Tomorrow Mayor Ardell Brede will give what I assume is his last state of the city speech. I fully expect him to announce his retirement. I also think it is inappropriate to use the an official city meeting to make a political announcement. Irrespective of his decision, there will be a competitive Mayor’s race in 2018 and Ardell is not likely to serve another term.
I am not a supporter of our current Mayor. Not because he is a bad person, but because the role of Mayor should involve advancing policy and strategic thinking on the part of the City of Rochester. The Mayor is also responsible for the Police Department; for which he exhibits no oversight, not even after a million dollar settlement. We should all be thankful that Ardell loves this city like few other people ever have. He truly does. However, we should also expect more from our Mayor. Rochester doesn’t need a cheerleader, we need a Mayor.
Here are 18 things that I would like to hear in the 2018 “State of the City” speech, but probably won’t.
- The Mayor will lead efforts to boost affordable housing in Rochester. In particular, in 2018 he will work with the council to enact an inclusion housing policy as recommended by our independent consultant. He will also advocate for new rental policies to prevent existing affordable ownership housing from being converted to rental properties. He will acknowledge that in 15 years as Mayor he has not brought forward a single policy focused on affordable housing and that we are now facing the consequences of that inaction.
- The Mayor will advocate for execution of our transit plan including beginning shared busing with public schools in the fall of 2019. From 2018 to 2023 the city bus fleet will expand from about 40 to 90 buses, featuring extended hours, coverage, and connectivity. Beginning in 2019, city busing will enable later school start times for middle and high school students. There will be 3 circulations, school pick up, drop off, and a later extracurricular drop off.
- In January, the Mayor will ensure that the long overdue and delayed comprehensive plan update is passed. Immediate work will begin on reshaping the planning department to meet the needs of an increasingly urban city. Lastly the city will adopt a philosophy of long term planning to address many of our current issues.
- The Mayor will take decisive action of the budgetary process under a threat of veto. Because we are now the size of Minneapolis with only a fraction of the tax base, we face enormous tax increases to maintain our current infrastructure and parks. In 2018, the Mayor will lay out a long term financial management strategy paying specific attention to maintaining and better utilizing existing capital infrastructure as opposed to building or accepting new.
- The Mayor will create a task force to explore options for increasing the minimum wage and ensuring paid family & sick leave in Rochester. Minneapolis & St. Paul have led the way on this issue. In light of our community wide struggles with affordable housing we will gradually implement an increased minimum wage until it reaches a living wage level. Given the already tight labor market and slightly elevated wages, now is a good time to act.
- The Mayor will announce specific financial and zoning incentives to boost the availability of more affordable child care in Rochester. The incentives will particularly target neighborhoods and communities most in need.
- The Mayor will announce a strategy to ensure competitive broadband access in Rochester. The repeal of net-neutrality has made this item more critical than ever. We will devise a long term strategy to ensure sustainable competitive service and pricing. In the short run; we will make smaller changes to allow for more competition and set community goals. Having more than one city wide broadband provider is critical for our future.
- The Mayor will address the issue of garbage hauling. Road maintenance expenses and pollution (coupled with poor service) have caused the Mayor to begin the process of implementing residential district garbage hauling city wide. The director of public works will initiate the process of making the change. The city will move toward seasonal pickup of yard waste as well as composting.
- The Mayor will apologize for his veto of a measure to allow the video recording, streaming, and archival of official city meetings. In his last year, he will reverse course and show a commitment to increasing transparency at city hall. He will apologize for his persistent mocking of, “transparency.”
- The Mayor will acknowledge the 2017 approval of a Parks & Recreation Masterplan. In 2018 he will put together the funding plan to insure the 20 year plan is executed upon. He will also advocate for the resources to address the major challenges facing city forestry.
- In 2018 the Mayor will provide a definitive path forward for the Library. Our Library is well past capacity and in need of major maintenance. Where, when and how we build the next downtown grand central library must be decided, even if the process will take years.
- The Mayor will announce that after years of delay, a plan is in place rehabilitate, activate, and fund the Chateau Theater. After seeing GRACT’s secret attempt to make the Public Arts Masterplan self serving, the Mayor will also seek to oversee a truly “public” arts masterplan process free from conflicts of interest. Meaningful metrics will be established for our partner organizations in the arts.
- The Mayor will inform us that community can have a new arena where Taylor Arena now stands. However the arena many not infringe upon green space at Mayo Park and certainly may not rely upon local tax dollars.
- The Mayor will bring the voice of the people to the DMC initiative in 2018. In particular, affordable housing and the livability of the downtown core must have an elevated priority in 2018.
- The Mayor will announce the details of his long awaited plan to see Rochester use 100% renewable energy by 2030. He acknowledges that years after his proclamation he has yet to bring forward a single policy.
- The Mayor will acknowledge that lack of gender, age, and racial diversity in both the city workforce and commissions. He will announce that he will rely on the HR department to recruit strong candidates and run an impartial selection process. He will acknowledge that he personally has a roll in recruiting a diverse set of volunteers.
- The Mayor will share how he is bringing the public into the process of hiring a new police chief. The Mayor will also acknowledge that he is personally responsible for the oversight of the Police Department and, based on the events of 2017, will better fulfill that roll in 2018.
- The Mayor will work with the new City Administrator to bring back plans to create a community centered building services department which will include all permitting functions from planning, zoning, public works, parks, fire, and building safety. This will exist in a single location, under single leadership, and be available online in real time. Further a new structure will be created to ensure the primary focus of the RCVB is filling city facilities. The oversight of all RCVB funds and the RCVB board itself will become public in 2019 at the conclusion of the current contract.