Some priorities appear to be shifting with changes in the Rochester City Council.
“There are new values at the table, and that, to me, is understood and expected,” council member Patrick Keane said Monday. “That’s what elections are about.”
At the same time, he suggested some consistency is required to ensure the city has a unified direction.
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He pointed to his own election, which came months after the city adopted a 303-page comprehensive plan that defined a vision for the city’s development and transportation efforts.
He said he joined the council with the established direction, and the city’s four newly elected council members will likely face similar issues, where paths are already mapped out.
He said the council can either “very consciously change it, or respect it.”
Council President Brooke Carlson said taking intentional steps will make sure the council doesn’t lose the footings created by past efforts.
“Sometimes, the great work we have done may need a new lens of our current community context — obviously, a lot has changed — but we still stand on that firm foundation,” she said.
Mayor Kim Norton, who was also elected in 2018, said the same holds true for the community vision, foundational principles and strategic priorities, which were established that year.
“I haven’t ever had input into this,” she said, suggesting the council take time to consider possible changes to the document.
Several council members voiced a desire to make tweaks to reflect community changes, noting the document helps guide decision-making.
“It’s really important to me that we have a document like this that helps us focus on what we do,” said council member Nick Campion, the sole remaining council member who helped draft the current vision and priorities.
Carlson cited one change she’d like to see, which would be shifting from a focus on increasing affordable housing to working to address affordable living, which would add child care, transportation and other issues to the conversation.
Other council members voiced a desire to work toward added community engagement for the council.
City Administrator Alison Zelms said the comments would be considered in developing a plan for further discussion, which would look at strategic priorities amid community changes, as well as needs in the wake of the pandemic.
“We will work on that, and there may be some other conversations we need,” she said.
Campion suggested one initial step could be polling the individual council members in an effort to define their top priorities.
“Not everything can be priority No. 1,” he said.
The council acknowledged that disagreement will likely emerge as priorities are discussed.
“I like where we are going, and I know I’m not going to like some things, and that’s completely OK,” council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick said, adding that disagreement can be used to forge new ideas and direction.
Norton said that is expected.
“We are going to disagree on many issues over the next four years or two years,” she said, adding that all the council members were elected to represent residents on the council.
“As we get to know each other … and have a growing respect for the knowledge, experience, options and feelings we all bring, it’s OK not to agree on things,” she added.
Monday’s discussion, which was Zelms’ first council meeting, was intended to be a high-level look at how the City Council will define its priorities for the city.
“It helps us move forward together to deliver what you want,” said the new city administrator.