’s because of the drop in permits relating to storm damage.
Below are linked all of the quarterly progress reports for the last four years, and on the back of each one are the building permit numbers and infrastructure spending numbers.
And the truest test of a growing economy is more than the indicators of building permits and sales tax – the truest test of a community’s vitality is if local businesses are expanding. And they are!
I do agree underemployment is an issue in the Black Hills, and I point to the positive indicators of industrial and commercial activity that show this is changing. HF Webster, WL Plastics, Adams ISC and expansions in existing businesses in all sectors show our economy has not stagnated. Black Hills Corp has announced a major building project here (yes, it is a consolidation of existing office space, and it is an expansion). Among the many factors cited for locating the facility here is the easier permitting process here.
More needs to be done, and I am the candidate who has articulated a vision for the next two years. If my opponent has specific suggestions to make, they will be welcome. My vision is, in short:
1. Continuing to address our aging streets and utilities.
2. Addressing the Civic Center in a manner consistent with voters’ wishes.
3. Streamlining processes to continue improving customer service and facilitating a positive environment for business growth.
4. Continuing to build a solid foundation for race relations.
I am also the candidate with private sector business and management experience, who understands the pressures of private business, balancing budgets and meeting expectations.
Here are a few of the initiatives we have achieved over the last 4 years relating to our business community, all achieved with the enthusiastic support of the City Council.
Adopted a new comprehensive plan – the last time the comprehensive plan was overhauled was in 1981. http://planrapidcity.com/
Streamlined the bill paying process – it used to take up to 70 days to pay a bill, and now it’s less than half that in most cases. This is a big deal for the city’s vendors, many of whom are local businesses.
o Bills are now paid by Finance office as soon as the Bill List is approved by the Council signed by the Mayor. It used to be that all bills more than $500 had to be approved by the Mayor.
o Airport, Civic Center and Library bills are now paid as soon as approved by the respective board, and don’t come to Mayor/Council anymore.
We no longer require certified mailings for developments anymore – it’s all been switched to 1st class, which saves a tremendous amount of time for the business community, citizens and city staff.
2nd floor is open until 5 PM rather than 4 PM.
Final plats are now administratively approved.
We’ve reduced the number of code appeals boards from 8 to 1, and have reduced the number of Planning Boards (we used to have Zoning Board, Sign Code Board and Planning) to 1.
o Overall we have reduced our committee count from about 86 committees to approx 42.
Next up? (These are just a few examples)
Streamlining the application process by allowing for electronic plan submittals. Paper plans are very expensive for developers and expensive for staff to review, process and store.
Administrative approval of preliminary plats
Adding more efficiency to the Historic Preservation Commission and permitting process
John, thanks again for the invitation to respond. Your readers can learn more about my vision at www.standwithsam.com and can contact me through my website with additional questions.
Note to readers: As Mayor Kooiker has touched on specific proposals and objectives (which is fine by me) beyond his analysis of Rapid City's economy, I invite challenger Allender to offer specifics on what his administration would do to enable the stronger economic growth he believes is needed in Rapid city.