Podcast: Alex Beeby on Northfield’s City Charter

Alex Beeby, Tracy Davis, Ross Currier Our guest today was Alex Beeby, chair of Northfield’s Charter Commission. We talked about the Charter’s history and its current role in the meltdown at City Hall. We didn’t know it at the time we recorded the show (1:30 pm) but today’s Northfield News has a front page article with the opinionated headline and tagline Charter, reality disagree on city format: manager-administrator mix causes problems. See our Nov. 4 blog post Is the city’s Charter partially to blame for the woes at City Hall? for more background.

Alas, we ran out of time before we were able to discuss the Charter Commission’s relationship with Charter Cable, Charter Schools, Charter Airlines, Charter Buses, and the Magna Charter. These guys do it all. No wonder Alex doesn’t have time to read Locally Grown anymore.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Wednesdays at 5:30 PM on KYMN 1080 AM. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes. We seek your comments and suggestions.

10 thoughts on “Podcast: Alex Beeby on Northfield’s City Charter”

  1. Not many years ago the citizens of Northfield, when given the choice between the city being governed and lead by a mayor or an administrator, voted for the former.

    Since then, I thought that was the case – and have spoken up as if it were – only to realize now that, in the intervening years, the Charter Commission and Council got together (all very legal and process-correct as I understand from listening to Alex) to produce a a Weak Mayor-Council System with a (resulting) strong(er) administrator (intended or otherwise – since politics like nature abhors a vacuum). Much misunderstanding even mischief has resulted therefrom.

    The poll a few years ago sought to educate City Hall regarding the roles of the mayor and administrator – a strong mayor was requested and required by the citizens. Now the citizens are about to be educated by City Hall on what they have got… not what they voted for.

  2. In today’s NFNews , 12.26.07, there is an article on the third page re: the Charter Commission’s letter that they, with the support of the League of Women Voters, were planning to submit to the citizenry as part of an educational process on the structure of city Government.
    In case you don’t subscribe to the paper, here’s some quotes:
    Paragraph 1: “City councilors have taken the UNUSUAL (emphasis mine) step of asking to look at a Charter Commission letter before it’s sent to residents”.
    Paragraph 2: “The commission, an independent group whose members are appointed by a district court judge, has NO OVERSIGHT FROM THE COUNCIL”. (again, emphasis mine)
    Paragraph 6: “City administrator Al Roder said some councilors have expressed concerns about the letter and the league’s (League of Women Voters, explanation mine) involvement in writing it”.
    Paragraph 7: “While other city boards and commissions have sent similar mailings without getting council approval, RODER SAID IT’S THE CHARTER COMMISSION’S INDEPENDENCE THAT NECESSITATES THE OVERSIGHT”.(emphasis mine)

    Now,what is it about “independence” that so raises the antennae of this council? Is it whatever caused the aggressive and almost rude treatment of the Charter Commission chair, when last at the council on the matter of the change to the hospital sale section of the charter? I shouldn’t think it was that change, since although some council members asked if the hospital board was in support of the wording in the charter change, that should not have been an issue as the charter commission had a letter from the hospital board fully in support of the changes being presented, and there is a liaison from the council to the hospital board.
    Was it then the collaboration with the League of Women Voters? Full disclosure: I am on the Board of the LWV, have been for several years, and believe me, they have not gained a national reputation for thoroughness by “rushing to judgement”; on the contrary… their reputation for fairness in governmental best practices “watch-dogging” comes from an almost (to my mind) excruciatingly deliberate process.

    I think this council has “issues of power”. I say that sadly, as it is definitely not a good thing for governmental dynamics. Will they attack, or criticize anything that they perceive as questioning them?

    This letter from the Charter Commission, with help from the League, is meant to be part of a “your local government and how it works” information piece that would answer many of the questions recently raised by presenting the governing documents.

    Is it anything but paranoid to be apprehensive of the information in the actual documents that govern our city? We have citizen Boards and Commissions to assist the council with the citizens valued input; well we used to… I’m not so sure about that anymore. It seems like the word from on high, the Dais, is self-importantly, most valued.

  3. Kiffi –

    I can see from the City’s website: http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/cityhall/boards/chartercommission that the Charter Commission is made up of the following individuals:


    * Alex Beeby (Chair)
    * Peter Dahlen
    * David Emery
    * Jayne Hager Dee
    * Dan Hofrenning
    * Mary Savina
    * Elaine Thurston

    I can see by the League’s website: http://lwvnorthfieldmn.org/ that
    its leadership is made up of the following:

    President…………………………..Kathy E. Tezla
    Vice President………………….. Eve Webster
    Secretary……………………………Suzie Nakasian
    Treasurer………………………….. Barbara Wilson
    Membership………………………. Janet Petri
    Observer Coordinator…………Hilary Ziols
    Publicity……………………………. Pat Kriesel
    Action……………………………….. Kathy Cooper
    Cannon Falls Rep………………. Allene Moesler

    Tripp Ryder
    Kiffi Summa
    Judy Covey

    Perhaps we could get some of the folks from both entities to bring a little “light and not heat” to the discussion.

    – Ross

  4. Ross: re your post, #4 unfortunately any attempt to bring “light” by raising questions , or facts, to be considered brings only “heat” as a response.

    Have you noticed how posts which contain facts are not being answered?
    We are all much too polarized on this issues, and the emotionalism therein, and we have lost the ability to have a discussion based on fact and documentation.

  5. It is very enlightening to go back & read the panel discussion & forum held by Northfield Citizens Online in 2001.

    I would particularly point out Hartley Clark’s careful & considered summary of the history of Northfield’s system of gov’t. (scroll down to #3 of 47)
    Also his view on the legitimacy of calling our government a “strong mayor” system. (scroll down to #22)

    Although I participated in that discussion as a skeptic, it is obvious to me now, in light of the present discussions, that we (voters) should have elected to formally change to a system of council/manager.

    I am eager to hear about last Tuesday’s Charter Commission meeting where, according to their agenda, they were to discuss their/the LWVNorthfield’s education campaign. From reading various comments, it is obvious to me that the community could certainly benefit from such a campaign.

  6. I agree with Catherine that it was very informative to read the ‘panel discussion forum by NCO in 2001’ (see above for link) and I recommend that we all read it to get a better, deeper understanding of the issues that confronted City Hall and how is worked before then, at that time, and at this time. By all means read it – but read it in the knowledge that the proposal to change our form of government to the City-Manager form FAILED.

  7. In today’s Nfld News: Charter group, LWV abandon plan for educational mailing.

    Charter Commission Chair Peter Dahlen on Tuesday said the commission, with little discussion, agreed last month to end its participation after commission member David Emery said the LWV had decided to end their involvement in the project. The League of Women Voters’ Eve Webster, who help initiate the joint effort, did not return calls seeking comment.

    I can’t find anything about this on the LWV blog. Anyone know what the hell is going on?

  8. Griff: The LWV decided, along with the Charter Commission, to not pursue the matter any further as the re-written text from the council made the goals of the original joint (LWV and Chart/Comm) education piece valueless. It was stated at the council meeting that this education piece might appear “to be advocacy” or “might cause controversy” !!!

    DISCLAIMER: I am saying this as a LWV Board member….but NOT speaking for the Board…..and I was at the council meeting.

    The LWV President is Kathy Tezla; she lives in NF; maybe you should call her if you want an official statement.

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