Mom’s Blog Questions

Thank you to everyone that attended the Mom’s blog forum. As promised hear are answers to all questions asked. As I have always been I am a strong supporter of transparency, and wish to give straight answers to all questions and no political speak. Thus if anything needs more clarification (or editing) just let me know.

1. When asked what family friendly amenity would you add to Rochester, the overwhelming response was a splash-pad* (more than 1 to curtail over-crowding and parking issues) and a family friendly aquatic center similar to Stewartville and St. Charles to add to our old and over-crowded city pools. What are your thoughts on that and how would you work to add these amenities to our cities?

Splash pads are wonderful for little kids and far more cost effective than pools requiring lifeguards. I would expect that we will eventually have 1 in each quadrant of the city, likely locations might include Soldiers Field, or Cascade lake.

We know we have to do something with the pools, we have 2 pools both of which are nearly obsolete. Not every kid can affords private memberships so we need a strong community asset. I would like to see an aquatics area replacing the current pool at Soldiers’ Field.

All of this is contingent on money and so long as the priorities of the city council are so out of whack, we will struggle on quality of life issues. We will give millions is subsidies to projects with absolutely no public benefit or projects that don’t require subsidy, and then not have funds for other public goods.

2. With the estimated population growth associated with DMC will come increased automobiles on our roads. What are your plans to address the current transportation infrastructure as well as ensure that Crosswalks and Bike Lanes are safe for families?

I support strong Bicycle & Pedestrian infrastructure throughout the city. I prioritize the reconstruction and reallocation of space over building more money losing roads. For a decade I have said that every child deserves a safe bike ride to school or a park, and yet we still have far to go. The uptown project is a great example of making roadways accommodating of all users. There is a day care provider that has started bringing children to park again for the first time in 20 years because they can now safely cross the road.

3. What are your plans to address the capacity of our current public school system? What is the city doing to support the school district in preparing for the future?

I jokingly have a standing offer with Michael Munoz to build him 2 schools for free if he works with me on community school issues and infill development. I support strong community schools, the best thing the city can do to help the schools is build neighborhoods that can support populations to fill a school without the need for expensive transport. The era of single use schools needs to end, schools should be built as part of larger projects mixing public & private uses. Public assets to serve school children such as parks, libraries, media centers, and gyms, should also be used to serve the greater community.

4. The lack of childcare–and affordable childcare–is a large concern among parents in Rochester. What are your plans to address 1) the lack of childcare options 2) the prohibitive cost associated with childcare and 3) childcare options for families that move here quickly when there are no options to be found (for example Mayo residents/fellows)?

Frankly this is largely a city & county issue. There are some small rolls that the city can be helpful in. First, we frequently struggle with developers’ unwillingness to activate ground floors in urban areas. We should stop selling our selves short and insist on these good design standards. One of the potential beneficiaries of this space would be location for additional daycare capacity. We also need to ensure that transit routs serve daycare facilities.

I am also a support of Governor Dayton’s Pre-K access options for children that would benefit. Obviously this would also greatly relieve some burden on the families most struggling.

Lastly we shouldn’t let low wage employers of the hook. We have seen our economy get much stronger even as our minimum wage increased from $7.75 to $9.50. We should stop directly or indirectly subsidizing employers & businesses that fail to pay a living wage or violate labor laws.

5. An expressed concern is the lack of indoor play options/activities during the winter months in Rochester. How would you address this concern if you are elected to the city council?

I actually think we have a number of amazing options with more coming on line all the time. These include the Rec Center, Library, Children’s Museum, Quarry Hill, Art Center, along with many affordable private options. I feel the real challenge is accessibility and equity. We have a number of great facilities for kids, but those with out a car readily available cannot access them. Further many of the best options in the winter are not really affordable to the 40% of kids in our school system that are on free or reduced lunch. As such it is my personal goal to build out a transit (and year round bike/pedestrian) system that works for these families both functionally and financially.

6. The general consensus from the survey responses is the DMC initiative will drive the cost of our already sparse housing options up. How do you plan to address our current 1) lack of affordable housing options and 2) lack of overall inventory of housing options?

I have been an advocate for both traditional affordable housing as well as innovative new approaches. We have now successfully demonstrated creating affordable units in mixed income projects with the use of tax tools.

I am a strong believer in inclusionary zoning. I believe that projects receiving any direct or indirect subsidy or bonuses from the public should be required to include a portion of affordable. After years of struggle I successfully convinced a majority of the council to initiate work on a Rochester appropriate policy.

I think we need to remove the massive subsidies (like wildly reduced sewer hookup charges) that are going into some forms of luxury housing redirect more of this to support affordable units. We also need to make sure these units are energy efficient and transit accessible.

Lastly we again can’t give employers a free pass. Someone working 40 hours at $9.50 an hour can afford $494 a month in the best case scenario, 2 working adults, twice that. This simply is not a living wage. We should not be supporting employers that fail to pay living wages as it only increases everyone else’s social costs.

7. Early childhood education has been shown to boost overall outcomes for kids. What sort of impact can the city council have on expanding early learning within our city for all income children?

I strongly support Governor Dayton’s plan for early childhood education, I hope that the state legislature sees fit to implement the program. It would benefit Rochester’s children greatly.

There are some support rolls that the city can help with, like transit partnerships for bussing older kids. Making sure we continue to have a world-class library and make sure it grows with the community.

Lastly our community has fallen behind in technology access just as technology has become so important. We need to insure kids have access to affordable world class broadband. Our market with is a broadband monopoly in most places fails to deliver competitive speeds or affordable prices. The kids that need to take backpacks of food home to eat certainly don’t have access to Charter’s most basic broadband at $720 per year. Broadband is vital for giving parents access to the tools would like to make available.

8. The general understanding from survey responses is that DMC will be good for Rochester’s economy. How will DMC’s impact spread beyond downtown?

There are hopefully a number of benefits that will accrue to the community, but the two that I am certain of is a much improved transit system and updated planning.

Right now we have city buses, charter buses, school buses, employee shuttles, 50+ hotel motel shuttles, cab companies, airport shuttles, shopping shuttles, zips dial-a-ride and a huge desire for services like Uber. All of these are costly and contribute to congestion, often at the worst times. We have all of these because we none of them work real well. With a strong circulator downtown, better connections and transit loops throughout the rest of the community DMC will greatly improve transit and probably save use Billions relative to automobile only sprawl.

All of this is happening as a result of updating our 1970s plans. This is also in indirect result of planning for DMC growth. Good long term planning is far over due and greatly appreciated.

9. With growth comes crime too. How will you support the Rochester Police Department to manage this growth and protect our neighborhoods?

I reject the premise that growth increase crime. Rather we need to focus in issues like low pay, and lack of resources to ensure that growth is done is a financially, socially, and environmentally sustainable way.

We need to ensure that growth includes sufficient affordable housing, architecture and street designs that create safe places by design. This is referred to crime prevention through environmental design.

We need to continue to grow public safety resources, which is far easier to do when we stop subsidizing unsustainable sprawl.

10. Do you have a valid passport? What was the last try you took out of the region?

Yes, My last trip outside of the US was to Reykjavik Iceland. Later this year my family will be visiting Christmas markets in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

11. I would like to see this planet survive for my children and their children and climate change is a huge concern for me. What are your views on climate change and how will you use them to guide your decisions on Rochester’s sustainability issues?

I am NOT a climate denier, and sadly we have many of them in Rochester. I have done my part to address climate issues in my personal and civic life; I have greatly reduced carbon emission in my life with small changes in diet, transportation, and home energy. I am a trained scientist and understand peer reviewed scientific data. I have little patience for elected officials who are confused or afraid to speak on this issue. It is critical.

I have solar panels on my home, made the motion to end coal burning at Silver Lake, helped create our Energy Commission, support sustainability recommendations. I want a Rochester based on clean renewable energy including an electrified vehicle fleet and net zero buildings.

I support big and small steps to address Climate Change. The biggest issue in my personal life that I would like to see improved is the environmental impact

12. What is your view on putting the library in Soldiers Field versus leaving it here?

I believe there are more than 2 options. I support the library; I would support library expansion in any location that is accessible via walking, biking, transit or vehicle. The biggest issue at Soldier’s Field is that the needed infrastructure is not there and there is not timetable to get it.

2 comments

  1. Thank you, Michael for explaining your ideas on a variety of issues. I appreciate your tenacity on the low income housing issue as it is a critical need in this community. As someone who drives, rides the bus or walks the Uptown area frequently, I really like the design as it is so much safer and attractive plus it took care of the street flooding problem following a torrential rainfall.

  2. I just returned from the grand opening of the Kasson Library. I had a discussion with the architect, librarian, and the general contractor about the building construction, It is a super insulated thin shell building that can be used as a disaster shelter in case of tornadoes or other emergencies. The finished cost of this building was $169/sq. ft. Comparable buildings are said to be $600/sq. ft. Why not use these buildings as pool covers, splash pads, new schools, houses and multi-unit housing? Thanks.

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