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Furst Draft: Public buy-in essential for DMC

In Friday's paper, we published an excellent story by MPR News' Elizabeth Baier about the process that Mayo Clinic used to draw up the Destination Medical Center plan that was unveiled in late January.

To say it was closed-door would be an understatement. Mayo all but closed the big bronze doors on the Plummer Building to keep information from getting out until they were ready to release it.

When they made the announcement Jan. 30, it was like a thunderbolt out of the blue for just about everyone in Rochester (including me and the P-B newsroom). Until that time, the proposal was vaguely known by a different name, Destination Medical Community, and it was promoted as a way to make Rochester more friendly and accommodating for medical visitors. It was not a $6.5 billion plan that involved a half-billion dollars in state money.

The P-B has reported and commented many times on the process, but Baier had new details in her story, and she also came up with a memo and list of 30 people who were on a DMC "work group" in April 2010, some of whom signed non-disclosure statements. P-B reporter Edie Grossfield has a story today with reaction from city and county leaders who were inside the loop, or not.

The inner circle

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We've asked for a list of the participants previously, and I asked again last week. Lisa Clarke, the DMC administrator for Mayo, said she didn't know who gave a copy to Baier and hasn't provided an alternative list, so for today, I'll go with the list from April 26, 2010. These people were on the list to attend that meeting:

Jeff Korsmo, DMC chair (who since has left Mayo)

Dr. Glenn Forbes, DMC vice chair, Mayo Clinic

John Wade, DMC vice chair and president, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce

Jessica Aguilar, Mayo Clinic

Susan Ahlquist, community relations administrator, Mayo Clinic

Ron Amodeo, director of business development, Mayo Clinic Health Solutions

Jeff Bell, section head of illustration and design, Mayo Clinic

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Audrey Betcher, Rochester Public Library

Dr. John Black, chair, Mayo Clinic Facilities Committee

Mayor Ardell Brede

Dr. Michael Brennan, Center for Innovation

Melissa Brinkman, chair-elect, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce

Randy Chapman, Post-Bulletin publisher

Lisa Clarke, division chair, Institutional Communications, State Government Affairs and Community Relations, Mayo Clinic

Liz Dahlen, KTTC general sales manager and Chamber board member (now a Chamber employee)

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Don DeCramer, chair, Division of Architectural/Engineering Design Services, Mayo Clinic

Norm Doty, Express Employment Personnel Services

Jon Eckhoff, executive director, Rochester Downtown Alliance

Bruce Fairchild, Hospitality First, Regional Director of Operations, Sunstone Properties (then-owner of Kahler hotels)

Julie Hansen, division chair, Mayo Clinic Finance

Mark Hayward, vice chair, Department of Facilities & Systems Support, Mayo Clinic

Brad Jones, executive director, Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tessa Leung, owner, Sontes Restaurant

John Murphy, communications consultant, Mayo Clinic

Gary Neumann, assistant city administrator, City of Rochester

Maureen O'Brien, marketing consultant, Mayo Clinic

Lorna Ross, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation

Dr. John Schaffner, Gastroenterology and Hematology Department

Gary Smith, president, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc.

Chris Tatting, planning services, Mayo Clinic

Also attending were three "guest participants" from consulting and lobbying firm Hammes Co.: Bob Dunn, Amy Supple and Sarah Carpenter.

There are 30 names here (not including the Hammes staff) and 17 are from Mayo. So we're down to 13 who represented non-Mayo interests. Of those, three were from the city (and none were from Olmsted County government), two were Chamber leaders, and Eckhoff, Smith and Jones. That leaves five.

Then there are the P-B publisher and the KTTC sales executive. We in the P-B newsroom received no information from Randy Chapman's involvement, or from any other participant. For the past year, we attempted to get details on the evolving plan, especially in advance of the Nov. 6 election. That's when Rochester voters decided the fate of the local option sales tax , which included $20 million for "Destination Medical Community," with vague details about how the money would be used.

The first I became aware of what we now know as DMC was at a late afternoon meeting Jan. 29 at the Mayo Building with a few other P-B reporters, the mayor, Mayo officials and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy. The project was announced in St. Paul the next day.

According to Grossfield's story today, even City Council Interim President Randy Staver was unaware of the legislative initiative until it was announced Jan. 30.

Lack of transparency

Back to the work group list. So three people represented the community more broadly, and all were business people closely aligned with the Chamber: Tessa Leung, Norm Doty and Bruce Fairchild, who now lives in Texas.

As Baier says in her story, "As the process has unfolded, some lawmakers and Rochester residents have complained they were caught by surprise when clinic officials announced the project known as Destination Medical Center in January."

This is an understatement. The lack of transparency prior to Jan. 30 has been a major issue locally.

Clarke says in Baier's story, as she has many times since DMC was announced, that the community was deeply involved in developing the plan. "We had focus groups, we had opportunities for the community to weigh in, we've had brownbag sessions," she was quoted as saying. "This is before and after we publicly announced it... So if there was any question about whether or not the community is involved, we've said from the start the goal was to involve the community."

There have been plenty of meetings since January, but it's not accurate to say the community was involved meaningfully before that.

Why does it matter at this late date, with DMC poised to become law? It matters immensely, not only for how DMC is implemented and how it may transform Rochester, but for understanding how and why it came about.

DMC long ago ceased to be a "private-sector led, private-sector driven initiative," as Wade says in Baier's story. He's quoted as saying, "It is not a private enterprise's primary responsibility to share everything they do from a business perspective."

When you go to the Legislature and ask for extraordinary taxing powers, development authority and a half-billion dollars in infrastructure and transit funding, however, it's not a private matter.

DMC has been called the biggest economic development project in Minnesota history. It's not asking too much to want more information on how it came about, and to expect transparency and true community involvement as it moves forward.

Related Topics: MAYO CLINIC
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