Rochester mayor explains veto of open gym pilot program

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:35 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Rochester Mayor Kim Norton is explaining her reason for vetoing an open gym proposal made by Rochester city council members last week.

Council member Shaun Palmer proposed an open gym pilot program which would be a partnership with Rochester Public Schools. The gym would be open during mostly winter months, last 30 weeks and cost $50,000 of contingency money. The proposal was supported by six other council members, including Mark Bransford, Molly Dennis, Norman Wahl and Patrick Keane. City Council President Brooke Carlson voted against it.

Mayor Norton requested two weeks to research, talk to other city departments and community members before the vote, but the council declined to grant the time. That’s when the mayor made the veto.

Norton said vetoes like this are rare because she and the city council usually agree on issues.

“For me, it was the process, bringing things forward, just fresh from the table without proper discussion is problematic,” Norton said. “Particularly when it comes to spending money directly without asking our staff to do the work.”

She said she wants to evaluate if open gyms are needed, as there are other outlets like the Rec Center available.

“I don’t weigh in very often on what city council does,” she said. “I really think the two-week delay wasn’t too much to ask, so I was pretty taken aback when they said no. I don’t think it would’ve hurt anything to assess what the city really needs.”

Mayor Norton said she doesn’t think the money should come out of the city’s reserves.

“I think it should really come out of the parks and rec department,” she said. “And, if they need more money, then they should ask for it.”

She said she isn’t opposed to looking at the proposal again once research is done. The veto document can be found here.