State of the City address highlights opportunities for future
At the turn of a new year, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede in his State of the City address Monday highlighted some of the city's greatest achievements of the last year.
For the coming year, he called on Rochester residents to be compassionate in building an inclusive community.
The mayor, now in his 14th year in the seat, also touched on sustainable energy action, public safety improvements and new opportunities for the city in his annual address. His comments were echoed by Rochester City Council President Randy Staver.
The mayor challenged the city to implement sustainable energy practices with a proclamation Oct. 12. The proclamation called for creation of a comprehensive energy plan, which has since been spearheaded by the Center for Energy and Environment, with the assistance of the McKnight Foundation and the support of the Destination Medical Center Corp. Board.
"This is an opportunity for Rochester, Mayo Clinic and the DMC to be recognized for sustainability worldwide," Brede said.
Rochester marked a 40-year low in crime levels in 2015 and the city renewed its commitment to public safety in its budget decisions for 2016 by adding more police and firefighting positions in the city staff.
The Rochester Police Department has posted clearance rates for violent crime 9 percent above the national average and for property crimes 13 percent above the national average, while also aggressively pursuing human trafficking cases in the city, Brede said.
Brede also lauded the Rochester Fire Department for being "one of the finest not only in the state but in the nation" for its commitment to providing full-service responses and for becoming a national leader in its patient's cardiac arrest survival rate.
Destination Medical Center plans were a theme throughout the mayor's address as the 20-year public-private partnership evolved from an extensive planning process to an implementation phase in 2015 and into 2016. Other opportunities are also arising from the city's willingness to look outside its borders, Brede said.
Rochester could become the first U.S. city to join the Intercultural City Initiative, an opportunity Brede said he would this year present to the city council.
"We would be joining more than 60 cities in Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Canada providing measurable progress toward a vision of a more inclusive, cohesive and equitable city supporting a strong and diverse economy," Brede said.
In comments following the mayor's address, Staver pointed to statewide trends, such as an aging population, an increasingly diverse population and an economy still recovering from recession years.
Demographic data presented by Susan Brower, Minnesota state demographer, showed the population of adults who would turn 65 years old in this decade would be greater than the past four decades combined; the population of adults 65 and older was projected to eclipse the 5-17 year old population for the first time in the state's history, Staver said.
The state is also becoming more diverse as the largest foreign-born groups in the state come from Mexico, Somalia, India and Laos, Staver noted.
While the state's demography shifts, the economy is also transitioning — slowly — out of recession years. The household median income of Minnesotans, $58,900, was above the national average of $51,400 in 2012, but income gains have not been realized in real terms and have actually fallen about $2,000 below 2008 levels, Staver said.
The state's demography data is valuable in Rochester, Staver said, because the city does not live in isolation.
"We must realize that we have different growth drivers and we can't keep planning as though past trends still exist," he said.
"The changes we are experiencing can't be ignored," Staver said later. "We need to embrace diversity given its impact on our population, our workforce, our economy and so much more."
As the city accepts these changes, Staver said the core responsibilities of the local government would remain the same, and the city would continue to reflect the will of the community as it addressed new challenges.
"The next chapter of Rochester's growth will be very different. Definitions are changing and we are asked to define new normals Along the way, it is unrealistic to think that we will always agree. However, we will continue to rely on public input through thoughtful and civil discourse," Staver said.