Rochester’s next city council president will have a seat on the state Destination Medical Center Corp. board.

Tuesday, the candidates for the seat were asked for their thoughts regarding the DMC plan as they met in the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum livestreamed from the Rochester Public Library.

"I think the DMC has been very successful in accomplishing its mission,” said Kathleen Harrington, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

She said the initiative is leveraging Mayo Clinic intellectual property and assets to attract business and improve downtown, as intended. However, she said the city could do more.

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“I urge the city to become much more involved with economic development as it has intensely been focused on downtown,” she said, noting DMC is limited to the defined district in the city’s core. “The city must be much more focused on the other parts of the community.”

Her opponent, Brooke Carlson, acknowledged the geographic limits of the effort, but also said DMC must turn its attention to finding ways to include the broader community.

“Looking ahead is the opportunity for DMC to more meaningfully and directly engage with our greater community and figure out what is beneficial to all of us who live and work here,” she said.

She added that many city residents are concerned about the potential negative impacts of DMC without seeing the positive developments, which include the ability to design inclusive and welcoming spaces, along with transportation services that help connect the entire community.

“There are direct benefits to our community from DMC,” she said. “I think DMC has the opportunity to speak about those more clearly, especially as we move ahead.”

To varying degrees, both candidates voiced support for moving ahead with plans to develop a dedicated bus rapid transit system along Second Street Southwest and Southeast, connecting a transit hub to the downtown with frequent buses.

Harrington said it’s hard to determine whether the current plan is the right fit based on a changing economy and shifting workforce practices.

At the same time, she said the city needs to keep an eye on the future.

“We also have to move ahead,” she said. “It takes years to get the funding necessary to complete such a project from the federal government.”

Carlson said she’s still studying the issue to understand the investment needed to bring federal funding for the project, but she voiced support for developing a system that meets future needs.

“A transit project such as this creates longer-term opportunities for those to not only get in and out of downtown, but to develop that corridor that does benefit the community,” she said.

She added that ongoing design decisions will need to include the people most impacted, such as businesses that could be affected by development of the project.

Tuesday’s forum was conducted in partnership with the League of Women Voters, the library and the Post Bulletin. The forum, as well as others in the series, are available on the library’s website.

Forums for other Rochester City Council candidates are scheduled to be held next week, with each starting at 7 p.m. and being livestreamed by the library.

The remaining council forums are:

  • Oct. 6, Ward 2 candidates Mark Bransford and Michael Wojcik
  • Oct. 7, Ward 4 candidates Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick and Katrina Pulham
  • Oct. 8, Ward 6 candidates Molly Dennis and Craig Ugland