Shrink city wards? Council candidates say maybe it’s time

October 4, 2018
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Rochester City Council candidates in Ward 1 said Tuesday they’d be willing to consider representing a smaller ward.

Asked for their thoughts about potential changes to the council structure, including reducing ward size by adding members to the council, Heather Holmes and Patrick Keane said they’d be open to options if elected to serve the city’s southernmost ward.

“I’d be open to learning more as to why we would restructure that, what the benefits would be in regards to that,” Holmes said during a candidate forum hosted by Med City Beat and former Post Bulletin Executive Editor Jay Furst. “Would it make us better at serving the citizens of Rochester? Then, to me that would be important.”

Keane said with approximately 12,000 registered voters in Ward 1, there are likely close to 20,000 residents, which makes serving individual constituents difficult.

“When you come close to 15,000 residents, you just can’t do that advocacy,” he said. “It just comes too fast.”

He added that constituent service is a primary goal for his campaign. “This idea of doing the advocacy and getting people the help in the neighborhoods is what I really want to do in the city council,” he said.

Holmes also cited her goal as providing personal service on the council, but noted she’d need to hear more from the public before advocating for a change.

Both candidates also acknowledged that council salaries — approximately $19,000 a year — aren’t driving their campaigns.

Keane said he has heard from people who believe a raise would fuel a different level of candidate, but he stopped short of voicing a specific stance on the issue.

Holmes said she didn’t consider pay when starting her campaign, since she sees a council post as public service.

“When I decided to run, I didn’t realize that this was a paying gig at all,” she said.

When it came to looking at the role of city government, both candidates also cited a desire to focus on budgetary and policy issues.

Keane said he sees the priorities of city government as public safety, infrastructure and amenities, such as parks.

“I think you have to stay with what you are responsible for,” he said.

Holmes said she also sees providing for public safety and traditional city operations as the key role for the council, noting she’d oppose getting involved in issues such as labor law.

“The city council and the work we have as as a city with it growing, we have enough on our plate already,” she said.

Keane and Holmes will participate in at least two more public forums as they vie to see who will fill the council seat, currently occupied by Ed Hruska.

You have at least two more chances to see the candidates in a public forum before the Nov. 6 election.

At 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11, In the City for Good will host a forum at 125 Live, 125 Elton Hills Drive NW, and the League of Women voters will host a forum at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.

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