Financing the public Safety Center: I feel duped

On June 5, the Northfield City Council decided to use lease/revenue bonds to finance the Safety Center. Councilor Betsey Buckheit has a detailed response in her June 11 blog post titled Financing the Public Safety Center-what and why. An excerpt:

bumpy-roadProcedurally, the meeting was complicated by Patrick Ganey’s absence.  A motion to use GO referendum bonds and the motion to issue CIP bonds both failed on tie votes (Rhonda Pownell, Suzie Nakasian, and Ivan Imm supported both; Mayor Rossing, Erica Zweifel and I voted no).  Erica Zweifel made a motion – not impromptu as the LWV blog called it, but well thought our [sic] and justified – to use EDA/HRA lease revenue bonds; the motion was adopted on a 4-2 vote (Yes – Rossing, Buckheit, Imm, Zweifel; No – Nakasian and Pownell.

It was LWV Observer Jane McWilliams who labeled it ‘impromptu’ in her comments:

The lease revenue bond decision, like others the council has made, while it might make sense in the long run, seemed impromptu. Several councilors seemed unprepared for this outcome. One wonders whether all members of the council had time to seriously consider the merits and shortcomings of this funding mechanism. There definitely was a sense that several of the councilors were not in favor of letting the public decide. That seemed the primary goal and justification for the selected bonding method.

If it was "well thought out and justified" as Betsy wrote, I’m not aware of when and where that discussion was made public.  I was stunned at the move as some others were. I had no idea this form of financing was even a possibility.  My first reaction: this is similar to when the EDA issued the bond for the outdoor swimming pool, a really inappropriate use of its financing authority.

I agree with Betsey that:

… since earlier this year, the Council has made significant progress in defining the scope of the project, cost, location, and creating flexibility to address fire department organization, equipment and facilities issues…

but the deliberate public engagement (this year) on all this has been nearly non-existent, somewhat understandably so.  Now is the time for it but it’s moot now because the Council has removed the citizenry from any direct influence on the outcome, a complete end-run.  It’s a short term solution that increases public cynicism, an opportunity lost for creating a partnership with city hall on a really important capital improvement project.

And Councilor Patrick Ganey owes the public an explanation of why he wasn’t there for this important vote and a detailed explanation of how he would have voted on all the motions.

225 comments to  (Including 49 Discussion Threads) Financing the public Safety Center: I feel duped

  • 51
    David DeLong says:

    This discussion prompted me to think back to the Northfield Community Resource Center and it’s referendum. Believe it or not the search led me right back to Locally Grown. It had hosted a forum, on the NCRC, starting Jan. 7th 1998.

    Northfield’s proposed Community Resource Center is a $4.45-million, 40,000 square-foot building that will house the Community Action Center, Northfield Senior Organization, the school district’s Alternative Learning Center, Three Rivers’ HeadStart, and spaces for use by other community organizations and groups.
    The proposed location of the CRC is on the south side of Northfield at the corner of Jefferson Parkway and Raider Dr. Funds to build the Center will come from private donations, contributions from agencies which will use the space, and a bond issue.
    On Jan. 27, Northfield residents will vote on the bond issue to raise $2.2 million for the Center.

    Some large donations helped bring down the cost from 4.45 million to the 2.2 bond issue. But there was also a $250,000 Capitol lease commitment by the School District. I wonder if this is similar to the lease arrangement the City is now considering?

    Then- $4.45 million bought us a 40,000 square foot building and the land to put it on.

    Today the proposed 26,000 square foot building and land will cost $7.28 million. Did we build the NCRC too cheap or has inflation driven up costs that much?

    Then-there was a group of community citizens and leaders out stumping, explaining and educating. The situation today speaks for itself.

    • 51.1
      David Ludescher says:

      David,

      Today’s situation is an interesting contrast.

      The NCRC raised non-bond donations before the building, was a multi-purpose facility, and was bonded. The City owned the building and leased it out. I recall that the bonding passed 4-1 or better.

      The City might want to consider leasing some of the NCRC for the police staff to use while the bond payments are made. In the meantime, the City could start raising some money from private donations and non-taxpaying entities. Once the NCRC is paid off, more money would be available for bonding, and the City would have a better idea of what additional space is essential.

  • 52
    Jane Moline says:

    Regarding the Vadnais Heights bond story in the Strib--it showed how the “lease-financing” vehicle gets the city into trouble and can cause serious bonding problems including affecting the city’s loan costs via credit rating.

    I really think the current issue is very simple--the city council is searching for ways to go around the citizens--they were elected by citizens who understood that the city council was limited in its ability to spend, and for large amounts would have to go to the public--in one form or another, by either referendum or reverse referendum. However, the city council has decided to do an end-run around this—

    It comes down to: just because you CAN do something (because you are advised it is “legal”) does not mean that you SHOULD do something. I have to really wonder about the basic values of this city council--that they believe they must do what is best for Northfield even if the Northfield people don’t want that. What if they are wrong about what is “BEST” for Northfield?

    Their attitude, which comes off as arrogant, is evident to the public--and it is no surprise that citizens are upset enough to have words with their city council when they find them in a public place.

    The other part is the confusion by the regular council attender-crowd--they did not have advance information about this funding and how it could work--which goes back to the old idea that the city council must be having secret meetings to discuss these things out of of the public eye --it is what has led to continued distrust of the city council and its’ decision making.

    • 52.1
      kiffi summa says:

      Jane: when the proposal was going to the HRA for the proposed lease/revenue bonding, several private citizens, and some of the citizens task force group, a rather disparate coalition, all advised Councilor Zweifel to get independent counsel on the HRA statute (469.009) that covered potential conflict of interest for a person who was part of one voting group(Council in this case)and then also a voting member of the second decision making group, in this case the HRA.

      When the packet came out and the city’s legal advisor dealt with that, she in fact (IMO) didn’t deal with it at all, because she cited 469.003, which says who may be a member of the HRA… and that was not the issue; no one doubts that Councilor Zweifel is a legitimate member of the HRA.

      Seeing that advice in the packet, people again asked Ms.Zweifel to get her own independent counsel and opinion, contrasting these two sections of statute, but it seems she did not feel that was needed.

      People also contacted Leota Goodney (HRA Chair) asking for her to also get independent advice.
      Ms. Goodney, asked the city’s attorneys, during the meeting interchange, if she could expect an unbiased answer to her questions, and was reassured that she could.
      Inherent in that reply is the fact the law cannot be always letter specific, often relies on interpretation, and of course the city’s counsel is going to interpret in the city’s favor. Everyone understands that.

      ***** So with that background here’s my question to you, Jane: You said the Council’s attitude comes off as “arrogant”, but in this instance is it ‘arrogance’ that makes a councilor be non-protective personally, or is it just a naive belief that the City’s attorneys are protecting them as well as the ‘city’? and that the citizens are ‘arrogantly’ assumed to be uninformed, and always wrong?
      *****

    • 52.2
      Jane Moline says:

      Kiffi: Way beyond my pay-grade.

      I have long criticized both Northfield and Dundas legal counsel for failing to actually COUNSEL the city council! Interesting that Leota asked if she would actually be getting an unbiased opinion—a reflection of citizen cynicism—we have long given up on being told honestly what something actually means and expect to be told what the consultant wants us to hear—

      I do think it is arrogance on the part of the city council—they have decided what they want to do, and they are going to figure out how to jam it down the taxpayer’s throats.

      Anyway, the citizen’s have a right to be “arrogant” and expect the city council to operate within their mandate—it is the citizen’s city, and the council serves—but then the council flips that over and decides to “rule”. I understand it is two different view-points as to what the elected council’s mandate really is—and this is where public service gets tricky—and the conundrum of any elected official--should they believe they are the best -educated “decider” or should they defer to the citizens?

    • 52.3
      David Ludescher says:

      Kiffi and Jane,

      In the case of a large capital project the law clearly prefers that the voters be the “deciders”. Capital improvements are for capital improvements, leases are for short term solutions, not permanent structures. It really is that simple.

      • 52.3.1
        kiffi summa says:

        I agree, David, that in the case of large capital projects the law gives processes for voters to make the final determination… but these councilors have made the final determination by choosing this method of financing.

        And one can only believe they are sincere, and comfortable with the decision in their minds when they say that they “don’t believe in governing by referendum” … that the dissenters are “stupid”, and their ideas are “stupid” and “obstructionist”.

        They think they have answered all the questions, but they have not… and the cost of this project, when you look at the reality of it, has grown, not declined.

        A while ago, the plan was for a joint facility at 10+ million$$, now it’s a police station
        ( at 7.28 million with the land costs) with supposedly 2million $$ worth of fire training and administration , and the firemen say they can’t use that training space as they must train where their equipment is housed.

        Why is there no discussion of the plan for the additional development of the current facility for the ongoing use as a fire station? I believe the fire chief has , or has suggested a plan which would improve the safety of that facility both for housing the equipment and facilitating operations. Then the 2 mill of space at the Cowles site that the firemen say won’t do them any good could be taken from that project, and put toward the renovation and upgrading of the current building.

        It’s just too depressing to keep going over … Council won’t be challenged, they won’t answer questions, they won’t even hold to their own original objections … and the public is “stupid” when they ask for the answers to factual questions … and ‘kicking the can down the road’ by refusing to deal with any specificity with the needs of the firemen by blaming it all on the lack of reorganization with the Rural Fire Assn. is ( IMO ) just another way of putting off solving this whole 4-5 year mess in its entirety… AS the Mayor always says, “This is just one piece of it…”

        Darn right, it’s just one ‘piece’ …

        What’s your opinion, David about whether the owners, i.e. the bond holders, will have to pay property taxes ? is there an absolutely definitive answer to that?

      • 52.3.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        It is a mess. Unless the citizen groups can find some avenue to slow down the project, it looks as if it will be up to the next Council to figure out what happens.

      • 52.3.3
        kiffi summa says:

        Well, David… what could the “next council” do given the bonds will already be sold?

        I just don’t see any solution ‘after the fact’ … and you’re also assuming that the council will have a significantly different makeup, and voting pattern.

      • 52.3.4
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        I don’t no much about this “financing” method. My understanding is that there aren’t any bonds sold. It is private financing.

        Yes, any council in the next 15-20 years can decide not to pay -- like Northfield did to Waterford. If elected, I would probably vote to not pay any payments. Anyone foolish enough to buy these private bonds deserves to not get their money back. Let them own a building.

        There is still a potential for an injunction against the City.

  • 53
    kiffi summa says:

    The Council has a special work session this afternoon, from 4-5pm.

    On their schedule for reviewing the financing process, today, August 2, was noted as the day for reviewing the RFPs that were soliciting the purchase of Certificates of Participation, which would finance the new safety center.

    But one of the Council candidates said he was told this meeting was about the new city website… so who’s reviewing the RFPs? Will the Staff or the Council do that?
    I imagine the staff will do it, and bring a recommendation to the Council for a vote, at next Tuesday’s meeting.

    • 53.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Kiffi,

      Any news on the work session and the Mini-Taj?

      • 53.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        I was not there , but it appears that the subject was the new website, and only a very few of the Councilors were there…

        Questions still open about the process for reviewing the RFPs……..

    • 53.2
      David DeLong says:

      Kiffi,
      Your answer arrived late Friday afternoon August 24th. A special meeting has been called for 8/28/2012. The Certificate of Participation financing method for the proposed new police building has been all wrapped up in 551 pages of gobbledygook. Never in all my years of doing or observing city business have I seen so much paper work for a transaction.

      The Council took no action in reviewing or choosing the Preferred Bank/Underwriter. Yet one has been selected. The Council requested certain items be included, but apparently during the 3 weeks of negotiating and four different drafts, someone decided they were not needed. No public information or Council action for those 3 weeks yet a final package is presented for approval. Wow. There will be discussion at the Council meeting, but only on a decision that was reached for them, not on a decision reached by them. Is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog?

      Don’t worry be happy, someone has got this all figured out for us. This gets it done. It just happens to be the most complicated, most expensive way to do it. Heck someone even decided the Council shouldn’t take the proposal with the lowest interest rate.

      I realize the desire to do something before the end of the term is a need for some Councilors, but what would happen if some members of the Council finally reached the tipping point and said, Is this really the best way to do this? Is this really in the best interests of the City in the long run?

      Would the world end? No. Would the need go away? No. Would the Project die? No.

      Is there a better way to do this? Yes. Would interest rates be lower with a different financing method? Yes.

      • 53.2.1
        kiffi summa says:

        David Delong: WOW, is right! You said: “There will be discussion at the Council meeting, but only on a decision that was reached for them, not on a decision reached by them.” (emphasis mine)

        If this is the case, I find it too sad to contemplate the outcome… Don’t these Councilors realize that with the broad unrest in the economic world, and the insecure feeling that creates in everyone, that if they keep defending the status quo as workable,or more importantly reasonable, some of them MAY lose their seats?
        And then we will have , IMO, a reactionary less competent overall presence in the council, and it will take another 2-4 years to react back the other way.
        Reactionary government is not good.

        If it is as you say, I do not understand why those that are elected to govern let others make these big financial decisions for them?
        Haven’t we just heard several of them say “We were elected to make the hard decisions, and we feel comfortable doing that”?

        At one point there was an early August date in the financing timeline for the Council to review the RFPs, but that date came and went without a public review. And now you are saying that the packet says ???, if not the Council, what staff ??? has made those decisions?

        Has the Council abdicated their role in this responsibility, or will they re-assume that role on Tuesday at the special meeting?
        Will they tell the ??? who made the decisions, sorry, these are decisions for the Council to make?

        Why has this process gotten to where it has without their decision making involvement?

  • 54
    David Ludescher says:

    David,

    I don’t know how any councilor can know what is contained in the 551 pages. I have a copy of it, and am trying to read it, because it is long, involved, intricate, and confusing. And how can you vote on it if you don’t know what it says? To complicate matters, the interest rate won’t even be known until that afternoon! I don’t know how the rates can be competitive when there is only one, unknown offer.

    To further confuse things, the Attorney General’s Office has determined, in multiple opinions, that this type of financing is subject to a bond referendum. And, I am of the legal opinion that this bonding is subject to a reverse referendum.

    Of course, all of this ignores how poorly conceived the whole project is, or the fact that we are trying to finance a building that doesn’t exist, and we still don’t have a plan for the fire department.

    Just put the thing to a VOTE. Since when did voting become a bad thing?

  • 55

    [...] of documents is quite straightforward, so don’t let the size (or the legalese) overwhelm you (nor the handwaving on Locally Grown).  The documents itemize the parts of the deal and allocate risks.  To repeat -- the documents [...]

  • 56
    kiffi summa says:

    I hope everyone who is interested in the outcome of the Safety center process will look at Councilor Buckheit’s most recent blog post which is an explanatory outline of the documents the Council will be dealing with tomorrow night at their meeting.

    Just go to the left hand column here on LG, under BB’s blog, and click on Safety Center financing-big update.

    Aside from the left handed swipe at anyone who has expressed concerns about the process here on LG, it is a very helpful piece of work… and it was a lot of work to produce… and I thank her for that.

    I do find it difficult to accept that there is not a single question for Councilor Buckheit to ask, but maybe she just doesn’t want to do it there on her blog.

    Take a look , if you want a “cliff note’ to the process…

    • 56.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Kiffi,

      Although the material is helpful for understanding the documents, it is not very helpful for determining whether it is legal or is subject to reverse referendum. There are no references to specific instances of the same “creative financing”, no references to Attorney General opinions which limit a City’s authority, no references to court cases, and only a vague reference to the supposed statutory authority.

      • 56.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        David: Isn’t it a little late to be asking if it is legal considering all the bond counsels and law firms involved?
        I don’t imagine that they think it will enhance their businesses to be engaging in illegal activities; I think you are grasping at straws…

        The only way this will not go forward, IMO, is that if enough councilors have doubts about the wisdom of this process… Considering the statements they have already made, I consider that to be unlikely.

      • 56.1.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        No.

  • 57
    David DeLong says:

    Kiffi,
    Cliff note yes -- details no. It mentions the RFP but I have yet to see or have anyone address why the one with the lowest interest wasn’t chosen. We know the consultant and underwriting fee (upwards of 100,00) but nobody explains why US Bank’s fee is only 2 thousand. They are looking at five years of paper shuffling for two thousnd dollars? What and where are the real fees. The interest rate on this bond is projected to be around 3%. Northfield’s last GO bond was under 1%. Where is the bottom line ? What are the real costs and oh by the way this cost starts coming on top of the budget being considered for next year.

  • 58
    Griff Wigley says:

    Is there any media coverage of last night’s Council mtg? Nfld News reporter Jackie Pavek has been live tweeting meetings this summer but hasn’t tweeted in many days. Nothing tweeted by Jerry Smith, either, nor any articles on the Nfld News site that I can find. Nothing at KYMN nor Nfld Patch nor Northfield.org.

    But there’s terrific coverage of the DJJD clue #2!

    I guess we’ll have to wait for the LWV Northfield observer’s report.

  • 59
    kiffi summa says:

    There are so many simple questions that need to be answered for the public; if the Council does not ask questions, they either have legal expertise, as does Councilor Buckheit, or they are just fully trusting the other parties involved.

    For instance: It has been stated that this is the most expensive financing method and I believe the costs start as soon as the certificates are sold and the $$ deposited n the City’s construction fund.
    BUT … the building has not yet been designed, and if actual construction does not begin until next spring (which is a tossup from what the architect said) then there is money being paid on non-use time.

    A way to think about this is : if you get a construction loan to build a house, you would not take the loan until you were ready to start, because you would not want to be paying on your loan while the architect was at his desk.

    It’s now too late for questions if the Council approves this tonight, but the first and foremost question will always remain: ??? Why was the Council absolutely against going to a referendum for an expenditure this large in such an unstable economic time ???

    They have repeatedly said they were elected to make the hard decisions; but they were also elected to represent the people.
    They say their constituents want it done; I have heard constant caution expressed at the open mic… for years … and if there have been open mic comments about just get it done, they have certainly been in the minority .

    And speaking of “minority”, after the much acclaimed citizen Task Force process, Ray Cox and Jerry Anderson wrote a ‘minority report’ which was throughly demeaned and rejected by the Mayor and Council.
    Then the Mayor appoints Ray to the EDA, which is definitely a good thing, but curious given the reaction to the “minority report”.

    ******
    This was going to be ‘push-through’, by the Mayor and Council from the beginning; that was obvious.
    But the reasons and rationales have changed so often, that it is now almost impossible to talk about them in a logical pattern.

    My first question was, and last question will always be: Why did this Council refuse to take this to a public vote ???

  • 60
    David Ludescher says:

    Kiffi,

    Let’s just hope the Council has enough sense to delay the vote for 2 weeks until they have had time to read and digest the material.

  • 61
    David Ludescher says:

    Update -- By a 5-1 vote, the Council voted to go forward with bonding to pay for a new USBank building.

  • 62
    Griff Wigley says:

    Nfld News reporter Kaitlyn Walsh has a lengthy article on last night’s council vote: Northfield City Council approves public safety center bonding

    Calling it “necessary” and “essential” to move forward, the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve $6.28 million in lease-purchase financing for a new public safety center. Councilor Rhonda Pownell was the lone dissenting vote. Councilor Suzie Nakasian was absent.

    KYMN has a blog post of the archived video of the meeting here.

  • 63
    Jane McWilliams says:

    Kaitlyn’s report is accurate as far as it goes. It was posted soon after the meeting, and no doubt neither she nor Jaci who was also there realized that it got pasted as part of the earlier article.

    To paste in haste makes waste! I know from experience!

  • 64
    David Ludescher says:

    Griff,

    I don’t think the article did justice to how little discussion and inquiry was made by the councilors on the substance of the matter.

    Pownell did most of the questioning. The councilors voting in favor of the project probably spent more time complaining (whining) about the open mike comments than they did discussing the merits of the 551 pages of documents. The councilors spend a lot of time applauding the consultants, staff, and themselves for putting together this type of financing.

    The article also failed to mention that neither the consultants nor the staff have ever done one of these projects nor were any of them familiar with other cities which have done it.

    The article also implied that this was campaign stumping. There were two other open mike speakers not running.

    Another aspect missing from the article is the how many councilors said disparaging (and bullying?) comments about the candidates who are considering of non-appropriation in the future. Imms’s comments were especially inappropriate given that is he an unelected and lame duck councilor.

  • 65

    David, you are mistaken. Kathleen McBride has not previously done a deal with certificates of participation and the underwriter / private placement process. She has done multiple lease purchase deals including Northfield’s pool EDA lease revenue bonds and others at previous positions. Mark Ruff of Ehlers and Associates and Jenny Boulton of Kennedy & Graven both have extensive experience with this type of financing. What none of them have experience managing is a default by a city for a Council’s failure to appropriate funds to pay lease revenue debt. I would be concerned if they had clients they had advised on lease revenue financings who had defaulted.

    LoGro readers may disagree passionately with the financing vehicle the City selected and hold well-articulated positions on why G.O. bonds requiring an election before issuance would have been a better choice.

    However, that fundamental disagreement about how the system should work is distinct from whether the Council did a good job with the method we did in fact select. Our advisors are excellent, experienced and esteemed in this particular field; Kathleen McBride is also experienced and professional and carried out the Council’s direction flawlessly.

    Debate the Council’s choices, criticize the decisions, pose better alternatives -- but get the facts right and blame the right people.

    • 65.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Betsey,

      I would like to take you up on your challenge to debate.

      How is the “financing method” chosen by the Council better for the City than general obligation bonds?

  • 66
    David Ludescher says:

    Betsey,

    I wouldn’t have an objection to a lease-purchase agreement so long as the lease is confined to the one year period required by statute. Then, if the City does not pay the lease, there is no default. But, the Council has backed subsequent councils into a very difficult position.

    This Council knew and knows that there is a real chance of default by a subsequent council. Prudence dictated that this council explore what Ehlers/Ruff or other financial advisers would do if this happens. Not only did he not address it, he doesn’t have any experience in how to handle it. Moreover, I did not see anywhere in the 551 pages why a failure to pay lease payments would affect the City’s credit rating. These bonds are not backed by any faith or credit of the City.

    I would agree that the consultants and staff did exactly what the Council told them to do. And, that is the problem. It is unfortunate that the Council did not give its experts latitude to be honest about all aspects of the project, or to at lease address the critics’ concerns.

  • 67
    kiffi summa says:

    Comments:
    1. If the Council has sooooooooo many constituents telling them to proceed, as several stated last night “100s” of constituents, then it is a mystery why they did not have faith in passing a public vote on the new SC, as proposed.
    They have never answered that question, only professed to have confidence in “making the hard decision” on their own…
    What has happened to representative gov’t in NF?

    2. more on representative gov’t : the enabling statute for this type of financing, I believe without looking it up it is 465.71, says and this was quoted in the staff report “no election is required”… meaning council can pass without going to a public vote.
    and although the Council is informed that no election (referendum) is required, the public is not informed of any remedies they may have.
    The Packet, and Ms McBride verbally, stated that Mark Ruff (Ehlers) and Jenny Boulton (Kennedy and Graven, bond counsel) were “present in order to answer Councilor’s and the public’s questions”.
    I have never in recent memory seen a situation where the public was allowed to ask questions of the professionals involved.
    The Mayor did say she hoped the Councilors would pursue any of the public’s questions that also concerned them… didn’t happen.

    3. Councilor Pownell came with several questions (5?) ands those focussed primarily on formerly expressed concerns, as I recall.
    Councilor Zweifel asked 2 questions which seemed to be aimed at reinforcing packet statements; I don’t recall them being concerns of open mic speakers.
    The rest of the Councilors present seemed content with the information presented by their professional advisors( and I am not saying that is necessarily wrong; but Ms Buckheit is most likely the only one of those proficient in the ‘legalese’)…

    But unfortunately Councilor Imm made a very punitive statement criticizing open mic speakers, as if they had no right to disagree strongly or be very disappointed in their elected representatives, and several others of the Council followed suit. I must say this is , I think, the 3rd time this councilor has seen fit to disallow the propriety of open mic disagreement, which may even be vehement disagreement, with some Council policy, and has felt the need to strongly reprove the dissenters.
    So … ironic that those who ‘disapprove’ are disapproved of and publicly rebuked for expressing their opinion. Such is the ‘power’ of having the last word.

    ****
    And to reply to Councilor Buckheit’s comment in #65:
    All in all it matters not if the method pursued was pursued well by the staff and consultants; I would expect no less from Ms. McBride and Mr. Ruff….But pursuing a costly path to avoid a public vote on a very large project is not to be commended for how well the ‘incorrect’ path ,IMO, was pursued.

    ****
    In the end , this is all about how ‘representative governance’ is enacted in this town, with this Council.

    I must again ask: If there was such strong overwhelming support from their constituents, why did this Council , months ago, not go the simpler , less expensive route of either GO , or CIP bonds, avoiding all the wasted time, higher interest, manipulation and public criticism.
    Why, why, why?

    • 67.1
      David DeLong says:

      I know a Locally Grown reader will correct my math but I think this is accurate.

      The interest cost on the Northfield bonds sold last night was 2.85 not 2.085 as stated in the article.

      Fergus Falls sold their bonds August 6th 2012. Interest rates have not fluctuated much in that period of time. The actual amount of the bond was 5.8 million but since Northfield’s bond did not include the cost of the site, I subtracted the cost of site acquisition (1.1 million it will be located downtown) to reach the 4.7 million Fergus Falls bond cost figure.

      Over the next 20 years Northfield citizens will pay 6.28 million in principle and 2.12 million in interest.

      If I did my math right the difference in interest rates is approximately 37% . If Northfield would have gone with a GO bond (General Obligation) instead of the lease revenue as it did the City would have saved over 800,000 in interest.

      The Fergus Falls Police station is 23,000 square feet, 4.7 million cost.
      The Northfield Police station is 26,000 square feet, 6.2 million cost.

      That’s a difference 1.5 million.

      Northfield is paying one and a half million dollars more than Fergus Falls for 3,000 extra square feet.

      The outline of a tennis court doubles playing area is 2,800 square feet.

      Ouch!

      • 67.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        Well, David, the only reply to that is to once again ask… and hope for an answer… IF the Council was so positive they they were representing their constituents, why did they not vote, months ago, to go the simpler, less expensive route of either GO or CIP bonds ???

        Answers???

      • 67.1.2
        David DeLong says:

        I forgot to state the interest rate on Fergus Falls bond 2.08

  • 68
    Tracy Davis says:

    Color me confused.

    I have a lot of questions, and maybe this isn’t the best one to start with, but there are at least two people here (David L, Ray) who may be able to answer it. As I reviewed some of the safety center documentation, I noticed this in the original recommendation of the Task Force in 2009:

    Having reviewed the data presented by City Finance staff and the City’s Bond Council, the Taskforce recommends the City Council consider the following options for financing:

    a. Voter approval through a referendum of the sale of $10.4 million in General Obligation Bonds.

    b. City Council approval of the sale of $10.4 million in Capital Improvement Bonds, subject to a reverse referendum.

    If the original task force had no issue with *not* putting the question before the voters, why is Council action (subject to reverse referendum) not okay now?

    • 68.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Tracy,

      I think you have it backwards. The original recommendation called for a vote -- either directly or by a reverse referendum. Both the HRA method and this method (if legal) are immune from a vote.

      The packet prepared for the Council is claiming that these bonds are issued under Minn. Stat. 465.71 (leasing statute). If that were true, (which in my opinion is not true) then this bonding would not be subject to reverse referendum.

      We should remember that the “task force” was appointed by the Mayor, had a majority consisting of City employees or officials, and it had and has no authority over bonding decisions. Bonding decisions are decided by state law and City charter. Under state law, a lease cannot obligate a City for more than one year without having the obligation be subject to a vote.

      • 68.1.1
        Tracy Davis says:

        Well, I don’t think that a recommendation to use CIP bonds can be considered “calling for a vote”, but I understand your point. Is your main objection to the police station that

        1) There is no real need
        2) It’s too expensive
        3) It’s being done the “wrong” way
        4) ???

      • 68.1.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Tracy,

        1. There is a need for more space for police and fire. But, I don’t think we need to double the space. And, as long as we are just renting space, why don’t we rent from some local businesses who have extra space? It would give the police and fire more space, would be cheaper, and would help local businesses.

        2. It is WAY too expensive. The building is too big and the cost per square foot is too high. If Ray Cox’s plan would have been followed, we could have built a fire barn at significantly less cost per square foot, and have remodeled the Safety Center all for less than we are paying for just a police station.

        3. It’s the “wrong” way for two reasons. First, the voters don’t get to vote. In the (Council’s) worst case scenario, the Council puts the vote to the voters and the voters turn it down. So what? Put another (scaled down) version on the ballot the next year. We already have a police station. There is no pressing need to do something. We have been kicking this around for 3 years. It’s not like the Vikings; the police aren’t going to run away.

        4. It’s also the wrong way because we will be RENTING a building at a cost greater than OWNING and at a greater risk to the City. USBank will own the building. Do you trust USBank? Does anyone really understand what these agreements say?

        5. It does nothing to solve the Fire Department’s problems. They don’t have enough space and they have old equipment. They still have both. And the police department, which suffers from no immediate space nor equipment issues gets what they want. Are we going to fight crime with the building?

        6. This City Council is hamstringing subsequent councils, including signing agreements that, if broken, will cause severe credit issues for the City. It is locking the next Council into a $7.2 million dollar commitment before we have anything to show for it. If we are going to lease, the City should not be punished for not leasing beyond the 1 year statutory period.

        7. The City is taking $1.0 million from other funds with no plan to replenish those funds. For example, money is coming out of the technology fund. What if we have technology needs? Are we going to borrow money or go without? And, raiding one fund to pay for something else is bad discipline. Period.

        8. There is no provision for payment on the extra operating and maintenance costs of the new building. It has be heated, cleaned, and depreciation costs. The depreciation costs alone are at least $150,000.00 per year. We have essentially doubled our operating costs.

        Those are my main concerns.

  • 69
    Tracy Davis says:

    Very helpful, Dave, thank you. There are so many layers to this issue, and it’s gone on so long, that parsing it is a real challenge. Pardon the mixed grammatical-onion metaphors.

    • 69.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Tracy,

      You are welcome. The irony is that a citizen vote is a simple yes/no process. The voters would sort out the merits of the issue.

      • 69.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        The irony , as I see it, is that 5 people made a decision that 5000 should have made … because the 5 didn’t have the fortitude to trust the voters who elected them.

    • 69.2
      Tracy Davis says:

      Dave and Kiffi, how would the voters be informed enough to decide whether a facility was needed, and what it should cost?

      • 69.2.1
        kiffi summa says:

        OMG, Tracy… OMG!
        I am reduced to teenaged texting language, by your query…

        Are you advocating ‘subject specific voting literacy’ ? :-)

        Well, guess you’ll be asking for a list, so here goes:
        1. the at least 40-50 city council meetings on this subject over the last 4-5 years.
        2. the tons of dead trees converted into reports, analyses, drawings, letters, staff reports, Task Force reports, MINORITY task force reports, open mic comments with statistics and facts.
        3. the numerous and frequently offered tours of the current facility, complete with maps ,drawings and one-on-one conversation with personnel, on site.
        4. the numerous NFNews articles, although often without statistics and facts.
        5. The memos, letters from the Fire Chief to the city, Council, or whoever might listen to the Fire Chief as opposed to the ‘Director of Public Safety’
        6. The several various brochures written by a public relations person hired by the city to explain the facts the City wanted you to pay attention to
        7. any of the volunteer firemen you might happen to know and have met on the street (most of us avoid getting involved with the police unless they ‘get involved with the police’)

        I could keep going on, but I’m sure you get the point: there’s been a ton, or two, of info over the preceding years; let me add just one more:
        8. Any/All of the Councilors who did not find satisfaction with either the process, price, plans, or location until the last few months, when there seems to have been an abundance of ‘kool-ade’ floating around.

        Sorry if I sound flip; can’t bring myself to sound any other way at this time; we’ll have a HUGE new police station, with training space for the firemen which they say they won’t/cannot use, a cost per square foot to satisfy the elevated standards of NF, as the Mayor feels is necessary, and the firemen… who seemed to have the most immediate safety needs … will have : what amount of $$ ?, coming from where ?, to reconfigure the supposedly “unusable” current building, and so on and on and on.

        I’m sure, Tracy, that you were just too immersed with the travails of the LDC the last several years to follow this, if you are asking the questions you’re asking …

      • 69.2.2
        Tracy Davis says:

        Kiffi, by now you should be familiar enough with my M.O. to know that I often express opinions that are not my own, and sometimes ask questions not because *I* want to know “the answer”, but because I want to know the opinion of others (and, sometimes, to see how the question gets answered! :-)

      • 69.2.3
        David Ludescher says:

        Tracy,

        Let’s turn the question around. How do you know that the Council is well-informed about whether a facility is needed and at what cost? As far as I can tell, none of the 551 pages address the concerns that I (and others) have raised.

        Here is one example -- (from Garwood-DeLong) Did you know that the interest rate on this type of financing is almost 1% higher than GO bonds? There was no such comparison in the packet. And, during her presentation, Finance Director McBride compared the proposed interest rate to home loan interest rates. (?!) Did you know that Fergus Falls just built a facility almost the same size for about 2/3 rds the price?

        This is the the kind of information that comes out when there is a public vote, and the kind of information that is hidden/not mentioned when critics are silenced.

    • 69.3
      David Ludescher says:

      Tracy,

      2 answers: 1) It is the voters’ money; they get to decide what is needed 2) You seem to assume that this Council knows what it is doing.

  • 70
    victor summa says:

    Tracy -- first I have a lot of reaction to you comment in 68 -- and I may get around later to fleshing those out in another longer.

    I know … can’t wait.

    For now, it seems to me (RE 69.2) you’re either (as you said) confused ( what’s that color?) or naive.

    Let’s go with naive -- (or at least conflict avoidance) as that seems to be a characteristic of your most recent 69.2 comment.

    So, may I pose a little exercise -- no physical activity required -- merely some thought.

    Lets assume you run for council and are elected. Does that election give you greater insight into decision making or merely a greater responsibility, than if you were defeated by some marred bogus thinking of the voters?

    But if rejected at the ballot box … your opponent prevailing, does that makes his/her decision necessarily better for the community’s greater good, than your’s might have been.  And more to this point, should you be silent on the issue?

    Moot question maybe.  For sure, in the case of sidewalk cracks, snow removal, tree trimming etc, and regardless of principles and all that good stuff, maybe their intuitive position when balanced against 6 other thoughtful public servants, is good enough, and the wheels of government keep on rolling. 

    But, I hope you would agree, issues do not have to be super big or super complex … here in Northfield to get a fight.

    Let’s not go there with this issue. It is a big one, having two principle horns. Those being cost of the project -- and the method used by the elected officials and their staff (include consultants) in this decision. 

    For me, number two is preeminent!

    In this current dialogue, follows then this question: is Betsey (read Erica, Patrick, Ivan, Rhonda, Suzie [she still there?] or Mary any better equipped to make these decision than Ludescher -- you … or in-fact me … simply because they received a larger vote in the last election than did the opponent? 

     If you feel the answer is yes, then you should never find it necessary to lament or challenge any elected persons decision and I guess that means you supported the war in Iraq.

    Back to the local small pond … I believe, like me (had I voted in the last Second Ward race) most people who did were looking at personality differences — in the two candidates, and they voted for the person they felt would bring the most to the table .. on their behalf.

    Does that supersede the voter’s choice on very big issues?
     
    Does your election or mine or David’s or in fact Betsey’s really give them greater information to make decision than all the others who are the subjects of their representation?

    My mantra in this “representative government” banner these councilors are constantly invoking, is …  they misunderstand the role of the elected official in our (especially Northfield today) small local environment as opposed to the ideals of the US congress.

    Hard decisions? Silly thought.

    No way is the form or government in Northfield truly a smaller version of the federal process. 

    I think you addressed that question conceptually in your recent Think Twice radio show which you shared with Ross and Griff. There, you cited our Charter and what it really mandates and … maybe what it should, for better government in Northfield. That’s what I heard, at least.  And frankly. that’s what I’m mostly about -- except for sporting events.

    May I venture an ANALOGY?   a pebble tossed in the ocean off the coast of Japan would hardly result in the tragic consequences of the earthquake. Here in Northfield comparatively a puddle (muddle?) to all that is Japan … the same tossed pebble causes ripples that serge through the community.

    This matter (the safety center) in spite of all the rhetoric and snide shots by the Council back-and forth at each other … and direct pleas to the council by citizens, has not been well vetted or thought out by those elected. 

    Elected to make the hard decisions?

    NOPE!!! Elected to represent the voters.  

    Representation. How do they mange that? 

    They provide clear information (justification) on how the voters might evaluate or accept their decisions … or in matters of this magnitude, might cast a ballot on a referendum.  This latter being the only honorable path to take.

    I said Information … of which there has been a pathetic plethora!

    Information, which in this four year series of confounding discussions, has never come forward in unbiased form and on which there has never been a sense of movement by the Council … that is until the election appeared on the horizon.

    That’s why the vote needs to be taken and the information campaign needs to be vetted thoroughly and, be sincerely honest, bereft of shallow parental rhetoric.

  • 71
    David DeLong says:

    I made a mistake in my math in post 67.1.

    I admit I was in a hurry but that’s no excuse. My bad. I like to check my work especially when I’m not pressed for time. I have now taken the time and luckily I have the ability to self-correct when I do make a mistake and believe me when I say I’m not perfect. Make a mistake correct it, learn from it and try again.

    I should not have subtracted the 1.1 million for the site acquisition cost from the Fergus Falls bond amount.

    Their 5.9 million bond issue covered everything. Site acquisition, architect and design fees, financing and legal fees, construction bid and contingency fee, all were included. They used CIP bonds. Because of the education efforts put forth there was no reverse referendum.

    The Fergus Falls bond sale was approved by that Council Aug. 6th 2012. Northfield approved the sale of 6.28 million on Aug.28 2012
    Fergus Falls bonds were rated by Moody’s as Aa3 which is equal to Northfields rating of AA- by Standard and Poor’s.

    Similar amounts, similar rating, similar time.
    NF -- 2.85%
    FF -- 2.08%
    This means the Northfield Council just approved spending 77% more in interest than they needed to.

    I’ve done the math again, a couple different ways and I came up with approximately 500,000 thousand not 800,000. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t need egg on my face and at $1.49 a dozen I could buy 4 million 26 thousand eggs for what the council over paid on interest.

    • 71.1
      David Ludescher says:

      David,

      The interest calculations are deceiving because Northfield is taking $1.0 million from other funds to make a down payment. Thus the additional expenses are $500,000 in interest, $300,000 in additional principal, and $1,000,000 additional money to buy the property making it $1.8 million more expensive than Fergus Falls. If GO bonds were used, the savings would have been even greater.

  • 72
    victor summa says:

    Lets get this back to the essential conflict … accountability. All this arithmetic gives me a headache.

    Tracy -- (no pun .. but) tracing numbers of past comments tends to overwhelm me so forgive me if I don’t get them right … but in 68 you opened up an important dialogue … essentially asking writers to weigh in on the question …

    (paraphrased here) if the task force had no issue with not putting the question to the voters -- why the concern now?

    You got some responses but otherwise I believe the dialogue has died with no resolve. Seems we’re taking a page out of the Council’s note book.

    Looking at the possibility of resuscitation, I’m at a loss as how you came up with that question when you’re quoting the Taskforces’s recommendation.

    The TF recommends: (item b, your quote --

    b. City Council approval of the sale of $10.4 million in Capital Improvement Bonds, subject to a reverse referendum.

    Subject to a reverse referendum!

    That’s really all we want, our statutory right to petition for a reverse of the council’s decision.

    They call “it” Making the Hard decision” -- I see “it” as abrogating their primary role, representation of the public opinion. The hard part seems to be what they are too lazy to pursue. After all they’ve worked for years to get to this point!

    What of the citizen’s voices thus far? One might assume from your remarks in 68, that you’re puzzled over the recent concern voiced at the Open Mic and elsewhere with the Council’s action, which obviously by their admission, are meant to keep the question from the voters.
    Is that true? Is that your issue?

    Had you been watching you would have heard similar concerns voiced for all these years of pointless council dialogue.

    Well that is an issue with most who all along have expressed their concerns.
    Actually in fact, there’s two.

    ONE: Dollars (read that as scope -- still undefined but with a 7.28 million dollar budget. Mind you that’s only for one of two facilities.
    TWO: Denying citizen’s their right to vote. And of course, as you point out, voting with information. Whose responsibility is that? To provide the information/background, for the vote?

    But in a reply to Kiffi and David L you ask -- how would the voters be informed to cast a vote (again paraphrased)

    Is that reason to deny?

    Like, well they really don’t know … and they really don’t care and … and, well we’re they ones they gave the hard decisions to. So… we’ll make it Not to worry.
    Really?

    Kiffi it seems found that statement (yours, not mine) incredulous and responded In her 69.2.1 … ? but then went further to explain the litany of reports, investigations and council dialogue that has led to nothing. Nothing, that is, until the election looms and they decide to bypass the voter and ask the HRA for its support.

    This support, had it materialized, would have given a citizen’s group petition rights to seek a reverse. In spite of the improprieties of that part of the process … that was likely a slam dunk -- not the out come of the vote, but the signatures necessary to take it to a vote.

    Evidently disturbed by that potential -- and hearing (fearing?) the continued attack on their (the council’s) maneuvers, they bolted from the unreasonable to the outrageous. That’s called Certificates of Lease to Purchase (COP) -- a process that many feel is not allowed by any statute -- any prudent thinking here sees it as only as good as far as they can get get it to go.

    How far is that? Unfortunately, unless challenged they can ride that swaybacked pony all the way to the finish line.

    Is there hope?

    Public knowledge coming from public discourse is one hope to stop that merry-go-round. And that’s were I’m coming from now, because it seems you opened a dialogue that wasn’t getting the kind of traction you wanted, so now you’ve back away. That’s too bad for information flow.
    Is “backed away” too strong? Well correct me if I’m overstating here.

    How do I come to this conclusion? In your response to Kiffi’s 69.2.2 , you kick the can you opened down the road with a few Tracyisms: [sic] I often express opinions not my own -- for the sake of stirring the pot -- looking for other’s opinions. (Really loosely paraphrased -- but you get the drift, right?)

    So now, we’re at my portal in this storm … What of the Council’s action (I find it devious) that seems to shoot the pubic right off the stump of public opinion.

    I believe the collective perspective of all responses to your first comment -- including mine in 70 deserves better from you than basically: I was just prodding the sleepy voters. Since all I hear are slumbering noises, I’ll let it go.

    May I suggest you think twice about letting this can of worms drop? 8-)

    (how do you do a smily face?)

  • 73
    David Ludescher says:

    Victor,

    I share your frustration with the fact that proponents of the Council’s actions, including Betsey have not come forward for a public debate. The Council was quite critical of its critics. Some council members indicated that “everyone they talked to” were in favor of this proposal.

  • 74
    Griff Wigley says:

    A closed City Council mtg is scheduled prior to next week’s Work Session:

    Motion to close meeting pursuant to MS 13D.05, Subd. 3(b), as permitted by the attorney-client privilege. The council will meet with legal counsel to discuss pending/threatened litigation related to police facility financing and the adoption of Resolution 2012-076.

    David L, is this you they’re talking about?

    • 74.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Griff,

      I heard about a closed meeting, but haven’t got my invitation yet.

    • 74.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Griff and all,

      I don’t think this meeting can be legally closed. I am not aware of any pending litigation. My threatened litigation would address whether the Council exceeded its powers under state law by issuing bonds that are not subject to voter approval or a voter referendum.

      This question is a public matter which was pooh-poohed at the August 28th meeting. Furthermore, I am considering making the city a plaintiff in any lawsuit, because the city (and its people) which will suffer the consequences of any illegal councilor action.

      Maybe one of you media types should check into this further.

  • 75
    victor summa says:

    Oh David -- you’ll not likely get an invite either. And judging on the lack of media coverage of this planned event, most citizens who also are not welcome -- well not even know about it!

    Others, beside you who have legal degrees but also have open accounts with the City will likely attend and send along a bill. These be Ehlers’ advisors and reps from Kennedy & Graven. A diagram of this municipal government might look like an upside down pyramid … all spread out on the top with paid voices, narrowing down to a precious few elected -- This is truly the September song.

    My understanding is Mr. Hood got wind of a possible legal step to slow this juggernaut. He called the City Admin and they (well the Mayor) called a Special Meeting.

    A real coup would be to serve papers at the meeting. Hmm?

    • 75.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Victor,

      The lack of media coverage surprises me. You would think that taking away the people’s right to vote would get more coverage.

  • 76
    Griff Wigley says:

    Nfld News article posted about 30 minutes ago: Northfield City Council will defend itself in threatened lawsuit

    In a closed session Tuesday night, the Northfield City Council authorized City Attorney Chris Hood to defend the city in any lawsuits regarding the public safety center financing that was approved Aug. 28. It was a direct result from a threat made by David Ludescher, Northfield attorney and city council candidate, to sue the city for approving $6.28 million in lease-purchase financing to build a new police facility and renovate the current safety center for the fire department.

  • 77
    David DeLong says:

    “and renovate the current safety center for the fire deparment”

    When did Council pass that resolution? Is this spin,misquote, or wishful thinking?
    As for the Council authorizing The City Attorney to defend the City, isn’t that his job? They have to tell him to do his job? Did they try to get the League of Minnesota Cities to do it? Did they said no, and Chris Hood is our fall back guy? I don’t understand this Council.

  • 78
    David Ludescher says:

    Just so it is clear to the reading audience: I have not threatened to sue the City of Northfield. My complaint is against the councilors who voted in favor of certain contracts. I am of the opinion that there is no statutory grant of power to the city council such that the councilors can bind the City of Northfield to the contracts of which they have authorized execution.

    Instead of circling the wagons, I would like to suggest an alternative: LET US VOTE!

  • 79
    David Ludescher says:

    All,

    There are some new developments from the disenfranchised voters.

    • 79.1
      Kathie Galotti says:

      Do tell.

    • 79.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Kathie,

      The plan right now is to go through KYMN Radio.

    • 79.3
      David Ludescher says:

      Kathie,

      A press release has been recorded. Listen to KYMN or check their website.

      • 79.3.1
        kiffi summa says:

        David: why don’t you print the content of the press release here on LG?

        I subscribe to a daily news update from KYMN, and didn’t get it there, nor could I find it on their website in either the home page news, or the news section.

      • 79.3.2
        Matthew Rich says:

        The press release, in audio form, is available on the KYMN site here.

      • 79.3.3
        Griff Wigley says:

        I’m at a coffeehouse without headphones and can’t play the audio, David. A transcribed version would definitely be a discussion-friendly thing to have.

      • 79.3.4
        David Ludescher says:

        Griff,

        The gist of the release is that we are temporarily suspending the lawsuit so that the councilors can talk freely. After thinking about the lawsuit and discussing it amongst ourselves, we decided that we could always sue later if we had to.

        We have an election coming up. We want the councilors to be able to freely say why they have taken away the rights of the voters.

        We also wanted to warn potential investors and USBank that they are buying and selling these investments at their own risk. If the Council’s decision is reversed for any reason -- by this Council, by petition, by a future City Council, or by a judge -- we don’t want investors to say that they weren’t warned of the dangers of this creative financing.

        We don’t want the citizens of Northfield to have to foot the bill if a later decision is that this Council did not have the power they think they have.

  • 80
    • 80.1
      kiffi summa says:

      OK… after many years of being a LWV Council observer, I must admit the ‘habit’ lingers on, and often creates questions in my mind about the Council process…

      I would agree that the closed meeting seemed a bit reactionary, but there was a lot of ‘saber rattling’ going on, but I am also curious about why the meeting took an hour; it is unusual, in my experience, for closed meetings to run over that much, especially on the subject of a yet un-filed lawsuit.

      I hope there was not additional un-announced discussion of the $25,000 payment to former City Administrator Al Roder, announced on the Consent Agenda ( ! ) for next Tuesday.
      It would be easy to sloppily slip into that discussion, and I find it difficult to believe that everyone is just fine with that payment.
      (I also find it difficult to believe the newspaper has been silent on this payment issue.)

      No matter which side anyone might be on in the “Goodhue Matter”, as it has come to be known, it is not productive to make that payment yet … and for this, or these, reasons: Why was Mr. Roder granted immunity and from what?
      If Mr. Roder needed immunity to testify, it would imply that by his truthful testimony he would be incriminating himself in some manner , if he did not have the immunity.

      Therefor, one cannot assume that there is as yet a free and clear record which would require this payment of an additional $25, 000, to which the former councilors committed the citizens dollars, on top of the ??? of legal fees … the rate being objected to by our current City Attorney, Chris Hood, in a recent Council meeting when the last attorney fees bill for Mr. Roder was presented for payment.

      This issue has not even completed, after four years (!) the preliminary omnibus hearing process, much less come anywhere near to trial … so any definitive move, such as making this ‘all clear’ payment, would seem to be extremely premature.

      I would like to see this moved off the Consent Agenda and discussed, and I think it would be to the benefit of the councilors who are campaigning to do so.

      Sorry for the thread drift; it just seemed a logical progression…

  • 81
    David Ludescher says:

    For those who want to vote on whether the citizens should pay for USBank to build the USBank building (i.e. police station) a petition for calling a vote will again be on Bridge Square on Saturday and Sunday 10-2. I was told that 3 of the current City Council candidates have already signed the petition.

    • 81.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      David, I signed the petition last Saturday. But it doesn’t have any real clout, does it? It seems similar to the two straw polls that the Northfield News has run on their website in the past couple of months that have shown more opposition to the current financing plan than support.

    • 81.2
      David Ludescher says:

      Griff,

      It is my legal opinion that this financing method is subject to a reverse referendum. If Mr. Clack and the rest of us can gather the necessary 5% of the signatures, we can present the signatures to the council and, if necessary, to a judge to demand an election.

      The petition should also allow a future council to call for a special election on the financing. If the 5% is gathered and an election is held reversing this council, it should allow the City to get out of the financing without liability for costs.

  • 82
    Griff Wigley says:

    Today’s Strib South section: Northfield’s public safety building still under debate

    Northfield’s long-debated new public safety building continues to generate controversy as it lumbers through a complex and unusual financing plan toward design approval and construction. City Council candidates are lambasting incumbents who approved unusual lease-purchase financing that circumvents voter approval.

    Candidate David Ludescher, an attorney, has repeatedly threatened a lawsuit to get a referendum, but then put legal action on hold. Another resident is collecting signatures on a petition asking for a public vote on the $7.28 million center. But no voter referendum will happen, said Mayor Mary Rossing. She said bonds have been sold and the council this month voiced agreement on moving forward with design plans so bids can be let by early spring. “The train has left the station,” Rossing said.

    • 82.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Griff and all,

      The Strib’s article was disappointing. It seems to reflect the new style of reporting, which is to simply quote what people are saying rather than asking any probing questions.

      I also found it interesting that the Council had a closed meeting to discuss the lawsuit that doesn’t yet exist, but the Mayor and staff are willing to talk to a Twin City reporter. Go figure!

  • 83
    kiffi summa says:

    Unfortunately, the Mayor is quoted in this article as saying: “we have done everything the people asked us to do”, and I think that is certainly a questionable statement…

    Over and over, public commenters at Council meetings (even a League of Women Voters Observer, and they don’t usually comment at meetings they are observing), residents of all persuasions, lawyers, constituents of various councilors,ward candidates, etc., etc., etc., have asked the Council to have a public referendum or at least use a form of bonding that would allow a public referendum to occur if enough petition signatures were gathered.

    The Council simply refused to do this, saying they felt confident of their decision. They also said that all they heard from their constituents was “get it done”… well, there are either a lot of disenfranchised constituents, or a lot of cases of selective deafness among the councilors.

    Confidence would have been shown by having a public vote on this process/expenditure and then being able to say to the opponents, OK, we had the vote you asked for, and you lost.

    Instead, the Council chose a way that did not allow for a public vote, and then the Mayor says “Sorry; the train has left the station”… That sort of ‘crowing’ is poor judgment, IMO; I hope that quote was taken out of context, and so became distorted.

    The naming of who is, or is not, the ‘poor sports’ will now fall to the Council’s chairs, because they refused to allow the ‘naysayers’ to be proved wrong, by an affirmative public vote for the new facility… The Council obviously did not feel secure in taking the chance of failure in the voting booth.

  • 84
    kiffi summa says:

    After all these years since the Public Safety Center debacle hit the stage, does anyone remember that it was the extreme need for more space for the Fire Dept that was the primary concern originally ???
    Guided tours through the current facility all emphasizing the safety issues in the crowded fire barn.

    Now we have a Police facility at 7.28 M $$$ in the works and there is no plan, or dollars, at this time for the improvement of the Fire Dept which will stay at the current location … AND for which there are no dollars specified.

    This confirmed by an unsigned memo handed out by Administrator Madigan after last week’s Council work session.

    HOW did this get sooooooooooo botched?

  • 85
    Griff Wigley says:

    Tim Clack has set up an online petition to gain more signatures. Link -- Northfield MN City Council: Allow the citizens of Northfield to vote on the Safety Center Financing

    We, the undersigned citizens of Northfield Minnesota, do herby formally request that the City Council reverse their approval of Resolution 2012-076 Authorize the Execution and Delivery of a Lease-Purchase Agreement between the City and US Bank. We formally call for a reverse referendum and or any necessary action to bring this decision to public vote in the November 2012 General Election.

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