Candidate profile | Judy Hickey
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing Rochester at this moment? If elected, what specific position(s) would you take to address the issue?
Rochester’s growth must be managed in an effective and positive way in order to maintain the qualities that make it a great city in which to live. Many factors within our city are affected by growth. Public safety, city finances, library resources, housing, transportation, wastewater management, and parks maintenance are some of the many factors affected. Proper planning and informed decision making are vital to managing the growth and development throughout the city. The changes that are driven by the growth need to improve Rochester as a livable city for all residents, across all sectors of the city.
Tell us one decision made by the city over the past two years that you disagree with. What would you like to see done differently?
November 27, 2016 — city council voted 4-3 to revoke the conditional use permit for a privately built skyway, with suggestions for the skyway to be closed or torn down. This vote was retaliatory in nature. Affected parties considered the decision unacceptable and requested cooperation on the part of the city to resolve the issue. Mayor Brede did veto this council vote and the issue has not resurfaced at the council level. Council members need to provide leadership and work for compromise by demonstrating problem solving skills. Working for consensus is important to good governance.
The city is experiencing an economic boom. Still, many residents and business owners remain concerned about affordability. How would you work to ensure the city's growth is managed responsibly?
The council recently approved the Comprehensive Plan (P2S 2040) with the intent of managing growth and development responsibly. The plan provides guiding principles for structuring growth over the next 22 years to make our community better and maximizes livability factors. Growth is encouraged in urban service areas where city infrastructure exists to cost effectively connect with current city serves, such as water, sewer, police and fire protection, schools, park and recreation, and transportation. Implementation of the Comprehensive Plan will require ongoing analysis to determine if the plan is responsive to Rochester residents’ lifestyle choices and overall community vision as change occurs.
Some cities have decided to take the lead on issues such as minimum wage and paid leave. Do you feel Rochester should be doing the same, or are these issues best left to the state and federal levels?
Labor and employment laws are best managed at the state and federal levels. The federal government has not increased the minimum wage since 2009; the current federal rate is $7.25/hour. Minnesota increased state minimum wage in January 2018, based on business size and employee age, the current state rate is $9.65-$7.87/hour. Starting wages throughout Rochester are currently above these minimums. The projected costs for Rochester to effectively monitor and enforce wage and employment ordinances would be a concern. Duplicating the work of state and federal agencies does not make sense when trying to control the growth and cost of city government.
The city council is responsible for oversight of the largest public-private partnership in Minnesota history. What criteria would you like to see applied to developers seeking public assistance?
DMC project developers are encouraged to implement high-energy efficient standards in new and remodel construction through the use of energy efficient materials and practices. Integrating sustainable practices without increasing costs by focusing on utilizing new processes, materials, and Energy Star rated utilities. Tax Incremented Financing is an important tool used to incentivize development. The developer receives a discount on taxes for a period of time, but only on the new property tax portion. If the improvements don't generate the promised property tax revenue, then no TIF is awarded. Currently, 5 percent of all TIF dollars are allocated towards affordable housing.
Destination Medical Center is focused on a relatively small chunk of the city. What initiatives or policies could be adopted to strengthen our neighborhoods outside the downtown?
Strong neighborhoods create a welcoming residential environment and connect residents to the community. The city can support neighborhoods by maintaining parks and public spaces. The city funds Neighborhood Project Grants, RNeighbors administered, to support neighborhood livability and involvement. The Community Development Block Grants Rehabilitation Loan Program assists low to moderate income homeowners with financing home improvements that affect safety, habitability, energy efficiency, and accessibility of their homes. Community celebrations, such as Rochesterfest, 4th of July, and Thursdays on First, strengthen community connections. Faith communities have an important role in building connections in Rochester and providing service for needs throughout our city.
As you have been campaigning this summer, what have you been hearing from residents in your ward? Tell us how you would work to address at least one issue specifically affecting your ward.
Ward 5 residents are concerned about housing affordability. Many are home owners concerned about their fellow citizens throughout the city meeting housing needs. Housing development has not kept pace with demand. Multiple efforts must be used to address the increasing costs of housing — no one solution will fix Rochester’s housing shortage. We need to preserve existing housing, identify regulatory impediments, and use financial incentives from local, state, and federal housing programs. Effective use of available resources such as TIF, Olmsted County Housing & Redevelopment Authority, MN Workforce Housing tax credits, and HUD funding will be key to reaching solutions.
What else should voters know about you?
My family has called Rochester home for the last 22 years. The decision my husband and I made in choosing to live in Rochester, and raise our sons here, has been primary to the high quality of life we have experienced as we raised our family.
I have worked in the Rochester community, focusing on providing programming and opportunities for young people. I have worked in the areas of arts administration, grant writing, and fundraising. I have served the community by working to maintain the viability of arts organizations by strengthening the organizations financially. I have served as a board member on several non-profit organizations and recently completed the certificate program from the University of Minnesota for Festival and Event Management.
If elected to represent Ward 5, I intend to dedicate the time and energy to meeting with residents and representing their issues on the Rochester City Council.
Primary elections are on Tuesday, August 14. You can use your address to view a sample ballot on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.