3 hope to connect voters to the city
By Jeffrey Pieters
Rochester residents feel disconnected from their city government, candidates in the city's 5th Ward say.
Peg Arnold, Bob Nowicki and Randy Staver -- all fresh faces to Rochester's political scene -- say they'd work to change that. They are running to replace three-term council member Mack Evans, who decided not to seek re-election.
All said they'd work to improve communications with constituents, trying to re-engage people's interest in city affairs.
"I believe in good communication," Nowicki said. "I'd like it to be easy for people to talk to me."
All three are longtime residents of the 5th Ward, which covers the city's hilly northeast.
Arnold, 43, and Staver, 45, have lived in Rochester nearly all their lives. Nowicki, 63, grew up on Chicago's south side but spent nearly all his adult years here during a 32-year career with IBM. He's now retired.
While much of the city's recent growth has occurred outside the 5th Ward, candidates said they'd try to rein in Rochester's runaway expansion before it stretches city resources too far.
"Uncontrolled growth …; is not healthy," Nowicki said. "It's how we kill weeds."
Candidates took differing views on how the city should proceed on the Dakota, Minnesota &; Eastern Railroad issue.
Arnold said the city should stop fighting the railroad expansion and instead seek the best deal possible through negotiation.
As organizer of Rochester's Med-City Marathon, she said, her encounters with the railroad have been positive.
"They were willing to work with me," Arnold said. "I think the DM&E; can be negotiated with."
Staver took a middling approach, saying the city should stay its current course, but "be ready to negotiate if and when the time comes."
Nowicki defended the city's actions, saying he sat in on some early negotiating sessions, where he determined the railroad was not serious about coming to a resolution.
The current lawsuit "is the only strategy I know of that we've got," he said.
Staver, a Mayo administrator who is chairman of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, said spicing up downtown and adding to the city's supply of low-cost housing would be among his goals.
He wouldn't kowtow to the interests of developers, he said, particularly at the expense of the environment.
"Not every piece of land is developable," he said. "I want to make this a better community for my kids and grandkids. You've got to look at the grand scheme."
Arnold proposed herself as a potential advocate for Rochester's youths and other overlooked citizens.
"I am not a politician," she said. "I am a normal-Joe citizen who wants to represent the normal-Joe citizens of Rochester."
She said she'd take a firm approach to assimilating new residents, in effect telling them: "You are more than welcome here ... but these are our rules and this is how we play the game."
Nowicki, whose background includes work on diversity issues, said he'd back a policy of mutually educating Rochester's minority and majority residents about one another.
"I just think that everybody deserves respect," he said.
BOX: Peg Arnold
Address: 1417 14th Ave. N.E.
Family: Husband, Wally; two children, David, 19, and Daniel, 17
Work and education: Retired business owner
Community and volunteer activities: Co-race director of Med-City Marathon, chairwoman of Rochesterfest's Teen Night, volunteer for Rochester Amateur Sports Commission, co-founder of Med-City Striders, co-founder of Century High School End Zone Club
Previous government positions: None
Top three issues: Making sure people have their voices heard on all concerns, having better communications with Olmsted County and rural townships, getting youths and young adults involved in city government
BOX: Bob Nowicki
Address: 802 Northern Hills Drive N.E.
Family: Wife, Joan; three daughters, Cheryl, Cyndi and Caryn
Work and education: 32 years at IBM working in variety of fields, creator and producer of Barefoot Santa, professional development speaker and lecturer
Community and volunteer activities: Board member of Rochester Neighborhood Resource Center, won Mayor's Medal of Honor for work with neighborhoods, Neighborhood Watch block captain, board member of Diversity Council, volunteer at Riverside Elementary School, volunteer tour guide at Rochester History Center, member of Kiwanis and former lieutenant governor with that organization
Previous government positions: Member of Rochester Police Civil Service Commission, chairman of the Mayor's Advisory Council on Neighborhoods, 1996-2000
Top three issues: Continue to do whatever we can to minimize impact of increased train traffic, plan and manage city growth, promote communication and cooperation with citizens and neighboring governments
BOX: Randy Staver
Address: 2707 Century Lane N.E.
Family: Wife, Sheila; three daughters, Destiny, 21, Tiffany, 18, and Brittany, 16
Work and education: System analyst in publishing media technology at Mayo Clinic; graduate of Mayo High School (1975) and Winona State University (B.S., 1979; MBA, 1987)
Community and volunteer activities: Historic Preservation Committee, Samaritan Bethany Corporation, Junior Achievement, Community Education, Redeemer Lutheran Church
Previous government positions: Current chairman of Planning and Zoning Commission, former chairman of Zoning Board of Appeals
Top three issues: Managing city growth, renewing the vitality of downtown Rochester by developing a comprehensive plan, managing city finances in a responsible, cost-conscious manner