Here's my print column for today:
At this point in its career, DMC appears to be an acronym for Dodge Media Coverage, rather than Destination Medical Center.
That may seem harsh, but take a look at the recent record.
The agenda for today's DMC Corp. board meeting went up on the city of Rochester website early Wednesday afternoon, I believe. If the agenda was posted and widely publicized elsewhere, our newsroom was unaware of it. There's no DMCC website, other than Mayo's DMC website, and if reporters don't have agendas, minutes and other information in advance of an important public meeting, that's unusual and not helpful.
In any case, the late notice doesn't help public turnout. One of the very best-connected political people in Rochester emailed me late last night, asking where the board meeting would be today.
This is the third meeting of the board. The second, a special meeting Sept. 20, was a conference call. Not much chance for public involvement there, either.
It's late September. The Legislature created this thing more than four months ago, and we believe there's plenty going on behind the scenes. The City Council has even (somewhat retroactively) authorized the first DMC private development, even though the DMC Economic Development Agency hasn't been set up yet and a master DMC plan hasn't been outlined or approved.
That's one of the items on the agenda today, by the way -- a report from Mayo's Patricia Simmons on formation of the DMC's EDA, which is the more private and inscrutable entity, created by Mayo, that will do much of the behind-the-scenes work to generate new development in Rochester. Not many veils will ever be lifted on that organization, but it would be good to know what little is available on that process.
So, things are happening. You'd think the basic infrastructure for the corporation could be created just a hair faster than this.
As a result, a lot of people have basic questions about how the board will function, in part because of the information vacuum. Here's an email I received earlier this week:
Sir, Mayo has stated over and over again that the DMC process will be open and transparent. Yet, there is no DMCC website and the meeting notices are very quietly pasted on the wall down at City Hall. If Mayo doesn't want people to know about or see how the DMC process plays out, they should consider not expecting to use the hundreds of millions of dollars we taxpayers are donating to them. — Not-so-quiet
Again, maybe not fair, but predictable.The process to date begs some questions, such as, is DMCC covered by the state Open Meeting Law? That's the way the Legislature framed it and that's what local officials have said, but for reporters and the public, it's hard to tell.
Tina Smith, Gov. Mark Dayton's chief of staff and chairwoman of the DMCC board, said in a trade of emails with me Wednesday night that the law absolutely applies to DMCC.
Do conference calls involving a quorum of members qualify as public meetings? She says they do: "Section 13D.015 permits 1) a state agency, board, commission, or department and a statewide public pension plan defined in section 356A.01, Subd. 24, and 2) a committee, subcommittee, board, department or commission of any entity listed in clause 1 to conduct a meeting by telephone or other electronic means."
OK. That doesn't seem to honor the intent of the open meeting law, however, especially in this early phase of creating the corporation and making crucial decisions.
Another issue that now seems to be up for grabs: Are DMCC meetings required to be in Rochester? Smith said that hasn't been resolved.
"Our discussion of board bylaws, rules and procedure is deferred to our next meeting," she said by email, referring not to today's meeting but presumably the October or November meeting. "I think it’s extremely important, however, that board meetings are easily accessible to the residents of Rochester. There may be good reasons for the board to convene in other places from time to time, but I personally think it’s important that standing meetings happen in Rochester."
I think most people in Rochester and Olmsted County would agree, but based on comments made at the first meeting, I'm not sure all board members share that opinion. This will be one of the more interesting decisions made by the board early on. Hope the public gets to really hear about it and participate.
Then there's the pesky matter of the DMCC bylaws. The bylaws that were approved by the city on July 15 were only a draft, according to the resolution adopted by the council. The resolution refers to the bylaws as a draft to be submitted to the DMCC board for their "consideration."
OK, this raises yet another question that concerns some people, including Sen. Dave Senjem: If the DMCC board makes any changes in the bylaws, does the city council have to approve them? According to the city council's July 15 resolution, it's only a "request" that the council be allowed to review any changes before they're adopted.
This is despite the fact that the draft bylaws explicitly say that the DMCC articles of incorporation and bylaws can be amended by the board, "provided that (the) City shall approve all such amendments before the same shall become effective."
I'm assuming a good lawyer for DMCC could find his way around that "request" for a council review. In fact, just about the only action at the board's second meeting (or first conference call meeting) was to retain legal counsel.
Those draft bylaws, by the way, say the board "may hold its annual, regular and special meetings at such times and at such places within the city as determined by the chair...unless the board of directors determines otherwise."
Again, it doesn't sound ironclad that meetings are to be held in Rochester, does it?
In other words, the sooner the bylaws are approved, and the sooner the DMCC board begins to function like the important, accountable public body that it is, the more confidence the public -- and the media -- will have in the process.