• 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?

    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?

    “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?”

    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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  • 22Dec

    Many small communities in Southeastern Minnesota are happy to have economies like Rochester pay disproportionate taxes to sustain their quality of life but oppose infrastructure investments to keep our economy growing.

    Link to MPR report: rochester-twin-cities-rail-line-rural-opposition

    Here is some actual data on population and net taxes paid to the state showing the contrast between counties supporting and opposed to zip rail. The data is from 2010. Additionally the rural counties represented by Greg Davids are shown as he has not been a supporter. His 2 counties require a $30 million per year subsidy from the rest of the state. My belief is that the tail should not wag the dog. Minnesota’s #2 economy should have low energy, high capacity, high speed connections to Minnesota’s #1 economy. Further because MSP is landlocked the greatest return on investment my be the future use of the RST airport as a 3rd terminal rather than spending $15 billion to build a new metro airport.

     photo Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 8.40.30 AM_zpsmfugijci.png

     photo Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 8.40.08 AM_zpszodk7azs.png

    That is hard to see so let’s look at per capita data:

     photo Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 8.57.03 AM_zpsvukj6o9c.png

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  • 03May

    Here is a policy that I think would be common sense. We could protect our roads, reduce pollution, and save millions of dollars every year. But will we do it?

    For the Mayor, Council,

    As with any change I am certain that this will face some opposition from established special interests.

    I am disappointed that I keep needing to repeat this fact, but once again, “THE COUNTY CAN NOT LEAD THIS ACTIVITY…”

    Significantly less garbage related wear and tear on our local roadways.
    Significantly less wasted energy and pollution from diesel engines.
    Significant financial savings for the people of Rochester.
    As Terry’s memo pointed out we are entitled to this option.

    Potential opposition from current haulers.
    Potential loss of individual choice in selecting garbage hauler.

    Based on the examples of other communities the potential savings are incredible. If we make a conservative assumption that the average household in Rochester will save $9 per month we save our citizens more money (post tax) than it would cost to fund all 50 requested positions in 2016 (pre tax).

    The second reason this needs to be done is that our public infrastructure faces an enormous unfunded unquantified liability in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. Garbage trucks, particularly in the Spring and Fall, beat up our roads thereby increasing mainenance needs.

    More than a year ago the council met on this topic and asked staff to put together materials on district hauling. Because this was never done, I gathered a number of materials that you have already received.

    I would recommend that we ask the Energy Commission (with Public Works staff assistance) to hold some public meetings to generate a recommendation for the city.

    Questions that should be explored:

    • How can the city get the best price for garbage hauling?
    • How can the city minimize the wear and tear on our roads?
    • What is the best model of hauling to use in Rochester?
    • Should the city work with 1 hauler or multiple haulers?
    • How should billing be handled?
    • How should people that do not use garbage services be handled?
    • How should businesses be handled?
    • Should multiple collection sizes be offered to promote reduced waste?

    Stakeholders that need to be engaged:

    • Haulers
    • OC Public Health
    • OC Environmental Services
    • Public Works
    • Planning
    • Citizens

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  • 07Mar

    This was an outstanding session with good data and examples. I am sharing the materials we used they are a good read for my fellow nerd friends.

    Part 1: NLC University Transportation Planning 1

    Part 2: NLC University Transportation Planning 2 – This is the one that I found incredibly interesting and valuable.

    Part 3: NLC University Transportation Planning 3

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  • 13Jan

    I hate the concept of resolution as betterment and learning should be ongoing and life long.  However cities do operate on an annual basis and this is a good time to look ahead and see what we can do.  Here is my attempt at a top 10 list for things I hope to accomplish with the council in 2015.  And yes, DMC plan is at number 4, not number 1 because this community is so much more than just DMC.

    12. Plan and rezone areas around former meadow lakes golf course – This is what I would refer to as a micro issue, but how we handle this area speaks to how we will respect grown along major corridors in Rochester. Poor land use has created serious environmental issues in the are.

    11. Rezone Kutzky Park and Uptown Neighborhoods, possibly rezone Folwell, Historic SW – Rochester’s core neighborhoods are worthy of protection. I see short term changes in these areas leading to eventual historic neighborhood at Kutzky, Folwell, and SW.

    10. Meaningful preservation ordinance – The spinning of the wheels needs to end and meaningful protection needs to be created for important local and national historic structures.

    9. Create utilities for the funding of public infrastructure – How underfunded is our public infrastructure? How much is sprawl hurting city finances? We don’t know because we don’t track it. I would like to create local street, major street, and sidewalk utilities to better understand, manage, and fund these assets.

    8. Stop city council appointments to the city council – This requires a Charter change and if the charter commission is unwilling to do their job we can do it by petition. I believe the days of good old boys appointing their friends to to open council seats needs to be killed. For the first time since I move to Rochester all 7 council members earned a seat on the council by running, not by special favors.

    7. Independent examinations of public safety functions and staffing, especially in fire. End Civil Service Commissions, change hiring practices – Public safety is both the most expensive and fastest growing costs centers. The fire chief thinks we need fire crews responding to medical calls. 90% of fire’s calls are for medical. We need to look and EMT / Ambulance / Police Coverage / Regionalism to make public safety funding sustainable.

    6. Broadband competition – The Charter Monopoly sucks. Enough said. I believe a publicly owned but open municipal network is the only way to ensure quality and competition over time.

    5. End subsidies for non-sustainable development – In 2015 the city budget offers $5.5 million in development subsidies while failing to fund basic needs like transit. Wrong priorities. Most of this subsidy goes to luxury single family detached housing or other non-sustainable development.

    4. Approval of DMC Plan – Yes, I see this as only the 4th most important thing. DMC is a small portion of our community. While this is important DMC is best used as a tool for a greater community for all of us. DMC plans can greatly enhance amenities, transit, and housing in Rochester. We need to ensure all parties, especially Mayo are obligated to follow the plan once adopted.

    3. Strong Affordable Housing Plan – Affordable housing is a critical missing element in Rochester and out community will collapse on itself if we fail to generate a sufficient supply. 2015 should be the year where we take meaningful policy steps. Affordable housing means that walkability, housing costs, and transit are all present.

    2. Effective transit roadmap – The biggest thing separating Rochester for a millennial ready city is our incredibly poor transit system. We don’t have a transit system as much as we have an employee shuttle for people that work normal business hours downtown. We don’t have flexibility of bus sizes, we have multiple overlapping services, we don’t offer bar close, 2nd shift, or Sunday service. We suck and it hurts our ability to bring in the workforce we need, it hurts businesses, families, schools, and especially children.

    1. Approval of new comprehensive plan – Far more important than the DMC plan is the comprehensive plan update. The current comprehensive plan was written before I was born (yes there were minor updates). This plan will determine land use, transportation, neighborhood development, and probably zoning for a generation to come. We are either going to implode under the weight of bad decisions or figure out who to build a sustainable fiscal, social, and environmental community.

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  • 21Oct

    Here are some examples of how real fares will changes with the new rate structure.  These increases are needed for the viability of local businesses and the needs of workers that can’t afford to make ends meet.

    I was out of town this week-end so I didn’t receive your phone message until late last evening.  You had called asking about some typical taxi fares based on the current versus proposed fares.  I received a spreadsheet from the task force that outlines some examples.  I had asked for some examples in the area of a 5 mile trip.  They informed me that the average trip distance is 4 miles but nevertheless provided the examples listed below.

    From To Miles Old Fare New Fare Variance
    Kahler Grand St Marys 1.2 $6.17 $7.38 $1.21
    Kahler Grand Wal-Mart South 3 $10.22 $13.48 $3.26
    Kahler Grand Paragon Chateau Theatres 3.5 $11.35 $15.18 $3.83
    Kahler Grand Rochester Int. Airport 11.1 $28.44 $28.00 -$0.44 


  • 17Oct

    On behalf of my self and those that I represent, I submitted the following comments to the DMC Board and staff.  These comments cover issues large and small and are offered in addition to the combined council comments made earlier this week:

    Wojcik DMC Comments

    Here are the comments from the entire council:

    Council DMC Comments

    Thank you to the hundreds of people that contributed ideas.  Not every idea is in here, some were a little too specific for this point in time and others are more applicable to the community comprehensive plan.


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  • 14Oct

    One of my constituents shared with me a video of a Randell O’Toole discussing reasons not to support Zip Rail.  In general, I have been supportive of Zip Rail but I did appreciate some of the points the speaker made.  While I am supportive of the Zip Rail in concept, I will ultimately base my decision on the numbers that they can provide.  I do think that rail is the best form of transportation between regional centers where local transit systems are available at both ends.

    Here are some of my reactions:

    1. This process should be dictated by data.  I don’t believe that we can recoup the capital costs for a rail line, however we should be able to fund the operating costs with a combination of user fees and value capture districts.
    2. The driverless car revolution that is coming is going to be amazing however I question relying on that technology before it is here.  I also wonder if the energy consumption per trip will be able to compete with modern rail.  Air travel between RST and MSP is just horribly inefficient in terms of energy consumption.
    3. The comparison to flights between Rochester and MSP is not a good one.  Best case scenario a flight will take 2.5 hours for the whole process compared to less than 1 hour for rail travel.
    4. The speaker loses credibility in my book when he mentions a report from his organization showing no change in global temperatures for 17 years.  That is just factually incorrect.
    5. I totally agree with the speaker that downtown to downtown is best.  Along with existing infrastructure Zip rail will connect downtown Rochester, Bloomington, Minneapolis, and St. Paul.  In considering downtowns, the speaker really lost touch with our situation.  He mention that only 8% of people work downtown and 0.5% live downtown.  Probably true overall but dead wrong for Rochester.  In reality half of our jobs are downtown and that is growing. Further like all cities we are seeing more and more people move downtown.  On top of that we get 3 million visitors and that is likely to double.  All of them are headed for downtown for the most part.
    6. The speaker through out a cost of 66.6 million per mile.  I have no idea what it will be, but I don’t think it will be that high.  However the price does matter.  In the short run I think designing and beginning to secure a viable route is critical regardless of the end decision.
    7. The speaker is critical of TOD and high density development yet that is where movement is nationally.  The fastest growing cities in Minnesota in the last year were Minneapolis and St. Paul.
    8. I think that part that is missing is that if air travel continues to grow building zip rail and creating a spur line to utilize Rochester’s airport as the 3rd terminal of MSP is far cheaper than building a new airport.  One or the other will likely have to happen since our current airport is landlocked.  In addition regional rail will likely extend the day in which MSP hits capacity.
    9. Our energy mix for electricity is getting cleaner every day.  This coupled with better storage technology will make rail among the cleanest of all options.
    10. Despite the speaker’s claim of no change in mode share, it is already happening.  18-24 year olds are getting licenses at the lowest rate in modern history.  40% of Minnesotans do not drive and that number is growing.
    Update: so it turns out the $66.6 million was a total work of fiction by Mr. O’Toole and very misleading.


    In response to Mr. O’Toole’s stated cost estimate for Zip Rail of $66.6 million per mile, that is the current cost estimate for the California High-Speed Rail project, planned from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  The differences between the California project and Zip Rail are nothing short of dramatic.

    An example of one of the many differences between the two projects is that on the 500 mile long first phase of the California High-Speed Rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are an estimated 25 bored or mined high speed train tunnels totaling about 50 miles in length through three mountain ranges. These tunnels represent a significant proportion of the total cost of the project.  The topography of the three mountain crossings on the project varies considerably with abrupt changes in elevation in many locations. The 25 individual bored or mined tunnels vary in length from less than 1000 feet to approximately 9 miles, and approach structures include high viaducts and embankments, and deep cut slopes.  Additional challenges that increase the cost of the project include crossing the half-dozen or so major earthquake fault zones.

    In contrast, the total number of tunnels planned for Zip Rail is zero.

    As you noted, data will drive the decision process.  The EIS process currently underway, and the development of the Benefit/Cost Analysis, will provide detailed information on project costs, benefits, and potential impacts.  Together, these documents will provide information sufficient for policymakers to make an informed decision on the project.

    Best regards,



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  • 20May

    Rails is the future for regional connections.  Getting from here to there is tough.


    High Speed Rail to Rochester would be a mobility game changer for our region. It would add value to public investments in good transit and walkable places on both ends. It would also set the stage for future expansion of true high speed rail onward to La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. Intermediate plans would have 110 MPH “medium speed” rail from Minneapolis to Chicago along the current Empire Builder route, bypassing Rochester. But if true high speed rail is going to come to our city, those of us on the Minneapolis end need to advocate for it – for the line to move forward in general, and for the line to serve existing urban terminals specifically.

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