Planning Process Redesign Report

Updated 4/15 there is just so much to say…

Around the time that this report came out I volunteered to judge some 7th and 8th grade science fair projects.  This report failed to live up the that level of scientific validation.

I am going to post my questions and answers that I posed to consultant Glenn Dorfman, who wrote a report, “Development Services Redesign Report.”  This report was paid for by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and the Bush Foundation.  I will add some summary points later, but because the council will be discussing this today I wanted to post the information now.

Here is the Q&A.

In short, I thought the report was poorly composed, lacked any real data or analysis, and was a hit job on staff.  This is particularly frustrating because I am interested in reforming some building safety and development processes.  Instead of moving the process forward, this just served to delay the process.  Now after waiting for this report, planning is going to go back and scientifically study the process.

I continue to believe we can do better, but I wish to make our decisions based on sound data and not talking points.  I expect that city / county staff will provide us with meaningful data missing in this report.

Here are some of my frustrations with the report:

  1. Report Bias – Instead of having an impartial study, a long serving lobbyist from the building industry was hired.   This is more of a concern because the this information was not disclosed in the report.  Mr. Dorfman does not deny this information was not disclosed to elected officials, but insists that Chamber President John Wade was aware of his background.  See Q&A 2.
  2. Unsubstantiated Claims – The report makes off handed statements about the cost of our development fees.  A claim is made that our fees are expectations are “substantial.”  I asked for data comparing our fees and standards to other communities, but none were provided in Mr. Dorfman’s response.  This would be useful data that was not studied.
  3. Process Length not studied –
  4. Questionable statement about my colleague Dennis Hanson –
  5. Significantly overstates Construction as a % of GDP –
  6. Incorrect claim that development fees cover city costs – Mr. Dorfman was also not aware that fees like the sewer access charge (SAC) do not come close to covering actual costs and is subsidized by taxpayers.  This was such a silly claim that I needed to get the data just to show how far he was off.  Here is the story.
  7. State licensing recommendation not supported by data –
  8. Arbitrary statement that regulation adds 20% to building costs –
  9. Citations taken out of context and misused –
  10. No method to avoid selective screening of interview participants –

more explanations are coming

One comment

  1. You were considering the organization of an advisory group today, unfortunately the options presented don’t really open the process to public input, at least the plans do not discuss in sufficient detail what the group would do and how they would do it.

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