Charter amendment, 2001

From Oct. 24 through Nov. 2, NCO hosted a panel discussion and forum on the proposed change to the City of Northfield’s Charter from a council-mayor to a council-manager form of government. Panelists included Hartley Clark, Jim Finholt, John Lundblad, and Elaine Thurston from the Charter Commission, City Administrator Scott Neal, Mayor Keith Covey, and Catherine Christian, citizen.

Greetings to our esteemed panelists: Catherine Christian, Hartley Clark, Keith Covey, Jim Finholt, John Lundblad, Jim Miller, Scott Neal, and Elaine Thurston.

Thanks for being willing to participate in this online discussion. Our purpose is to provide another means for the citizens of Northfield to getting better informed about the proposed change in the City Charter prior to the Nov. 6 vote.

Please post a brief note introducing yourself. No resumes, please, just a brief blurb on your current involvement (as a professional and/or as a citizen) in government-related matters… including, of course, anything that’s relevant to the issue at hand: the proposed change from a council-mayor to a council-manager form of government.

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Keith Covey – 05:52am Oct 23, 2001 CDT (#1 of 15)

Northfield Mayor

Mayor, City of Northfield

I was elected to a four year term as mayor last November and took office January 2, 2001. Under the current system, the mayor is the chief executive officer of the City. I favor the change to the council-manager form of government. I look forward to discussing my reasons for supporting the change, and my reservations, during the forum.

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Griff Wigley – 08:12am Oct 23, 2001 CDT (#2 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Keith, thanks for being the first to sign in and your willingness to be on the panel. Reservations? Good to know we’ll be hearing them!

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jfinholt – 08:40am Oct 23, 2001 CDT (#3 of 15)

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission Member

I have been a member of the Charter Commission for the past three years. I have been involved in many community service activities. For ten years I was a member of the Northfield Hospital Board. I have also served on the Executive Committee of the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative. I am an active member of the Northfield United Methodist Church and currently chair the Trustee Committee.

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Griff Wigley – 08:45am Oct 23, 2001 CDT (#4 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Welcome aboard, Jim.

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John – 02:13pm Oct 22, 2001 CDT (#5 of 15)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

I’m John, Chair of the Charter Commission. I’ve lived in Northfield since 1982 and served previously on the Commission in 1989 during the time the Charter was last reviewed and changed. The commission welcomes your questions. Thank you for your interest.

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Griff Wigley – 01:17pm Oct 23, 2001 CDT (#6 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi John, good to have you here.

Just a note to all the panelists… feel free to take the survey… and let me know if there’s something that you think should be changed before we get rolling tomorrow.

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Catherine – 09:21pm Oct 23, 2001 CDT (#7 of 15)

Catherine Christian

Concerned Citizen

I came to Northfield 30 years ago, but spent a good 20 of those raising my own children and teaching piano to others’. It’s only in the last 3 or 4 years that I have started really paying attention to government.

I feel like a lamb being led to slaughter, since I’m pretty sure I’m the only one of this bunch who might vote against the suggested change to our Charter allowing for a Council-Manager system of government. I will be mostly asking questions.

I do not pretend to represent any body of people, but I hope to emulate the principles of the League of Women Voters, which call for a careful consideration of all sides of an issue before making up one’s mind. The League does not have a position on this issue.

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Griff Wigley – 05:46am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#8 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Welcome, Catherine, and my apologies for the early blurbs I posted that listed your LWV affiliation. You’re now officially listed as our token citizen on the panel. ;-)

I don’t think you have to worry too much about ‘slaughter’ here. Minnesota Nice will prevail. We do need people asking hard questions, though, so I’m glad you’re willing.

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hartleyclark – 09:51am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#9 of 15)

Hartley Clark, Charter Commission

Hartley Clark

I have served on the charter commission for three years and am its vice chair. I taught political science for 38 years including the subjects of local government, constitutional law, and comparative government. I have lived in Northfield since 1948.

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Griff Wigley – 10:20am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#10 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Hartley, good to have you here.

Panelists, we’re ready to roll. I’ve posted some initial questions in the Panel discussion topic where we’ll be spending the bulk of our time from now on.

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John – 12:02pm Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#11 of 15)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

Hi Catherine,

You will are not being led to slaughter. Hopefully, our discussions on-line, in the paper, person to person and in group forums will give everyone access to the information upon which you will be able to make your decision on whether or not the change is practical and in the best interests of the city and its citizens.

All of your questions are welcome.

John

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coalesce – 09:30am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#12 of 15)

Elaine Thurston, Charter Commission

Introduction

Hello, to all. I’m Elaine Thurston, a thirty-year plus citizen of Northfield. I’ve served on several city boards and committees, and nearly six years on the City Council. I am currently a member of the Charter Commission and had a part in writing the proposed amendment.

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Griff Wigley – 09:58am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#13 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Greetings, Elaine. You and Hartley certainly have long-term credentials as active citizens. Kudos to you both.

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Scott Neal – 11:02am Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#14 of 15)

Northfield City Administrator

Intro

Hi. I’m Scott Neal. I am Northfield’s City Administrator. I am making my introductory post a wee bit late due to some technical problems with my connection from City Hall.

I have been both a City Manager and a City Administrator during my career in government. I would be happy to answer any questions.

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Griff Wigley – 11:20am Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#15 of 15)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hey, Scott, good to have you here. My apologies for not remembering the glitch that prevents staffers from City Hall from participating here via the usual URL.

The Northfield.org Web Cafe Government Archives Archived Web Forums (time-limited events) Panel: Nfld Charter Amendment

Panel discussion

Use this topic as the primary discussion area for all-things related to the City Charter amendment. If things get too overloaded or chaotic, I’ll create separate discussion topics.

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Griff Wigley – 07:26am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#1 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

History of the proposed amendment

Ok, it’s Wednesday morning and time to get rolling.

I’d like the panelists to first give us their perspective on the history behind this proposed amendment to the City Charter.

What was the impetus for it three years ago (fall of 1998) when the Charter Commission was first formed? What, if anything, has changed since then to keep the momentum going behind this proposed changed?

Fall 1998 Snapshot: Bill Rossman was mayor. The Council was substantially different. The Target store controversy was just gaining steam.

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Griff Wigley – 07:44am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#2 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Ballot language

Can one of the panelists post the language that’s going to be on the ballot for Nov. 6? There’s zip on the Charter Commission web site and nothing in any of the Council or Commission minutes that I could find.

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hartleyclark – 10:55am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#3 of 47)

Hartley Clark, Charter Commission

History of Charter Change Proposal

The change proposed has nothing to do with any particular council makeup, mayor, administrator, or city policy discussion. It has to do with the condition in which Northfield finds itself. The change proposed will be the city’s last change in basic form and will set the stage for the indefinite future.

Women can hold the position of mayor, but since none have done so in the circumstances referred to below, the work “he” is used to refer to the mayor to save the space and confusion of saying “he or she.”

Northfield would normally have started out in the mid-nineteenth century with the council-mayor form of government consisting of an elected unpaid council, an elected unpaid (weak) mayor, who was a part of the council, and an elected part-time city clerk, who was paid and tended to the city’s business. Council members shared city work with the clerk when the need arose, because there were no other employees. The first employee would normally be a part-time policeman. All street, garbage, or other work was contracted out to private parties. When fire protection became feasible it was handled by volunteers.

In the middle of the twentieth century Northfield’s mayor, council, clerk, and police department all fit in the old YMCA building on Division Street that is now occupied by the Northfield Arts Guild. The fire department was in the building next door. The street department had a barn on the flood plain across the river.

At this time the city hired an engineer, and he, it turned out, would not follow supervision by the clerk. He was educated at the university and she was educated by her long service running all the city’s business. The city decided to change the charter to put all the powers of the clerk in the hands of the mayor so as to put him in a position to mediate between the clerk and the engineer. This gave Northfield a “strong” mayor form, but Northfield never had a strong mayor.

From that day to this the mayor has not had a full-time salary, has not had an office in city hall, has not supervised the day-to-day work of the city, and has devoted as much of his spare time to city affairs as he could while earning his living at a full time private job.

No Northfield mayor has ever wanted to be a strong mayor. It would mean quitting his private profession for one or more terms of office and then attempting to reenter that profession afterwards. He might have to take a step down. In some cases the city could not match the private professional income of the mayor.

The issue came to a head twenty years later (the 70′s) when the increase in city personnel occasioned by its growth in population became too much for the spare time mayor and (now) full-time clerk to handle. The question was: Should we now create a functioning “strong” mayor or should we hire an administrator? The city settled on an administrator, but it neither erased the “strong” mayor language from the charter nor wrote the position of administrator into the charter. At this point the charter started to diverge markedly from city practice.

Twenty years later (the 90′s) the charter commission noted the disparity between the charter and city practices and decided to do something about it. It couild have merely transferred the unused functions of the mayor to the administrator. It seemed desireable, however, to make the very slight modification in existing practice that would come by adopting the council-manager form of government for the city. Principal among the slight differences is the transfer of the appointment of the half dozen department heads from the council to the administrator, who is already responsible for the appointment of the 120 other employees of the city.

Northfield would thus join the ranks of most Minnesota cities and most American cities Northfield’s size or larger in using the council-manager form of government.

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jfinholt – 11:13am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#4 of 47)

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission

Ballot Language

The ballot language was given in the two page flyer distributed with last month’s utility bill.

Shall the Northfield city charter be amended so as to establish a “council-manager” form of government for the City of Northfield, the general nature of the proposed amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot, all as stated in the proposal of the Northfield charter commission dated August 10, 2001?

Explanatory note:

The existing Northfield city charter establishes a “mayor-council” plan of government under which the mayor is the chief executive officer of the city and directs the administration of the city’s affairs. The charter is proposed to be amended to adopt a “council-manager plan of government. Under the proposed plan:

1) The Mayor will be the official head of the city, the presiding officer and chief spokesperson of the city council, will study the operations of city government and report to the city council regarding the same, and will offer the city council leadership in the formulation of policy.

2) The mayor and city council together will exercise the legislative power of the city, determine all matters of policy, approve the annual budget of the city, review the performance of the city manager, and investigate or audit the city’s affairs and accounts.

3) The city manager will direct the administration of the affairs of the city, including appointment and removal of employees, direction of departments of the city, preparation and enforcement of the annual budget, and other responsibilities, subject to review by the mayor and city council.

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jfinholt – 11:22am Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#5 of 47)

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission

Addtional Information That Would Be Useful

Griff,

I think it would be helpful if three additional pieces of information were posted. Digital versions of all of them could probably be obtained from Deb Little in City Hall.

1. The full text of the amendments.

2. The two page flyer distributed last month with utility bills.

3. A brochure entitled “The Council-Manager Form of Government”. This document was prepared by the International City/County Management Association. It is about 4 pages in length and does a very nice job of answering many of the most commonly asked questions about the city-manager form of government.

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Griff Wigley – 01:29pm Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#6 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Jim, thanks for posting that ballot language. I’ve contacted Deb Little to get those documents, too.

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Griff Wigley – 01:48pm Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#7 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Re: impetus for a change

Hartley, thanks very much for that detailed historical background. Very helpful. Anyone else have additional perspectives on the history?

Hartley wrote:

The change proposed has nothing to do with any particular council makeup, mayor, administrator, or city policy discussion.

Do Commission members think that the recommended change might prevent problems in the future, and if so, what might those problems be?

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Catherine – 04:46pm Oct 24, 2001 CDT (#8 of 47)

Catherine Christian

For instance, what if, in the future, a strong manager were to hire his no-good nephew to head a department? What could the mayor, council, concerned citizens do? (For the purposes of this example, suppose that the town had somehow managed to elect a weak mayor.)

In Dennis Sowers’ article in the N’fld News, Frank Boyles (city manager of Prior Lake)is quoted as saying about city administrators, “Because they’re responsible to City Council with personnel issues, there may be more communication in that regard.”

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jfinholt – 05:04am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#9 of 47)

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission

What If The Manager Hires A No-good Nephew?

In the council-manager form of government the manager serves at the pleasure of the council. If the manager is found to be incompentent he/she can be fired by a simple majority vote of the council. This is a strong incentive for the manager to avoid hiring no-good nieces or nephews. The proposed charter changes also require an annual review of the manager by the council to make sure that he/she is doing a good job.

If Northfield operated under a strong mayor system and the mayor hired a no-good nephew we would have to wait until the end of the mayor’s term to get rid of the incompetent mayor.

We must remember that at present Northfield is operating in a manner much closer to a council-manager system than to a strong mayor system. The charter changes being proposed are largely designed to bring the charter into agreement with current practice. The choice we face in November is not really between a strong mayor system in which the mayor actually acts as the chief executive officer of the city and the council-manager system. If we wanted a REAL strong mayor system we would have to make the mayor’s job a full time job with an appropriate major increase in salary.

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Griff Wigley – 07:13am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#10 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Now open for audience participation

I’ve asked former mayor Bill Rossman to chime in here with his perspective on how the Charter Commission got rolling under his watch. He agreed and should post later today.

I’d also like to open this discussion for audience participation now. Feel free to post comments and ask questions, either directed at one of the panelists, or at no one in particular.

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Griff Wigley – 07:32am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#11 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Jim wrote:

We must remember that at present Northfield is operating in a manner much closer to a council-manager system than to a strong mayor system

I can see the reasoning for making the charter reflect current practice. But at the same time, this implies that nothing bad is going to happen if this amendment doesn’t pass. The city will pretty much keep functioning “as if.”

Ed Shukle, Farmington City Administrator, was quoted in the Nfld News article by Dennis Sowers as saying, “If things are working out fine, nobody seems to want to go through the process to change.”

Do panelists expect that it’s going to be tough to get a strong turnout of voters on Nov 6 (other than Ward 1 where a council seat is up for grabs)?

And are there risks for the City to put this amendment before its citizens when there’s no compelling issue at hand?

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Bruce Morlan – 08:35am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#12 of 47)

What if …

the proposed ammendment fails?

Could someone challenge the status quo in an attempt to force the city to follow the current charter? If the proposed ammendment fails, this could become an issue.

Politically, it seems to me that the main problem with the mayor-manager-council model is that it is adding a layer of bureaucracy just because the people would like their mayor to be a high-priced professional working part time rather than a mayor willing to accept a lower wage. Sort of an elitist mentality, if you ask me.

On the other hand, it does serve nicely to separate the manager functions from the political functions, freeing the mayor to concentrate on being a politician/leader rather than a manager/delegator. I would much rather be mayor with a manager and council than a mayor with council.

Personally, I hope the ammendment passes because I hate to see any level of government not playing by the documented rules (the charter). Following the rules at every level is a very important part of what makes us strong.

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Griff Wigley – 10:09am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#13 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Bruce, thanks for joining the discussion.

Could someone challenge the status quo in an attempt to force the city to follow the current charter? If the proposed ammendment fails, this could become an issue.

Hmmm. What would be a scenario that this might occur?

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John – 10:56am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#14 of 47)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

There are provisions for removal of council persons for incompetency, etc., which are there for the citizens to use.

The risk of the amendment not passing seems to be a non-issue. If the voters want the city to operate as the charter currently provides (strong mayor), they could vote in a mayor and council that would follow the current charter form of governance. However, my observation is that it would take a long time to accomplish. In the meantime, we would continue to operate as we are now. It makes more sense to me to change it to council-manager with the specific duties for both mayor and manager that we have set forth in the proposed amendment.

The mayor has specific responsibilities to oversee the mgr. and report to the council anything the council should know about the mgr’s. conduct. The council does not operate in a vacuum either. They observe the mgr’s. conduct and the manager reports to the council on projects, etc., set by the council. Citizens also continue to contact their council representatives when they have any concerns about the mgr’s. operations. The council remains responsive to the public, maybe even more so with the new amendment because currently the mayor IS CHARGED WITH HIRING AND FIRING THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR WITH THE COUNCILS’ OVERSIGHT. Under the proposed amendment, the council is directly responsible for the mgr’s. employment thereby removing a layer of bureaucracy.

The mayor also has the responsibility to be a leader in policy matters with the council, of course, having the final decisions.

The fact that our government apparently is operating ok now is not a reason to continue if it can be improved upon. The adage that ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ is not applicable here. We are trying to make the governance model more efficient and defined. It’s not for just today, but for many years to come. The change now will make our city government more responsive and better equipped to meet current issues and the future challenges which are coming with growth, etc. The council will have more time to address those policy planning issues which face the city and charge management with implementing those policies.

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John – 11:11am Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#15 of 47)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

I meant to refer all of you again to review the previously posted document Council-manager form of government which is a good summary of the concepts and functions of that form of governance.

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Griff Wigley – 02:12pm Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#16 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

John wrote:

currently the mayor IS CHARGED WITH HIRING AND FIRING THE CITY ADMINISTRATOR WITH THE COUNCILS’ OVERSIGHT

Keith and Scott, could you comment on the pros and cons of this from your individual perspectives as mayor and city administrator/government professional?

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Griff Wigley – 02:37pm Oct 25, 2001 CDT (#17 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Here’s an article I came across that illustrates why this issue is such a gray area for average citizens like me. I invite anyone to comment on it.

Strong mayor best option in some cities

http://www.scrantontimestribune.com/stories/specials/manager/698.htm

Last year, faced with some of the same complaints heard in Scranton, it did the opposite of what had been considered here. Spokane threw out a city-manager form of government and adopted a strong-mayor style. Other cities have tossed out strong mayors for city managers. Often, the reasons sound the same — to remove politics and make government more responsive and efficient.

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coalesce – 10:09am Oct 26, 2001 CDT (#18 of 47)

Elaine Thurston, Charter Commission

To Challenge the Current Charter

Challenging the status quo is the basic problem. Responsibilities and relationships of the three elements in our government are not spelled out in the current Charter. All three have always been murky. This could be corrected probably, or at least improved, by including job descriptions for all three categories in the Charter.

Bruce, if you went to City Hall and asked to see the City Administrator’s job description, I’m not at all sure one could be found. We have had mayors in our past, who have known and used their prerogatives, and as strong mayors with other full-time jobs should get credit for that, Paul Hager for one.

Right now Keith Covey is taking his responsibilities and using authority under the current Charter’s definitions. It takes enormous self-sacrifice, as does serving as a volunteer Council member. In fact it is close to suffering.

The premise of the amendment proposal to be voted on Nov. 6 is that now and in the future there will not be anyone, male or female who will want to use his/her leisure to give sufficient time and take the abuse necessary to fulfill the definition of a “Strong Mayor”.

Consequently, the paid professional entitled City Manager will have more authority, and that person will take most of the abuse and I predict a high turnover. Since our City Administrator works under an annual contract, removing that person will not necessarily be easier under the proposed change. It will take a majority vote of the Council in either case. What you are voting for in this instance, is your faith in the energy of democratic local government.

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Griff Wigley – 11:02am Oct 26, 2001 CDT (#19 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Thanks for that detailed post, Elaine… and a glimpse into how hard it is to serve as an elected official here in Nfld.

Since our City Administrator works under an annual contract, removing that person will not necessarily be easier under the proposed change. It will take a majority vote of the Council in either case.

When I first heard the term “strong mayor” to describe our form of gov’t, I assumed this meant that Keith Covey could fire Scott Neal if he wanted to, without putting it to a vote of the council. But I guess this is not the case… our mayor is not that strong. ;-)

Is the flip side that some fear an overly cozy relationship could be fostered between a city administrator and a “strong mayor” since the mayor is essentially his/her boss?

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Tracy Davis – 11:53am Oct 26, 2001 CDT (#20 of 47)

More information needed

I’ve read the flyers about the proposed amendment to the charter, and have read the posts here, but I still feel a little bit in the dark. It’s like, “Let’s amend the constitution to enhance the judiciary branch because it will catch us up on how we’re actually behaving re that balance-of-power thing”. . . only on a smaller scale. It’s the principle of the thing.

I’m not at all convinced that we’re conscientiously examining the long-term ramifications of such a change. Are we sure that this is the direction we want Northfield to go? Why? What’s the worst that could happen if we do this? If we don’t do it? Would a council-manager system make it more or less likely that Northfield would continue in its descent into a Mpls-St Paul bedroom community? Or would it have no effect on things like that?

I don’t think this is just a knee-jerk reactionary response. Besides, if we’re not following the charter now, what makes us think we’ll follow it after it’s amended? Seems to me we’ve got the cart before the horse. “Practice first; policy will follow.”

If the charter commission has some soundly reasoned information on this stuff, I haven’t heard it yet. Does such a thing exist? Or is it in the minutes of the Charter Commission for the past few months? I need enlightenment!

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Griff Wigley – 02:48pm Oct 26, 2001 CDT (#21 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Tracy, good to have you join the fray.

if we’re not following the charter now, what makes us think we’ll follow it after it’s amended?

I see this clause in the job duties of the city manager… which was not previously assigned to the mayor. Does this reassure you?

Subd. 2. The manager shall assure that this charter, the laws and ordinances of the city and the resolutions of the city council and relevant state and federal laws are enforced and carried out.

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hartleyclark – 04:25pm Oct 28, 2001 CDT (#22 of 47)

Hartley Clark, Charter Commission

Strong Mayor For Northfield?

Although the Northfield charter is technically a strong-mayor charter the city has never had a strong mayor and will never have one. The strong-mayor form is meant for huge cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. It is a somewhat authoritarian institution needed to tackle the severe centers of crime, police brutality, friction from racial and ethnic discrimination, poverty, and dilapidation of building stock. The strong mayor presides over the city council, has a veto over the council, supervises all administration, spends full time at this work (all waking hours), and receives a full salary. Different cities have various versions of this list.

Minnesota has four cities with strong mayors: St. Paul, Duluth, St. Cloud, and Northfield. Minneapolis has a weak-mayor system. The system truly fits only St. Paul and Duluth, where the mayors receive full salaries and spend full time running their governments. The resistance of St. Cloud to the strong-mayor idea is demonstrated by the fact that their city council will not appropriate a full salary for their mayor. He works full time for $35,000 per year. Rochester is a possible candidate for a strong mayor but is content with its weak-mayor form. Rochester is not a PROBLEM city.

Northfield wrote the strong mayor provisions into its charter in the fifties in order to allow the mayor to mediate among the small number of employees of the city. There was never any thought that the mayor would become full time or salaried. When the city hired its first administrator in 1971, it should have take the strong mayor provisions out of the charter. The fact that they were left in may indicate a certain tentativeness about hiring an administrator. Now, after thirty years, Northfield has become dependent on its administrators.

No one in the city has an interest in having a true strong mayor. A candidate would have to quit his present occupation and simply do his best to reenter that occupation after serving his term as mayor. Some of the best candidates might find that the full-time salary offered by the city was too low to interest them. It would be a tough job trying to recruit a strong mayor. The odds are excellent that we would not get a good one. We would be stuck with him, however; because there is no way to fire a mayor. He has a right to serve out his term no matter how damaging he is to the city. Administrators and managers can be fired at the will of the city council (four votes out of seven).

Under the council-manager system the mayor would do just what he does now. Since the mayor earns his living from a private occupation, he has only his spare time in which to keep tabs on what is going on in the administration and straighten out things he feels are not quite right. This practice has no reflection in our present charter, but is provided for in the council-manager provision that makes the mayor a kind of inspector of the administration. His on-the-job views heard by city employees are given great weight, because he has the majority of the city council to back him up. And the job of the the manager could be at stake if the mayor senses trouble.

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ChrisR – 08:33pm Oct 28, 2001 CDT (#23 of 47)

Chris Robbins, Nature & Environment Host

Hartley, are you saying that we only have two choices: the strong mayor system that only 4 Minnesota cities have, and the council/manager system? What about the system that Faribault and other cities have, where there is a city administrator and a part-time mayor? What’s that called and how does it differ from the others?

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coalesce – 10:42am Oct 29, 2001 CDT (#24 of 47)

Elaine Thurston, Charter Commission

Strong Mayors in Northfield

I feel we do a disservice to reality and the services of some of our mayors, who have performed as Strong Mayors. I can personally attest to the services of Paul Hager as a strong mayor, and I feel certain that Keith Covey is carrying out the functions called for as a strong mayor.

The supposition of the Charter Commission’s proposal is that many mayors of the past did not perform as so-called strong mayors and leaned heavily on a paid administrator to take all of that responsibility and that the future will not furnish candidates-male or female that will want to give their spare time to local government.

My vote for the amendment proposal was given because the duties of both the mayor and the city administrator are not spelled out in the Charter and are therefore, never clear to the three elements of our government: councilmember, staff , or mayor.

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Keith Covey – 12:29pm Oct 29, 2001 CDT (#25 of 47)

Northfield Mayor

One Mayor’s Perspective

I appreciated the initial postings, especially Hartley Clark’s history of the current arrangement. All I can add to that is that Northfield first voted on, and rejected, the manager form in the early 1920′s.

The questions directed to me so far are about the relationship between the mayor and administrator. Whatever the current charter may say about the mayor’s authority to hire and fire, the practical reality is that hiring and firing an administrator is and should be a responsibility of the full council.

As for a mayor/administrator relationship becoming too cozy, I suppose it’s possible, but the mayor’s job as CEO and chief liaison between council (the board of directors) and administrator suggests that the roles, agendas and accountabilities are sufficiently different that it’s not too likely.

Griff asked whether our purposes here are like some other cities: to remove politics and make government more responsive and efficient. Aligning the foundation document with practice can clarify roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, which can contribute to both responsiveness and efficiency. That’s a primary reason I support the change.

But, whatever the system, it’s the people involved (council, administrator and staff) and the priorities they pursue that determine how responsive and efficient the organization will be. It’s also important to remember that efficiency and responsiveness, both laudable objectives, can work against each other.

Finally, don’t expect any system to take politics out of any aspect of government — we can’t and should not. We need to be very clear that middle and lower level staff should be protected from direct political influence. Otherwise they can’t know whom they are really working for. But the administrator or manager has to be involved in the politics of decision-making to be able to effectively interpret political decisions for the staff.

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Griff Wigley – 04:25pm Oct 29, 2001 CDT (#26 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Welcome to the discussion, Chris Robbins and Mayor Keith Covey. Thanks for chiming in.

I’m still hoping to get Bill Rossman to join in, as well as former mayor Paul Hager.

FYI, Saturday’s Northfield News had two more articles on the Charter Amendment. I’ve requested permission to post them here for reference.

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Catherine – 10:08pm Oct 29, 2001 CDT (#27 of 47)

Catherine Christian

some questions & some info

Hartley:

How many home-rule charter cities – like ours – are there in MN?

How many of these use the council-manager system of government?

Statistic from “The Council-Manager Form of Government” pamphlet:

57% of U.S. cities with populations of 10,000 or more have adopted the council-manager form. (Compare with 63% for…25,000 or more; 53% for…5,000. In other words, the larger the city, the more likely to have council-manager form of gov’t? Until you get up to really big cities like New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul?

Speaking of the ICMA pamphlet, I was surprised to learn from the News that the Council doesn’t yet know how it would choose a manager, since it is spelled out there. The answer to the question, “How is the manager selected?” is: “The vacancy usually is announced in the ICMA Newsletter, and managers in other communities are invited to apply if they are interested. Managers, assistants, and others apply directly to the council, which reviews the applications and interviews qualified candidates…”

Incidentally, for those readers who don’t know, ICMA stands for International City/County Management Association. To quote from their web site, “ICMA’s origins lie in the council-manager form of local government…ICMA actively promotes the council-manager form as the preferred structure”

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Catherine – 11:12pm Oct 29, 2001 CDT (#28 of 47)

Catherine Christian

Now for my opinion

I agree that it would be good to have a full-time professional handling day-to-day matters, rather than going through a re-training of Council members every 2 years. The trouble is, there’s a kind of catch-22 built into the proposed system. Take, for example, the Charter. The Commission says that the City’s government has been operating in violation of, or at least in a way inconsistent with, the Charter as it is now written. If it were to be the job of a manager to see that the Council followed the Charter, but the (non-professional) Council didn’t know what was in the Charter that was not being followed, how would they know the manager was not doing his job? To say that “the manager would serve at the pleasure of the council”, and that the council can fire the manager by a simple majority doesn’t do it for me.

Reason: the theory is fine, but the fact is, as Keith said

it’s the people involved(council, administrator and staff) and the priorities they pursue that determine how responsive and efficient the organization will be.

Personalities can be so different, and really have more influence on whether good government practices are followed than do any theories. It is precisely BECAUSE

The change proposed has nothing to do with any particular council makeup, mayor, administrator, or city policy discussion.

hartleyclark 10/24/01 10:55am

that we must be careful not to add more power to the position of a non-elected official. You never know how effectively a future mayor & council might use its own powers.

Keith, you may believe that it is unlikely that “a mayor/administrator relationship [would become]too cozy,” but that is because YOU understand that “the mayor’s job [is] CEO and chief liaison between council (the board of directors) and administrator.” The fact is that not all mayors have used those powers and might not in the future. As Elaine said, “…many mayors of the past did not perform as so-called strong mayors and leaned heavily on a paid administrator to take all of that responsibility…”

Why don’t we just write a Charter amendment to describe how our government operates now when things are going well? The Mayor and Council make policy and the administration carries it out. “Aligning the foundation document with practice [to] clarify roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, which can contribute to both responsiveness and efficiency.” Keith Covey 10/29/01 12:29pm NOT by changing the balance of power.

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jfinholt – 06:03am Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#29 of 47)

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission

Reply To Catherine

Catherine says

“Why don’t we just write a Charter amendment to describe how our government operates now when things are going well? The Mayor and Council make policy and the administration carries it out.”

This is exactly what the Charter Commission has attempted to do. There is no change in the balance of power. The mayor and the rest of the council have full power to set the policies which govern the city. The charter amendment clarifies lines of responsibility, it does NOT shift power from the mayor to the manager. If anything, it gives the mayor and the council more power to set policy because it specifically states that that is their job. In the last issue of the Northfield News there is an interview with exadministrator Fahey that illustrates why the charter amendment is needed. He said he was frustrated by the charter’s lack of clarity in defining his job.

Jim Finholt

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jfinholt – 06:05am Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#30 of 47)

Jim Finholt, Charter Commission

Three Reasons To Vote Yes On The Charter Amendment

1. The City of Northfield is big business. It has a multimillion-dollar budget. It employs many people. Northfield needs a well-trained, well-qualified professional to take care of all the day-to-day administrative details in an effective and efficient manner.

2. It is important that job of mayor be one which an ordinary citizen can fill on a part time basis and continue to have a full time job away from city government. If the mayor were actually responsible for administering all aspects of operating the city it would have to be a full time job.

3. It is important that the mayor have the time to concentrate on major policy matters. This is only possible if there is a professional manager to take care of the administrative details.

Jim Finholt

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Griff Wigley – 11:26am Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#31 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Council meetings

Keith and Scott,

How would Council meetings and work sessions be different under a council-manager form?

I was assuming they’d be less cluttered with consent-agenda type stuff, but is that true?

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hartleyclark – 01:33pm Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#32 of 47)

Hartley Clark, Charter Commission

Stillwater, Faribault, and the natural evolution of Minnesota cities.

More than 99% of all cities in Minnesota and in America have a weak Mayor form of government. The weak mayor form is compatible with Administrators and with Managers. If Northfield adopts the Council-Manager form of government it will become formally a weak Mayor form. A strong Mayor form of government is not compatible with either an Administrator or a Manager. Strong mayor governments usually hire people called administrators, but they do not head up the administration. The Mayor does. All strong mayors have full salaries and work full time supervising their city administrations. A city Council that has not appropriated a full salary and has not expected full time service from its mayor has made its Mayor a weak Mayor, regardless of what powers of the Mayor have been stated in the city charter. Stated but unfunded powers of the Mayor become like the powers of the Queen of England. There is no way they can be exercised.

Do not confuse a fine, honest, intelligent, hard working, and effective Mayor with a strong Mayor. The strong Mayor system is simply a definition of powers, rights, and duties of a Mayor. A strong Mayor may be timid, mean, dishonest, stupid, slothful, and destructive.

The natural progression of administrative forms in Minnesota first finds a city like Stillwater with several departments like police, streets, engineering, and finance that have been created by the Council and whose heads are appointed by the Council and are coordinated as best they can be by the city Mayor and Clerk. In Stillwater when this arrangement could not handle the volume of work, the city hired a Coordinator to do such things as line up the business of the departments for the Council’s weekly agenda and collect budget estimates to form an annual budget. The departments remained bound to the Council, however, and the Coordinator was powerless to supervise them.

This arrangement was satisfactory in Stillwater until the weight of city business became too great for the Mayor and Council to supervise, and at that point it created the office of Administrator in place of the Coordinator. This has just happened in Stillwater. The new Administrator in Stillwater has the responsibility for most hiring and firing and for supervising the departments of the administration. The Mayor and Council still appoint department heads. The new Administrator in Stillwater will have a tough time at first, just like our first Northfield Administrator in 1971; because department autonomy dies hard and departments will try to appeal to the Mayor and Council over the head of the Administrator. In time, the departments have to fall into line, because there just isn’t enough time available for the Mayor and Council to hear all their complaints.

A city administration needs its Administrator-led phase to settle down. All of the cities between 10,000 and 100,000 in Minnesota that do not have Managers have Administrators. Stillwater, which is the size of Northfield, was just slow in adopting the office of Administrator. Most cities in Minnesota progress directly from management by the Mayor and Clerk to management by an Administrator. Most do not go through the Coordinator phase as Stillwater did. That may have something to do with Stillwater’s delay in creating the office of Administrator.

Many counties have Coordinators, but their problem is different and more difficult than the problem of a city. They have departments whose heads are elected by the public and do not have to submit to supervision by anyone outside their respective departments. This will not improve until the state legislature scraps elective county administrative offices.

Note that the Faribault administrator says that a Council-Manager system more clearly defines the roles of the administration and the elected officials and prevents the elected officials becoming bogged down in administrative details. In other words he envies the Council-Manager form.

What pushes a city from the Administrator form to the Manager form is the pressure of work on the Mayor and Council. They become aware of how increasingly hard it is to keep pace with their documents from the administration. They know how often they have to meet until midnight. They despair about recruiting their successors to carry the same burdens and without pay.

The Mayor and Council themselves must decide how to lighten their load, but they decide it bit by bit each meeting as they add more to what they expect of the city staff. I have noticed a distinct change in the Northfield Council in this regard since the Charter Commission began talking with the Council about lightening its load and availing itself of greater administrative assistance through a Council-Manager form. The Council is making an effort to lighten its load. The quality of Northfield government hangs on that effort. The more sane the work load the greater the number of Northfield citizens there will be who can consider running for office.

Although the Administrator already appoints most personnel and supervises all personnel, one change the Council-Manager system will make is that the Manager will appoint department heads. This will mean little to the Council because the Council will have to devote some of its time anyway to helping the Manager interview candidates. But the change will have a noticeable effect on supervisory efficiency in the administration. As long as the Mayor and Council appoint department heads there will always be a feeling by those appointees that they might get the Council to excuse them from some directive of the Manager’s they don’t like, such as a request to reduce their budget estimates by 10%. A straight-line chain of command is always less convoluted and more efficient.

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hartleyclark – 04:14pm Oct 30, 2001 CDT (#33 of 47)

Hartley Clark, Charter Commission

Charter cities and the council-manager form.

Out of Minnesota’s 853 cities there are 107 that have charters. It is larger or more literate cities that tend to have their own charters. But the group includes some small cities too, like Tower (pop. 500). The rest are governed directly by state laws dealing with city government. The non-charter cities are called statutory cities. Charter cities have the advantage that they can exercise more flexibility than the statutory cities in implementing their form of government, and they can incorporate the Des Moines plan. The Des Moines plan is the reserving to the public of the right to initiate ordinances by petition, challenge ordinances by petition and recall elected officials by petition subject to a vote by the citizens. The Des Moines plan is in our charter. It is more trouble to write and maintain a charter, but statutory cities have a murkier view of what is legal in their case, because state law on local government is changed by the legislature every year and is full of inconsistancies and gaps. The average citizen (and city) is at the mercy of attornies and the courts to find out what the law of statutory cities is.

There are 30 charter cities using the council manager form of government in Minnesota, 12 of them smaller than Northfield. The smallest city in Minnesota with a manager is Lancaster (pop. 332), which is not a charter city. They likely have a locally recruited part-timer as manager. The great majority of Minnesota cities using the Council-Manager form are Northfield’s size or bigger and employ full time managers with specialized university education and whatever length of experience the city can get.

The important thing to keep in mind on the subject of appointment of a manager is that in a city government the council is sovereign. There is no way a citizen can force it to make a pronouncement on a subject on which it does not wish to speak. It can do what it wants when it wants to do it. The charter cannot change that. The only way to know whether a manager is going to be hired or fired is to know what the majority of the council (four members) want to do. The only way a citizen can influence the process is by speaking out and voting and running for public office. If you elect the candidates you want, you might get a forecast. But, you might not. The only way to see how changes in council membership will pan out is to watch and see. The only way to see how an administrator or manager will pan out under a changed council is to wait and see. If an administrator or manager cannot abide a certain change in the council, he is likely to leave on his own. An administrator or manager who stays is usually prepared to cooperate with and help whatever majority has emerged.

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Griff Wigley – 08:53am Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#34 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

City money used for promo materials

I got a voicemail from a citizen who said that KYMN reported on the news this morning that the Secretary of State’s office issued a statement or a ruling that it was NOT appropriate for the City of Northfield to use City money for the promotional mailing to the citizens recommending approval of the Charter amendment.

Can charter commission members comment on this?

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Griff Wigley – 11:10am Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#35 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

KYMN talk show

I listened to parts of today’s talk show on KYMN with John Lundblad, former mayor Gerry Anderson, and Councilmember Galen Malecha.

Both Anderson and Malecha are against the Charter amendment… as was Wayne Eddy, who used the word “neuter” a couple of times to describe what he thought the Amendment would do to the City.

It seemed to me that the crux of their opposition was that they thought the Amendment would make the city manager too powerful and not accountable enough to the citizenry who can elect a mayor every four years to control them. I think they were arguing (correct me if someone heard it differently) that a professional manager typically comes from outside the town, is more interested in their career/resume, and doesn’t have the rootedness and long-term interests of the town in mind like a mayor would.

Anderson also thought that the “emotional” exchanges that have marred recent City Council meetings could be made worse by a change to the Charter.

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Suzannah Y. Ciernia – 01:12pm Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#36 of 47)

Suzannah Ciernia

If the form of government we now have has been in violation of what the current Charter specifies, how will we be assured that any changes will be enforced? And by whom?

Who provides the oversight and necessary discipline to insure our government’s actions are in compliance with Charter guidelines?

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coalesce – 03:03pm Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#37 of 47)

Elaine Thurston, Charter Commission

Charter Commission’s Use of Funds

Monies spent to arrive at recommendations for Charter amendments, to inform the public, and to seek public approval for them are authorized under state law: 410.06. The Charter Commission is appointed by the Courts, and is, in that sense, another entity of government (but one which requires Council or voter approval for its recommendations). Staff time and attention as well as funds spent are all authorized by Minnesota law.

One of the reasons for this recommendation is to clarify responsibilities among the three elements of city government: mayor, council, and paid professionals. We can hope that will cause less contention. Elaine Thurston

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John – 04:02pm Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#38 of 47)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

KYMN discussion

I participated in today’s KYMN discussion as mentioned by Griff, above.

The argument seemed to be that a mgr. would be ‘distant’ from the citizenry and insufficient accountability of the mgr. if the mayor’s role change and the mayor wouldn’t be answerable to the voters if they were unhappy. Think through it – The mayor NOW has the responsibility of hiring and removing the city administator, BUT ONLY WITH THE CONSENT OF THE COUNCIL. The responsiveness of the mayor to the voters is, therefore, misplaced in the sense that it is the council which, in effect, hires and removes the c.adm’r.

Under the proposed change, the mayor would not have that responsibility and the council would directly hire and remove the city mgr. and the mayor would be one vote in that process. If the citizens are unhappy with the mgr., they still have no recourse but the election process unless there is a recall of a councilperson based on charter or state law provisions for removal. The mayor’s ‘local’ roots and loyalty have nothing to do with a mgr. hired from the world of professionals.

In fact, wouldn’t it be better if the mgr. were from the outside to start with so as not to be subject to preconceived ‘political’ influences or biases which would take some of the objectivity out of decision making. But that is getting somewhat philosophical and that is not ground where I wish to tread in this letter. That is for the council to consider when hiring/removing a mgr.

Regarding hiring a mgr. from the ‘outside’ world, I know that I commented on that concern. A city adm’r or mgr. needs expertise, experience, etc., in filling that position. For example, Scott Neal is not from Northfield, but I think no one doubts his allegiance to the city or his commitment to good government even if some may disagree with him or his method of managing the city. If Scott were to leave, the council has the responsibility to hire a competent city adm’r or, with the change, a manager. The council sets the process for hiring a new manager. That would, presumably, include the council’s job description, qualifications, advertising for candidates, screening and interviewing candidates and then hiring one.

The council has several specific guidelines with which to start its process as outlined by the proposed amendment describing the duties and responsibilities of the city manager. The council has the prerogative to add specific criteria to supplement the charter guidelines and make it more specific to Northfield. The ‘new’ city manager will fully understand what is being required of him/her and the council has the responsibility to review his/her administration at least annually according to the charter. The accountability is direct to the council and the mgr. has clear directives under the charter and council review.

I submit that an employer never is guaranteed that an employee will work out as envisioned when hired, but the amended charter provides excellent checks and balances to see to it that the mgr. is fully accountable and removable upon the council’s majority vote to do so. The citizens are not excluded from criticizing the city mgr. or the council for the mgr’s perfomance. The citizens continue to have input to their elected representatives and the right to vote for or against a councilperson just as we do now.

The observation that a charter change somehow jeopardizes the ability to monitor or control emotional exchanges at council meetings is interesting. I’m curious as to how the charter could control those spirited discussions. The council meetings are presided over by the mayor or pro tem and the council has control of those meetings within its grasp. If there are unacceptable, disrespectful, ‘too’ emotional exchanges, those are for the presiding officer to control or the council to control thru agreed upon internal processes that are not part of the charter.

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Griff Wigley – 05:09pm Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#39 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Charter Commission’s Use of Funds

Elaine wrote:

Monies spent to arrive at recommendations for Charter amendments, to inform the public, and to seek public approval for them are authorized under state law: 410.06.

So then what is KYMN referring to when they reported on a ruling by the Secretary of State’s office? Did their news folks just phone someone there and ask them or was a complaint filed that the Secretary of State ruled on? I didn’t hear the report, so I’m not sure what was said.

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Griff Wigley – 05:45pm Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#40 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Underlying themes

I was struck by Jerry Anderson’s use of the phrase “people on the street” (I think that was how he phrased it) to underscore his contention that many of the citizens he’s talking to are against the Charter Amendment. It made me wonder if this issue is being cast — inadvertently or not — as a class issue somehow.

Also, this debate over the Charter amendment seems to be taking on additional baggage from other conflicts — the recent council flap over the NDDC and the commercial development plan for downtown, which in turn goes back to the deviseness over the Target store.

Are people are assuming that the outcome of the Charter vote will somehow have a direct and immediate bearing on current “hot topics” facing Northfield?

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Griff Wigley – 05:47pm Oct 31, 2001 CDT (#41 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Hi Suzannah, welcome to the discussion!

Can the Commission members tackle her questions? She wrote:

If the form of government we now have has been in violation of what the current Charter specifies, how will we be assured that any changes will be enforced? And by whom?

Who provides the oversight and necessary discipline to insure our government’s actions are in compliance with Charter guidelines?

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Keith Covey – 12:30am Nov 2, 2001 CDT (#42 of 47)

Northfield Mayor

If It Passes….

Referring way back to Griff’s question about effects on Council meetings, at this point, I’m not counting on automatic relief from routine stuff in Council meetings. I’m told that we still have to deal with virtually all of the resolutions we’ve always had. The question is whether we and staff can force ourselves to focus our actions on the bigger picture and learn to treat specific resolutions as part of a policy (a pattern of consistent action) or program that was previously adopted or is being established with the action at hand. It still comes down to people, not documents.

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Scott Neal – 09:27am Nov 2, 2001 CDT (#43 of 47)

Northfield City Administrator

Also, if it passes…..

No form of government guarentees that people will work together with other people. The Council-Manager form of government provides a more distinct governmental structure than a Mayor-Council form of government in case people can’t work together cooperatively. But, personalities can still get in the way of productivity in either form.

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John – 02:23pm Nov 2, 2001 CDT (#44 of 47)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

In response to Suzannah – The council, mayor, city manager all have responsibility to conform to the Charter mandates. If there is discretion allowed by the Charter, those persons still must be accountable. The citizens are the final guardians of the charter, but most are not aware of the charter specifics. I suppose no one can guarantee that the charter will be followed, but the mayor under the existing and proposed charter is charged with seeing that the charter, state statutes and local codes and ordinances are followed and enforced. The city manager will also have that responsibility as specifically cited in the amendment.

Ideally, the council and the city manager review the charter, know its contents, and will follow it. It is an education process for new council persons and staff, but it is also to be known and understood by the existing council and administrative staff, in my view. Orientation for everyone, old timers and new timers, is crucial for their job descriptions. It should be just as crucial that the Charter is a familiar and working document for those people.

Does that help?

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Griff Wigley – 02:46pm Nov 2, 2001 CDT (#45 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

Keith wrote:

I’m not counting on automatic relief from routine stuff in Council meetings. I’m told that we still have to deal with virtually all of the resolutions we’ve always had

So consent agenda items like this would still clutter up the council mtg agenda?

RESOLUTION #2001-273 – APPROVING WORK AND AUTHORIZING FINAL PAYMENT FOR RIVERVIEW INDUSTRIAL PARK STORM SEWER IMPROVEMENTS, 1999 IMPROVEMENT NO. 18

RESOLUTION #2001-277 – APPROVING PERMITS, LICENSES, AND BILLS PAYABLE PRESENTED TO THE CITY COUNCIL AT THE SEPTEMBER 17, 2001 MEETING

It seems that as long as these items keep appearing on the agenda under a council-manager form, the basic message to councilmembers is that they’re still supposed to pay attention to nitty-gritty details… and that shift to a focus on policy that this amendment is supposed to bring about will be undermined.

Can commission members comment on this?

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John – 02:57pm Nov 2, 2001 CDT (#46 of 47)

John Lundblad, Charter Commission

To Griff’s comments Griff Wigley 10/31/01 5:45pm

First – I’m not assuming that the charter amendment is meant to address hot topics specifically. The ripple effect may be that the council will have more time to address planning, policy, etc., that will include hot topics. The council will debate them, direct the mgr. to implement the council’s decisions and monitor the progress and outcome with the manager reporting to the council directly and directly accountable to the council. The mayor will have the oversight responsibility to see that the mgr. is not negligent or derelict in his duty and report to the council.

Second – If the discussion is taking on additional baggage as you have observed, it may be coming from persons who object to the change for whatever reason and want to cloud the merits of the amendment with disingenuous arguments that, on the surface, either seem connected or raise emotions that block reasonable debate.

Third – It was clear to me as a participant in the KYMN radio discussion that Jerry was talking about the ‘people in the street’ being against the change and that the ‘collegial’ interests (his term, as I recall it) are in favor. He also mentioned that the town is growing and that growth includes a lot of ‘working type people’ (as compared with college professionals as I heard the conversation). That was a pointed remark and not a subtle comment.

At the same time, Jerry talked about the town being divided over issues and referenced the Target matter as an example. I’m not clear how that relates to the charter amendment as he explained it. My comment was, in summary, that there are issues which the citizens discuss and debate from a variety of viewpoints and from which more than one strong opinion emerges. However, everyone in town is pretty collaborative and congenial for the most part. We agreed that there are differences of opinion. However, I strongly disagree that all the ‘college types’ are on one side and the ‘working types’ are on the other.

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Griff Wigley – 10:30am Nov 5, 2001 CDT (#47 of 47)

Web Cafe Community manager, forum moderator

End of the Charter Amendment panel and forum

Thanks to all the panelists for their excellent participation, to all the citizens who posted comments and questions, and for everyone else who followed along.

Be sure to take the post-forum straw poll at:

Griff Wigley “Post-forum straw poll: City Charter” 11/5/01 10:26am

Don’t forget to vote on Tues, Nov. 6. Find your polling place using the nifty locator at:

http://enrupload.sos.state.mn.us/oss/

You can follow the election results on the City of Northfield’s Web site at: http://209.163.42.1/2001election.htm

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