An eager reader pointed out that Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken boosted his city Thursday by promoting this article that sings the praises of our Queen City of the East:
Reason #7: Lots of parking.
I assume the fist punctuating the end of his tweet invites a friendly bump of congratulations and does not threaten a punch in the face of anyone who questions that Sioux Falls is a great place to live.
I don’t mind offering a fist-bump to a guy smart enough to build his fortune on a mound of shifting electrons and impressions and to move to a town that will elect a handsome white Christian evangelical to stand around and soak in accolades for overseeing one urban prairie economy that would blossoming even if the city elected a boiled egg as mayor. I will also evade any sock to the jaw by declaring my honest agreement that Sioux Falls is a heck of a town. Coming to the big city (hee hee!) always energizes me (ask anyone who’s seen me there lately). Lots to see, lots to do, lots of hills and trails to run.
But I don’t need to be paid to say those things about my favorite six-figure-population city in South Dakota, and I don’t need to pay someone else to say those things… which may be what happened to bring the article TenHaken vaunts to existence.
The article is standard click bait, headlined as and broken into the usual six-point list… which is one more point than she found to write about Fargo in a very similar article last September (one more point than Fargo! Fist-bump that!). It opens by promising home prices below the national going rate and mortgages as low as $311 a month:
The median home price in the U.S. is $200,000; in Sioux Falls, it’s $190,000. Even better, you can often find lovely homes for much less than that. A cursory scroll through Zillow found a charming four-bedroom for $169,000 or a three-bedroom with a clawfoot bathtub and a fenced in backyard for $149,000. We even found a cute two-bedroom stucco number for $55,000(!).
If you’re running the numbers, you’d have a $311 mortgage payment on that $55,000 house. Again: three hundred and eleven dollars [Sarah Von Bargen, “6 Reasons to Move to Sioux Falls, SD, Right Now,” Livability.com, 2019.05.15].
That stucco dream is this 697-square-foot “investment property” in the Whittier neighborhood:
Sure, I’d live there, and there’d be room for my bikes. But if I move my humble family there, we’ll need something bigger.
To put a source to the author’s claim of home prices, the Census Bureau says the median value of a house in the United States is $193,500 and the median monthly owner costs are $1,515. In Sioux Falls, median home value is $168,600 and monthly home costs are $1,276. Median household incomes are $57,652 nationwide and $56,714 in Sioux Falls. So one may be able to buy more house with a little less income in Sioux Falls… but note also that if you’re shopping for a city, coming to Sioux Falls has a one-way feel, since your lower home value will make it harder to cash out and move elsewhere (not that you’d want to, because once you see the Falls and McKennan Park and the bike trail, you’ll never want to leave, right?).
The author creditably encourages people to come enjoy Sioux Falls’s top-notch public schools instead of throwing their money away on private school. She does inaccurately refer to Southeast Technical Institute as a “college” (although since Augustana and USF have all cast off that term in marketing disdain, who’d really mind if we started calling Southeast a community college? or will that just confuse folks looking into the new Regental Community College?).
But who is saying these nice things about Sioux Falls? Sarah Von Bargen is just a happy self-help blogger for hire who finds everything interesting:
“…everyone and everything is interesting”? Well, I guess Von Bargen and I can’t be friends, because I believe some people are dull and some things are not interesting.
But Von Bargen’s prose reeks* of the kind of happy online buzz-building on which TenHaken built his reputation. We should not mistake the article TenHaken touts as some riveting and rigorous independent journalism. It reads more like the kind of marketing brochure that the Chamber of Commerce pays for and which freelance writers are happy to supply after Googling a few details about the town.
I love Sioux Falls. I just hate seeing marketing pieces promoted as reliable information.
*Update 14:29 CDT: See grammar notes below!