The mics could have worked better, it got a little long and I should have brought a coin with me so I didn't have to go begging for one to flip. But all in all, the Post-Bulletin Dialogue at the Art Center Wednesday night was a good time, invaluable for learning more about the differences between Rochester City Council President Randy Staver and challenger Sean Allen.
It was the civic place to be in Rochester this week.
Here's a link to the YouTube video posted by the Rochester Public Library team.
The weekend is beckoning, but here are quick thoughts:
The big headline of the night was the library issue: When asked whether the city should put $55 million into the public library expansion, Allen said yes, without a moment's hesitation. Staver said flatly, "Not at the current site."
Staver went on to say he has "issues with what we're trying to accomplish on that particular site. I'm thinking bigger picture here. ... I think spending that kind of money to expand in place is shortsighted."
That was a brave statement, especially in light of the campaign the library is running, which may be more energetic than any campaign in town right now. As an example: I asked for questions from the public in advance of the meeting, and about 10 were from people wanting me to ask the library question. That's good promotion.
We've heard rumblings about an effort that's underway to find a new location for the library -- downtown -- that would dovetail with DMC and other goals. You may read more about that in Saturday's P-B. Library leadership and fans are dug in at the current site, but if they were offered a new, larger building elsewhere, presumably they'd listen. The current plan isn't flying ahead.
Staver embraced DMC, Allen didn't: That may be too strong a characterization, but Staver quickly claimed Destination Medical Center as the initiative he's most proud of during his years as council president. Allen's comments about DMC and related development were more circumspect -- obviously not opposed, but he wasn't championing it, either.
The best sound bite of the evening was Allen's and it relates to DMC as well as Mayo. To paraphrase for now, since I wasn't able to take many notes and I need to check the video: What's good for Mayo isn't necessarily good for Rochester, but what's good for Rochester is good for Mayo.
That's a provocative thought. I can think of a lot of things that might be good for Rochester in terms of quality of life, programs, etc., that would cause acid reflux in Mayo executive suites. But it's a point of view that many people probably share in the DMC era, and that comment is worth a Dialogue all to itself.
Allen is the change candidate, Staver is the status quo: Nothing surprising about that, with an incumbent and a newcomer, but based on what was said Wednesday, I don't think Staver minds that characterization. Allen certainly doesn't.
How much power does the council president have?: Staver said the council president's authority is limited; while he's the at-large member and herds cats, he can only do so much to build consensus and get things done. Allen would say a leader simply gets things done, and if you need to go back later and tinker (as with the food truck ordinance), then do it.
How long does it take to get a building permit in Rochester?: This will be a hot one all fall. Allen will make Staver explain why, after five years, more hasn't been done to reform the development approval process. Does it really take an average of three weeks to get a building permit in Minneapolis, versus many more weeks in Rochester? That's a fact I'll check.
To others who were there: What did you take away?