John C. Kruesel and Kevin A. Lund: Still too many unanswered questions about DMC
As the Destination Medical Center legislation hurtles its way at warp speed to a final vote by the elected representatives of the state of Minnesota, it is time to pierce through the blitzkrieg of slick marketing, expensive lobbyists and political campaign-style nonsubstantive sound bites that have thus far dominated the public discussion.
We have been given roughly three months to consider this proposal, and many have endeavored to raise serious, thoughtful and legitimate questions with respect to a complex initiative that has taken at least three years and millions of dollars to develop, with no communitywide input. The vast majority of these questions have neither been acknowledged nor answered.
DMC is promising, "conservatively," 15,000 good-paying jobs over the next 20 years and an additional 30,000 to 45,000 jobs spurred by this unprecedented public funding mechanism. This will theoretically triple our already robust projected population growth anticipated to naturally occur without DMC, if we assume a corresponding population increase of three people per job.
If the DMC job promises are accurate, what effect will this dramatic population growth have upon agricultural, residential, commercial property and other taxes that will be required to cover not only the previously projected $800 million gap in infrastructure funding over the next 20 years as it relates strictly to streets, bridges and sidewalks, but also similar infrastructure demands created by the DMC initiative? What will be the projected funding gap for sewers, storm sewers and parks that is just now being analyzed by Rochester and Olmsted County?
What will be the social justice costs attributable to creating affordable/accessible housing, expanding law enforcement, fire protection, social services, judicial resources, community corrections, mental health care, public and private educational institutions, as well as alternative learning centers, such as Hawthorne Education Center, in the wake of this population explosion? Will nonprofit entities such as the United Way, Rochester Area Family Y, Salvation Army, Women's Shelter, Zumbro Valley Mental Health Center and others be able to serve the critical needs of growing and underserved populations?
Every aspect of the DMC Corporation must be subject to the open meeting laws/government data practices. Legislation of this scope and magnitude usually takes at least five years to make its way through the legislative process, so implications about data practices, open meeting laws and donor disclosure can meaningfully be discussed understood and appropriately incorporated into a proposed law.
Critical to the legislation is the consultants who will advise DMCC. Are they city, county, state, Mayo Clinic or DMCC employees? If paid by Mayo, do they have an inherent conflict of interest in a process that is purported to be open and subject to public debate? Should any consultants/firms thus far hired by Mayo to create and advance its DMC legislation continue to be involved with the DMCC? These are just a few aspects of a small but vitally important portion of the bill that remain unsettled.
The House of Representatives composition of the DMCC board is simply more of the exclusive inner circle. The Senate version is no better.
Instead of a select few, the composition of this community corporation should include two local elected officials and representation from each of the following: Mayo Clinic, Independent School District #535/private schools/alternative learning centers, one of the surrounding Olmsted County communities, the downtown business/development community, public safety/social services/corrections/ mental health, RCTC/UMR/Winona State, a core neighborhood association, the Minnesota House of Representatives (central Minnesota) and the Minnesota Senate (northern Minnesota).
If DMC is determined by the State to be a legitimate public purpose and in this community's best interest, then a truly representative cross section of the community should be intimately involved in its planning, development and implementation.
As it has publicly unfolded in the past two weeks, this legislation's only relationship to the delivery of health care is in its appeal to the well-heeled patient. The true intent, as reflected in the just unleashed "DMC Infrastructure Master Plan" — which this community has never been afforded any opportunity to consider — is to commercially transform our downtown and surrounding residential neighborhoods with 5 star hotels, Las Vegas style atriums, Disneyland-like trams and other undisclosed commercial development plans that have likely been in the works for years.
Don't you believe the citizens of Rochester should decide if, when and how we should be "transformed"? The premise of this legislation, according to DMC's marketing department, is that people will not come to Rochester for world-class medical care because our downtown is "woefully inadequate." Other than the vast expanse of Mayo Clinic surface parking lots and parking ramps, this is simply untrue — just ask the uncelebrated downtown small business owners, hoteliers, restaurateurs and their employees who interact with our visitors from around the world by providing their own measure of care and comfort supporting our unparalleled world-class medical community.