A grassroots organization aimed at keeping public attention on Rochester's growing community needs met Thursday at St. Francis of Assisi Church to set the group's priorities.
The In The Shadow of Growth group's second meeting drew more than 100 people. Rochester resident Dave Beal moderated the event, emphasizing the group was not focused on or opposed to the city's Destination Medical Center initiative. Instead, he said the group wants to make sure all needs are addressed as the city grows.
"We're all here because we care (about our town)," Beal said.
Attendees "voted" for issues by placing stickers on posters. Affordable housing and transportation received the most votes. Walkability, land use and quality of public spaces received the least votes. Additional topics suggested by the group included sustainability, earning a living wage, social justice, impacts of climate change and non-profit safety nets.
Beal said the information from Thursday's meeting will be used to organize action groups in the future.
After voting, the attendees broke into discussion groups, with each taking turns sharing what they thought would be important to achieve. Expanded affordable housing, social services and help for low-income individuals were the most repeated items.
"We should be a community that takes responsibility for its most vulnerable members so everyone has a chance," Richard Rodeheffer said during his table's turn to speak.
Distributing city growth evenly across areas, developing businesses and jobs beyond medical professionals and making sure the public has input throughout the decision-making process were also frequently mentioned.
A subgroup among the speakers was heavily focused on calling for tax reductions, holding public officials accountable and making the group vigilant of whether people's property rights are being violated.
Beyond specific goals, many attendees said they should organize the group as an association or similar organization.
"When one guy tries to get the city to change, he can't do much. But when it's a unified front, they can make a difference, " said Bob Maegerlein, a retired local resident.
People interviewed at the meeting were enthusiastic about the group's progress.
Andrea Kiepe said she was energized by how many people attended and how engaged the people were in discussions.
"It will be important that we focus on getting action from local decision-makers. We'll have to stay on them to keep them on high alert about local issues," Kiepe said.
She said she wishes people had been this organized when legislation was being passed so they could have had more of an influence. But she said she is confident they will still make a difference.
On a side note, group organizers said the similarly focused In The City For Good group plans to merge with In the Shadow of Growth. Beal said the move is meant to unify their identical efforts.
The next meeting of the In the Shadow of Growth group will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at Christ United Methodist Church.