Friday, July 15, 2005

Rump Group Issues Mayoral Candidates a Final Exam

It sounds much more absurd than it really is. While the Rump Group calls this document which has been issued to the candidates a "survey", it really comes across as an exam to measure whether the candidates are in agreement with Rump Group position papers. That may sound strange to some people, as it did to me. Stranger still, I think it's a good idea. Yes, if one is familiar with the Rump Group and their position papers, you can see this merely is a barometer to measure how in agreement the candidates are with the group. However, the survey provides voters some salient details without spin. Some of these questions require answers I'd like to see, such as:

1. Do you support providing a single point of contact for businesses in Rochester to work with in matters of permitting, zoning and other city government issues? (yes or no)

2. Business investments, expansions and relocation decisions often involve city permits and other applications. The amount of processing time to approve these projects greatly affects the cityÂ’s business climate. As Mayor, would you be willing to benchmark against comparable cities and implement an approval process which guarantees approval for city permits and other applications within
30 days or less? (yes or no)

3. Do you support special tax incentives to stimulate retailing in the central business district, such as suspension of sales taxes or the establishment of a Business Improvement District? (yes or no)

4. a. Do you think the establishment of a casino in downtown Rochester should be strongly considered as part of our economic development strategy? (yes or no)
b. Should we strongly consider the establishment of a casino elsewhere in the five-county area? (yes or no)

5. If current city revenues from the sale of water will be maintained, do you support the merger of City and county water authorities in Monroe County? (yes or no)

6. What single economic development project is your top priority — either a new or existing project? (No more than 10 words)

No more than 10 words? Is there a time limit? Does the survey require using a Number 2 pencil? What happens if they don't use a Number 2 pencil?

These are practical questions that lend themselves to practical answers. If the candidate merely dances through these questions, it'll be easy to spot. But if the candidate has some vision, this is an opportunity for it to shine through. It can also be an opportunity for a candidate to make some waves by coming out squarely opposite to some Rump Group view. I'm not advocating that strategy mind you. I find myself thinking the Rump Group are on the right track 90% of the time. Just the same, if your campaign is spinning its tires, sometimes swinging for the fences can get you farther than just hoping for a base hit. I think I just fulfilled my quota for bad cliche's right there...

The two questions that come near the end are the ones I'm most eager to read the results of:
20. If the city received an incremental revenue increase of $5 million, what would be your first priority for using the money? (specify tax reduction, a “rainy day fund” reserve, or a specific program or department you would fund -- no more than 10 words)

21. If the city received an incremental revenue decrease of $5 million, what would be your first priority for dealing with the shortfall? (specify tax increase, borrowing,or a specific program or department you would cut -- no more than 10 words)

What are the safe answers here? Are there any? I can imagine, given recent events public safety will figure into the first question. Throwing money at a problem is as old as politics itself, but the second question raises my eyebrow. What is there left to triage? The ferry? After all we've been through with that? Given the emphasis being put on developing waterfront areas, I think such an answer would be horribly short sighted. We'll see.

Only a few days until the surveys are due. Pencils down on July 18th. I'll stay on top of this and link to the results.

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