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Questions for candidates: Rochester City Council Ward 1

September 21, 2018
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Heather Holmes

The following questions and responses from Rochester City Council Ward 1 candidates Heather Holmes and Patrick Keane were previously published in the Post Bulletin and are collected here.

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Housing

Housing availability and costs have been a hot business and political topic in Rochester in recent years.

We asked the candidates running for the Rochester City Council Ward 1 seat what measures they believe the city should take to address existing and future housing concerns.

Here’s how they responded:

Heather Holmes

There are multiple organizations, groups and individuals from both the public and private sectors actively engaged in addressing the housing concerns of our city. Not everyone wants to live in an apartment or a single-family home outside of downtown. We need affordability and choice.

Continuing to collaborate and create options quickly and reasonably for our neighbors is important. Rochester Area Builders, Olmsted County, Rochester Area Foundation Housing Coalition, Bear Creek Christian Church and many others are connecting and working together towards solutions. The city can’t solve the issues alone, but obviously needs to be at the table engaging and participating.

Patrick Keane

The city must partner with the private sector, versus government taking the lead. I support the city’s $500,000 contribution to the Coalition For Rochester Area Housing. I support local groups like Habitat, “In The City For Good” and Bear Creek Church. All contribute to solutions.

To address workforce housing, I call on local developers to come up with solutions that might include city-owned options — you would find a motivated negotiator with me on the council.

I do my research via local experts like Sheila Kiscaden and Jim Miner. The city’s biggest problem is workforce housing, which should be the housing coalition’s focus.

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Setting priorities

The Rochester City Council is working on strategic planning, with the goal of setting short-term and long-term priorities for the city.

We asked council candidates in Wards 1 what they see as the top priorities for the city in the next three to five years.

Here’s how they responded:

Patrick Keane

Our city’s top priorities must always be public safety, efficient and responsive delivery of city services, fiscal responsibility and the quality of life for all citizens.

In the short term, the city of must use the Comprehensive Plan to begin implementing incremental changes to meet our transportation and housing needs. We must also focus on maintaining and improving the quality of basic city services.

Long term, how we grow over the next five to 10 years will have the biggest impact on our success. Complex initiatives like the ones Rochester has undertaken are rarely done by one department alone. Leaders across the city need to work together with a common goal of a vibrant community with a diverse economic base.

Heather Holmes

The city of Rochester is in the middle of major growth and will continue into and beyond the next three to five years. Being a responsible partner includes reviewing our regulations, ordinances and permitting processes, working with all the stakeholders, whether commercial or private development and listening to the neighborhoods experiencing the growth.

We also have to move our citizens and major number of visitors around our city. It will be important to address transportation and where it makes sense to incorporate things such as mass transit, walk/bike paths, additional parking, roads, stoplights, access points, etc.

Addressing workforce challenges should also be a priority. The topic includes everything from childcare demand, shortage of talent, wages, housing and reliable transportation options.

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Transportation

Recent transportation studies related to Destination Medical Center point to a need to reduce peak-period congestion into downtown and on downtown streets.

We asked Rochester City Council candidates from Ward 1 what, if anything, they would suggest the council do to reduce downtown traffic impacts.

Here’s how they responded:

Heather Holmes

We are seeing more congestion downtown and it will increase as Rochester continues to grow. We will be facing increased pedestrian traffic, parking needs and vehicles in and out of downtown.

While no one solution fits all, one consideration is adaptive traffic signals as opposed to the conventional time-of-day signal-timing plan. Adaptive technology moves vehicles in a smarter way by reacting to what’s happening on the road and communicating with one another. Estimated cost can be around $30,000 to $40,000 per intersection, but the city can choose the heaviest traveled intersections and roadways.

Adaptive technology is also rich with data, which allows city planners to better plan future projects. Sioux Falls began implementing adaptive signal technology in 2014 and has had tremendous results.

Patrick Keane

I support a proactive approach to addressing peak-period congestion in the downtown core and will work with city staff and traffic experts to ensure we address it before it becomes a major problem. Downtown streets are reaching their rush-hour capacity, and providing alternative, affordable and convenient transporting options is the right solution. Currently, 83 percent of the people (patients, shoppers, workers, etc.) coming into downtown drive, and 90 percent are daily workforce, single-passenger commuters looking for parking.

Our transportation options are not working well enough and cannot scale with projected growth. The best alternatives are improved park-and-ride, better access to city rapid transit and safer alternatives for pedestrians and bicyclists. This will address not only peak congestion, but our overall transportation issues, including parking shortages.

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What needs fixed?

A recent phone survey conducted on behalf of the city of Rochester asked what, if anything, people would like to see fixed or improved in Rochester.

Survey participants said adding parks, improving street maintenance and building more affordable housing were at the top of the list, but none of the suggestions saw support from more than 9 percent of those questioned.

We asked Rochester City Council candidates seeking seats in Ward 1 what single issue they would suggest needs to be fixed or improved.

Here’s how they responded:

Patrick Keane

We need to address our property tax growth rate — mainly residential, but also rental and business property taxes. Property taxes go up because property values have gone up, which is a good thing, but also because the city cannot keep up with the cost of providing city services.

As a council member, I would push to:

• Quickly move policy concepts from the approved comprehensive plan into our city ordinances and land-use manual.

• Challenge all city departments to prepare budget reductions of 10 percent to better understand our current spending. I am not advocating for generic budget cuts, but I want to push a “continual-improvement” mindset.

• Consider implementing a maximum tax increment financing (TIF) of 5 percent so new development projects contribute taxes quicker.

Heather Holmes

During my visits with my Ward 1 neighbors, most individuals are quite happy with their neighborhoods and the city in general.

However, communication with city leaders has some people frustrated. In addition, some ordinances involving snow removal, lawn maintenance, public park rentals, etc. have come into conversation.

I believe a review of our ordinances and how they affect citizens would be a good step in understanding which ordinances make sense and which ordinances we should consider updating.

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