• 22Mar

    The 4 members of the Rochester Ethical Practices Board (3 participating) were unable to find that I committed any violations of Rochester’s Code of Ethics. They have now referred this to an independent investigator to further check if any violations occur. There appeared to be some difficulty understanding the 18 page submission. While this will cost more taxpayer dollars, some members of the board indicated that they were struggling to understand the complaint, so this is a prudent course of action. I look forward to the final dismissal of this complaint.

    I am proud of the work I am doing to bring transparency and oversight to the use of tax dollars and look forward to continuing to do so for years to come.

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  • 22Mar

    So I wrote this on Facebook and it got kind of long, but it is worth repeating here.

    *******

    In a decade of service this is hands down one of the poorest policies I have ever seen. Some social media policy is good, we can’t have a police officer posting racist memes as we saw in the past. We should have a policy for how the Energy Commission or RPU feeds are used. BUT, the way this is worded a volunteer on the Civic Music board could face consequences for questioning the city on Facebook. While staff might claim that would not happen; there is no clear set of standards and no clear process for who would arbitrate these disputes. They can’t even define who owns a social media feed, let alone have any way of knowing who is actually posting.

    bad as the policy is, it was made more so by the fact that no one ever requested a policy regulating volunteers’ free speech and the public was given no opportunity to comment. When I asked the city attorney who crafted the policy, he stated only he and the HR director, neither use social media. When I asked if other cities’ policies were referenced the answer was no. I believe that this policy is 100% about controlling the free speech of volunteers. Recently the council president attempted to reprimand a volunteer and basically got laughed at since he has absolutely no power to do this. It was further disregarded as the action was taken behind the back of the rest of the council (fact: no councilmember has power on there own). This policy is a back door way that elected officials could stifle criticism of even themselves.

    The policy is so vague and all encompassing that even this post could result me losing a seat on the city council over it. Probably not going to happen, but 100% permissible under this policy.

    #endrant

    KAAL Video.

    Nice job by Paul Sims calling out the poor policy here.

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  • 20Mar

    I ran for office and was elected by the people of Rochester on a platform of “#integrity” in city governance. Chief among by belief in leadership with integrity is a focus on stewardship of taxpayer dollars and transparency in government.

    The City of Rochester funded the Public Art Master Plan with taxpayer dollars after a rushed discussion where the city, collaborative artists, and taxpayers were provided assurances that the process would be executed with transparency and collaboration in mind.

    The community later went through a period of almost a year where no updates were provided and no engagement with arts or civic leaders outside of the GRACT took place. As a steward of public dollars and trust; I embarked on a venture to obtain and distribute the latest draft of the Public Arts Master Plan.

    I have now successfully acquired this document and it has been ruled public data by the City Attorney and the State of Minnesota Commissioner of Administration Information and Policy Analysis Division. A complete copy of this document can be found here. I encourage all interested parties to review this document and provide feedback prior to city council discussion on the matter.

    I strongly believe that documents produced with public funding by groups that are supported with public tax dollars or in kind donations should always be public data. I will continue to shine light on organizations or individuals who seek to take taxpayer subsidies.

     

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  • 12Mar
    At the Nation League of Cities the Community & Economic Development Board just heard a presentation on Sister Cities. Hey I have a question I would like to crowd source or ask the media to help me answer a question. The state of Minnesota says we have 5 Sister Cities. From Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

    When the mayor speak on Sister Cities he mentions we have 3.

    • Moosburg (Germany)
    • Xianyang (Shaanxi, China)
    • Shiheung City (South Korea)

    So what is the story with the other 2. I would love to take a (personal) trip to Kathmandu.

     

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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:

    Comparison.

     

     

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  • 01Mar

    Additional materials on the Greater Rochester Arts & Cultural Trust (Bari’s) ethics complaint. I still haven’t read all of the first one so I am just posting this for transparency purposes.

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  • 28Feb

    Here is some context to the bus shutdown on Friday. I know it is frustrating, but we call it a snow emergency for a reason.

    Gary,

    Below I am repeating some the information I shared on Friday with Council Members  Hickey, Campion and Bilderback.

    The decision to run, delay, or partial or  full shutdown involves various inputs;  weather forecasts (including the projected timing of the storm), street conditions, the plowing/ sanding schedule and consultation with Mayo. A final decision is made jointly by the City Transit and Parking Manager and First Transit General Manager. The bus routes for the most part are on arterials or neighborhood collector streets. A number of years back a policy was set in place that bus routes would have priority in regards to order of plowing for City streets. (RPT routes also operates on roads under the  jurisdiction of the Olmsted County and MnDOT.)  The discussion starts with a staff meeting the day before the forecasted event where all information is reviewed. The plan for public dissemination is also laid out.  A review of actual conditions depends on the timing. The last major storms were overnight events. Therefore,  a review of conditions including a visual observation of street conditions started at 2:00 a.m.. A decision to shut down for the last storm was made at 4:00 a.m..

    RPT also parks 1500 commuters in its park and ride lots. The leases require all lots to be cleared by 6:00 a.m. Some lots are cleared by RPT’s snow contractor. In the last storm two lots representing about 50% of our capacity did not get cleared by 6:00 a.m. These were owner operated. We will be following up with the owners.

    Following is a summary of events for the February 24 storm.

    Planning started (2/23) with  an operations meeting to discuss the street plowing schedule, forecasts and the various community cancellations. Communications were also initiated with Mayo. On February 23 (the day before the storm) RPT posted that passengers should consult the website and media as to RPT’s status. Mayo was also asked to post alerts on their internal website.

    A reconnaissance by RPT/FT (First Transit) of street conditions started at 2 a.m. with review of the forecast and the plowing schedule. The decision to shutdown  was made at 4:00 a.m.  The alerts were sent out to media and posted on the website and RPT’s  AVL phone app after the decision was made. Dispatchers were still called in to answer calls. Most major roads appeared to be clear by 7:00 a.m. but there was  a lot of glazing with a continuing fine mist that was freezing on the road surface.  A mid- morning reconnaissance of routes and park and ride lots was made followed by a RPT staff meeting at 10:00 a.m. to discuss whether drivers should be called in for the remainder of day. Staff consulted with street maintenance and the weather forecasts that were predicting a second storm starting at 11 :00 a.m.  We were informed there would be no sanding because of the next storm coming in.

    These are hard calls to make.  They are white knuckle events (stressful) for drivers. Last winter (2016) there was a similar storm where we decided to run as the plows started at 4:00 a.m. RPT started out from the garage at  5:00 a.m. The weather shifted and we had a significant snow fall after the decision was made requiring RPT to pull buses and shut down for 2 hours.

    Our practice after each of these events is to have a debriefing and assess our performance. We will be discussing with Infrastructure the timing of snow removal at the downtown bus stop area to accommodate bus turning movements.  There are always things we can do better. We have excellent service and coordination from the Infrastructure Division (street maintenance).  The final decision is driven by road conditions and safety.

    Respectfully,

    Tony

    Anthony J Knauer

    Transit and Parking Manager

    4300 East River Road

    Rochester, MN 55906

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  • 28Feb

    We don’t know because staff is not doing as directed.

    My intention is to stop all activity and funding aimed at building new stadiums in Rochester. This types of exchanges are why in 2017, I will seek to have public oversight of the RCVB, their budget, and expenditures. The amount of money they are spending without oversight is well into the millions.

    Even though the city council explicitly directed staff to gather information on how much money the RCVB has spend on stadium consultants. Here is a series of notes.

    At a recent Council meeting a request was made to seek information from the RCVB on expenditures and staff hours that they might be undertaking relating to any “arena” proposals.  I previously contacted Brad Jones of the RCVB and  received the attached response and information.  It is provided for your information pursuant to the request made at the February 6 Council meeting for information from the RCVB.

    Thanks

    Gary

    FYI, this was not a “request” it was an official action of the Rochester City Council.

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the email and information – great to hear on the bond election allowing the collection of naming rights and sponsorship revenue in the future.

    In terms of the update to City Council – we are in process of the work to provide a recommendation for a possible new entertainment, sports and multi-purpose arena. In our planning timeline, we are poised to bring the recommendation to the Mayo Civic Center Commission sometime in May or June depending on the progress of work. We are working with two separate consultants, an investment group, and three possible long-term arena tenants. If you would rather have the recommendation come direct to the City Council please advise.

    In terms of staff time – I am the only staff member at the RCVB currently working on the arena project. I am coordinating all of the partners, consultants and work. We are doing this to insure that our normal work flow and responsibilities are not affected. On average, I attribute around 15 hours a week (or about 30% of my ongoing time from my own schedule for this work). If you have any further questions please let me know.

    Thanks,

    BRAD JONES// Executive Director

    Rochester MN Convention and Visitors Bureau

    This response did not provide the data we need. Here is my response today.

    We directed staff by way of a motion, I would like to see the dollars spent on Hammas and other. There is no need for a second motion. Staff has their direction. Proceed with the direction you were given. Please no more delays.

     

     

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  • 25Feb

    Here is the Ethics Complaint in full. The Ethical Practices Board will decide on March 22. A lot of words there, but I am in no hurry to respond. You folks can read and decide for now.

    Complaint

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