Candidate profile | Regina Mustafa
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?
I see affordable housing as the city’s greatest challenge. While listening to groups and meeting people from all across the city, the rise in housing prices is a common cause for concern. We need policy-driven solutions to [ensure] every Rochester resident has a financially manageable place to call home. We can do this through working with our local state legislatures to ensure more government support, inclusive zoning, and providing tax credits and density bonuses to help offset the costs to developers. I also believe establishing a $15/hr minimum wage will help with affordable housing.
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?
Our city council voted to allow Committee of the Whole meetings to be live streamed and recorded for the purposes of transparency and accessibility. This vote was vetoed by Mayor Brede. The council then lacked the super majority to override the mayor’s veto. I disagree with this outcome. Our city needs a transparent local government. Concerns about transparency have been a common concern for many in Rochester. There is so much conversation and thought-processing during the COW. Being unable to attend a 3:30 p.m. meeting is not an option for many in our city. Others have mobility issues and/or lack transportation options. Our city must move forward, not backwards.
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?
As our city’s population expand, we must pass policies and make decisions that reflect the core principles in the comprehensive plan. By using infill, transit-oriented development, and incentives for small business owners, we can stay ahead of the curve and ensure the longevity of our residents and small business owners alike. Rochester has the same square mileage as Minneapolis, yet we have a fraction of the tax base. By developing in areas where infrastructure already exists (infill), we can strengthen our tax base and create economically sustainability as we are better able to deliver city services to our residnets. Our long tradition of sprawling is not sustainable. By following transit-oriented development (TOD), our mixed-use storefronts and housing will follow along transit corridors and vice versa, thus fostering business growth. Indeed, money towards transportation should be viewed more as an investment, with other cities showing a tremendous return on expenses when expanding transit.
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 believe our city should make its own decision regarding establishing a living wage. I do support the incremental establishment of a $15/hour minimum wage, depending on the number of employees, similar to Minneapolis. Of course, I think to have a statewide $15/hour policy would certainly help achieve this goal, but I believe Rochester needs it nonetheless. I myself, just two years ago, worked in food service and make $9.53 and hour. Some of my coworkers worked two jobs, sharing stories of how they couldn’t afford time off of work to see their healthcare provider. In our city that prides itself in top notch healthcare, this is unacceptable. Even if you make $15/hr, and 30 percent of your income is used towards housing, that only leaves you with $780/month for your home. We all know how difficult it is to find housing at that rate in Rochester.
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?
I am a huge supporter of expanding our public transit system, and I believe this can help bring the benefits of the DMC to our neighborhoods. That will be my top DMC-related goal as mayor. The DMC must help create a people-first city that makes the use of transit most appealing when getting to work, school, health care providers, grocery stores, and entertainment. The DMC transit piece (recommending bus rapid transit), the comprehensive plan, and the bicycle master plan, all provide the tools to help spark business growth and development into neighborhoods. I am also exploring the potential of a branch library in Rochester’s neighborhoods. The creation of more outdoor gathering spaces (along with better bike paths and trails) in the surrounding neighborhoods would also help, along with taking some events out of downtown and bringing them to the surrounding areas.
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?
As mayor, I would bring to the DMCC Board the concerns and voices of residents from all areas of Rochester. While attending the listening sessions of our city’s six Wards, I’ve heard: a concern for being left out, putting patients before residents, transparency, and the concern of rising costs of living. I believe the DMC is a tremendous opportunity for our city, but we must ensure the people who live and work here are kept at the highest priority. We must be an example of how our nation’s city of health not only provides top notch health care, but also takes care of the health and well-being of its community members. As mayor I will bring my years of experience listening to the concerns of our diverse communities to the DMCC Board.
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?
As our city grows, it needs strong leadership. Even within the duties of the mayor as laid out in the city’s charter, the mayor can bring forth policy to the council. The mayor can also guide the council and help unite them in the policies she seeks. We need a mayor who is fully invested in city policy and procedure. One of the mayor’s roles is to select people for boards and commissions. These seats are vital to our city, as they educate and advise the city council. As mayor I will see to it that the seats are filled by qualified individuals who represent the populations we serve.
What else should voters know about you?
I have been a resident of Rochester for over 12 years. I am a wife and mother of two young children. Currently I am pursuing a Masters Degree in Counselor Education from Winona State University–Rochester. In 2014, I formed an interfaith nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering education and understanding among Rochester’s richly diverse communities. I have long been involved in grassroots efforts aimed at strengthening our community. I have served on the City of Rochester Ethical Practices Board and am the current vice chair of the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission.
I am the recipient of several awards including the Champion of Diversity from the Diversity Council of Rochester, and the Mayor’s Medal of Honor in 2016 from Mayor Ardell Brede.
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