2011 State of the City


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Rochester Mayor Ardell F. Brede's State of the City Address on Jan. 3, 2011.

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2011 State of the City

  1. 1. State of the City Address – 2011 January 3, 2011 Mayor Ardell F. Brede Happy New Year! It’s good to be back beginning my 9th year as Mayor of this great city. I am honored and humbled to serve and represent Rochester state-wide, nationally and, indeed, at times internationally, but most importantly I am honored to serve the citizens of Rochester. I am hopeful we will be able to strengthen our relationships with visits during this term to our three Partner Cities: Moosburg, Germany, Xianyang, China and Siheung City, South Korea. While our partner city relationships tend to be cultural in nature with regular student exchanges between Moosburg and Rochester and a visit this past summer by 10 students from Siheung City, we recently received an invitation from Siheung City to establish an official city-official exchange program. It is suggested that we have at least a one month exchange of one person in administration, civil (public works) etc. which could be beneficial to both our cities. The potential for economic development always exists. 2010 has been a “stormy” year, weather-wise as well as budget-wise. We weathered a $5.6 million loss in State aids by having significant budget reductions in our Capital Improvements budget, assisted by employee furloughs and all departments’ efforts in continuing to look for ways to save dollars wherever possible. It is anticipated that our Capital Improvements budget will be targeted again given the recent record-setting snow falls. Thanks to all staff for their assistance in responding to these various budget challenges. I especially want to thank Stevan Kvenvold, City Administrator for his efforts and leadership in these matters. In spite of these challenges Rochester continues to grow, fueled in large part by Mayo Clinic. For that we, and indeed the entire state, are grateful. While we thank Mayo for being the world’s destination for medical care we join with them in our efforts to help Rochester stand out as a premier City that supports Healthy Living. In 2009 we were one of the first cities in Minnesota to adopt a complete streets program that ultimately led to the legislature’s passage of complete streets legislation. Supporting pedestrians with safe and convenient access is an important value in our community and essential in providing a healthy environment and to supporting an inclusive transportation system. Adding to this is that the City of Rochester, in May 2010, was awarded the bronze award as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. This award shows we are clearly making strides to promote a healthy lifestyle for our citizens. Rochester is one of only two cities in Minnesota to be given this award. Additionally the City Council adopted ordinances that help protect citizens and visitors from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke by establishing a smoke-free medical zone in a part of downtown adjacent to major medical facilities and establishing smoke- free bus shelters, all in continuing efforts to be a “healthy community.” Rochester has been named one of “The 10 Best Places to Raise a Family” by Kiplinger Magazine and the sixth most secure place to live among mid-size cities by the Farmers 1
  2. 2. Insurance Group. So, while continuing our efforts to be a healthier community we also are not resting on our laurels with regards to our safety. Our Police Department is in the process of re-organizing as a means of providing more effective police services to our community. To that end the reorganization is not only of a structural nature but encompasses the adoption of a business model and policing philosophy known as Intelligence-led Policing. In addition to this strategic overview of crime problems we are participating with the United Way and its Community Gang Initiative and the Diversity Council and its Bias/Hate Crimes efforts. I am very proud of our adoption of a Domestic Partners Registry, as a part of the City’s ongoing effort to build an inclusive community. This is in recognition of the concept of expanded familial relationships beyond traditional marital and blood relationships to two non-married but committed adult partners. To date twelve partners have registered, not all same sex and many more have expressed “sincere thanks” that their city acknowledges and values their existence and participation. Undeniably, much of Rochester’s success and growth is attributed to Mayo Clinic, however that’s not all. The Peace Plaza with its programming of Thursday’s on First, The Rochester Downtown Alliance (RDA) and its staff have done a marvelous job. In addition the RDA initiated a Façade Improvement and Interest buy down. Thirteen businesses to date have utilized these grant programs, stimulating $375,000 in improvements. Of major significance to the future of the City was the completion of the Downtown Master Plan. The plan will guide the growth and development of Downtown for decades. Participants include Mayo Clinic, UMR, Rochester Downtown Alliance, the Rochester Area Foundation and of course the City of Rochester. Realization of that vision will require continued collaboration of all who have a stake in maintaining a healthy and vibrant downtown. The University of Minnesota Rochester’s 318 Commons project is an exciting new downtown development. The project consists of a new 9-story building: 6 stories of student housing, 2 floors administrative office and classrooms and a ground floor retail space. This project will enhance the vibrancy of downtown and strengthen our commitment to students at UMR. Other projects that are both redevelopment and environmental initiatives include: Cascade Creek Redevelopment mixed use project - 3 phases including a new 40-unit apartment building with a small retail area; a day care facility and 5 owner occupied townhomes. - This project will be an enhancement to the “gateway to downtown” on Civic Center Drive Cascade Meadow Wet Lands and Environmental Learning Center Project - 2 story, 16,000 square feet LEED certified building - This project includes the restoration and enhancements of existing wetlands, construction of new wetlands, native prairies, oak savannas and a lake for environmental education. 2
  3. 3. The city has adopted and or amended ordinances related to a Landlord Standard of Conduct, Disorderly Conduct clarifying and strengthening our rental codes. A boulevard tree ordinance was adopted, culminating years worth of hard work by City staff, the building and development community, and our citizens. The city also provided funding to RNeighbors that was used to plant 650 boulevard trees. The City of Rochester Public Works Department is constructing a 231,975 sq ft facility to house the Street Maintenance, Sewer Collection, and Fleet Maintenance operations of the department. The facility is designed to allow for the co-location of the Transit operations in the future when funding becomes available. The functions of the Division serve the needs of citizens for street maintenance, street and public pedestrian path snow and ice removal, public sanitary sewer system maintenance and repair, storm water facilities maintenance and repair, and the maintenance and repair of fleet vehicles including Fire Dept vehicles. The new facility will enhance the ability of staff to efficiently and cost effectively provide services as well as streamline all operations and maintenance. All operational procedures will be reviewed and updated prior to these Divisions moving to the new facility. The new facility is expected to be completed in July 2011. The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce is coordinating a study of the Development Approval process to improve efficiencies. We look forward to the results of this effort. The City’s emergency management changed with the termination of our agreement with Olmsted County. I firmly believe that not only has Rochester been served better by this decision but Olmsted County’s service has improved as well. Having personally witnessed and been involved with our efforts during the June 17 th tornado, the heavy rains of late September and the strong winds; I was most impressed with the efforts of Jon Turk and Ken Jones and the collaboration and teamwork exhibited by all affected departments. Rochester’s past work on reservoirs and other flood control measures saved Rochester from the scourge of past floods. During this past month, how can we forget the snowfalls that have hit our City --- our new management function improved coordination of our response. As a community, and yes as a county, I believe all are receiving better service, making us all safer. So, here we are in 2011. The Council recently approved the 2011 Budget and in this day and age budget planning is a year round project. At this time we do not know what State aids will be available to the City, as the State of Minnesota deals with a serious budget shortfall. City staff and the Council have scrutinized the City budget carefully in trying to adopt a budget that not only meets our citizens’ needs but also realizes the impacts of property tax increases during these difficult economic times. With a new governor and legislature we look forward to “getting to know them” and working with 3
  4. 4. them as we wish to retain Local Government Aid and gain approval for permission to extend our current .5% local option sales tax. Our Sales Tax Advisory Committee listened to and received presentations from 53 different city and community organizations and projects. We will be seeking legislative approval, allowing us to hold a public referendum. Rochester has had a sterling history of well conceived and valuable local projects funded in part by a local option sales tax, from flood control to transportation improvements to higher education that have a regional impact. This past year I accepted the invitation to join the Regional Council of Mayors which includes Minneapolis, St. Paul and 34 metro municipalities in the developed and developing suburbs. This collaboration partnership provides a non-partisan platform focused on building action strategies to raise the regions (including Rochester, Olmsted County) economic competiveness, innovation and quality of life. We have much to gain and much to offer by being a member of this Council. This year, April 29 there will be a Royal Wedding and while I’m not aware of any wedding of that stature occurring here in Rochester there is a wedding anniversary that I am personally very happy and pleased with --- March 24, Judy and I will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary. Many would say and they would be correct that she’s a saint for putting up with me these many years. I truly appreciate her love and support. And again to wrap up the numbers, “the count”. This year there were 1436 “events”, a new high, on my calendar. This brings the total for my eight years in the Mayor’s Office to 10,428 an average of 1304 per year. Again I thank you for the honor of serving as your mayor. Thanks again to our staff and the great citizens of Rochester. We have a community of citizens who invest in their community by offering their time and resources. An example is that we seem to always have a surplus of very qualified applicants for the various city boards and commissions. Our city is well served by this commitment. These are reasons why various organizations and publications have recognized us in many ways. Thanks to Donna Bussell, my associate who not only provides great administration support but also a welcoming front to the Mayor’s Office. See you on the Peace Plaza and at Down by the Riverside, two of the great venues among many in Rochester. God Bless each and everyone. There’s no place like home. 4