Before the day becomes irresistibly beautiful, here are a few more comments on the Rochester Public LIbrary expansion issue after reading reporter Andrew Setterholm's excellent story Saturday about the ad hoc effort by Sheila Kiscaden and others to talk about the library and other needs in light of DMC:
Who else but Kiscaden could initiate and lead this effort? I can't think of anyone else in public life in Rochester who would have the local and legislative chops, the connections and credibility to step forward and do this. (And it's interesting that Library Director Audrey Betcher was at one of the meetings.)
The Kiscaden group's effort may be the best news the library could hope for: The $55 million project isn't exactly racing ahead. It's an easy one for people to say "yes" to -- it's a lot harder to figure out the money. The library, which is a city department but much more than just a city function, needs communitywide consensus and a lot of money from elsewhere.
This group at least gets that ball rolling.
That is, it's good news unless you're locked into the current site: Library leaders appear locked in, and there's little doubt that this is in part because DMC conceptual plans don't assume the library in its current spot. (That's true of a lot of buildings, including the Post-Bulletin's.) If the library expects big dollars from DMC to make the project happen, they probably need to listen to DMC and associated leaders on this point.
The chit-chat behind the scenes is presumably also good news for the Family YMCA, Minnesota Children's Museum of Rochester, the University of Minnesota Rochester and maybe other organizations as well. Any time you have top leaders from government, DMC, the business world and the emeritus business and Mayo worlds brainstorming about your needs in an informal way, it's probably a hopeful sign.
What about transparency? As described in the news story, this is more a high-minded coffee klatsch than a well-oiled policy machine. There are plenty of these types of meetings going on in Rochester and every other city even as I write this.
You can call it a "dark dialogue," as local blogger Dave Beal does, and it's easy to call in the memes about good old boys, secret meetings and "dark money." I'll let you decide if that's reasonable or just political chatter, but regardless, the Kiscaden klatch is newsworthy, and it's our job as a news organization to dig this out and deliver the transparency. Mission accomplished. I'm guessing the group's process changes as a result.
While we're on the topic of transparency: Those City Council dinner meetings? If I were Staver (or Wojcik or any other council member, but especially Staver), I'd make a motion at the next council meeting to end them. They've become a symbolic issue, fairly or not. Who needs the hassle? Just say, "Check, please," and end them. Whoever gets that done should get the symbolic credit.
Just my opinion -- and to be totally transparent, it would save the newsroom budget a few bucks as well. Setterholm will be on his own for dinner, on those council nights.
Now, back to the weekend.