Enough of the Mayor and the City Council Already

Cute meaningless graphicYes, it’s important, but I’m sick to death of it. Too polarized, not enough information, way too much groundless speculation. I know it’s too much to ask that we be done for awhile, so while those discussion threads continue on, I’d like to open things up and ask: Are there particular issues, topics, or news items that you’d like to see posts on, to kick off some discussion?

I don’t know about Griff and Ross, but sometimes I’m too close to things to identify things as good topics for discussion on Locally Grown when I’m already bogged down in their details, or conversely, sometimes mental health requires me to divest myself of everything Northfield just to take in a breath of fresh air.

So…. what should we talk about? (If there are existing discussion threads on a suggested topic, then the Triumvirate or LoGro oldsters can find the link and revive the conversation.)

41 thoughts on “Enough of the Mayor and the City Council Already”

  1. I’d like to hear what facilities rank the highest on citizen’s priority lists–both from personal use to what would be important for the community at large. ie: I would never use a new ice facility but if it brings traffic to Northfield’s hotels and restaurants I could be convinced. Library? Cop shop? City Hall? Skateboard park, new holiday decorations for downtown…let’s play “if I were in charge of the checkbook” (with limited funds, of course)

    And by the way, Rob, I would rather Northfield could fly so that we could relocate to a diffent climate occasionally or move closer to a lake or mountains or other geographic amenity.

  2. Rob: On DJJD weekend, we want to fly, and be seen flying.

    When our public officials are being investigated or asked to resign, invisible.

  3. I would like a good discussion of Northfield’s comp plan’s projected growth and whether the same people who narrowly allowed a Target/Cub complex into the area really want to commit to expanding the local shared sewer plant, in part at their own expense, just so another 20,000 people can move in. I see lots of conflict around the world and around the nation as developers move in with the expectation that infrastructure will just “happen”. I have heard good solid conservative and conservationist members of the community grumbling that growth like that is not in the best interests of Northfield. So, who is pushing for such growth and why is there no “truth in planning” to ensure that the people who come to us today to complain about city taxes and services get something besides a steady diet of “growth will save us”? Commercial growth might, but housing growth only serves the metro if we have not grown industrially and commercially first. While growth might save us in the short run (think pyramid schemes), that could be a bad bet if we will be looking at $5/gallon gas (adjusted values) in the next 10 years. Which brings up an observation.

    Peak oil is an interesting concept, as an analyst I had heard of it but never in a political debate, at least not from any credible candidates. That changed this year, and, like a parent working with Santa Claus and the kids, politicians seem to tread very lightly around this 800 lb gorilla. Peak oil is the point where oil production peaks, then, as production starts to drop, higher prices chase the dwindling suppy.

    Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast a peak will happen in the 2020s or 2030s and assume major investments in alternatives will occur before a crisis. These models show the price of oil at first escalating and then retreating as other types of fuel and energy sources are used.

    From an introductory article at Wikipedia. Suitable for coffee conversation, not so for analytical work.

    By the way, that same article states

    Some physicists maintain that the long-falling rate of oil production per capita has gone undiscussed because a politically incorrect form of population control may be implied by mitigation.

    Whoa dude! What is a politically correct form of population control? Famine? Flood? (stand back you global warming conspiracy nuts). People in 1908 could afford to ignore such issues because they had global wars on their short term radar. What is our excuse here in 2008? Leif Knecht (Bridgewater supervisor) ran on a platform that included keeping at least 85% of Bridgewater township in farming for the next 100 years. I think Dundas and Northfield should have sat up and paid attention to his reasons for thinking that was important, because you they are the ones who will benefit from that foresight when shipping food long distances is way too expensive.

    My figure of 20,000 is just a swag.

  4. I’d like to see a place where people can ask about things like “How many people would be interested in taking a “Journalling as Art class with Bright Spencer?” You know something that isn’t so much policy and politics.

    Everyone is so afraid that someone else will hawk their wares, well, why not?
    My class would be good for everyone involved and that makes for better citizens, does it not?

    I hope I was sneaky enough to get that in and that people will let me know
    if and what time of day and week they are free for such a thing at
    bright@beautywood.com

    You may know that I have taught watercolors at the senior center a while
    back and my students even brought me presents, so I guess I did good.

  5. I’d like to see us come up with a viable, renewable energy source that is city endorsed/ operated.

    What about– Wind turbines and electric car stations. Instead of having just gas stations, we could have an electricity station at the base of each wind turbine, and plug our cars in for 5 minutes. We can pay for the electricity instead of gas.

    We’d need a lot of things, including an electric car manufacturer (let’s call that guy who came to the co-op and see if he’ll set up shop down here) and we’d need a battery that would recharge in five minutes.

    And there must be some way of using the river for energy. It’s the same principle as the wind turbine. Install river turbines every few feet in the river.

    And, since we’re dreaming out loud, Rob– why the closed question? Flying or invisibility? I want more choices.

  6. Bright’s idea, self-promotional as it was :-), is a good one. I know LoGroNo isn’t Craig’s List, but a friendly forum where people could advertise their time and talents would be nice. I’m looking for an oboe teacher and/or a jazz piano teacher for my son. On the other hand, I’m always available to tutor people who want to learn Latin (and I have encountered such rare and wonderful people in Northfield!).

  7. I’ll endorse Latin. As a Catholic school girl, I was forced to take a year of it,
    and never regretted the understanding it gave me of both the old Mass and
    English language, and, yes, the Romance Languages!

    Northfield, Lets Fly!

    Holly, I like your thinking, let’s keep it going. What about a wind-water combo
    type thingy?

    As for Target/Cub, I have seen some very downtown people frequenting those establishments, even though they have lowered their heads in shame, or asked me not to tell anyone I saw them there! They are really both very useful to many in the area. They provide jobs and tax relief. I have never heard them complain about their chosen place on the earth and I
    quite like them myself for plain ordinary purchases…oh yes, and the $18.00
    blue LED holiday lights my dh picked up…he tells me these are a hard to find item as LED blue was impossible until recently. Ah, but I digress onto a most heavenly path.

  8. Bruce, who is pushing for another 20,000 people? With the housing market the way it is and the economy sinking and the housing inventory available it will be years before anyone considers new homes here.
    The Minnesota Realtors gave their outlook today (at a conference sponsored by the Minnesota Real Estate Journal, my employer, in the interest of full disclosure).
    As for bringing in industry and other jobs, the growth pattern is rooftops, then retail, then office and commercial (as executives and workers in small towns bring their work with them). This is happening in Elk River, Big Lake and other places. Of course they are aided by being halfway to lake country and other factors…but there are proven formulas for these things.
    So you’re best recruiting tool is to get to know all these invading, commuting, Target shopping newcomers and be a little nicer to them so they will consider bringing their businesses here. 🙂

  9. What am I interested in? Anything that gives teens an in-town activity that they’re interested in. That includes the skate park and the ice rink. The library could also arguably fit into the same topic. I’m also interested in hearing other ideas, since I don’t think any of those would suffice on its own.

    Another BIG priority for me is anything that makes Northfield more green, in line with Bruce’s comment on peak oil, which I do think is an enormous upcoming/current problem that’s been completely ignored at the federal/state level (probably because it requires some extremely unpopular policy changes). But regarding the Great Greening of Northfield, I’d love to see a policy that the city will buy electricity from anyone who generates it (for instance), at a price guaranteed for a long time. Germany did this at the national level with a 20 year price guarantee, and as a result stimulated huge development in renewable energy. Really I’d like to see that at the state or federal level, but a local initiative would sure be a good place to start. Other ideas? What needs to be done to promote more development of wind energy? I love Holly’s idea of wind turbines with plugs. Plug-in hybrids aren’t here yet, but now they are definitely coming and we should prepare. What other natural resources do we have that can easily promote renewable energy? What can be done to promote walking/biking over driving? What’s the research on the effectiveness of solar power at our latitude? If unfavorable, is that likely to change with the advent of solar power using more than one frequency of light?

    Julie, perhaps P&P could do a week or two on ideas to make Northfield more green, in conjunction with discussions here?

  10. Yes, Bruce, to Peak Oil. Ross seemed interested and informed on the subject at the debate.

    And Bruce, interesting point about business before residential development. If we’re already too much a bedroom community, and if that becomes less sustainable as gas prices go up (I think it will take less than 10 years to get to $5 a gallon), good idea.

    Bruce: Politically incorrect form of population control: Genetically modified germ warfare that targets people based on genes. Judith Miller (who went to prison rather than reveal her sources, yes same person) wrote a piece about some of this and other things germ-warfare-related just before 9-11-01. But here’s the kicker: No one would have to know. You could say it was Mother Nature. Scary? Even if it sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theorists, our research funding of germ warfare (“for defense only, of course”) increased exponentially after the anthrax sent out — made in the USA, it seems.

    Yes to Holly’s idea about renewable energy. Holly, have you seen “Who Killed the Electric Car”?

    For a while we heard all the doom-and-gloom about how it doesn’t work when the wind isn’t blowing, and when the sun isn’t shining, but geothermal works, somewhat, year-round, and I’ve been hearing about how they can use some of the electricity from wind to pump water into water towers, and then when the wind is not blowing, release the water through a water-based turbine to create electricity during calm periods. This gets around the problem of having to make more expensive high-tech batteries somewhat.

    There are also solar powered steam-turbines not based on photovoltaic, a simpler technology in some ways that also doesn’t require the expensive minerals.

    What creative new things are emerging in the realm of renewable energy? Is there interest in having local investors erect a wind turbine? What do Bruce Anderson and others know? Etc.

  11. The problem with The Crossing and much of the new development in Northfield is that they are very boring and generic … effectively they are commodities. When supply is low then commodity housing is sale-able but when supply is high then you can’t give it away. Northfield has a sense of aesthetic and the council and planning commission should be packed with officials who will work to enhance that aesthetic and avoid becoming a suburban commodity town.

    Don’t just build a skating rink and library … build an aesthetically beautiful skating rink and library that creates an infectious creative energy that makes people think this is Northfield ! If a building plan, like The Crossing, looks like it could be plopped down in any location around the state then ask for something better.

  12. Norman, what is kimcheee? The dictionary has “kimchi,” a spicy Korean dish consisting of picked cabbage, peppers, garlic, etc. Is that what you meant? Is it available in your establishments?

    By the way, a “Griff’s List” instead of “Craig’s List” might be an idea. As Rob says, a place to advertise wants and talents. I tutor and teach Spanish and give classes occasionally at Village on the Cannon. I put up posters on bulletin boards of our very cooperative merchants with that information from time to time—an online spot for such shameless self-promotion would be appreciated!

  13. Again, I cannot find the Rice County Feedlot Ordinance on active discussions. A group of us are having to run ads in both newspapers this weekend, alerting the public to the final change which has not yet been determined–feedlot size limit. This will be decided at the Tuesday, Jan. 22, county board meeting. That number (1500 au adopting the new animal unit designations?) will then be in the draft which comes up for a final vote of the Board on Feb. 5 (date not yet confirmed).

  14. Stephanie…I assume these ads will advise a course of action for citizens who oppose changes to the ordinance(s). What is the best thing an individual can do inorder to make their opposition known to those deciding this matter?

  15. This may be posted elsewhere on these pages somewhere, but David Bly is holding a Northfield Energy Summit the evening of January 31. This should be a fun discussion, for those interested in energy issues:

    On the agenda for the discussion will be:
    – The Northfield Energy Task Force
    – Rep. Bill Hilty, Chair of the House Energy Committee
    – Mike Bull, Ass’t Comm. for Renewable Energy, MN Dept. of Commerce (who’s that guy?)

    January 31, 2008 , 5:30 – 8 P.M.
    ST. OLAF COLLEGE, VALHALLA ROOM
    LOCATED NEXT TO THE KING’S ROOM IN BUNTROCK COMMONS
    NORTHFIELD, MN

  16. Oh, I see you have connections (and are a connection), Mike. Great! It will be a fun discussion…

    Paul, Rodd and I have been meaning to see that film. Who has it? You? Will you lend it to us for a weekend?

    Bright, you have good ideas all the time. Wisen… cracker?

    Stephanie, when we do the feedlot discussion, let’s start at the beginning again and lay out all apects of the issue. From there let’s discuss “why I should be concerned…” the base needs to be riled up from there, maybe. Probably water, smell, animal treatment, land usage, medicinal aspects, quality of food, money for farmers, etc. I’ll be sorry if I don’t pay attention to this discussion, probably.

  17. Griff,

    As long as I get a percentage of the profits for coining it.

    Thanks for the props, Rob.

    I did the same with Econo Foods, which was “More 4” when I was a Carleton laddie, so we students always called it “MoFo”, then with the switch to Econo Foods, I christened it “NoFo” in my mind. Perhaps others did the same.

  18. Brendon, and Griff, you are right, Northfield.org is a more appropriate place
    to promote, but why can’t we work both? These rules are often arbitrary and
    people would be surprised to see what might come up that they never thought about and then be able to take part in a meaningful way instead of always having to have so many rules that they cannot take part cuz of meanies in the way.

    Not to say I am ungrateful for all Griff and everyone does for LoGo a Go Go.

    Bright

  19. Brendon, I’ve called Econofoods “NoFoods” ever since their renovation, when they somewhat comically left a “Grand Reopening” banner hanging halfway over their sign. Speaking of them, I think it’s great they haven’t left downtown.

  20. Susan H: Would you be willing to lend a hand on pronunciation of the lyrics of the song, “Guantanamera” to help some local non-Spanish-Speaking anglo folk-singers? I received an E-mail from a local elected official (not D.B.) about wearing orange to mark the Guantanamo anniversary, but the song, plus the orange t-shirt, would be better.

    (Orange pants? I can’t go there. My political convictions only go so far before my fashion sense — lame as it is — kicks in.)

    Holly: I know someone who has a copy of the film that you could view for free, probably this weekend, if you like. Give me a call.

    Felicity E. and David H.: I agree about skating, now that I have a daughter taking lessons, competing with the hockey assn. And with the idea of building such things wisely.

  21. I would love to see a discussion, wikipedia style, that addresses the historic issues of the town. The Ames Mill was named after the Ames family who were very instrumental in the development of the town. Our old house had some historic connection, but I can’t remember exactly how. There are lots of people in town who have memories that will be lost with them. It would be fun to see people interview those who don’t have access to computers and post those stories as well as their own.

  22. Can you live with this?

    Once a month ,at the first of every month, a heading would be

    Then each person or company can write up to six lines to introduce and
    inform as to the service or product offered.

    Easy, simple. Everyone is happy and able to be seen and heard. All in one lovely place.

  23. Robbie, in response to your post, # 28. We have been conducting oral histories for a little over a year and half now. Because of budget reasons we have not been able to “finish” them. By finish them, I mean transfer them from DV tape to a DVD so people can easily access them. I would love to put them online and if Griff is willing to donate some of his valuable time to help us post videos on our website we can put them on the web!

    In addition, we are always looking for people to conduct oral histories in town. We have the camera and the tapes. If you are interested give me an email or call and we can work something out.

    On the note about the facilities, I think people should look at some other buildings in town that bring people here. For example, the Scriver Building and the NAG building (old YMCA building). Granted they are owned by private non-profits but both buildings are in need of some repair and some public money might help us in our efforts of restoring the buildings. What does everyone think of that?

    Finally, does everyone think having a historic walking tour in downtown would be a good idea?

  24. Hayes, I think a historical walking tour of downtown would be great. I, personally, find the whole Jesse James thing the least interesting part of Northfield’s history, and would love a tour that focused on other aspects of the town’s history. I love finding out how the town and the surrounding landscape have changed over the past 150 years, and about the people who left their mark.

    Also, if people are interested in finding out about their house’s history, check out the files in the Pye Room in the public library. That’s how I found out that our old house was once the home of the first Moravian bishop in Canada and the last Latin teacher at Northfield High School (the bishop’s daughter).

  25. Paul, I use Joan Baez singing “Guantanamera” for my Spanish students and have background on José Julián Martí y Pérez, leader of the Cuban independence movement, who wrote the words, little knowing they would end up in a song popular at karaoke bars. Would be happy to help with the song—you can e-mail me directly at susanhv@hotmail.com.
    Susan

  26. Regarding a historical walking tour—to get you started, there is a pamphlet called “Historic Sites and Points of Interest” at the Northfield Historical Society’s Scriver Building, 408 Division St., which lists 26 buildings, blocks, edifices, etc., with thumbnail sketches of their history. Most of you know the names Scriver Building, Archer House, etc., but what about Olson and Onstad Buildings (1890, 1887 construction), Kelly-Wheeler (1886), French Building, Lockrem/Sumner (1873) and oldest of all, the Lyceum Building at 109 E. 4th Street? The Lyceum was built by John North, Northfield’s founder, in 1857 as a meeting hall, debate and lecture auditorium and library. One of my favorite stories about this building is that when the topic of debate was woman’s suffrage, they could find no one to argue that woman should not have the vote. They wanted to encourage women to come to town, populated as it was by more men than women.

  27. Hayes, I had no idea you guys tried a wiki. Sorry ’bout that.

    I guess I would do it differently. Contact me via email and let’s chat. Looks like your wiki’s getting hammered by spammers, too, so that should be fixed.

  28. Energy Summit? Energy Summit with Rep. Bill Hilty? He’s the House Energy Committee Chair who called me into his office to explain that we need more coal, just can’t do without it! That was not long after he presided over hours of CapX 2020 transmission promotional testimony and wouldn’t let me give my presentation against CapX 2020 (but hey, I got 2 or 3 minutes to testify!). That was just after he graciously gave the CapX promoters time to present AGAIN at the following committee meeting. The Committee only heard testimony of those with a contractual or employment obligation to promote CapX transmission! CapX 2020 is planned to run in the north end of SD25 (www.nocapx2020.info), the Cannon Falls meeting last month had the highest attendance of any across the state (I went to almost all of them). We sure don’t need suppression of information about CapX2020’s facilitation of new coal plants in the Dakotas at this critical juncture … sigh… well, this Summit should give him the opportunity to hear from those facing CapX 2020 in the neighborhood and learn how we can indeed do without coal!

  29. I suppose Griff means the energy summit should be discussed on N.org.

    But, I can’t be sure, and so:

    That’s interesting, Carol. So you think Rep. Hilty meant that we should avoid sudden, economic, change? Do things slowly?

    Ok, regarding the turbines: so we have electricity to our homes and DC doesn’t work as well… electrical stations at the base of every turbine would be stupid unless there was an expensive device to charge the battery faster and better than at our homes…

    but let’s build turbines and have electrical cars, and have the city have a stake in renewable resource generation.

    And the river is for kyaking, instead of energy. Geez.

    Keep warm.

  30. Holly – no, I don’t think he meant doing things slowly. i think he meant what he said, I have to take at face value his statement that he supports building new coal plants (which is happening right now, they’re in permitting as we speak, it’s happening QUICKLY). he said that we “need new coal plants” and we can’t do it without coal, and that we need the transmission “for reliability” which he should know is really to do the bulk power transfer for market transactions (not regulated). To me, that means that he does not support change, and he said he supports more coal. He was not interested in how it can be done without coal, not in the least, he wanted to deliver a lecture on the need for coal! These new coal plants are billions and billions of dollars of irretrievable infrastructure commitments to coal plants and transmission lines that last 50+ years, and would grossly increase CO2 production, not to mention serious contamination with all the associated pollution, like mercury (ummmm… we already can’t eat the fish in MN, and with more falling from new coal plants, where will we be), pollution that will NOx your SOx off. The MN 2005 Transmission Omnibus Bill opened the door for new Dakota coal plants, and the 2007 “global warming bill” did nothing to stop all these new coal plants, instead giving them an exemption if they were in the pipeline. If they build these new coal plants, all the lightbulbs in the world, all the PV installations in the world, all the wind in Buff Ridge, will not effect the necessary change. He wants to go ahead with business as usual (and therefore not make the complicated and difficult and carefully plotted out changes to do our energy differently). He’s House Energy chair providing “leadership” that is forging down the same unworkable path. Instead we/they need to be standing up and turning the battleship around (that’s the slow painful change that we must make). Every time you hear someone yapping about global warming, CO2, ask them what they are doing to effect change, what changes they are working for — go beyond the talk. On a state and federal level, energy policy is going nowhere but warmer, lots of talk, lots of generation of CO2, and they’re not walking the walk. All the Minnesota legislative gains in wind and other “renewable” generation has been connected/tied with continued or ramped up noxious generation, coal and nuclear, when what we need is NO NEW COAL, and what we need is NO TRANSMISSION THAT FACILITATES NEW COAL. And don’t even get me going on our “Green Chameleon” Governor, or what these yahoos running for president think about coal… only Edwards has come out against new coal, Obama and Clinton are coal toadies.

    On the other hand, there are a few of us working hard to stop the new coal plants and we’re doing pretty well, the utilities and promotesr are dropping plans, permits are being denied, contracts lost — check out the January/Feburary issue of Orion, look for “Stopping coal in its tracks.” It can be done, we’re doing it, but I sure wish that the policy wonks and well-funded “environmental” organizations would start leading and making real change, or at least get out of the way of those of us stopping coal.

    … well, you asked!!!

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