• 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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  • 22Jun

    Vacation interrupted in favor of affordable housing…

    Is creating affordable housing really a priority or do we just want to talk about the problem for another year?

    Here is a comment I received:

    Michael, I’ll admit to being very disappointed with your view on the industrial site for affordable housing. Is this REALLY what we want? This seems like we are segregating these moderate income families and their kids from other residential areas. Their access to parks and trails will be across impossibly busy streets, surrounded by an industrial setting that is bound to cause these homes to never be able to escape the depressed market value such a neighborhood will have.

    Maybe we need a mixed income zoning requirement that would require 15% of these houses to be high market value, so there is equal opportunity for the kind of limited resources this area will provide for residents.

    It seems to me so very much not mixed income housing–help me understand why this is the direction you think we should be going

    Great question Helen, I will try to explain why I support this site.

    First, or decision to approve a site is dependent on our land development rules. The one issue that has come into play general compatibility. A compelling case against this was made by Nick Campion. I like to think I made a compelling case for it. There is some level of subjectivity, so I am not surprising that the Planning was split as was the council. I don’t think any preposterous leaps like when we declared that 50 units per acre was low density residential in Kutzky Park. Any time you find me and Randy Staver on the same side of a split vote, you know things are getting wild…

    That is the legalese, now to the good stuff…

    Is this REALLY what we want? No. I personally would want all affordable housing to be mixed income transit, connected, walkable to most amenities, have access to extensive green space, and have certainty of future compatible neighbors. Perhaps this in not what we want, it is what we need.

    The site is located in an industrial area, but that is misleading. The site is surrounded by uses that are largely technology, transportation, and retail. Industrial land sounds like there could be a superfund site there. Really there are some technology companies there. The site has a small amount of additional residential in the area. My biggest concern would be late night noise issues which we can mostly address through conditions of approval.

    While there are no immediately adjacent parks, there is immediate access to the most heavily used state trail in the state of Minnesota. This safely leads to the nearly 400 acre Cascade Lake Park. I know this route well as I bike it 50 times a year. In addition the proposed development would house more than 160 households and offer some on site amenities.

    One of the most important considerations for affordable housing is good access to jobs & services by walking, biking, and public transportation. This site has some reasonable access to retailers, grocers, and jobs. The transit is not currently great there, but we know this is changing fast. Our transportation and comprehensive plans call for the area where this project is proposed to be mixed use and dense. Further, it is near the intersection of 2 future primary transit routes. Access to transit is actually one of the greatest strengths of this site.

    Right now in Rochester we need thousands of affordable housing units. Since designating this issue as a priority earlier this year the city council has taken no actions to address our enormous shortage. No one policy or development can bring the market into balance, but this, like the inclusionary housing ordinance, can be part of a solution. This project is essentially asking for nothing in public subsidy, at the same time luxury housing in downtown Rochester is getting millions in subsidies (and yes, while mostly voting against these I have supported some offering public improvements).

    Is building housing in an industrial area crazy? Maybe, but we just did it successfully two times. Concerns were raised about the Ashland Village and Flats on First proposals. These projects now provide housing to more than 100 households and I suspect have a substantial waiting list. Of course “affordable” is not the same to all people but we are creating units that are more affordable to more people than we would otherwise have.

    Here is the big picture. We have a site that has been vacant for the 18 years I have lived in Rochester. We need thousands of units of affordable housing. The growth of low wage hospitality, service and retail jobs in the community will only make the situation worse (increasing the minimum will help). We have limited tools to address the problem. Here we have a proposal on a less than perfect, but acceptable site. It would create high quality, safe, healthy, affordable housing for more than 160 households. It would grow the tax base at almost no incremental taxpayer expense. Its hard to fill our 8,000 open jobs without providing people a place they can afford to live.

    Great question Helen, hope the answer articulated my reasoning.

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  • 03May

    I am really impressed with the detail and analysis contained in this report. All of the recommendations in this report are quite conservative and easily implemented. Robert Hickey of Grounded Solutions engaged a wide range of stakeholders to ensure accuracy of the data.

    Mixed Income Housing Policy Report Read more…

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  • 17Nov

    Bloom Capital Rendering photo Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 11.51.57 AM_zpsg9phsimg.png

    Here is an updated presentation on the Bloom Capital Project. I hope that we have an inclusionary zoning ordinance in place to ensure that all projects at this scale have an affordable component.

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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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  • 23Jul

    All across America inclusionary zoning is a growing and effective tool to address housing affordability. Here is a report from the National Housing Conference in May 2016.

    What makes Inclusionary Zoning Happen?

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  • 29Jun

    I figured I had better write this now since I am not currently running for anything and would not this to be misconstrued for “run of the mill” ass kissing…

    So I was just reading about the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit. Members of local media have a tough and often thankless job and face some unique dangers. Certainly there is a local celebrity awareness that might sometimes lead to dangerous obsessions from people in various mental states. We might never know what happened to Jodi, but the story remains a very sad one for the region. I moved here just 16 years ago, but remember hearing about this in Northern Minnesota.

    I will let the cat out of the bag and say that these positions don’t pay nearly enough for the education, thoughtfulness, dedication, and awful hours the jobs require. Whether it is print, radio, TV or “other” these are really difficult positions. I can tell you that when I talk about the need for affordable housing there are many in the media that have a special interest in that need. Often people covering the Rochester marketplace can not even afford to live here. That is too bad. I much prefer a BBC model where by the news is valued enough by people that they actually fund it. (Same goes for publicly owned elections…) We do have some of that with Public Radio & Television, but most journalists are tasked with covering the news and making sure that a station or publication is profitable.

    I have a great deal of respect for the journalists in this community and try to be as accommodating as possible when they would like to discuss an issue. I try to make myself available when I feel like it, but also when I don’t.  I always answer every question as honestly and completely as I can. Interestingly, I rarely listen to the radio and don’t even have a TV hooked up to anything. Sometimes I try to suggest meaningful questions or topics that I feel might be interesting. Twitter has certainly helped me share thoughts on a real time basis.

    So to folks who do the thankless job of working behind the scenes AND covering local issues, a sincere, “Thank You.” I appreciate what you are doing and I know that much of the engaged public does as well.

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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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  • 23Oct

    Absolutely outstanding news.  3 major housing projects were awarded funding in Rochester! Congrats to everyone that worked so hard to make this happen.

    Ashland Village – 49 units near Cinemagic Theaters.

    The Meadows – 54 units at 20th Street and 11th Avenue SE.

    Rochester Youth and Family Housing – 55 Units at Gage East.

    This represents over $30 million in new Rochester development aimed at segments of the population with huge needs!



  • 01Oct

    Here is how the city council plans to distribute our estimated $540,000 in 2015 CDBG funds.  As has become very typical the investments are targeted at maintaining affordable housing and capital improvements.  In addition after 5 years of trying we have revised our loan program to maintain its power against inflation.  Our loan program will now charge 3% interest to ensure we maintain purchasing power.

    Link to final spreadsheet

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