Mayor talks education, economics with students
Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether came to Augustana Wednesday for his first “Listening and Learning” forum at a university.
Roughly 50 students and faculty discussed Augustana’s role in the larger Sioux Falls community with Huether in the Edith Mortenson Center Theatre.
“The goal is for me to listen and learn from the people I serve,” Huether said before the event started. “It’s your program, I’m pumped about it, thank you.”
Huether and two student moderators, sophomore Josh Barrows and junior Hannah Norem, led the forum. Norem asked the first question of the afternoon.
“What role do you see Augustana playing in the diverse, growing Sioux Falls community?” she asked.
Huether’s lighthearted response set the tone for the rest of the forum. His answer included discussion of the Sioux Falls economy and a request that students consider staying in town after graduation.
These topics were referenced multiple times during the hour-plus discussion.
The next question—about school choice—came from senior Matthew Schilling. Schilling referenced an Argus Leader article that questioned whether Huether recently took “a stance against public schools.”
Huether said he was “disappointed in that story” and that it did not reflect his views on the issue.
“I am in favor of all education,” he said. “All of it: public and private.”
Huether also addressed media trends, including the shortening of news stories. He said millennials are not the only group guilty of wanting truncated news, and he condemned clickbait on social media.
Nick Taylor, who recently moved to Sioux Falls from St. Louis, asked how the declining number of immigrants to Sioux Falls would affect the city’s economy.
“I think if you look at our state, I think it’s made up of nothing but immigrants,” Huether said.
Huether referenced employment rate and cited a study which reported that international workers are needed to fill South Dakota’s job demands.
Senior Kofi Gunu asked about housing costs and public transportation in Sioux Falls, including its lack of services like Uber and Lyft.
“It’s been a fly on an elephant’s butt,” Huether said about housing access. He said that in his first years in office (he started in 2010), improvements were made, but the rate of people moving to the city complicated things.
Huether addressed the public transportation issue by saying that it costs about $3 per ride for users of the Sioux Area Metro but that the actual cost is closer to $28.
Not much can be done to defray the costs, according to Huether.
“The problem is there’s only limited taxpayer dollars you can spend in this position,” he said.
As for Uber and Lyft: “We’re ready for it, but the big challenge right now is that Uber doesn’t want to follow the tax issues,” Huether said.
Huether ended the meeting with complimentary remarks to the students in attendance.
“None of these are simple answers, so I don’t want to make them appear like they are simple,” he said. “I think you’ve represented Augie well; you’ve certainly represented your age group well.”