Rochester's Mayo Civic Center is a small and acoustically challenging venue for the DFL state convention. On Saturday, it was also a useful prop with which to make a political point: DFLers backed Rochester's request for $27 mlllion in the 2012 state bonding bill for a Mayo Center upgrade. Republican majorities did not. As a result, the project was omitted from the bill that became law.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he considered it "nonsensical" that the convention-space needs of Minnesota's world-class medical destination city were spurned.
Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, on hand to bring the city's official welcome to the DFL convention, said that the omission was "extremely disappointing. If I were to say any more, I'd start swearing."
He pulled from his pocket the latest expression of interest in meeting in Rochester from an international medical association, a bronchology group. Brede said the city regularly loses such opportunities now because the Mayo Center lacks a "true convention ballroom" and adequate exhibit space.
Rochester will make a bid for a share of $47.5 million the bonding bill set aside for competitive grants, to be administered by the Dayton administration. Competition for that money will be keen, Brede said, and he considers any suggestion that its distribution will be shielded from politics "naive."
Whether state government will help Minnesota cities finance their civic ambitions is among the questions that is tacitly before voters this year. Republican legislators, including Rochester's David Senjem, the Senate bonding chair and majority leader, favor a skimpy competitive grant approach rather than legislative action on regional projects. How three long-delayed civic center requests -- in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud -- fare in the grant process will reveal much about whether it is adequate to the aspirations of growing regional centers.