I expect that there will be many edits to this post as I respond to additional questions.
Today I was fortunate enough to serve on a panel with John Wade (Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce), State Sen. Carla Nelson, Gary Smith (RAEDI), and Kathleen Harrington (Mayo Government Relations). The focus of the session was on economic development and specifically Destination Medical Center (DMC). The event was hosted by Cube. You can find a replay on their blog.
I always like to preface the discussion of some of the minutia with the big picture. Here is a quote from me.
“When you talk about #DMCMN you are talking about one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetimes.” – @votewojcik
I am 100% committed to have the best medical community in the world. It’s my job to make sure we do it right.
Here are some of the questions asked / thoughts articulated in the forum. To summarize; the big issues were transparency, conflict of interest, public involvement, government role in infrastructure, and eminent domain.
There were a number of questions around transparency. I have a unique perspective on this as I also didn’t have a view as to what was going on as the concept evolved.
I don’t claim to be an attorney, but here is my understanding after questioning the city attorney.
In my discussions with staff as a representative of the public interest I asked some pretty direct questions as I wanted to make sure there were going to be no smoke filled rooms with the DMC authority. What I did learn was that authority meetings would be subject to the Minnesota Open Meetings Law. This ensures that all meetings are open to the public (unless closed for certain legal reasons). In addition, emails between a quorum of the members would be illegal. Further, emails exchanged in a serial manner (I sent to you, you send to John Doe, etc.) are also illegal. In short you get to see the decision making process play out in public.
The DMC Authority would also be subject to the Minnesota Data Practices Act. As such internal documents and email would be would be provided to any member of the public upon request.
Do these guarantee transparency, no, but it does go a long way. Only honest leadership can provide true transparency. I was the only city councilmember to insist on citizen representation and open meetings for the Downtown Masterplan Implementation Committee, and as such those meetings continue in secret.
Independent Leadership / Conflict of Interest:
One of my early concerns was conflicts of interest, but that seems to be moving in the right direction. The initial version of the law would have had all 3 people representing Rochester on the DMC Authority actually employed by or receiving a pension from the Mayo Clinic. I expressed some concern about this, but the city administrator told me that I was the only person on the city council that had a problem with this. As it turns out some leaders at the state agreed with me and this is now being changed. It never made sense to me that a Mayo employee should negotiate for the best interests of the community across the table from their employer.
Question from Travis:
Mayo has the name branding of John Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinc, but this town is not Clev or Balt, hell MPLS is not either. how does anyone think this will work? size and infra is just not here to compete at that level.