Happy New Year! As I begin my 13th year as your mayor I thank you for allowing me to be your Mayor. I am honored to serve all the people in Rochester. We are blessed to have the diversity of people living here and moving to this great city.
The Chinese New Year this year occurs on February 19th. It’s the year of the Goat…..a year “attended by favorable circumstances, successful, prosperous, an auspicious year”. It is said goats like to be in groups; they are honest, intimate and can be easily moved by the misfortunate of others . . . . compassionate? I think the attributes of the “Year of the Goat” will serve us well as we enter 2015 and work with the DMC - Destination Medical Center - plans.
In 2013 we were pleased to learn that our world-class medical center, Mayo Clinic, was planning to expand in Rochester and indeed, Minnesota. The misunderstood, but true, statement ‘49 states would love to have the Mayo Clinic’, got state, as well as national attention. Legislation was approved by the State Legislature and Governor Dayton which provides the opportunity for the State, City, County and others to work with Mayo Clinic to create the exciting Destination Medal Center to support growth of Mayo Clinic and the creation of jobs and economic vitality for Minnesota.
We are now in the review process for the approval of a visionary plan for that initiative. The City Council and I, and the community will be working with our partners on the DMCC Board, the DMC EDA and Olmsted County to do our best to advance that vision and to approve the initial plan in 2015. We are excited but must keep in mind that this is a 20-year plan and parts will be phased and periodically reviewed and adjusted.
Of course, with all the attention to DMC we can’t forget our Mayo Civic Center expansion. After seven years of legislature requests we received bonding approval for $35 million towards the expected total cost of the $82 million expansion. Bids are being readied and we should see construction activity this spring. Staff and our new Mayo Civic Center Commission are working hard on the details and accommodating scheduled events during the construction. For our city projects we will be accommodating the Minority and Women Owned Businesses, (MWBE), certification and are working closely with the Council on Black Minnesotans and the Chicano Latino Affairs Council.
I am looking forward to the completion of the ordinance for the Police Oversight Commission. At that time we will be interviewing applicants. Most recently with the events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, I participated in a U.S. Conference of Mayors conference call sharing thoughts and ideas from more than 20 cities (Philadelphia, Cleveland, Denver, Sacramento, etc.) I was pleased to know that our planned oversight commission was an exception to what most of the cities have. I think we can be proud of what is being planned.
The Heritage Preservation Commission has struggled this past year. I believe they will become an important and effective asset to our city. Passionate people with differing views will ultimately be able to compromise and move forward for the greater benefit. Maybe an extra dose of civility and compassion will be needed to assist them.
Our Arts community is getting stronger and more active by the month. The Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust is off to a great start with a board that is involved and bold. The Trust’s mission is “to enrich the quality of life in the Rochester area by celebrating, promoting and advocating for the Arts and humanities”. I look forward to the Trust being “trusted” by all arts groups which will benefit all. I believe an active arts community is making Rochester more inviting to all for the projected growth we anticipate. Signature events have sustainability and provide “things to do” for residents and visitors alike.
A recent initiative in Rochester is to make “Downtown Rochester - A Dementia - Friendly and Capable Community”. Local citizens - healthcare workers, Mayo Clinic, Social Services etc. are meeting to define what this means and perhaps be a role model for Minnesota and beyond. The recent Glen Campbell Documentary was powerful and a message to the community. As a member of this team I look forward to the possibilities for addressing the personal, social and budgetary impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease.
As we grow, of significance is the collaboration between the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce and RAEDI, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. strategy, Journey to Growth (J2G) which is to effectively grow and diversify the economy of the Rochester metropolitan area. This plan will complement the Destination Medical Center initiative.
The U.S. Highway 14 partnership supports the completion of a consistent four-lane corridor on U.S. Highway 14 from Rochester to New Ulm. The segment from Owatonna to Dodge Center is a priority and is seeking funding from the Corridors of Commerce program. The improved safety is critical for the many commuters driving this road. The city, county and Mayo Clinic are all active members of this partnership.
Last year I said I would be leading an effort to develop a Compassionate City Campaign. While a formal campaign has not happened I believe the idea of a “more compassionate city” is alive and well. The often and multiple references to being compassionate attest to this. I would also add the word “civility” to the equation. We all need to practice these virtues. Of interest is the potential that a humanities course called “Compassion” or “Compassion Studies” may be developed at Rochester Community and Technical College.
The City of Rochester, Council Members and Mayor are active on many boards and organizations – state-wide and nationally. We and the City benefit greatly from the content of classes and sessions and often from “best practices” shared in the hallway.
In closing, I thank our staff, especially those who are doing double-duty….City and DMC. I am very impressed with their dedication and expertise. In addition, at this time, I call attention to our police and their families while also acknowledging our firefighters and their families who daily do their jobs to keep us all safe….Thank you! I appreciate the work of the council who diligently do their “homework”, benefiting the entire city, but will miss the contributions of Councilmember Bruce Snyder while welcoming Nick Campion.
Special thanks go to my associate Donna Bussell for her work, representing the Mayor’s Office in a positive way to visitors, guests and staff. Her filtering calls and often answering the caller’s questions is greatly appreciated. Her knowledge of City and County government is “priceless”.
And as always I can’t express strongly enough my thanks for my wife Judy’s love and understanding of the Mayor’s demands which on occasion often cause compromise of duty and family. Our soon to be 54th wedding anniversary requires much love – Thank you!
And for the record this year was again very consistent in number of events on my calendar: 1382 which relates to the 12 year average of 1329 annually.
Thank you, Happy New Year. We have much to be thankful for. God Bless You and this great city!