Staver stakes run on experience
In terms of practical community experience, Rochester voters rarely see a candidate who has prepared himself for a city council job as Randy Staver has.
Over the last decade, Staver, a candidate for Seat 5 on the council, has served on pretty much every important city board or commission. He currently heads the Rochester Downtown Alliance, and serves on the city's Charter Commission and its recently created Ethical Practices Board.
"Whatever experience and knowledge I have, I would look for that to increase ten-fold" if elected, he said.
While some might see Staver's resume as evidence he is too "inside" City Hall and its customary practices, Staver sees it only as a benefit.
"I think that experience base is critical," he said. "I think it would be very challenging to serve on the council and not have some preparation."
"I'd like to be able to apply that knowledge and experience to address some of the challenges the city faces, and do some thoughtful planning," Staver said.
Growth on the horizon
It may not seem likely now with housing starts down and the economy in a rut, but Staver sees the city eventually resuming its rapid growth, mostly north along U.S. 52 and south down Marion Road.
That presents "steep challenges" to the city to keep up with demands for services, he said.
The issues are complex, and the answers, often, are too, Staver says. Take, for example, the crime issue. Adding eight new police officers this year, including four to focus on "hot spots" of crime, is part of what's needed, he said.
But "I want to make sure that we're balancing our resources on elements such as crime prevention, as well as on the street patrols," Staver said.
School liaison officers are important, too.
"That's where you really make those connections with youth, and stay connected with things that are happening in the community," Staver said. "You have an opportunity to influence and listen, and hopefully prevent some of the things from happening on the street."
Staver supports the city's planned $1.82 monthly residential streetlight fee, which he describes as "responsible and forward-thinking" in light of continued, unpredictable cuts in the city's state aid.
"You could argue it's a pre-emptive strategy to anticipate shortfalls and be prepared," he said.
"We could have seen taxes go up 13, 14 percent," Staver said. "It's kind of 'darned if you do, darned if you don't.' This was a sincere attempt to responsibly manage tax increases."
Likewise, Staver supported another controversial past council decision, to offer financial aid for a skyway extension to the downtown City Centre office building. It is one more step in bringing together two south legs of the downtown skyway to form a loop, he said.
"That's always been part of the original plan, to provide one continuous circle in the downtown area," he said. "The only remaining piece would be the one to cross Broadway."
To help Rochester realize the goals of the new Downtown Master Plan, the city government's role is mostly to provide infrastructure and convene the main players, Staver said.
"The tricky part is the execution of the vision, and that, clearly, the city cannot do on its own — should not do on its own," he said. "But what they can do is facilitate those public-private partnerships where they make sense."
Staver proposes that the city implement a process of analyzing and ranking its services, called a "service grid model." The model was developed by Olmsted County nearly a decade ago as a tool to make choices in tight times which services to cut.
"I think we need to take that step back and look at how we spend the finite resources we have," Staver said, "before we just assume we have to raise taxes or look at other revenue sources."
Voters frequently ask his partisan leanings as he goes door-to-door, Staver said.
"I tend to be conservative," he said. "I believe in a safe community and good schools, good streets and things like that."
He supported the city's creation of a domestic partners registry.
"At the end of the day, it certainly didn't harm anyone, and it helped some people," he said.
Staver describes himself as a "bridge-builder."
"You need good, independent thinkers" on the council, he said. "But you have to be able to execute on those ideas.
"Ninety percent of success is in building relationships," he said.