Happy New Year! As I begin my fifteenth year as Mayor of our great city I reflect back on 2016, a year that’s been extremely busy for our city and for me personally. In many ways it was a prelude of things to come! More change and new buildings. We have challenges 95% of cities wish they had.
And with Happy New Year I point out that the Chinese New Year – Lunar 2017 – occurs January 28, 2017. It’s the year of the Rooster. While it’s considered a bad year for people born in a “Rooster” year, however, Roosters are hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented. We have a lot of Roosters living in Rochester and I met many of them when I interviewed over 35 citizens for our various boards and committees this year.
In addition, there were more than that who were considered and ultimately selected to receive the Mayor’s Medal of Honor this past December, the 33rd year this has been done. Over 100 people attended the luncheon honoring the 13 recipients. I’m always disappointed that for the most part the media chooses to not give a spotlight to their significant contributions to our community.
Back to our continued growth of Rochester and the challenges this presents – financially and for our staff. While our staff is challenged I am pleased and amazed at their ability to meet these challenges. Working together, along with our council we continue to be a city that is the envy of many cities, not only in Minnesota but nationally. A huge Thank You to all.
The Destination Medical Center initiative of course, is driving much of this activity. However, even before and outside DMC we’ve had significant growth. Multi-million dollar projects are developing with construction already occurring. The Mayo Civic Center is nearing completion with conferences, conventions and events already scheduled for spring of 2017.
The DMC Heart of the City District with the Chateau Theatre at the Heart is progressing. Some external cosmetic work has been done on the marquee and an initial concept/plan has been presented by the architectural firm, Miller Dunwiddie. Based on community input, Phase One recommendations state that the Chateau should be as flexible and functional as possible, have as many seats as possible and perhaps a small coffee and food café. Throughout the day and evening make it a busy place, activated with formal scheduled events as well as informal spaces and programs. A management and governance structure will be essential along with complying with all ADA requirements. These recommendations will be refined with my hope that reconstruction could begin later this year on this beautiful and historic building.
I value our diversity in Rochester and our continued efforts on Building an Inclusive Community. This past year I proclaimed the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, as Indigenous Peoples Day as a City holiday. We recognize and honor the contributions of the Native Americans who were here in Minnesota before we were a state or city.
As Mayor, I have joined over 100 mayors who have signed onto Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination. We continue to use our collective voices and resources to oppose discrimination and advocate for equality. This program will be launched in Washington DC at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter meeting January 18th.
Despite important progress in recent years, many individuals, including LGBT continue to face discrimination in many aspects of their lives.
We soon, January 16, 2017, will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Thanks to our Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the annual MLK breakfast and making it affordable. A year ago, January 29th, councilmember Sandra Means, myself and our spouses were privileged to attend an event in St. Paul – The Minnesota African American Heritage Calendar which was created to showcase the accomplishments of African Americans with roots in Minnesota. William C. (WC) Jordan, Jr., President of the Rochester NAACP Branch was recognized and I was honored to deliver a proclamation recognizing his contributions to his community and to Minnesota history.
We are blessed to live, work and play in a great community. This past year I have seen this in a more personal way. My wife has received and is receiving medical care from many wonderful, skilled, gifted and dedicated people. People who live and work here who come from Somalia, Sudan, Mexico, Jamaica to name just a few places. All deliver excellent, compassionate patient care, many are working and going to college to get a degree. Many came as refugees. We are blessed and fortunate that they are here.
I mentioned “compassion”. Earlier last year I had the good fortune to meet with the Dalai Lama to assist in coordinating His attendance and presentation at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Indianapolis. (On stage with Lady Gaga)! His Holiness has three main commitments:
- To promote human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline.
- To promote religious harmony and understanding among the world’s major religious traditions.
- To work to preserve a culture of peace and non-violence.
In regards to the last item, “culture of peace and non-violence.” I received late last year an invitation from an organization, “From India with Love”, with a project “Reinvigorate nonviolence in America”. This would entail traveling to India to be exposed to India’s ancient culture and peaceful traditions. I am hopeful our school superintendent and someone from our police department could also participate. We would travel to New Delhi and then to the monasteries where Mahatma Gandhi studied and later Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also studied Gandhi’s practices. We would share this experience with the Rochester community.
In light of recent national and local elections and frivolous ethics challenges I believe we all could benefit from the teachings of the Dalai Lama and Gandhi. My invitation for the India trip came through the Mayor’s for Peace, of which I’m a supporter. I hope we’ll be able to go and share the experience with Rochester. I believe our city and schools would benefit.
It was recently brought to my attention that there’s a real difference between “politics” and “governance”. During the campaign season it’s all about “politics”. After the election it now becomes “governance”. Some would say its like the difference between the art of singing and song. One of the recent end of the year – New Year programs had 2017 social etiquette rules: “keep politics off Facebook!”.
Now’s the time to respect one another, debate the issues and disagree without becoming disagreeable. Compassion and civility will be traits that will be beneficial for us all --- to each other and our public.
I thank our Police, Fire and Military personnel serving who protect us in many ways. Often we are only aware of their service in a crisis. Daily, no hourly, they are on call to respond. Way too often we take the services of these men and women for granted. Thank you and God be with you!
I formally welcome our newest council member: Annalissa Johnson 6th Ward. I think if we had our council dinners we would all get to know you and respect each other a bit better. Welcome! And thanks to the 14 years of service your predecessor Sandra Means gave to your ward and city.
Perhaps one of the most significant events of 2017 will be the retirement of Administrator, Stevan Kvenvold. Forty-six years as a city employee, 37 as administrator. He will leave a legacy of accomplishments and knowledge that is beyond any city manager in Minnesota. He is virtually irreplaceable ---- in spite of that we have a very capable, temporary interim in the wings --- assistant administrator Gary Neumann. Steve and Gary; like Will and Charlie, Lewis and Clark, Ruth and Gehrig the two have worked together with complementary skills and talents. I’ve enjoyed my 14 years as Mayor seeing how closely they’ve worked together. None the less, it will be a huge change and loss not having Stevan here. There will be a monstrous loss of institutional knowledge and wisdom. A national search will begin to ultimately fill the position. Thank you Steve!
In closing I will share a couple of rules from “George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”.
1st Every Action done in Company ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
and the last,
110th Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.
And for the record I recorded 1268 events on my schedule. In addition, too many to record visits, phone calls and meetings to provide leadership and a presence, helping Rochester continue to be the #1 place to live in many categories.
God Bless each and every one in our City. Together we will continue to prosper.
Happy New Year!
Ardell F. Brede