A Year of Challenges Behind, a Year of Opportunity Ahead
This year has been memorable for many reasons, and it’s a year many of us won’t soon forget. It’s a year that has brought challenge after challenge for us as a community. But it also has brought us victories. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen our community lend a hand to those in need during what has been a difficult time for many. That is not unique to this year: Uniting and showing support to one another is simply what we do as One Sioux Falls.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, we are moving into 2021 in a position of strength and opportunity. While we have remained focused on current challenges, my administration and our City team have taken key steps this year to ensure our city’s post-pandemic resiliency. Here are a few highlights:
Solid Financial Position. From a financial perspective, the debt per capita for Sioux Falls is the lowest it has been in the past decade and remains one of the strongest in the nation. In 2020, we prepaid nearly $30 million in debt obligation early. This status not only exemplifies the economic strength of our community, but also frees up dollars in future years for the City to pay cash for investments.
Completion of Major Roadwork Projects. After investing more city dollars in roadwork than any previous budget in years past, we saw the completion of significant projects, including 26th Street and I-229, 57th Street, and 41st Street and Western Avenue, and the rehabilitation of the historic Eighth Street Bridge. We also received funding to complete Veterans Parkway, a visionary project for our community.
Record-setting Year for Building Permits. We saw strong growth in housing activity this year: Residential building permits exceeded the three-year average by over 10 percent, and for the same period, apartment permits were doubled. The new Amazon facility being built at Foundation Park—which will employ 1,000 people—helped us set a record for annual building permits issued, all in the midst of a pandemic.
Major Investments in Public Safety. This year we made record investments in public safety that will benefit Sioux Falls in the decades ahead. We approved a $50 million bond for the new public safety training and Metro 911 facility, broke ground and are nearing completion on our newest fire station in southeast Sioux Falls, and will be opening a new police report-to-work location in 2021.
Devoting Resources to Mental Health, Addiction Services. The pandemic has only amplified our awareness of the importance of mental health and the challenges that many in our community face in accessing help for mental health and addiction issues. In 2021, we will open The Link community triage center to ensure we will be able to connect individuals in crisis with the services they need. We also invested in a community resource officer within the Sioux Falls Police Department who is trained to respond to those dealing with mental health and addiction issues in our community.
Creating Better Access to Housing. Access to housing has a significant impact on the stability of a community and its workforce and is a main factor in residents’ overall quality of life. We are progressing toward our goal of creating 1,000 additional housing units by 2022, and we are well underway to meeting that by establishing a housing clinic, starting a housing fund, and increasing rental registrations.
Creating Equitable Opportunities for the Next Generation. The lack of Internet access and access to technology can be a hindrance for many, especially our youth, to succeed in our increasingly connected world. We launched IDEA, or the Inclusive Digital Equity Alliance, to look at technology gaps and find ways to address them. We also know that mentorship has wide reaching benefits for youth and adults across our community. Through the Sioux52 mentorship initiative, we worked hard to bring attention to the importance of mentoring. We’ve seen hundreds of people sign up to mentor and numerous businesses step forward to start or improve their mentorship programs this year.
“Sioux Falls for All” Initiative. In 2020 the City was the recipient of one-time funds through the local government assistance program. A portion of these funds were already used to prepay outstanding debt, and we have targeted the remaining funds for additional one-time investments for the community. Working with our City Council and other community leaders, the City will be proposing a comprehensive set of investments that will position us for the next decade, leverage private investment, and help strengthen the community as we come out of the pandemic. Stay tuned in early 2021 as several important and exciting investments are announced as part of the “Sioux Falls for All” initiative.
We are a city of resilience, and 2020 has been another opportunity for us to showcase that. As we end the year, it’s important to reflect on the lives lost from this current pandemic and the challenges this year has created for so many. But we are a tough, resilient city and have many reasons for optimism as we move forward in 2021.
Onward to great things for Sioux Falls in the year ahead.