Feedback wanted on the CVB post. Was it vigilante blogging?

Randy Jennings added this comment to the discussion thread attached to my blog post in which I was critical of the CVB.

Hey Griff,

Since you have such strong opinions about how city government and affiliated agencies and organizations should operate, why don’t you run for mayor or city council?

Heck, you already attend a goodly number of the meetings, and it would be great to have you contribute to improving the accountability and transparency of our local institutions from a seat at the proverbial table, instead of lobbing incendiary accusations in the form of whining (your term, above), pejorative questions, and imperatives about how people “should ” do their jobs.

Of course, if you were to stand for election, you would run the risk of being the victim of vigilante blogging (which I suppose is different than citizen journalism, although exactly how they are different is becoming less and less clear). I imagine that being the target of such blogging would be rather unpleasant and largely unproductive. After all, most public officials do the best they can given the rules of engagement under which they operate. I’m sure you would, too, although your good intentions and best efforts might not be fully acknowledged or appreciated.

For the record, I missed the election when you ran to be the public ombudsman, but I would certainly vote for you for mayor. (Sorry, Mary Rossing. You’d be a great mayor, but Griff has the bully pulpit, and he’s not afraid to use it.)

I’m interested in getting feedback on my CVB post, not unlike the feedback I asked for and got last year on our handling of the heroin story.

I’m wondering how my efforts to shine a light on the CVB/Chamber arrangement are different than what happens at newspapers. For example:

  • A recent Katherine Kersten column in the Strib critical of Muslim practices at a charter school that has triggered scrutiny by the State.
  • Northfield News reporter Suzy Rook’s articles last year examining Mayor Lee Lansing’s financial history and his communications with city staff re: the liquor store location. Subsequent newspaper editorials criticized the mayor and called for his resignation.

I spent more time on the CVB post than I ordinarily do. I talked by phone to a former City Councilor, I met with Kathy F2F, I spoke at open mic, I talked to Chamber and CVB board members, and had conversations with several other citizens. And I spent many hours digging through documents and creating that blog post.

I do agree with Randy that Ross, Tracy and I have a bully pulpit with Locally Grown, and that we’re not afraid to use it. But I don’t think we engage in “vigilante blogging” which implies a reckless disregard in the methods used to criticize people and/or organizations involved in civic affairs.

‘Public ombudsman’? I dunno. I think that role has to be continually earned, and anyone, including for-profit media organizations and citizen bloggers, can try.

So I see my CVB blog post as an opinionated, fact-based piece, sort of a hybrid of a newspaper investigative article and a subsequent editorial. I’m sure I could have done it better so I’m interested in feedback.

47 thoughts on “Feedback wanted on the CVB post. Was it vigilante blogging?”

  1. Griff,

    Thanks for responding on this issue. There is a significant disconnect between the tone of your original CVB post, which is full of language that is, to my reading, very disrespectful of the people and processes of the community, and your follow-up work to track down useful information. If you did more of the latter before writing the former, your questions might actually be sharper, but better informed and less accusatory.

    I know your style is to be provocative and your readership finds that entertaining. That said, if Katherine Kersten is your exemplar of good journalism, then diety help us. She’s a columnist, not a reporter, and her style is to use the politics of divisiveness to inflame her base, in Rove-speak. She didn’t call for state investigation of all religiously oriented charter schools, just the Islamic school. Is that fair and balanced?

    As for a write-in campaign for you for mayor: half in jest, full in earnest.

  2. One additional thought: I deliberate did not address Ross and Tracy as being in the bully pulpit with you. By the “rules” of LG conversation, I was speaking directIy to you. I find that the three of you have, to your credit, maintained very different voices and interests.

  3. Randy,

    The use of “vigilante blogging” implies that something is being done without legal sanction.

    It seems to me that every citizen has the right to ask questions (even impolite ones and even when they know that most people are more receptive to polite quesitons).

    What legal sanction is required to be an “official” or “real” blogger rather than a vigilante?

    Does publishing words on paper and selling that paper offer the sanction, or are journalists vigilantes when they ask questions?

    When pubic money, collected as a tax imposed at the discretion of a government body, seems to go into private hands without public accountability, we should all be asking questions.

    I don’t see anything of vigilantism in that.

  4. Griff, there is nothing wrong with your post about the CVB. To me it seems you are asking questions that a lot of us are not willing to ask. When there are questions surrounding public money we need to have these conversations.

  5. Griff,
    As I read your post I felt your frustration. You asked questions and stated facts. You have a right to be frustrated many citizens are.
    How is that “vigilante” blogging?
    Julie

  6. Randy, I don’t get your Katherine Kersten reference at all. Kersten found particular issues with a particular charter school and pursued them. Now the state is investigating, apparently believing the issues have some merit.

    You imply Kersten is not fair and balanced because she didn’t call for state investigation of all religiously oriented charter schools. (Are there any other religiously oriented charter schools? Isn’t that the point?)

    Randy, you have an issue with one particular blogger on one particular blog. Following your logic, why didn’t you call for an investigation on all bloggers on every blog?

    OK, I know that your Kersten/Wigley comparison is not the important part of of your point, but it was off putting to me.

  7. Griff; I urge you to continue doing the excellent job you are doing and deftly side-step those who prefer lobbing incendiary accusations in the form of whining, pejorative questions, and imperatives about how you should do your job. People and processes these days are due the respect they earn and not the respect they expect. But you are going to have to develop a thick skin towards those who are inclined to ‘shoot the messenger’ or rearrange the deckchairs.

  8. Griff: The more investigative journalism the better!
    What I personally took offense at (for your own sake) was any pairing up of your name with that ( in my opinion) wretched example of a biased “opinionater” who the Star Trib has been allowing to poison the quality their paper since the 1980s! And I couldn’t believe YOU used her as an example!
    Neither should you have compared yourself with the NFNews articles re:Lansing’s finances: YOU tried to tell the whole story, at least what you could dig out in the time frame. It can’t, or certainly shouldn’t, be blamed on you that the Chamber would not give you the financials that are ultimately a public issue since they pass through the council, and that not giving them to you puts the CoC in a presumably bad light…
    An ombudsman is supposed to be a public official appointed etc.etc… but you can be the officially PUBLIC ombudsman.

  9. Griff,
    I appreciate your judicious use of your little bully pulpit, and it sounds like shining a little light on the CVB is a worthwhile project.

  10. The “tone” in any writing is really a tough read.
    Often the tone is in between the lines.
    Depending on the subject matter, and how important it is to you personally as you read these “blogs” the reading between the lines becomes emotional. Then, as Randy clearly spelled out, what knowledge or truth exists in the writing, creates another form of friction. … or as i sometimes referenced as an ouch.

    I think people look at the blogs for entertainment.
    some perhaps for company or a voice,
    I was actually told “not to read them”…. but everyone talked about them? Go figure….

    I sometimes found them disrespectful and more on the negative side than on the positive side. That to me drains a community and the people who serve the community.

    Perhaps the CVB is just in need of some positive PR. Perhaps the LG team is too.

    Perhaps the LG team can focus on “answers” instead of just questions?

    In the best interest of Northfield, there should be a blog that is all about the good things. The selective “topics” often appear to be more “personal” than informative.

    Just my two cents

  11. Norman,
    I understand that you have a laundry list of complaints with city hall and that Griff can be a useful proxy in arguing about your issues, but it is not Griff’s “job” to right the wrongs. The proper place to lodge your complaints is with the city council and the mayor. Then work to elect others, or run yourself. That’s the system, inefficient and frustrating though it may be. City staff may serve the public interest, but they work for the city, and as citizens, our leverage on them is through our elected representatives. Any other course is a quick step down the path to mob rule, or in this case, blog rule.

    Ken, this process of enfranchising a non-elected official with the authority of a bully pulpit is fundamentally anti-democratic. That’s what I would characterize as the vigilante element, which others might describe more favorably as “investigative” or simply the exercise of freedom of speech. You’ll get no argument from me about the right to speak, write and publish. I just think every writer needs an editor (or an inner editorial voice) that challenges and fact-checks before hitting the Say It! button. I doubt very much that Griff would see the time and effort he puts in here as anti-democratic, but if you look at the comments on the CVB post, the appeals to Griff to get the “answers” has a very cult-like tone. It makes me want to watch Citizen Kane again.

    Rosebud!

    (And Curt, if you read Sarah Lemagie’s news report in the Strib, as opposed to Kersten’s column, you’ll find at the end of the article a reference to an ACLU investigation that may extend into similar practices at Christian charter schools. Yes, they exist. So far, no indication that there are problems at Buddhist or Unitarian schools.)

  12. Randy. Much appreciate the civics lesson and its comforting to see that you (and of course the silent majority) still have faith in the our system, such as its become and as it’s unravelling. Now, about that bridge just north of town; great condition, gently used, one of a kind, I’m sure we could agree a fair price.

    Charlene. “I was actually told “not to read them”…. but everyone talked about them”. Could you elaborate on this? Did you actually read them and did someone find out and could this be one of the reasons why…? WhaddyareckonRandy?

  13. Randy: I’m not saying Griff is Thomas Paine, but was Thomas Paine “fundamentally undemocratic” ? or a “vigilante” ?

  14. Perhaps Randy is on to something with this “job” of criticism idea. In addition to outdoor dining permits, etc – if the city could charge for a ‘criticism permit’ for those wishing to express dissatisfaction with local government machinations then the city’s funding would quickly allow for any and all services requested.

  15. Randy,

    You wrote, “…this process of enfranchising a non-elected official with the authority of a bully pulpit is fundamentally anti-democratic. That’s what I would characterize as the vigilante element, which others might describe more favorably as “investigative” or simply the exercise of freedom of speech.”

    It seems to me that no one has enfranchised anyone and that the system and values of our political culture enfranchise all of us. I don’t see how that can be “fundamentally anti-democratic.”

    Are you implying that only people publicly elected can ask questions or propose answers to them? Or that only people who compete in the marketplace for profits are enfranchised to ask and answer questions?

    If it seems that people are agreeing with Griff’s analysis and asking for more information, we ought to be getting more information, not criticism of the process of asking questions.

  16. Griff: I am not sure if you are looking for confirmation that you didn’t overstep the lines or genuine criticism. I will assume the latter.

    Yeah. The CVB blog was unfair. You wouldn’t have asked if you didn’t think Randy’s accusations had merit.

    You want the blogs to be “fact-based”. About the only facts that you had in your blog was that you had an extremely hard getting information. Yet, you labelled the post as a “troubling lack of transparency, accountability, and performance.”

    The troubling actually refers to you, not to the CVB as an institution. You were troubled; you didn’t convince me that the CVB is troubled.

    That being said, you are quite fair, honest, and respectful of differing opinions. You have moderated a number of posts when people have stepped over the line of respectful. And, you have published a number of pieces, such as the bobo piece, making fun of yourself and others (which I am told that not all bobos appreciated).

    The real vigilante part comes in when the bloggers jump in and agree with your (whining) opinions. If you want LG to rise above a newspaper level, then the tactics always have to be high brow. For example, exactly what did you hope to accomplish with the CVB piece? The why of that post still escapes me. All I could think was, “Wigley frustrated, but hopeful too.” Maybe that was a different post.

  17. I thought it was pretty clear what Griff wanted to accomplish with his post. Evidence. Evidence of what the CVB has accomplished. The question needed to be asked. To date, ther has been no answer.
    I don’t think that the CVB blog was at all unfair. It’s clear Griff looked into the issue and tried to get some answers before posting. It’s clear he couldn’t get any answers and none were given by Kathy. To me, that’s a “lack of transparency and accountability.” It was not an uneducated post nor was it an uneducated opinion.
    Now was Griff’s strong opinion given? Yes. Does he have more of a “pulpit” to offer this opinion? Yes. Do I have a problem with that? No. Even if I don’t agree with his opinion, he has the right to express his, and it doesn’t make it a “low-brow blog if he does. There have also been other posts that have not been “fact-based” and have been more opinion-based. This isn’t the first.
    I do not think his post was unfair. Look at the repsonse it has generated. It was not just Griff’s issue–it’s obvious others have the same issues with the CVB. To me a good blog puts out questions and, yes, sometimes opinions that are of interest to the community. This post did just that.

  18. Griff: Given all the really valuable input by David Koenig on the basic CVB thread, and his broad expertise in governance systems, as well as first hand local experience, don’t you think it would be worthwhile to start a thread on the problems with our local governance?

    David K., if he chose to enter that dialogue, might have some very cogent comments that would be valuable to the citizenry, as we approach the time for new candidates to file for office.

    What bothers me most (maybe) about the NF “troubles” is the lack of respect/adherence to what policies are firmly established. There is no policy discussion depth in the current council, and frankly, I have thought that to be a problem in all the councils. There seems to be an aversion to having a high-quality policy discussion and then charging the staff with the implementation of that policy, and expecting that it will be carried out.

    When things get very “political”, policy floats all over the place, creating all sorts of adversarial positions, and the resulting arbitrary decisions. When times get tough, that is when the strictest procedural standards should be applied, in order to not appear to be making purely political decisions…

    How about it, Griff?

  19. Ken,
    My objections here are not to asking hard questions of public officials, but simply of venue and tone. All of the questions Griff originally posed are very appropriate for a citizen to raise with his or her elected representatives. If they don’t respond, vote them out of office. The vigilante part is in allowing a citizen, or a handful of citizens, to bypass that process if/when the elected officials don’t respond quickly or effectively by the standards of the complainant. As Kiffi and Norman have pointed out in different ways, Northfield’s recent experiences have been that our elected officials haven’t been particularly responsive to some issues. Sorry for the civics commentary, Norman, but I’d argue that as citizens we are well-served by a system of government that moves slowly. That may be more than a little frustrating to some people with individual or business issues that are stymied by a cumbersome process, but for the majority of us it works: the streets get repaired, the snow gets plowed, the parks are mowed, the library is open, water arrives in the tap.

    Kiffi, you made me laugh when you suggest that I might be taking this conversation more seriously than its core participants. Thanks for that moment of levity. I hope you are right. (We do agree that Griff is no Thomas Paine, and I hope we can agree that we citizens are not contemplating succession from an oppressive government.)

    One thing I would take seriously is the governance conversation, at the level David K. has introduced it. We need to clarify standards of accountability and transparency, and that will cut both ways, including what we will expect of city hall and what city hall will expect of us. Although I am apparently willing to take this LG conversation forum more seriously than you, perhaps we all be better off if the governance discussion was convened by the League of Women Voters and held face to face. I know that is old-school and much slower than the pace of blogging, but at the end of the day, Northfield is a physical community, not a virtual one, and a conversation about how we want our city to work in the future might be best served by an organization with a demonstrated history of impartial examination of such issues.

  20. When does vigilante blogging about local governance become terroristic threats to our system of government? Perhaps when a citizen, or a handful of citizens are ‘allowed’ to bypass the process and thereby reap the wrath of the righteous and indignant upon their heads.

    Griff: all the brilliant and creative comments on this issue – as on almost all others – comes to naught when they are met with stonewalling or silence or analysis of tone and meter or lectures on style and register; the conversation simply disintegrates and ends with nowhere to go but down.

    I think Kiffi has a way forward in suggesting another thread – an ongoing discussion regarding the structural changes that are necessary and timely in City Hall, and also in associated organizations and institutions.

    Whilst not necessarily agreeing with the content of such a discussion, much less participating, it would be helpful and useful if an elected councilor or an appointed member of the relevant boards or commissions could at least endorse the idea of such a discussion on this format/venue, this citizen blog, this attempt at an ongoing participation in democratic process over and above the occasional hustings and ballot box which certain ruffled members of the establishment would prefer us to limit ourselves to.

  21. Norm and Kiffi,

    I like the idea of an independent, transparent and collaborative effort as an experiment.

    Griff,

    How about posting the Northfield City Charter online in a special place and let us “Linux” it or “Wiki” it, or both?

    There is no need for this to be anything official, but just an experiment to see what some creative minds might dream up in terms of a concept. May I suggest that we start from an assumption that the “new” Charter would have the objective of setting the framework for a Strong Mayor and requisite governance structure under such? (Someone else is free to start a similar intiative for a Manager version if they wish.)

    LVW, Council Members, anyone who blogs on this site could suggest language, but let’s keep it in the public domain and not saddle it with any kind of officialdom and the inevitable baggage that would come with such.

    Happy to moderate, facilitate or contribute in the way that you see fit. This could be a fun summer experiment.

  22. We’re off topic here, so I hope you, Griff, will decide to create a new thread on the subject of governance and move these last few comments “over”.

    The first things that would have to be corrected in the Charter would be the parts that the Chart/Comm changed back at the time of the referendum (should NF change to a City Manager system of governance). In anticipation of that passing (the then Chart/Comm was so certain it would pass, and it did not) that there were a few things changed that somewhat weakened our previously strong Mayor into a “mini-Strong Mayor”.

    For instance: I think it used to say “the Mayor will set the Agenda with the assistance of the City Administrator” ; and now I think it says “The Administrator will set the agenda with the Assistance of the Mayor”. It’s late, I’m tired, and I didn’t look it up … just going by memory … so I could be wrong. But that’s the sort of minor change that was made at the time, and now needs to be put back to the original language to enable a truly strong Mayoral system.

    At Politics and a Pint a couple weeks ago, Councilor Denison (not in favor of a strong mayor) said “why would you want to elect a ‘dictator’ “? I countered with “why would you want to HIRE a ‘dictator’ “?

    I think it’s quite obvious that you must construct the system you prefer, and then if personality aberrations come into play, there must be a method for resolving that problem. Checks and balances, right?

    It all sounds good, but when I think of my opinion of our Federal gov’t. during the current administration … Checks and Balances don’t seem to be working at all!

  23. As a member of the Charter Commission, I am powerfully curious about this proposed experiment.

    The exercise could be a great way to get people to read and think about the Charter, no matter what suggestions for changes are proffered. Should specific recommendations emerge from this process, I’m sure the Charter Commission will want to hear them.

    I’m most curious, though, about how proposed changes will not only be forwarded to the Charter commission, but how supporters of change will advocate for their adoption and move from conversation to action.

  24. I’ll consider launching a new blog post on city governance issues. But I’d only do it as a more formal, moderated forum, with an invited panel agreeing to participate for two weeks, much like the previous Northfield community issue forums I’ve done.

    The online panel should include 1 or 2 members from the Charter Commission, 1 or 2 City councilors, and an outside expert, for example, someone from the League of MN Cities who’s well-versed in MN municipal charters.

    The forum could include a variety of other ‘online tools’, such as a wiki (for group document editing), straw polls, audio interviews, a resource guide, etc.

    During the same two-week period, Locally Grown could team up with the League of Women Voters and host a F2F event with the panelists. We could even (gasp!) team up with other media organizations in town.

    After two weeks, a summary and a transcript can be produced and then made available/presented to the Charter Commission and the City Council.

    Without this kind of more formal structure, an online event is far less likely to have an impact.

    It takes a lot of time (and, dare I say, some talent!) to setup/produce an online event like this. The City of Northfield has a special fund for ‘community communications’ that’s funded by a surcharge on cable TV subscribers. It was used recently to fund the technology upgrades to the Council chambers. A few years back when Scott Neal was City Administrator, he contracted with Northfield.org to host several of these online forums and these were paid for out of this fund (and then paid to me as the moderator/producer).

    So if someone from the Charter Commission, City Council, or City administration thinks this would be a good use of money from that fund, I’d be willing to submit a proposal. If not, it might have to wait till the RepJ reporter gets on board.

  25. Randy,

    I cite Katherine Kersten as an example, not out any endorsement of the content, but the process. Pick a column by Nick Coleman or Doug Grow, if you prefer.

    My question is this:

    How is my CVB blog post any different than when a newspaper columnist or a newspaper editorial publishes an opinionated critique of some public official or organization?

    And if the newspaper publishes letters to the editor in support of the columnist/editorial, is that promoting ‘cult-like’ or ‘vigilante’ behavior?

    If we purchase newspapers with opinionated columnists and editorial writers, isn’t that the same as you said crtically of me, “…enfranchising a non-elected official with the authority of a bully pulpit [and] fundamentally anti-democratic”?

    I’m fully supportive of the slow, F2F process for enacting change via our representative form of government. I just think the media (mainstream and bloggers) can play a role in helping it to happen.

    (I’ve got more thoughts about this to post that’s more CVB-specific but I’m off to shoot some photos!)

  26. Griff, the fact is that you love stirring up controversy. I don’t agree with Katherine Kersten, but at least she’s man enough to take the heat for what she does.
    The difference between columnists and bloggers is that columnists have editors who give feedback on facts and tone before a piece is published.
    An editor might have caught the tone of your first piece and checked to make sure you knew how it sounded before you published, the way you moderate comments for tone. The editor won’t stop you from making enemies, but he will make sure you are prepared for the return fire.Columnists usually earn their positions after proving themselves as solid reporters before they are allowed to take on positions. The newspaper as a whole continues the broad job of reporting while the columnist builds on that. Bloggers just anoint themselves and live on reader support — and your numbers indicate that many people read, whether they agree or just like to tear you apart over coffee.
    You are gifted in many ways, but for good or bad, this site has the reputation of being a weapon of a very opinionated group of people with a strong agenda. A lot of people may read it, but the ‘editorial voice’ is very narrow and strident. That’s fine, but you want it both ways. You can’t bash particular targets at every opportunity and still be seen as just a nice guy asking a few questions.
    You are living in a new world, and I do understand the time constraints in government and other organizations that made it easy to give information to one newspaper but harder to answer the questions of a half-dozen bloggers, much less follow all the discussions and make comments. They need to be more flexible, but it’s more work and will take time.
    One of the keys to being a columnist/blogger is that once you make your agenda perfectly clear you have to live with the consequences. The fact that Ross is one of your cohorts and the NDDC has its own agenda and he has strong opinions also colors how this site is viewed. Tracy’s views are similar, and you can talk all you want about how you each speak separately, but there’s an impact. Perhaps if David L. or Randy were part of the team, it would be seen as more diverse and even-handed.
    Your most avid supporters on this site are a small group of people with very polarizing viewpoints. That’s not good or bad, it just colors the way the site is viewed. The fact that they support the site gives the impression that you agree with them.
    I think the frustration for Randy and a lot of us is that there’s a lot of bashing on this site, but no real effort to report on solutions or to bring sides together to discuss real progress. I think the Sunday night events were a stab at that but you have made the site’s positions on things so clear that those who disagree don’t feel there’s a chance at real dialog and don’t come. We hear sermons on Sunday morning, we don’t need another Sunday night, even with beer to wash it down.
    My comments have defined how people view me. When I am introduced to people, they often react to my name based on what I’ve written. It’s very, very interesting.
    So, on the CVB issue, it might be good if you found a couple of models that work and suggest changes. My guess is the chamber did this because it seemed the logical choice years ago and no one has raised an organized effort to demand change. Your comments might be viewed by some as a stealth attack by the NDDC, or an effort to steer the work to you or your clients.
    The CVB process is outdated and seems unproductive and in serious need of reform.
    So, interview the hotel owners and tourist businesses, see what they need, see what works in other towns and propose change. Organize an adhoc committee broad enough to indicate there is real community concern.
    Or just complain, put on your body armor and wait for the reaction.

  27. Griff,

    I think I’ll just keep working on my suggestions to the Charter Commission, then. 🙂 That won’t cost the City any money as I’m not lobbying to be paid for this even though governance advice is one of the things I get paid to provide.

    If anyone would like to meet to discuss, I am happy to do so.

  28. Griff: Your post (#27) reinforces what Randy said. Why would you want to be like Kersten or Coleman in process? Neither are fair. Both are vigilantes – one for the “right” and one for the “left”. In my view, the StarTribune has both of them to attract readership, not to provide insightful opinions.

    Usually you provide insightful posts – “goofball prayers”, and “bobos in paradise” are a couple of examples. The CVB post was mostly whining in the form of questions.

  29. Griff,
    In the past you’ve said explicitly that you are not a journalist and should not be held to journalistic standards of accuracy and objectivity. From your questions above (post #27), it sounds like now you want to be viewed as a journalist. That’s a much higher (actually, different) bar than simply having a strong opinion and fluency with blogging tools. At a minimum, journalists have strict boundaries between issues they cover and the issues in which they want to be involved in an advocacy role. Those boundaries can’t be breached by simply announcing your conflicts of interest, as you do when you write about issues that involve your blogging clients.

    I’d argue that Kersten, Grow and Coleman are not interchangeable in either style or substance. The only thing they share is a publisher who wants to sell papers.

  30. Griff: as of comment # 22 David K was sounding interested in a discussion of local governance, including the charter; by comment # 29 david was backing off a bit. May I suggest that your idea of the format for this suggested discussion was too formalized, and would feel more like work for David K. and the professional skills he gets paid for.

    Why would it be a problem to have a less formal format, much like any other thread which deals with a serious theme?

    I would hate to “kill the goose that laid a golden egg” … or in this case, the gander.

    Regardless of the structure of the discussion, how formalized/loose it is, a beneficial group discussion can be had, and we can all benefit from David K.’s expertise. Can you re-evaluate the benefit to all of us in seeing that golden egg “laid” ?

  31. Success, and LG is successful by any and all measures (both qualitative and quantitative) of transparency, accountability and performance, is bound to create envy and resentment in those who are predisposed to respond in these ways. So, Griff, soldier on and be assured that you and yours are ‘well-arranged’ (name that movie!).

  32. Titanic!

    I phoned Al Roder yesterday and asked if he’d consider allocating funds from the cable fund for me to do a forum on the City Charter. He’s not opposed to using funds for that type of forum but not for that topic, as he doesn’t see it as relevant to the current difficulties at City Hall.

    The Council could go ahead anyway, of course, but I’m not going to lobby them for it.

    Just a reminder:

    So any of you could start discussing ‘governance’ in any one of those message threads. If you do, I’ll link to it.

  33. Anne, you wrote re: Katherine Kersten that “… at least she’s man enough to take the heat for what she does.”

    Can you give specifics on this? She doesn’t appear to participate in the discussions on her Think Again blog where her posts, as far as I know, are not reviewed by an editor before she publishes them there.

    And I thought by launching this feedback topic on my CVB post, I was demonstrating that I was willing to take the heat for what I posted. 

  34. Randy, I don’t think I have any conflicts of interest to reveal re: my CVB post. Let me know if you think I do.

    I decided to blog about the CVB as citizen interested in seeing more transparency from an agency that’s supported with an unusual taxing arrangement. I’d heard occastional grumbling about the CVB over the years and decided to do something about it.

    But the first public thing I did was not to blog about it but to attend Kathy’s presentation at the Council. I spoke at open mic after her. I was fully prepared to not speak at all if she’d been more forthcoming.

    So I met F2F with Kathy, I attended a F2F Council meeting to listen to her, I made F2F remarks at open mic to try to influence the Council. That’s participating in the slow democratic process that we both believe in, right?

    If I had submitted a letter to the editor or commentary in the paper for their 5-10,000 readers to see instead of blogging it for our 5-7,000 visitors to see, I’m guessing that you wouldn’t have written a follow-up letter, criticizing me as a vigilante or an un-elected public ombudsman.

    As for a being a journalist/reporter on this story, I don’t think I was, nor do I aim to be. I did want to exercise care as a blogger because I was criticizing a well-known institution and its well-liked executive director. A reporter would have interviewed other city leaders, CVB advisory board members, and tourism-related business owners.

  35. Griff:

    Does the city administrator have the final say on the expenditure of funds?

    I like your idea of a forum. Could a collaborative group, say Locally Grown Northfield.org and the League of Women Voters put together a plan and go to the council with a request?

    The League has discussed such a public discussion earlier (beginning with, but not limited to understanding the city charter). I believe they would be interested in a cooperative venture on line.

  36. Norm: John Henry, the mythic railroad man, said “Bring that hammer down, man, Bring that hammer down! “

  37. Ok .. I’m totally confused. It appears Norm is looking for a movie title? But I was putting together Al Roder’s NOT wanting funds used for a charter discussion and the fact that he (City Administrator) might be leaving and came up with “sinking ship/Titanic” !!!

    So I came up with the “heavy hammer/John Henry” re: not wanting the funds used for…. oh well, it’s all too complicated…

    What the “ho-tel” are ‘ya looking for, Norman!

  38. OK. Heaven’s Gate; John Hurt’s speech at the happy graduation ceremony in the East Coast college (Yale?) before they all met again in Wyoming/Montana – in great misfortune and misery. A brilliant movie, much maligned.

  39. Yes, Norman , a brilliant film especially in the long version; the distributed version was a travesty, a butchering of a great work of art.

    But isn’t the lesson of John Hurt’s character’s speech that no matter how “well arranged ” your life is, if it is all about self interest, limited to self interest per se, you will end up with no life worth living? Or at least that if your perception of your life being “well arranged” does not even consider other competing interests, you may end up just drinking yourself to death in Wyoming?

    (And peripherally, if you throw your lot in with the Fed Gov’t and the Army, against the “common good”, you may be even worse off than just dead drunk in Wyoming! )

    Sounding more and more relevant …

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