• 24Jul

    Section 2 (of 3) of the comprehensive plan is now available. I spent a good portion of the weekend reading it. It appears outstanding. Section 3 is still a little rough. This is the first full update to the plan the guides community development since the mid to late 1970s. This plan appears to significantly improve the City of Rochester’s focus on the responsible use of financial resources.

    Comprehensive Plan Section 2

    I hope that section 3 will be coming shortly. It is imperative that the council adopt a strong plan, and stick to it.

    Expect that I will organize many community listening sections to discuss this topic.

     

     

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  • 20Oct

    Topics discussed:

    1. Development
    2. Affordable Housing
    3. Transportation
    4. Broadband

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  • 13Oct

    Answers coming soon.

    Affordable Housing:
    Considering the massive crisis that we face in the availability of affordable housing for households with income below $55,000 per year, what do you think is the responsibility of City government to help create affordable housing and what specific measures do you think the City could take now to facilitate the development of affordable housing?

    Education:
    We recognize that you are running for City Council, not the School Board. However, given the importance of our children’s education, we are asking this question:
    What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Rochester related to the education of our youth, and what, in your role as a City Council member, are the factors you will consider to address this?

    Living Wage:
    Do you support tying a Living Wage to any business seeking public funding from the city?

    Historic Preservation:
    What do you think would be the appropriate response by the city council regarding the current situation with the Kutzky House?

    Social Services:
    How are you going to get input from the working poor of Rochester on an ongoing basis? Will you include housing, transportation and living wages in your conversations?

    Sustainability:
    “The workforce we want is attracted by sustainability. Our Mayor has made a proclamation that Rochester will be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2031. And the one formal city initiative on energy sustainability is our Climate Smart Municipalities partnership with German cities. What are three ways you would lead the city council to capitalize on our German partnership to create a more attractive and sustainable city?”

    Transportation:
    Plans for the DMC and the City Comprehensive plan call for a significant shift away from people driving alone into Rochester for work and other trips. Much of the public investment in the DMC revolves around improvements to public transit, especially buses. Biking and pedestrian route upgrades are also included, and demand for them is growing. However, we’ve also seen a recent uptick in crashes involving people walking or biking. Recent figures show that 2016 is on par to be the deadliest year for pedestrians in Minnesota as a whole, and this is especially true in Rochester. Two of the seven bicycle related deaths were in Rochester. What are your priorities on making it easier for people to drive less so we can meet these goals and to do so safely?

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  • 03Sep

    Too many pedestrians & cyclists are dying. People are more willing to use protected infrastructure and it is safe.

    Here are some pictures and examples of how they work.

    2 recent deaths:

    Tuesday:

    Previous week:

    The data is very clear that protected bike lanes work:

    Data on protected bike lanes

    Contrary to common belief on street infrastructure is safer than off street. Especially when done right.

    Lots of good reasons to do this.

    Why invest in bike infrastructure?

    Here are 8 game changers that would help Rochester for an infrastructure perspective:

    1: West Rochester Bikeway

    West Rochester Bikeway

    2: Broadway Ave:

    Broadway: The next critical Public Works Project

    3: City Loop

    4: Close trail gaps:

    1. Cascade Creek between Highway 52 Frontage Road & Kutzky Park
    2. Silver Lake / Broadway Ave / 14th Street NE
    3. Soldiers Field along River on Both Sides
    4. Zumbro River to the North
    5. 7th street NE to Quarry Hill
    6. SE to Gamehaven along former rail bed

    5: Kutzky Greenway connecting the park to St. Marys & City Loop.

    6: Regional trails to Byron (Stagecoach), Stewartville (Planned State Trail), Eyota (Planned trail through Chester Woods), Oronoco (No current plans). Despite my objections, Olmsted County did not allow for a bike trail to go under the new bridge being built at 55th street.

    7: Don’t forget about trees or else the routes can be unpleasant in the summer.

     

     

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  • 14Jul

    The Rochester City Council will consider this piece of work on Monday. Thanks to all the people that poured a lot of energy and advocacy into this.

    Rochester Energy Action Plan

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  • 12Jun

    Thursday join me at the government center (room 104) from 5 – 7 PM to discuss this concept. I encourage you to bicycle to the meeting if you are so able; and then join me on a ride through the Kutzky Park Neighborhood to Cascade Lake Park at 7 PM.

    June 16, 2006 was a sad day for Rochester. At an intersection that was designed unsafe for pedestrians, a young girl lost her life when she was hit by a careless driver. In the 10 years since this happened Rochester & Olmsted County have done almost nothing to improve pedestrian & bicyclist safety in this area.

    Thank you to Andy Masterpole & Mark Miller of SEH for their volunteer efforts in putting these conceptual materials together. Also thanks to many members of BPAC & We Bike Rochester for providing suggestions and encouragement that factored into these recommendations.

    The best part of this is that most of these improvements are low cost, address other issues like neighborhood speeding and unsafe crossings, and can be implemented on a trial basis. Our goal is to deliver improved bicycle and pedestrian safety to the thousands of people that live in the Country Club Manor & Meadow Lakes areas.

    West Rochester Bikeway Map photo Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.03.14 PM_zps7dr6mr4n.png

    We are proposing a pedestrian bridge and a number of on street improvements to safely connect neighborhoods on the West side of West Circle Drive. The proposed improvements will provide connections between Harriet Bishop Elementary School, Rochester Montessori School, Judd Park, Manor Park, Meadow Lakes (future trail), and Cascade Lake Regional Park. The number of people served by these improvements is greater the number living in Stewartville, Kasson, or Byron. In short, these improvements are intended to serve an enormous number of currently unserved people.

    West Rochester Bridge Options photo Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.03.26 PM_zps5thzziyu.png

    Because the main roads targeted (36th Avenue, 7th Street NW, and 3rd Street NW) are built overly wide; we have the opportunity to add bike lanes protected by significant buffers and physical separators. The current curb to curb width is so large that we can achieve this while still maintaining all current driving lanes and parking along every roadway except a single section of 7th street that has no homes fronting on it.

    Protected Bike Lane Design photo Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 4.03.39 PM_zpsrvohoaj5.png

    Our hope is to also begin planning for and seeking funding for a pedestrian connection over West Circle Drive. I hope that Rochester, Olmsted County, and the School District would all participate in this effort. Potential sources of funds may include state bonding, safe routes to school, federal TAP funds, or sales tax dollars.

    A future four way intersection at County Road 34 and the entrance to People of Hope will serve as an opportunity to safely cross that roadway and continue this network along Cascade Creek to the South and West.

    Here is the original data file.

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  • 05Jun

    If Rochester is ever going to be a serious safe bike city like Minneapolis we will need to greatly improve our infrastructure and fill in missing connections. Here is some data and presentation on protected bike lanes (which are the gold standard).

    Portland State Data on Protected Bike Lanes

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  • 10May

    I can’t say thank you enough to the staff and residents at Shorewood Senior Campus and the J. A. Wedum Foundation for their investment in our quality of life!

    As you may know the city received a $2 million grant from the J. A. Wedum Foundation to spur on development of Cascade Lake Regional Park. This has been a project I have been involved in (or a user of) for nearly 10 years now. Every year it gets a little better. The $2 million will be matched by some city funds and and state parks & trail funds. This should allow much of the development shown in the updated image below. This park is an incredible asset for the community and Shorewood Senior Campus (which is owned by the Wedum Foundation).

    I received an email from Jay Portz, (President of J. A. Wedum Foundation) on October 14th, 2015 with a request  to meet and discuss plans for Cascade Lake Park. Jay got my name from staff at Shorewood who knew me from presentations I had done on the park in the past. I respond to almost every communication I receive and needless to say I am glad we proceeded to meet along with parks staff. Honestly I was expecting a $50k or $100k grant. The generosity of the $2 million dollar grant left me speechless. And that doesn’t happen often.

     photo Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 10.52.47 AM_zpshlgitiku.png

    In addition to the development of this active part of the park here are some other nuggets of information that you might be interested in.

    1. There is now a 3.1 mile loop that goes all the way around the lake. This used to be Rochester’s best kept secret, but based on the numbers out there the secret is out. The bridge to the North will likely see over 100k uses this year.
    2. The total park is hundreds of acres the portion shown above is just a very active & developed section. There will be something for everyone here.
    3. The lake will be kept clean because the creek was relocated and moved around the lake. The lake is spring fed and empties into Cascade creek. Expect clean water and great fishing.
    4. While mining will continue for some time, today most of the park can be accessed at most times.
    5. Connectivity to the park is one of my goals going forward. There are 4 remaining connections I would like to improve. These connections will provide safe access to tens of thousands of people.
      1. New trail section between East Frontage Rd. and 16th Avenue NW along Cascade creek, including an underpass of 16th Avenue.
      2. Underpass of 11th Avenue NW in Kutzky Park.
      3. Overpass connecting Lake Street NW and Harriett Bishop Elementary School. (Near Harriett Bishop, not at the intersection of 3rd as the county proposed and neighbors shot down).
      4. Safe connection through the Manor on 36th Ave NW/SW To growing neighborhoods South of 2nd street.
    6. City staff told me that complete access to the lake was once threatened by Bob DeWitz who tried to take access from the public after a young Gary Neumann caught and stopped some concerning language in a development plan. Bob then tried to change the landscape by grading the shoreline to remove public access until a former public works director threatened to “punch him out.”
    7. The picture below is me with Beverly Allen, wife of former council member Paul Allen. I invited her and Paul to the announcement as she has been involved with the park since it was a concept in the late 1960s. The picture is right when I told her the grant was for $2 million. She once showed me some old Xeroxed copies of fliers handed out in the early 70s advocating for the park. Needless to say this park is the culmination of decades of local people stepping up.

     photo IMG_7658_zpsh6ypfabh.jpg

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  • 27Apr

    This is one of those topics that is sure to be controversial so I wanted to make sure that I provided an overview of the current situation. Really we have 3 options; 1) Ignore the problem 2) Raise property taxes to cover needs 3) Use fees to cover needs Sidewalks are a pretty basic and needed city service.

    While we have been doing #1 for as long as I have been on the council, I don’t accept that this is responsible. Between #2 & #3 I think that #3 is more equitable and more effective in the long run. I lean towards doing this because I have many kids, seniors, and disabled constituents in the city that deserve safer walking routes.

    As a side note if you really want to prank someone, get some pink chalk and mark up their sidewalks right after they have a bunch of panels replaced. I had one person that directed some profanity at me personally after getting assessed. I used some chalk a few months later… After he calmed down, he acknowledged I got him pretty good. We called it even at that point.

    Pros:

    • Improved Public Safety.
    • Small stable fee, property owners never get large unexpected bill.
    • Reduces disproportionate property taxes downtown and other high value commercial properties are paying.
    • Funds sidewalk replacements.
    • Funds ADA Transition Plan prevent lawsuit potential.
    • Funds tree preservation for large mature trees.
    • Funds maintenance of existing and future trails along major roads.
    • Partially funds expansion of sidewalk systems to underserved areas especially be schools & transit.
    • Significantly less staff time required to administer.
    • Able to allocate in a much fairer manner than property taxes.
    • Shared among all properties including the many properties that don’t pay taxes.

    Cons:

    • New monthly fee (likely property tax statement possibly $6 per month range).
    • People who recently paid to replace sidewalks panels are hit twice.
    • For 1/3 taxpayers itemizing; slight reduction in deductions relative to property taxes (we are not 100% certain on this, businesses could likely still deduct).

    Currently we have substantial sidewalk needs that are going unfunded. Like much of Rochester, unsustainable sprawl has left us with more infrastructure than we have resources to maintain. If you think this is painful just wait until you see how streets are going to blow up city finances. (Hint we are more than $1 BILLION in the hole and digging it deeper every month). Currently we need about $3.6 million annually to meet sidewalk needs, we are only putting $350k per year into these items. $250k from property taxes & $100k from assessments. Here is where the money would go.

    • Sidewalk Defect Repair Program $1.4M
    • ADA Transition Plan $1.3M
    • Tree Preservation Related to Sidewalks $150k
    • Bituminous Sidewalk/Right of Way Trail Preservation $528k
    • Priority Gap Fill in Sidewalk System $225k

    Even if we go this route there is still a ton of details to work out like who which type of properties pay how much. Maybe we give a small rebate to people that have paid for panels in the last couple years. We could also start by covering 50% of needs and step it up over time.

    Here is the city presentation.

    Sidewalk Improvement Districts

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  • 12Nov

    9 1/2 years after the needless death of a child, the county once again met to discuss ideas to address safety issues in the area around Harriet Bishop Elementary School. I submitted nearly the exact same recommendation I did 7 years ago. In that time not a single safety improvement has been made in that area. Read more…

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