Candidate profile | Spencer Goetzman
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?
The greatest challenge facing Rochester is, simply, that we aren’t adequately facing our challenges. We have major economic and class disparities that are being sidestepped. We have to get better at self-evaluating. We need to want to find our shortcomings, not simply insist we are doing everything right. This way, we become proactive to addressing the issues instead of being reactive to the latest crisis. I will work to ensure our decisions are in-line with our citizens’ goals. We need someone who wants to be accountable to the people when these important decisions are being made.
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?
It’s not a specific decision, but rather a strategy that is being employed. Tax Increment Financing is the tool of choice to spur our economic growth and achieve our required DMC investments. Let’s be very clear: this allows our city to act as venture capitalists with our tax dollars. If we are to continue using TIF to fulfill our obligations, it must be done more prudently. TIF was created to improve blighted areas, but specific legislation gave Rochester a pass on that requirement. It is being overused at the expense of our schools, parks, roads, other essential services.
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?
This coincides with the previous answer. Everyone has a right to be concerned. Property taxes are the largest, most crucial source of our city’s budget, and we have lofty goals. TIF money is all property taxes. We are subsidizing the best properties in town with millions in property taxes (that we already need), in exchange for developments that aren’t giving back enough. Current tactics will either force citizens and essential services to suffer more, or result in an increase in the property taxes and sales taxes we pay. I will insist on prudent spending and earmarking increased taxes from developments.
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?
These are such important issues to me. I qualified for free lunches growing up, and I’ve stood in line at the food pantry as an adult. I am wary to get behind policies that avoid talking about the real issue: being poor. We may improve wages, but I would have to be convinced 100 percent that those costs wouldn’t be passed on to the poor, and wouldn’t hurt the businesses we need here. I would love to find a solution and will always be willing to have any conversations, but I would rather focus on lowering cost-of-living.
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 love our different neighborhoods here. For so long, we have been seeing our neighborhoods improve as they carve out their own identity. I support the idea of encouraging more small, multi-purpose developments (not strip mall, not single-purpose/big lot) within our neighborhoods. There is some money available for projects like this but the window of opportunity is limited and info is not heavily disseminated. I hope to get more involved with the neighborhood associations to assess needs and encourage the right connections. It’s possible with some more intentionality, and flexible zoning (perhaps better use of TIF money).
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?
Again, I hope to represent the people of Rochester. I want the best for our largest employer as well the smallest, so I take the DMCC Board role very seriously. First and foremost, I believe cooperation will always yield a better result than competition. My approach will always try to recognize the position of the other board members. I will also reserve the right to make decisions on behalf of the city because that was the intent of the legislation. The mayor should be able to defend the decisions, strategies, and developments being brought to the council.
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?
Again, cooperation will always yield a better result than competition. A bully is not a leader. I will use the position to encourage conversations on behalf of people here. I would rather work to ensure we take more time for discernment. These decisions and policies will impact us for years and, ultimately, elected officials are responsible. It’s unfortunate that all the changing roles of mayor, council, and department-heads has not been addressed, yet the DMC legislation has been underway for years. My intent is to build off the momentum of having so much new talent on city staff.
What else should voters know about you?
I was born and raised in Rochester. I graduated from Mayo HS in ’96. My personal and professional background is quite varied and I believe all the experiences will lend themselves well to the role of mayor. From years of running a business, two decades in the trades, and management in the service industry, to a civil service background working for the city as a Firefighter/EMT and a military background with two deployments. All my experience involves on-the-ground management, and implementation of tactics. It’s been about making critical decisions that impact real people, both short and long-term. I want to get involved on behalf of the people here.
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