Charter Commission mulls changes but drops the transparency ball

Strother Martin Today’s Nfld News (Commission suggests changing governmental powers) says that the Charter Commission is considering revisions to the Charter, granting “… executive power to the mayor’s office…” I’ve got no opinion on the issue yet but I can’t understand why Charter Commission members (Bill Beck, Peter Dahlen, David Emery, Jayne Hager Dee, Victor Summa, Elaine Thurston, Gina Washburn) aren’t communicating at all with the public on this issue – or anything else. There are no minutes on their City web page since May; and they’ve provided no updates in any of the Board And Commission Memos that began this spring – not April, May, June, or July. The Captain would not be happy.

51 thoughts on “Charter Commission mulls changes but drops the transparency ball”

  1. Griff; The charter commission minutes , on the City’s website go back to 1/18/2005.
    I would suggest you ask some questions, to which you want answers, of Councilor Jon Denison. He attends the Charter Commission meetings (although he is not the liaison; I am not aware that there is a formalized liaison) so you might surmise that he feels the need to ‘watchdog’ the CC, as he often reports back to the City Council about their activities, such as those of the subcommittee which has been working on a possible revision of the form of government. I’m sure he would have an opinion to offer you.
    Does that help?

    1. I am glad to hear that Mr. Denison continues in his diligent attention to city matters. Sounds like the kind of thing that a Councilperson should be praised for, and that the rest of us might aspire to.

    1. Griff: It appears that there was no meeting in June, maybe only the subcommittee meetings, and the July 21 minutes are probably just not posted yet; Jennifer Nash is their minute-taker, you could ask her… from May back there seem to be minutes all along.
      As for the “updates you mention: Quien Sabe? Ask one of them…

  2. Kiffi, I’ve added the words “since May” to the blog post.

    It’s distressing to see an article about this blasted across the front page of the Northield News but then to have nowhere to go as a citizen to read about how this issue developed on the Commission.

    Aug. 8 2009 Northfield News front page

  3. I took a closer look at the May minutes and see now that issue was discussed. The rather obtuse description of the action: “Identify the philosophical aspirational goals for city governance and align the language of the charter to support those goals.” How could I have missed what that meant? 😉

    Discussion/Conclusions

    Dahlen asked for Commission input on whether the timeline for form of government is still valid. The commission will still be using this timeline.

    (Summa joined the meeting at 5:11 p.m.)

    Beck stated that he believes that Ordinance No. 801 put in place a system that the voters voted against in 2001 and suggested that the Charter revert to the system prior to passage of this ordinance. The Commission discussed Beck’s suggestions.

    The Commission discussed the status of form of government and how the City is run.

    Washburn suggested the Commission formulate goals for what could be achieved by changing the Charter.

    Some Commission members expressed that they believe elected officials are not educated enough on the Charter and the Commission discussed whose responsibility it is to ensure that officials are educated.

    The Commission discussed whether they want to try to solve issues they see or formulate goals and move forward on achieving those goals. Members were on both sides of the discussion.

    A motion was made by Thurston and seconded by Dee to call the question. All in favor. Motion carried. Following the vote, the Commission discussed what the next steps would be. Beck, Emery and Thurston will work as a subcommittee to formulate goals and bring information back to whole group to discuss.

    Action

    A motion was made by Washburn and seconded by Beck to IDENTIFY THE PHILOSOPHICAL ASPIRATIONAL GOALS FOR CITY GOVERNANCE AND ALIGN THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHARTER TO SUPPORT THOSE GOALS.

  4. Councilor Jon Denison stopped by my office at the GBM this morning to let me know that the Charter Commission has audio recordings of all its meetings, though he didn’t know if the June subcommittee meetings were recorded. I’ll check with City Hall on the availability of the audio.

    1. Well, because, Patrick, he would not answer me, as he did not, when I brought it up after Joel Walinski’s update re: the Betcher ( Betcha this isn’t the first letter like this that has gone out) letter, which was, in Joel’s words that the city had not received such a letter but did understand that there was such a “letter floating around” … which I thought was an amusing choice of words since the existence, if not the actual letter, was indeed info that had been “floating around” town all day with one of the councilors!

      A question ( s ) is this: if such a letter is NOT public information , as the Goodhue County Attorney said it is not, then what is the ethical position of a councilor who has been involved in the conflict, disseminating the information?
      and another … And if it is NOT public information, and the Goodhue County Attorney says it is not,and it had not been given to the “city” as Joel said, then how did that councilor obtain the information BEFORE it was posted on the NFNews site?

  5. Kiffi,
    You, of all people, should know that the Northfield rumor mill is a very busy thing – that sometimes even is right.

    Clearly, the letter is now public information, as a copy was provided by Mr. Roder’s attorney to the local paper. If Mr. Roder is willing to share such information, I can’t see how anyone is hurt by it being in the public domain – or that any confidentiality was violated.

    Much like Mr. Ludescher, I’ll offer the following unsubstantiated guess as to what happened:

    Mr. Roder received the letter – or at least heard it was coming.
    Mr. Roder or his representative/friend/supporter wanted it known that his client was not going to be charged, so that person passed around the word, knwing the paper would get word, and ask for the letter.
    Mr. Roder’s lawyer answered the request, and provided the letter.

    Mission accomplished.

    Or, you can cite the roving rumor as yet another reason for you to disapprove of Mr. Jon Denison. If you think he was sreading it. Whichever you prefer.

    As for Jon Denison not wanting to talk to you – well, he does know how to read, so he probably has a pretty good understanding of how you and Victor feel about him and just about everything he has ever touched.

    1. Patrick: whether or not the letter is a public document is not a matter of opinion; it is a matter of law, and I don’t know that either of us is able to know that, I am stating what attorneys have said; it has also been said that a letter like that has no validity unless signed by a judge. I don’t know; do you?

      As for your support of Jon Denison, you are obviously ‘compatriots’ , or some level of acquaintance… for your edification, I can also read, as well as see, hear, and listen, and therefor have a very good idea of actions that I believe to be very deleterious to this community… among others, ask any of his former landlords just to begin with.

  6. Kiffi,
    Oh my, you really don’t like Mr. Denison, huh?

    Sadly, I don’t think I can call myself a ‘compatriot’ of Jon’s. The last time I spoke (or even communicated) with him was around December. The last time I saw Jon was at the Taste of Northfield – and sadly, I was burdened down by an occupied stroller, and by the time I had reached the location where I had spotted him, he had moved on.

    Still, I’ll be proud to consider him a friend – if/when I come to know him better. (I don’t like to throw the word ‘friend’ around loosely). Hopefully someday I will.

    As for the ‘public document’ thing:

    1) The letter has been released publicly by its recipient/subject. It’s scanned on the News website. Sounds about as public as these things get.

    2) What evidence do you have to support your assertion that Jon Denison was spreading rumors about that letter?

    1. Patrick: 1. The News says the letter was given to them by Mr. Lillehaug: that sounds more like a Tactic than anything else to me.Mr Betcher himself is quoted in the article as saying it is NOT a public document; You seem to ignore that statement from the County Attorney’s own mouth.
      2. An email that I won’t divulge: a conversation that I won’t divulge, and the fact that when I got to the library to do the LWV observing for the council meeting, he had the letter prominently displayed in front of him at the table where people were gathering. At that point, 6:30, it was available on the NFnews website. Do you think it appropriate for a councilor to be offering that letter in a situation where he had been so heavily involved as a participant?
      I think not.
      Later in the evening at the end of the council meeting, Joel Walinski said the position of the city was that they had no official notice of its existence.

    2. Kiffi,

      1. By your own description, the letter is public’, and it is a ‘document.’ I am sorry that I did not write more precisely, and that I referred to it as a ‘public document’ when I should have referred to it as a ‘public’ ‘document.’ Had I written more precisely, I would’ve said that the letter in question is NOT a ‘public document,’ but is instead a ‘private document’ which has been released ‘publicly’ by its recipient/subject – making it a ‘public private document.’

      Still, since it is a private document released publicly – and not one in the possession of, or owned, by the city government – any discussion of said letter by a public official would hardly be a violation of rules regarding government documents.

      1. Hearsay. Or, more accurately, unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo.

      2a.

      the fact that when I got to the library to do the LWV observing for the council meeting, he had the letter prominently displayed in front of him at the table where people were gathering. At that point, 6:30, it was available on the NFnews website.

      If your eyewitness account is correct, then you’ve very cleverly shown that Jon Denison is in possession of both an internet connection as well as a printer.

      Do you think it appropriate for a councilor to be offering that letter in a situation where he had been so heavily involved as a participant?
      I think not.

      If the recipient/subject of a private letter has chosen to make it public? Sure, why not?

    3. Weird formatting, so I’ll try again:

      Kiffi,

      1) By your own description, the letter is public’, and it is a ‘document.’ I am sorry that I did not write more precisely, and that I referred to it as a ‘public document’ when I should have referred to it as a ‘public’ ‘document.’ Had I written more precisely, I would’ve said that the letter in question is NOT a ‘public document,’ but is instead a ‘private document’ which has been released ‘publicly’ by its recipient/subject – making it a ‘public private document.’

      Still, since it is a private document released publicly – and not one in the possession of, or owned, by the city government – any discussion of said letter by a public official would hardly be a violation of rules regarding government documents.

      2) Hearsay. Or, more accurately, unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo.

      2a)

      the fact that when I got to the library to do the LWV observing for the council meeting, he had the letter prominently displayed in front of him at the table where people were gathering. At that point, 6:30, it was available on the NFnews website.

      If your eyewitness account is correct, then you’ve very cleverly shown that Jon Denison is in possession of both an internet connection as well as a printer.

      Do you think it appropriate for a councilor to be offering that letter in a situation where he had been so heavily involved as a participant?
      I think not.

      If the recipient/subject of a private letter has chosen to make it public? Sure, why not?

  7. Back to the Charter Commission: In the paper today the editorial rehashes its own article, from an even less analytical POV.

    Strange … I thought editorials were supposed to be unique and persuasive perspectives; not vapid rehashes, mish-mashes.

    All of a sudden a strange miasma of lassitude is overtaking our decision makers; A councilor calls for the ChartComm to take a hiatus until new members arrive in January, and the same councilor, although professing a nostalgic love for our library, suggests at Monday’s work session that he cannot support moving ahead with a plan because another council in the future may have a different vision…

    Is this what they mean by the “Dog Days of Summer” ? Minds, hearts, and brains are all semi-comatose?

  8. As a point of clarification, Councilor Denison received a copy of the letter from the county attorney from me. He was in my office at City Hall when we checked the Northfield News website and saw that the article had been posted. I downloaded the letter and printed it for him.

    1. Thanks, Kathleen … another fixed point in the confusing timeline of that day.
      So there’s now some fact between 4:03 and 6:30 PM.

      But that doesn’t answer who knew what between 6:?? and 8:?? when e-mails with definitive statements started flying around …

      P.S. I take it your comment is on this thread, Kathleen, rather than on the more appropriate subject, because of Patrick’s and my usual disagreeing POVs, as expressed above.

      PPS. Do you regularly check the NFNews website, or just when the big news is expected, as Suzy Rook announced Friday, On KYMN’s afternoon show?

  9. Kathleen,
    Thanks for clearing up this point of confusion, and making it clear that Mr. Denison received his copy of the letter from a public source.

    I trust that your reason for posting your response here is that the question of where Jon had obtained the letter was first raised in comment 7.3, above.

    1. Clarification: I wrote comment #7.3; and it does not mention Mr. Denison.

      An assumption, Patrick? You know what “they” say about Assumptions!

  10. Patrick & Kiffi- I’m not a English major, but even I can follow this subject line-

    Post #7: Councilor Jon Denison stopped
    by my office at the GBM

    Post #7.1: Griff: What else did
    Councilor Denison have to say ?

    Post #7.2: Kiffi, Why don’t you ask
    him?

    Post #7.3: Well, because, Patrick, he
    would not answer me

    1. John: Find yourself blessed with a good grade in English class today; you’re correct… I wrote a very poorly constructed and confusing paragraph for what I wanted to say.

  11. So … if we can agree to quit fighting on side issues, maybe we can get back to the original post of Griff’s…

    Griff: after you have further explored the city’s website, found SOME things you thought were missing, found explanations for others (i.e. NO meeting in June), could you then refocus the thrust of your comment?
    I think it is a question about what should the ChartComm be talking to the public about as they CONSIDER changes of an important structural nature to the governance of Northfield, is that it?

  12. David: as you know the Charter Commission members are appointed by the Chief Judge of the District Court.
    My understanding is, that once appointed, they are free to carry on their responsibility as they see fit.

    They are not under the jurisdiction of the City Council, although obviously they try to work with the council. It is provided that they MAY go directly to the public with a question if they choose; it does not have to be approved by the council first. As I said, they do normally try to work with the council, and questions often go to the council first. But if the council does not unanimously agree with the ChartComm’s proposal, it must then go to the public, unless the commission does not wish to pursue the issue.

    So, bottom line … the Charter Commission once appointed, need not clear its every action by obtaining the Court’s approval.

  13. Kiffi: That is not my understanding. I thought the Charter Commission was an independent political body whose political life ends once they have completed the commission for which the Council requested their appointment, and for which the Court appointed them.

    At this point, if they have any suggested charter changes, I think the City Council would have to ask the Court to appoint a new Commission.

    It is an unusual process so I could be mistaken.

    1. David,
      Unfortunately, I think that you are mistaken. I didn’t find the actual laws empowering Charter Commissions, but I did find this 1922 book, “City Charter Making in Minnesota” by William Anderson:

      http://books.google.com/books?id=Lm4WAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA74&lpg=PA74&dq=minnesota+charter+commission&source=bl&ots=pWjm6QFj86&sig=PSY2C4rcI6bPWOxQWe-pMEWX6FA&hl=en&ei=TBWHSqaREovwMpKKyccJ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#v=onepage&q=minnesota%20charter%20commission&f=false

      It describes Charter Commissions as a “permanent body” and a “sort of standing constitutional convention.”

      The original is worth a read… it’s a Google Books image, so I can’t just copy and paste the relevant text over.

      David: ever thought of offering yourself up as a member of the Charter Commission? Your legal experience might be of value to the Commission (and the rest of us), and there will be a couple vacancies soon.

  14. Minn. Stat. § 410.05, subd

    Once appointed, a charter commission in a statutory city that has not yet ratified a charter becomes a continuing body. Its membership changes from time to time, but the commission goes on indefinitely until it is formally dissolved using statutory procedures. Mere failure of the body to meet, to propose a successful charter for election, or to function does not end its existence.

  15. continues:
    In a home rule charter city, the charter commission cannot be dissolved or cease to exist unless the home rule charter is abandoned through the statutory process for changing the city form of government.

  16. Full disclosure: I’m on the Charter Commission

    For all you conspiracy wonks … MN 410.12 provides for the four ways a Charter may be amended.

    1. Chart commission proposes an amendment. Voters approve or reject

    2. A petition from citizens, certain parameters apply. Voters approve or reject

    3. Council proposes an amendment to the citizens for their vote. Voters approve or reject

    4. Charter Commission proposes an amendment to council and council either accepts the amendment unanimously or rejects. If rejected, Charter Commission may take it directly to the citizens for a vote.

    It seems you all finally worked out the kinks of who establishes, who appoints and for how long, and the life of the body. Were okay there, right?

    I’d also like to share with you and the press these facts.

    In spite of the fear mongering initiated by CP Denison in hi bi-weekly reports on the Commission’s activity using phrases like: There’s some weird activity over there … some interesting folks etc…. we’d better watch them and the alarm set off by the N News article, here’s what you should know. All of our meetings are open. Limited minutes are taken by a staff Recording Secretary, these are excerpted from complete digital recordings also made by the Recording Secretary in response to the Commission’s request that these be kept,

    Finally, for those of you who still harbor concerns about the Commission’s motives, openness or lack thereof, you might ask Jennifer Nash for a copy of a letter addressed to the Northfield City Council, (almost a year to the day) dated July 20, 2008, from the Charter Commission, signed by the Chair, asking the City Council if it would join the Commission in a joint work session. The text of the letter goes on to explain the Commission’s interest in discussing the possible revising of the Form of Government language in the Charter.

    Mr Denison should also have a copy. Experienced in these areas, he might find it convenient to share this letter with you.

    As far as the N News Editorial goes… its lack of understanding of the issue there is only surpassed by its lack of journalistic accuracy in their initial article, which has fueled this mini panic using words or phrase loosely. That’s bad journalism, like “shift of power” scary… or “proposal” when “report’ is more appropriate. Hypothetical, Quixotic? Who said that? Names please.

    I know, while I only gave a brief comment to the reporter, it was not used in the piece.

    FYI: My remarks were to the effect: “I view the Charter as the rule book for the conduct of the Council and the Staff. if the rules are being abused or need revamping then we (the Charter Commission) have a responsibility to look into the issue.” it’s our responsibility to the community.

    My observations from the past ten years … and intensified by the shenanigans of the past two or three, is, we have a crisis and we need to address it.

    Perhaps the best part of that article was David Emery’s remark used to close the piece: “If the city doesn’t work, whose fault is it?”

  17. Victor, what was the City Council’s response to the July 20, 2008 letter from the Charter Commission re: the possible revisions to the Charter?

    I’m inclined to agree with you that, given what’s happened at City Hall, “we have a crisis and we need to address it.”

    To me, that makes it imperative that the Charter Commission bends over backwards to communicate on everything related to this issue.

  18. Is there a summary anywhere online the results of the City Charter referendum back in 2001) and then the subsequent changes that were made by the Charter Commission a year or two later?

    I poked around a bit on the Northfield News and Northfield League of Women Voters websites and couldn’t find anything.

    I moderated an online forum on the referendum in the Northfield.org Web Cafe prior to the Nov. 2001 election. The transcript of that forum is at:

    http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/archive/issue-forums/charter-amendment-2001/

    Panelists: Catherine Christian, Hartley Clark, Keith Covey, Jim Finholt, John Lundblad, Jim Miller, Scott Neal, and Elaine Thurston.

    1. Griff: Sometimes I come to the conclusion that you don’t read your own site!

      The events of the 2001 referendum have been referenced several times, on several different threads.

      Briefly, that Charter Commission was of the opinion that a referendum needed to go to the people about the form of local gov’t: i.e. should that form change to one of a city manager, rather than a city administrator.
      The voters rejected that change; and many said at the time that their reason for rejection of the city manager form of gov’t was that they wished to keep the highest responsibility in the hands of ELECTED persons, rather than HIRED Staff.

      My understanding is that having anticipated the passage, rather than failure, of that referendum, the ChartComm at the time had made some small changes in wording which TO SOME INTERPRETATIONS slightly weakened the role of the Mayor.
      If they did do that prior to the referendum issue being resolved, it was a mistake, IMO.

      Given the struggles (power?) between the administrator and mayor in the last administration, (one example: the agenda setting process) it has been felt by this ChartComm that these matters should be cleared up to the point where there is not room for various interpretations.

      There is nothing sinister here; unless it is the continual ‘warnings’ of a councilor, whose actions can only be explained by an agenda which would appear to be centered on power/ control.
      This ‘power’ struggle, as I loosely refer to it, surfaced within the last council
      with some challenges to the ChartComm, and is being continued by a member of that previous council into today’s arena.

      I would ask you this , Griff, what do you know from their communications with the public, additional to meeting minutes or reports to council, of the work of any Board or Commission, or indeed of the Council itself?

      As an example: can you explain the discussion, rationale, costs to individuals and businesses, of the strongly pushed by staff, and considered by council, of the “streetlight franchise fee” which will undoubtedly be attached to your city utility bill in the near future?
      I would daresay if you do know the ins and outs of that matter it might be from a small newspaper article by the city hall reporter, not by any direct communication from the City Council to its public.

      Generally, I would say, Griff, that your initial problem was more with the lack of information you found on the city’s website… and that progressed to creating a ‘tempest in a teapot’ when all too often the really important situation is one which I will call ” a teapot boiling over furiously in the midst of a tempest”!

  19. Griff, you wrote:

    I’m inclined to agree with you that, given what’s happened at City Hall, “we have a crisis and we need to address it.”

    Griff, I agree – well, at least that we had a crisis, and that the ambiguity of the Administrator’s power vs. that of the Mayor, as asserted by the previous occupant of that office – and that it would be a good idea to do something about it.

    However, the Commission’s draft Charter revisions do not necessarily follow from the assertion that the Administrator-Mayor relationship needs clarification.

    Members of the Commission propose:

    Suggested language and organizational
    changes to the City Charter would put
    more power in the mayor’s office…

    The mayor would no longer sit on the
    City Council, replaced by a seventh
    member elected from a fifth ward. Such
    a mayor would be able to veto council
    actions and put city administrators up
    for council approval and under the
    mayor’s supervision….

    And then there are the baffling assessments:

    “I just have a sense the people of
    Northfield want a mayor that they can
    hold responsible,” said Emery, the
    other subcommittee member whose term
    soon ends. “I think our former mayor
    had a problem in that he felt he was
    being held responsible but had no
    power.”

    Perhaps Commissioner Emery’s statement made more sense in its original context. Otherwise, based upon the results of the last mayoral primary election, that would seem to be a minority opinion.

    It seems counterintuitive, at best, to suggest that strengthening the power of the Mayor will keep the occupant of that office from performing the kind of activities for which the former Mayor now stands indicted.

    If anything, it suggests to me that the current checks that the Council has on the Mayor’s activities should be strengthened – not weakened.

    1. Left out a bit:

      Griff, I agree – well, at least that we had a crisis, and that the ambiguity of the Administrator’s power vs. that of the Mayor – as asserted by the previous occupant of that office – played a role in it. I also agree that it would be a good idea to do something about it.

    1. Griff: you said “I have a good memory but it’s short.”
      OK Griff, that statement may, in itself, set up a non-supportable dichotomy but I’m willing to let it go as an unimportant distinction. : )

      Thanks for at least bringing up some important questions … but have you noticed how they tend to deteriorate into personal controversies rather than being able to stick to the facts?

      There was a relevant program on MPR this morning; Gary Eichton (sp?) interviewing D.J.Leary about Leary’s recent decision to quit his political analysis blog on Strib.com. He made the decision because of the irelevancy to the central argument of many anonymous comments.
      He says that people of opposing views used to be able to agree on the facts, and then make their diverse cases for their POV. No longer so, he feels, it’s all personal… and that makes it impossible to have a responsible discussion, especially if the person you’re ‘talking’ to doesn’t have the guts to speak with his/her name.
      Accountability is important…

  20. Griff,
    Perhaps you could find an advocate for the proposed Charter changes, who might explain why they would be an improvement over what we have, and how they might address the problems revealed during the last Mayoral term?

  21. I hear the sucking sound … pulling me into the LG maelstrom. I’m skeptical of too much involvement at that level … But out of respect for the Griff Guy, I’ll attempt a brief response (not my long suit!) to your questions and comments in #24 … and I guess Kiffi’s heads up re: Tracy’s comment last july is an orchard of relevant material. Kudos to the girly girl.

    But first, just by way of “field leveling” Griff, you commented about “open discussions … information”.

    So, how much discussion or reaction has the public heard from the Council ( or learned from objective and informed reporting in the media) of any of the following: hiring of a City Attorney, hiring of a department Head, creation of a new department, examination of cost savings by major employe change, fee increases, plans for tunneling under the RR tracks on Hwy 19. A fifty thousand dollar Tiger Grant plan to study foot bridge sites across 19, up and down the adjacent downtown location. What of the plans for the Prawer Gill property or changing the text in an ordinance that gets concerned reaction form Waterford residents. Do you know what the EQC is discussing? The HRC? what’s on the PARB agenda now that the skateboard park has been set aside? Have you read the draft Land Development Code? – Just to mention a few of the tasks before the Council and the Staff, daily, on behalf of the community. And, oh yes, The Boards and Commissions too.

    So in # 24 when you expressed some agreement about my “crisis” remark and you pointed out the “imperative” nature of the Charter Commission’s need to bend over backward to inform the community of it’s discussion. That “need” to inform is the reason I asked the rhetorical question above: ” how much you know about” etc ….

    How might the Charter Commission bend? … A body with no budget, enabled or hampered with some support of staff, directed if you will, by the City Attorney with pros or cons on our quest to refine the Rule book of Staff and Council Conduct … the same Attorney who serves the staff and council who shall be ruled by the Charter.

    How is the story of our effort, to be reported to the public other than the official Minutes or News’ reports, both pretty much out of the hands of the Commission. In fact, those sources are difficult for the Council or staff to control, unless there’s an arrangement.

    Roder had one in Dennison IA and at least attempted to have one here with a former News reporter and as Jaci Smith once said, he (Roder) pulled the wool over our (N News) eyes.

    There goes my pledge of brevity! Just thought you should know we’re in hostile territory here.

    So, you got a Charter Commission with no budget, whose minutes are taken and disseminated by staff, representing a paranoid City Council, much of it living in the past.

    Gaining knowledge of the process and the discussions is time consuming, that’s why the media is so important, and I suppose this somewhat validates discussions such as those that take place here on LG.

    But, Your essential question is:

    what was the City Council’s response to the July 20, 2008 letter from the Charter Commission re: the possible revisions to the Charter?

    I’m not sure we happened to that. The Mayor was receptive. I voted against it, knowing the council then was packed with Councilors opposed in theory to the Charter Commission’s effort. We did receive an official response from Mayor Lansing with a date certain … Sep 22, I believe … a work session … along with his request that we settle on an agenda and a line of discussion. That meeting didn’t happen. I can find no record of why.

    Our “letter” included an introductory statement, with the bulk of the text being the Resolution passed by the Commission to request a joint meeting. I believe Elaine Thurston joined me in the no vote. My reasons were it was a waste of time and an open invitation to the Council to put the Charter Commission down. That Council (my opinion) the Mayor notwithstanding, would never vote to discuss their conduct.

    My intentions were to move forward with this Commission discussion in spite of Council reluctance, in spite of Staff reluctance. You’ll not see much evidence of that except maybe this might suffice. There’s quite a lot actually, worth the read. Some notable quotes are cited below, Credit N News (that was hard):

    various quotes
    http://www.northfieldnews.com/search.php?search=charter+commission&location=-1

    Roder quote:
    ‘Roder said it’s the charter commission’s independence that necessitates the oversight.’
    http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=23832

    Cashman remarks of the LWV letter with the Charter Commission:

    ‘Councilors on Monday asked the commission to take out large chunks of the letter, including specifics phrases quoting the charter.

    “Some of the language (in the letter) could be interpreted as creating
    controversy,” said Councilor Noah Cashman.’
    http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=23959

    So, I suspect we’ll move forward with a responsible discussion, in open meetings and subject to the media and the public’s reactions. Jon Denison wil keep you posted.

  22. I’ve listened to a good chunk of the podcast.

    I think the problem with the Charter Commission’s process is that they are only pursuing a proposal to implement a ‘strong mayor’ proposal, citing the 2001 referendum as evidence that a ‘strong mayor’ system is what the people of Northfield want.

    There are a at least a couple problems with that:
    1) 2001 was a long time ago – especially with all the water that has passed under the bridge since then. There is plenty of reason to believe that citizens may be more suspicious of a ‘strong mayor’ now than they were then.

    2) It would be important to provide the exact language of the 2001 referendum, rather than circumstantially saying what it meant.

    It would seem better for the Charter Commission to pursue TWO alternate proposals: a ‘strong council/administrator’ proposal, as well as a ‘strong mayor’ proposal. Then, our elected leaders and the citizens of Northfield as a whole could choose between the two options.

Leave a Reply