Candidate profile | Kim Norton
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?
Community members express concern about the growth related to DMC and how it might affect the quality of life and safety of residents. Growth and change are inevitable. What DMC offers us is a planful, participatory opportunity unlike anything we’ve seen the in past. When I think of “progress” for our community, I envision and will encourage changes that create space for community use; sustainable building design that improves our environment; transit options that reduce congestion, improve air quality and expand service; development that supports greater density while diversifying safe neighborhoods; and a historic, cultural and art environment that inspires.
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?
The decision to defer moving Committee of the Whole meetings to a larger room with video until 2019. Having our city government operate in the open and encouraging public participation in decision-making are two of my top priorities. I believe these important, informational meetings should be made more accessible and transparent through the use of a larger venue, live-streaming and video recording. Access to information helps citizens gain a deeper understanding of issues and influences on decisions made by city council and helps them evaluate their performance. This process is a critical part of keeping our government accountable to residents.
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?
DMC has actually increased the city and community’s opportunity to plan, give feedback and modify suggested development projects. Given that the Mayor has a seat at the DMCC board table, our next mayor must possess strong leadership and negotiation skills. The impact of DMC on downtown properties is a mixed blessing, as it will likely cause both property tax increases and business and property value increases. As mayor, I would ask the right questions about development proposals, and I would insist that city and DMC leadership perform proper analysis of any related short-term and long-term impacts on the community.
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?
I strongly believe that all full-time, hard-working Minnesotans should be paid enough to support themselves. It would be ideal to have the federal government increase the minimum wage, but this is unlikely in the short term. I am aware that many small, locally-owned businesses fear that a one-size-fits-all approach to wages will harm their ability to compete and provide benefits. I would support an analysis of the impact of enacting laws at the local level by studying short- and long-term impacts to workers and business owners, and use this data and the experience of other cities to guide our decisions.
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?
A first step involves improving communication with residents from throughout the city and encouraging strong engagement in the planning process. Creating an “Office of Neighborhoods” that I saw while visiting Portland, OR could also help us achieve this goal. This office could enhance the work of RNeighbors and would provide information and support for people who want to solve problems or become more involved in plans that affect their neighborhoods. Actively seeking more input from residents can help our city make smarter, more fair decisions and increase opportunities to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives here.
One key responsibility of mayor is serving on the Destination Medical Center Corporation Board. As the voice of Rochester residents, what would you bring to the position?
My participation in DMC’s evolution and development at the Legislature and particularly in securing the city as the final decision-maker, combined with a history of successful working relationships with Mayo Clinic, is unique. I worked to ensure that local officials had a seat at the DMCC table and the ultimate say in what happens in our community. I have a solid and long history of public service and leadership, and a record of working to ask tough questions, seeking out and listening to people with differing opinions, and working with the community to build bridges toward finding smart, fair solutions.
There has been much discussion about the role of mayor; specifically, whether the mayor should be more involved in matters of city policy. If elected, how would you manage the office of mayor?
We all want city regulations/guidelines that make government effective and fair for everyone. I have worked in the policy realm for over twenty years and believe that as mayor I could play a stronger role in policy by bringing forward new ideas, by participating in discussions, and through interactions with council members and staff. The recent involvement of Government Alliance on Race and Equity and Intercultural Cities Initiative are examples of ways the city can re-examine policies/ordinances to assure they are fair and equitable. As mayor, I will play an active role in neighborhood/ward discussions to hear citizen concerns firsthand.
What else should voters know about you?
I have spent the past 25+ years serving the public as an elected official or volunteer. I served for 10 years in the Minnesota House and 8 years on the Rochester School Board. Before that, I served on the boards of multiple community agencies. After retiring from the State Legislature in 2016, I completed a Bush Fellowship and earned a Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota ‘s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, with a focus on leadership and energy policy. I am married to Randy Stone, the mother of four grown children, a step-son and a proud grandma. Throughout my career, I have earned the reputation of being a person who works hard to allow all voices in our community to feel heard. I also have years of experience building bridges within our community, and I excel at helping groups reach fair and consensus-driven decisions.
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.