• 12Jun

    Today I will propose a change to how the City of Rochester oversees $7 million dollars in support for outside agencies. I am frustrated with the status quo and am pursuing corrective action.

    The memo that I prepared for the council can be found here.

    Recent events have shown a persistent weakness in our oversight of public funds. This proposal would create professional oversight and decrease the influence of political connections in the allocation of public funds. I view this as a needed step to restore public faith in our management public funds going to partner organizations. While not every organizations has had issues, every taxpayer dollar deserves meaningful public oversight.

    Here is the approximate amount of taxpayer funds being issued to outside organizations in 2017.

     photo 2017 City Outside Contributions_zps10d0huev.jpg

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  • 07Mar

    Here is a podcast where I discuss clean energy, local economy, and the power of a publicly owned utility. The podcast is about 15 minutes if you would like a listen.

    Local Energy Rules Podcast

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  • 06Mar

    This was sent out as the “final” revised Stantec report. The Stantec report articulates the significant issues in the Olmsted County Planning Department (note these are funding, staffing issues; not problems with existing staff). It has been half a year with no action.

    The initial report was bleak, spot on, and a call to action. Here is where you can find that initial report.

    Initial Report (edit: hopefully fixed the link)

    I have not reviewed what was changed, but would be very interested in a member of the public summarizing the changes for me.

    Well, well, well, it would appear significant changes were made and no one seems to know who made these changes. It certainly was not done by any public body in any public meeting. Thank you to the person OR people that provided this analysis:




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  • 23Feb

    I was informed verbally by city administrator Stevan Kvenvold in a Tuesday meeting that Bari Amadio filed an ethics complaint against me, after discussing it with the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust Board. Stevan shared this information in an email to the city council today, which effectively makes it public. Here is that email. I have not seen the complaint so I can not speak to it. Members of the GRACT Board in addition to Bari Amadio include Randy Staver, Ardell Brede, Lisa Clarke, Brad Jones, Carla Nelson, Al Mannino, and Joe Powers.

    Mayor/Council: You should be familiar with Council member Wojcik’s request of Bari Amadio to deliver to him a copy of the Public Art Master Plan. Ms. Amadio and her board chair have declined the request, pending a presentation to the Mayor and City Council at an upcoming COW meeting. Michael made the request three or four times and at yesterday’s COW meeting, Michael asked that the Master Plan not be scheduled for a COW meeting for about 3 weeks after the plan had been submitted for public review. The Mayor and Council did not respond to Michael’s request. Ms. Amadio had requested a COW presentation date and a date of 3/27 had been suggested as a presentation data. Since there is not any consensus of the governing body on this matter, we will proceed to schedule the matter for a presentation on 3/27/17. Ms. Amadio indicated that she has filed an ethics violation against Michael regarding the correspondence that occurred between Michael and her on this matter. Steve

    One of my proudest accomplishments on the Rochester City Council was being a driving force behind the creation of an independent ethics commission (it was a big part of my campaign in 2008). It was created with the intent of impartially handling ethics complaints on behalf of both parties. I very much appreciate the job that they have done.  I will cooperate with whatever requests they make. As is the case when I find out what the complaint is about I will likely publish all related materials on my website.

    Other than that I will wait to see the complaint.


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  • 25Jan

    Here is a link to the revised DMC Design Guidelines. I expect that this version will go the advisory bodies and the council for approval. So make sure that you review this and send me any comments that you have. This is one of those major planning changes that is drawing to a conclusion.

  • 25Jan

    Many of you probably saw that I made the case that Heart of the City North should not be given $12 million in taxpayer subsidies. You can read my analysis here.

    Not surprisingly the developer disagrees and thinks that they should receive $12 million in support of their project.

    Bob Dunn sent the following response.

    It will require 4 city council members to say “no” to TIF in order to prevent this foolish subsidy from occurring. Many well connected people stand to make a fortune off of these unnecessary and unjustified subsidies. Lets see where your councilmembers stand.

    Note, the Michael’s site should also not receive any TIF to subsidize irrational land prices and the Broadway at Center costs are misleading.

  • 20Jan

    Here is a memo that I asked administration to distribute to community leaders including DMC. I am very concerned about the trajectory of TIF on the Heart of the City North project. As such I seek to inform my colleagues and the community.

    In the spirit of collaboration I am happy to meet with any community to discuss these findings and conclusions. I see this as part of being a fiscal steward in the community.

    Memo to community leaders

    Edit: corrected formatting error.

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  • 04Apr

    As many of you know too much of government happens hidden from public view. One of those items came out today and was already approved by the Rochester City Council before you ever heard of it.

    Today we received notice that we were supposed to appoint 14 members to the “heart of the city” task force. The 14 were selected out of 95 applicants, most highly qualified. Some good news, the appointees are far more racially and generationally diverse than most of our boards. Now the bad: Once again women are horribly underrepresented on a civic board despite some incredibly talented people applying. In fact the woman behind the highly successful midtown conversations was not even appointed.

    In the end I was OK with 13 of the 14 members appointed. I however took exception to the Mayor and Council appointing a paid lobbyist that actively lobbies the City Council on Development Issues to this task force that will set development policy. This probably isn’t illegal, it may be ethical, but anyone possessing common sense knows this is wrong.

    As such I filed an official question, not a complaint, with the Ethical Practices Board, here is the text of that question:

    Should a person who is paid to lobby the city of Rochester on policy by a private organization (as their primary occupation), be appointed by the city council to serve on public boards steering public policy or directing public investment?

    It is important to realize that the board the person in question was appointed to deals with the specific policies that the person is paid to advocate on. Oh by the way, this was all done out of site from the public at the last minute. The information was not even in our council packet for this week. No one else from the council raised the issue, President Staver saw no issue at all and defended the appointment. Nick Campion did abstain from the vote.

    Edit, here is some technical guidance:

    A member of a city commission shall not “Represent private interests before the Common Council or any City committee”. City Ordinance ch. 13, subdiv. 2(E).

    Those that pay your salary get their interests first…

    I still believe cronyism is bad and integrity is important. This failed on both accounts.

     photo Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 7.55.12 PM_zpsuclybohe.png

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  • 02Apr

    Should Rochester pass a “Pollinator Friendly” resolution?

    Recommended Pollinator Policy

    I sent a note to the Parks Department to see if they have any concerns about the language. The same note was sent to Stormwater Management as well.

    I also asked the City Administrator to poll the council and see if there were 4 council members opposed. If not assuming the language is appropriate for Rochester AND I have a 2nd, we can bring this up for a vote.

    Let me know what you think of the attached policy!

    I personally manage my land in this way and actually treat much of my stormwater on site with a pollinator friendly rain garden!

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  • 03Oct

    This was a very helpful note in understanding how sprawl has affected not only infrastructure but also public safety. Look what has happened in 50 years. Our population has little more than doubled but or geographic sprawl has gone up nearly 5 fold. Taxes will go up significantly to pay for public safety and infrastructure costs.

    Strictly speaking fires, we had 177 fires in buildings in 1965 out of a total of 505 alarms. We had 197 fires in buildings averaged annually over the last ten years (range 177 to 277) out of an annual average of 7853 total runs (includes EMS calls; 2734 total runs excluding EMS) over the same ten years (2005-2014).

    1966 population was 47,800 and 11.33 square miles of city.

    2012 population was 109,000 with a surface area of 54.75 miles.

    Our average annual number of fires has remained consistent over the years. We have the same number of fires now as compared to back then. What has increased are the other types of calls that only a fire department can respond to, such as technical rescues and hazardous materials for example. This excludes medical calls which we regard as a value-added service to the citizenry since our staffing is for fires (“fires” is a generic term that we apply to any calls that only firefighters are trained and equipped to handle).

    We were rated an ISO Class 5 (1 is the best, 10 is the worst) department in 1965 and we are rated Class 3 today.

    Geography/sprawl does impact the ISO classification. More surface area requires more stations/more personnel. We can explore alternative deployment schemes using current resources to compensate for a while for an expanding city surface area. The Fire Department is not keeping up with the sprawl as evidenced by the falling ISO Rating illustrated in the Summary Report.

    My calculations based on projections using Planning and Zoning numbers, DMC numbers, and our historical annual averages suggest that we need to hire 1.6 firefighters per year (starting in 2013 unfortunately) to maintain current service levels when using an ISO benchmark and current FFs/1000 population.

    Rochester is a fire-safe community with neighborhoods that tend to renew rather than become economically abandoned slum areas. 0.85 FFs per 1000 population seems to be right-sized for COR in that we are coping with the service demands. A concern is deterioration in depth of bench and decay in the ISO Rating which is an objective performance standard used for national benchmarking.

    I have attached the charts you requested and the document they are contained in.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further.

    Steven Belau
    Deputy Chief-Operations
    Rochester Fire Department


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