Sioux Falls to elect new mayor in April

Sioux Falls will choose its mayor for the next four years on April 12. Three candidates will be listed on the ballot: Taneeza Islam, David Zokaites and incumbent mayor Paul TenHaken. 

Students can use their campus address to register to vote in Sioux Falls and vote in the upcoming election. The last day to register is March 28, and more information on registration can be found on the city’s website. 

Early voting begins March 28, and those interested can vote by mail or in-person at the Minnehaha County auditor’s office. Click here for the registration form.

Pressing issues this year include finding ways to promote sustainable growth and foster a sense of community within the city. TenHaken and Islam granted the Mirror interviews, and information about Zokaites’ campaign was obtained from his website.

Taneeza Islam

What are your goals, and how do you plan to accommodate Sioux Falls’ growth?

“On the one hand, Sioux Falls is growing, and it’s really great. We’re seeing a lot of building, a lot of infrastructure, but unfortunately we’re at critical points for a lot of key issues, which is a lack of housing, in general for all of us, but then a real lack of affordable housing for low income members of our community. Lack of public transportation has always been an issue, but for me that just means that there are more opportunities to be innovative when there’s not much going on. The other really critical issue right now is lack of child care.

 “The last 20 years of my work has been working with people and community building and advocating for those who don’t have a seat at the table. So under my administration, my first priority would be that all of my priorities would be community driven, and really informed by the community and what needs that they have, and unfortunately they’re not getting access to a lot of the services that they need.”

How do you envision the relationship between Augustana and Sioux Falls under your mayorship?

“[It’s important to] create a pipeline for opportunity so people can see themselves staying here, and wanting it to be better, and know that there’s a way for them to do that. You have to create an environment where everyone is feeling welcomed, where they’re being heard, where they’re given tools to succeed, where their concerns are listened to and acted on, and to really create a safe environment for those things.”

What do you think differentiates you from other candidates?

“Everything. The biggest difference is my entire career has been community-centered. This isn’t just a campaign slogan for me. My work, my understanding of how community operates and how intricate they are and how complicated they are, how to build consensus when there are a million different opinions around the table, that takes a lot of experience. You can’t just do that with a wave of a wand. 

“I think that the foundation that I have set by the work I’ve been doing for 10 years in this community specifically is a really strong foundation. That is really what’s going to build the inclusive city where everyone is welcomed, where everyone feels like they belong, where everyone can prosper.

“Every day of my life is an intercultural and interfaith experience. I’ve really learned how to interculturally communicate with others.

“As an immigration lawyer, I know how diverse our community really is, but as I’ve been campaigning, I’ve just understood more and more and more how incredibly diverse our communities are.”

Paul TenHaken

What are your goals, and how do you plan to accommodate Sioux Falls’ growth?

“The next four years are really going to need to be centered around how we very strategically manage that growth. That means investing in the right utilities, the right infrastructure, ensuring that we’re making our housing codes and housing availability as strong as possible so that we can build homes. We have some large, large infrastructure investments we’re going to be making in the next several years.

“With big city opportunities, we have a lot of big city issues that come with that. I think we’ll have a lot of work to continue to do to create positive dialogue and unity in the community. The last two years have created some rifts and some fractures, not only here, but just on the national level. I spend a lot of time trying to maintain unity in the city, trying to keep divisive, federal politics and rhetoric out, so I think that’s also going to be important in the next several years.”

What is an accomplishment as mayor that you are most proud of?

“Probably the accomplishment that I’d be most proud of would be the unity that I feel we’ve been able to maintain in the community despite how un-unified the rest of the country is. So the fact that we’re now experiencing record economic growth and, what I would really consider, a very high level of optimism in Sioux Falls coming off what have been super difficult years, I think is something I’m very very proud of.

“With all that’s happened in our country in the last two years around law enforcement and George Floyd’s murder and what’s the right thing to do with public safety, I think we’ve navigated that pretty well. [The city is] still holding public safety accountable and making sure that we’re always evaluating our practices and procedures and our policies, just to make sure that we’re adapting with the times and making sure our training and protocols are safe and are proper to protect the community, but also making sure that we’re not doing that at the expense of losing officers and devaluing the public’s trust.”

How do you envision the relationship between Augustana and Sioux Falls under your mayorship?

“My goal is always to look at Augustana as a critical pipeline, and a critical feeder for our workforce and for our community, and to do all we can to build a city that young people want to stay in, want to live in, want to work in, when you’re done with school.

“[This means] investing in all the right quality of life amenities, making sure our downtown is vibrant, making sure there is stuff to do year round, making sure housing is affordable and that the community is safe.”

David Zokaites

What are your goals, and how do you plan to accommodate Sioux Falls’ growth?

“There are many valuable changes I want to make as mayor, but I won’t promise more than I can deliver. Most important will be a framework of government for we the people instead of primarily for rich campaign donors. Government for the people will enable transparency instead of secrecy, open records instead of secret deals, respecting petitions instead of ignoring them, reasonable spending instead of massively overpriced construction, increased resources for better roads, encouraging people to vote and reasonable penalties for small crimes.”

Zokaites’ website lists 9 major goals for the city: “a safer city, reduced crime, treatment for addicts, realistic spending, care for our Earth, affordable housing, compassion, government for all, inclusive culture.”

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