• 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.

    #integrity

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  • 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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  • 19Sep

    Barry is right…

    This is a legacy from a bygone era that just needs to die.

    The Minnesota Secretary of State is now investigating this.

    I don’t see much value in this. I think it is an insult to the public when we hold these in places that the public can’t hear (or I can’t hear). I now skip these unless there is an issue where I need to be present.

    Years ago I raised the concern about hosting these in inaccessible locations. I was told we were not going to to that, and then the mayor scheduled one at the Country Club. Maddening, and disrespectful to those that can not drive… Skipped that one too…

    If we need food, get it catered. Publish agendas for God’s sake.

    There is no reason for public bodies to do things like this that draw negative attention on us. This probably made sense in the 1970s, but now it needs to die…

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  • 28Jul

    I was contacted by a number of friends upset that I described the 5 individuals that are known to be involved in creating a 501c4 Dark Money PAC as “Pathological Liars.” A few people contacted me that were upset that I used that language. One of them was my wife. As such I apologize for using that language, I should do better. Thank you for your honesty.

    While I intended this as a tongue & cheek response to the question of these people denying the content of their own message, the tone clearly took away from the seriousness of the dark money allegations. As such I apologize for the choice of words.

    I do however remain very angry that this is going on in my community and hope Rochester will come together to fight these special interest and their agenda. And for those of you that contacted me loving the comment; stop encouraging me…

    I hate apologizing, but it is the right thing to do here.

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  • 16Jul
    Barry Skolnick, filed 3 ethics complaints over the city council dinner meetings once a month. While all 3 were found NOT to be violations by the independant ethical practices board, I think Barry has a point.
     
    I understand why some people find the format of the meeting to be beneficial, I personally think that this is a legacy of the past that should probably be ended.
     
    I don’t expect that this will happen but there are 2 things that I have insisted be considered. 1st these meetings should be held in locations that are accessible to those without cars attending other meetings. Second, the public should be able to hear discussion and review council member positions taken on issues discussed.
     
    I chose to skip a recent meeting at the Rochester Golf & Country Club for this very reason. I expressed my concerns in the past and have no interest in attending optional meetings where the many members of the public can not participate.
    Interestingly this topic was covered by the Post Bulletin 1989:

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  • 27May

    So about the Post Bulletin Coverage of Elk Run…

    …it was wrong, or in the words of the Answerman “That’s so absolutely not true, it’s hilarious.”

    Here is the Q&A in the Post Bulletin from April 12, 2016:

    Dear Answer Man, I read something recently — I think it was in the Post-Bulletin, but now I can’t find it — that said because MnDOT stuck so much money into the Elk Run interchange on U.S. 52, the city of Rochester had to pay for construction of the 65th Street interchange. Is that true?

    That’s so absolutely not true, it’s hilarious.

    Except actually it is true. I know this because I took the time to do the research that no one else was willing to do.

    I checked with Mark Bilderback and he also remembered that Rochester lost out on funding because of the insanity of Elk Run. Using the Minnesota Data Practices Act; I requested the scoring for Chapter 152 funds that were used.

    Chapter 152 Greater Minnesota Interchange Program

     photo Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 9.41.40 PM_zps8kwklaun.png

    The results were slightly different that I recalled but show how exaggerated and unreasonable development assumptions at Elk Run changed the results and prevented an award to the 65th street interchange.

    An interchange in Sterns County was the top scorer regardless of scoring. That project requested and received $10 million.

    There were 3 projects that tied for 2nd place:

    1. CSAH 19 & I-94 requested and received $5.44 million
    2. CSAH 12 & TH 52 (Elk Run) requested $20 million and received 100% of the remaining funds, $14.56 million
    3. 65th Street NW & TH 52 requested $10 million and received $0

    If Elk Run had been evaluated fairly it would have scored far lower, 65th street would have received $10 million, and the remaining $4.46 million would have gone CSAH 24 & TH 52 at Goodhue.

    As I have stated for years: the Elk Run scam cost Rochester taxpayers $10 million dollars. Those millions were later funded by our local option sales tax at the same time the Library was cut out by Greg Davids.

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