Election 2008 discussion: Northfield City Council Ward 2 – candidates and issues

Betsey Buckheit Jerold Friedman
Betsey Buckheit and Jerold Friedman are running for Northfield City Council, Ward 2. We’ve invited them to interact online with us (the LoGroNo Triumvirate) here in the message thread attached to this blog post for the next few days.

And then we’ll invite you, the citizens of Northfield, to also chime in over the next ten days or so.

Here are some links to find out more about the candidates:

Candidate web sites:

Northfield.org (includes their answers to a dozen questions from citizens)

Northfield News:

Northfield East Side Neighborhood Association

83 thoughts on “Election 2008 discussion: Northfield City Council Ward 2 – candidates and issues”

  1. Jerold: In a representative democracy, the constituents’ opinions ARE your opinions, unless there is a compelling reason otherwise. And, yes, you were the only one of the ward candidates who seemed to grasp that ward candidates are supposed to act in the best interests of their WARD, not the CITY.

  2. Curt: You’re on target. Most people will view the lawsuits as fringe. If that’s how they’re viewed, I’d want to remind them that we enjoy a relatively peaceful democracy today because of fringe people. Think about the evolution of women’s rights, homosexual rights, and civil rights. Before these were popular, they were fringe.

    I think of fringe politicians too. The first who comes to mind is Nelson Mandela. Tom Hayden is a successful California politician who was once in the famous anti-Vietnam-War Chicago 8 trial. Representative Dennis Kucinich is vegan and wants us to have a Dept. of Peace as well as a Dept. of Defense.

    Admittedly there is also a “bad” fringe. My point is that fringe is neither good nor bad. The underlying issues need to be examined.

    I filed both lawsuits with some reservation. I knew how the public would perceive them but in good conscience, I moved forward. Around the time of the Kaiser lawsuit, I heard of some high school biology students who wanted to be excused from collecting insects and sticking needles through them to display in a glass box. The students won their petition. That Halloween, the biology teachers all dressed up as insects with needles through them, mocking the students. I don’t expect the teachers to agree with the students, but they didn’t need to humiliate them. I did not expect Kaiser to put anyone at risk on my behalf, but no one was put at risk and then they took my job away.

    In the same way, with Adidas, a corporation had been violating criminal law for 20 years and law enforcement refused to act. Is it fringe for a citizen to use the courts to make corporations obey the law? Does that question depend on which law is being broken?

    I am egalitarian to a fault. I want employers to respect a minimum standard for how they treat employees. I want corporations to respect the law. I wish that some didn’t consider those fringe.

  3. Griff: I am against renovating City Hall until our economic prospects are better. I hear that it needs maintenance, and that’s important, but not renovation. For the time being, Northfield should spend money only where necessary, such as for safety concerns, and where there would be a return-on-investment, such as making things more efficient. I don’t think that renovating City Hall would bring a return on our investment, so it must wait.

    The Safety Center is my only definite priority. As I said at today’s Chamber of Commerce forum, I don’t want to hear that students died in a fire because Northfield doesn’t have garage space for a high-rise-ladder fire truck. The Safety Center has several other problems that need to be fixed now.

    I favor the library expansion because I favor education, because it’s an economic draw for nearby businesses, and because they can get private funding to supplement the city. We might be able to get a $10 million expansion for $5 million, and whatever public funds are spent will be returned to the city, not to mention Northfield having the best library in the area.

    We have several infrastructure needs, such as road improvement and repair, utility improvements, and other maintenance that actually fits under the Capital Improvement umbrella. As many of these relate to public safety and city efficiency, they are a priority.

    I like the relatively inexpensive projects that bring entertainment to Northfield, especially the youth. The skateboard park and the ice arena will be well spent investments.

    Finally, we should finish the annexation for light industrial development. I place this last because it might be done before the next administration, and if it isn’t, it means that it still has unresolved controversies. We can’t finish the annexation until we are politically and legally completely satisfied with the arrangement.

    I’ll add a sixth — I am very interested in Northfield becoming a high speed internet provider. I have some reservations because I think municipalities should not compete with traditionally private businesses. However, the internet is becoming a utility, and of course cities ought to provide utilities.

    The “global financial meltdown” has not affected my priorities. Safety and efficiency projects are always good investments. Projects that bring a return on the investment are always good. Small projects that bring good will to the community may not be essential, but if there are the funds and desire, I think they should move forward.

  4. Anne: Back in my post #27, I said

    Your remaining issue asks the duty of a private web site owner to keep a record of its discussions. I don’t know the answer to this, though I’d want to equate it to newspapers and other media. What is their duty? I’ll seek an answer to this and post what I find later today.

    It appears that every web site has either no policy of keeping its data or its policy does not relate to any laws. For example, I didn’t find Locally Grown’s policy on retaining data.

    Assuming the worst, that posts are deleted regularly, I still liken blogs to newspapers. What is said in a newspaper is in the public forum but it’s not part of the official public record.

    There are countless possibilities for a public official to write or speak that are never recorded, stored or archived. It would be awkward to prevent public officials from speaking at an event because there isn’t a city archivist there to record and store the speech. In the same way, I don’t think that it’s fair to the public to suggest that public officials shouldn’t participate on LG.

    I’m not saying that we can’t solve your concern, but my research concludes that there isn’t a duty for private web sites to keep its blog-style data. (There are exceptions that don’t apply to LG.) So I didn’t find a related legal obstacle to city officials keeping a presence here.

  5. Jerold, that was my point, that there is no obligation to preserve the conversations, and so no public record. There’s a great media law attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Association who would be a wonderful speaker for a discussion on these public access issues and how they have been affected by online communications. He has been involved for 20 or 30 years and is an expert.
    I’m not saying public officials are banned from participating in online discussions, but you have to think of the online world in the same terms as the physical world. It’s fine for a councilor to speak at Rotary and answer questions on an issue. It’s not fine for a quorum of councilors to discuss the issue with the Rotary members when others aren’t invited to participate.
    Our councilors have been scrupulous in adhering to the laws, from what I know. Even when they were attending each other’s ward meetings, they would make sure that they never had a quorum in the room.
    The whole point of the open meeting law was to prevent councilors and other officials from holding coffee shop meetings and bar meetings and meetings with the Chamber of Commerce board, where they and their friends would discuss policy outside the public record.
    It also was designed to prevent telephone meetings, where councilors had conference calls or round-robin calls to decide an issue before a public meeting. Believe me, I have been in many meetings in many cities where it was clear the people on the dais knew exactly what they were going to do before the gavel brought the meeting to order.
    So the same concerns are being raised now with online discussions. A big part of the Troopergate scandal and other investigations of public officials are about e-mail discussions of important public issues outside the public record, on private e-mail accounts.
    Again, I’m not saying public officials are barred from the News or Locally Grown. There is no harm in councilors participating. The problem comes when a quorum of the council participates in a single thread, debating an issue with a particular constituency outside the public record.
    If there is a controversial issue, the public has a right to have any conversation among a quorum of officials take place on the record “at City Hall,” whether it is in the City Council chambers or the council section of the City Hall site.
    There is nothing that would prevent Locally Grown from linking to such discussions and expanding on them.

  6. Anne: Who is the attorney? Can you send his or her contact information to me?

    I wish that the Open Meeting law applied to corporations as well. It might solve some problems if corporate directors were held to a higher standard.

  7. David: Representative Democracy (RD)…”The representatives form more than one independent ruling body (for an election period) charged with the responsibility of acting in the people’s interest, but not as their proxy representatives; that is, not necessarily always according to their wishes, but with enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances.” (wikepedia)

    I think you are in error to say that the constituents opinions ARE your opinions. I refer you to the definition above and also ask in your opinion which constituent’s or constituents’ opinions are, indeed, your opinions in your definition of RD.

    And though the elected rep may represent the Ward, he/she must act in the best interest of the whole community not just the ward. Fundamentals here David.

    RD is about delegation of authority by constituents to a person who will represent them in the elected body, but not necessarily represent their opinions to the elected body.

    BTW, have you seen the Chamber of Commerce’s TV attack ads on Al Franken. I thought the Chamber was a non-partisan body. Is it instead a club for republicans? Not that there is anything wrong with that; its just that it should be a bit more open about it when touting for membership or complaining that we are all not members..

  8. Norman: Your definition is more precise than mine. Nevertheless, the Ward Rep is responsible for representing the interests and opinions of his/her constituents. In that sense, the opinions of the constituents are the rep’s opinion. A ward rep represents the interests of the entire city to the extent that he/she must work with all the other interests for the betterment of the entire community.

    A civil rights leader might be appropriate if the ward constituents were being oppressed or not properly represented.

    If the Chamber forum is any indication, I am concerned that both Betsey and Jerold are not espousing views of the Second Ward, but views much more consistent with the First Ward.

    Regarding the Chamber ads, the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce is a non-partisan organization. We are prohibited by law from endorsing any candidate. We have considered forming a Political Action Committee which would permit endorsements, but have not done so. Part of the reason is related to not wanting to create ill will among our members and the electorate. If candidates for public office in Northfield started to seek endorsements of various groups, we might have to reconsider our position.

  9. I listened to the podcast about local elections. I’m happy that Ward 2 wins the techno-literacy award, of course, and I’ve heard your criticism Griff and I’ll will try to engage Jerry directly and not just the question-asker (you in this case).

    Hi Jerry, let’s get on to the city hall issue.

  10. Norm and David: I’ll restate my view (or definition) of “representative democracy”. Voters should vote for the candidate who best represents their interests + One person, one vote = Representative Democracy.

    The pitfall here is tyranny by the majority. In a jurisdiction with 51% Hatfields and 49% McCoys, the Hatfields will always win the election and the McCoys will always suffer.

    So I don’t think it’s right to say that a candidate is supposed to *share* the values of his or her constituents, because the Hatfield candidate will always be elected to the peril of the McCoys. Instead, the candidate needs to *represent* the interests of the Ward, even if they don’t share them.

    Therefore, contrary to David, I don’t think it matters if the candidate is ultra-partisan “A” and 99% of the voters are ultra-partisan “B”. Candidates are expected, they have a duty, to represent the voters’ interests.

    I should vote contrary to Ward 2’s expressed desires only on matters of dire consequences, assuming the constituents choose the dire option. Otherwise, I will work with my constituents, city council and staff, and others as appropriate, to discover what is in Ward 2’s best interests. If there is a clear Ward 2 majority on an issue after a full exposé of the facts, I’ll vote in accordance with the majority. If there is no clear majority, I’ll use my best judgment.

    Norm raises the possibility that the Wards will disagree on issues. What if Ward 3 does not want an industrial complex on the annexed land but the other wards want it there? Should the Ward 3 councilor vote for Ward 3’s interests or the community’s? If Ward 1, 2 and 4 vote Yes and Ward 3 votes No, the mayor and at-large councilors will determine the outcome, not Ward 3’s vote. Therefore, the ward councilors should vote for their ward even if it hurts the community, because the whole council will vote for the community’s best interests.

    Although again, if the matter has dire consequences, the ward councilor needs to vote based on the issue even if their ward disagrees. All councilors should vote against building a nuclear waste depository in any ward in order to bring in immense federal funding to the community.

    Yesterday, I had a discussion with some voters about the merits of the Ward system. Now I am starting to like it. It forces candidates to be connected to local constituents. What if all of Northfield’s candidates were from one small area? They could unintentionally harm the rest of the city because they might be out-of-touch with other neighborhoods. The ward system guarantees that every area is represented; it guarantees that Northfield’s subdivisions will be represented at City Hall. This reflects federalism, having voters represented by state-biased members of Congress, and the members working with their constituents and other states for the country’s best interests.

  11. At the Chamber forum yesterday, all the candidates were asked to rank a list of projects (in 30 seconds or less, I believe – certainly no more than 45 second – David Ludescher was ruthless with the time limits) so we should be getting good at this.

    Unlike Jerold, I have more than one priority and I’m also interested in knowing what Jerold (and everyone else) thinks “priority” means because the projects on the list are not all at the same level of development, do not all require the same level of investment, not the same type of project and other distinctions which may affect which gets done first.

    Building/facility projects:

    Public safety comes first which pushes the Safety Center to the top. This means “fast-tracking” this project since there are still many blanks to be filled in: is there state funding (see the Northfield News mention), MNDot is involved with the current site and the Woodley/Highway 3 proposed/possible site, and the facility itself is still barely in the conceptual phases.

    I put the library a firm second and because the Library Board has been working steadily and diligently toward expanding for years (it was already a topic of discussion 10 years ago when I was on the Library Board) including focus groups, feasibility studies, and conceptual plans, I would like to see the process continue to move forward steadily.

    I’m pro-education, too, Jerold, and an oft-uttered phrase of my mother was “Books are our friends!” but there are more reasons to want to improve the library including:

    • the Library is an important piece of downtown and its attractiveness; expanding the library also creates the opportunity to build additional parking, needed at the north end of Division Street, into the project.
    • the Library provides important community services including free computer and internet access, materials in Spanish, programming for all ages, resources for job seekers, entrepreneurs and more.
    • The Library has much public support and can leverage some private funding.
    • Libraries, education, literacy are core services for supporting democracy

    City Hall is not a project at all yet for me. Yes, City Hall – a former elementary school – is not efficient for staff, for energy use, or for citizens. Yes, it needs maintenance. But the city must decide what the long-term plan is for City Hall before spending $880,000 (or more, as Ross contends) for renovation.

    Jerold, you didn’t mention the Liquor Store in your post, but it needs immediate attention to avoid those OSHA fines. The question of whether the city should be in the liquor business at all has been raised on LoGroNo, but not at the Council level. Jerold noted his preference was that the city not be in the liquor business (was that at the Cow forum?) and I concur. Personal preference aside, I would like the “no store” option to be presented (and analyzed as to costs/benefits) along with the “fix the current store” and “build a bigger better store” options.

    Small plug for the skate park – this is a small, pretty self-contained project which has some private money and some of the best youth organization I’ve seen – I’d like to see this one accomplished soon.

    Infrastructure maintenance and repair might top my list altogether. Keeping our streets and the stuff underneath them in good repair saves money in the long run even if seems expensive on a yearly basis.

    Jerold, I disagree on two points.

    High speed internet is (or should be) considered a utility, but I’m not convinced the city should be the provider (we don’t, for instance, provide electricity – although we could charge a franchise fee). I’d be interested to know why you think the city should take this on.

    As Ross well knows, I have deep reservations about the annexation in the NW territories including location, obfuscation about costs, environmental questions, transportation problems, and whether this project actually accomplish what it is supposed to, i.e. increase tax base. Having chaired the Planning Commission during the residential boom and asked “is this too much residential development compared to our commercial tax base” and understanding the lack of industrial land available for development I get the motivation for this project, but I’m not sure this is sufficient.

  12. Betsey and everyone:

    We agree that the Safety Center is our first priority. We can’t dawdle with police and fire services. By the time we assume office, any remaining obstacles in the process need to be resolved without delay.

    Generally speaking, I don’t think that government should provide retail services, and I don’t think that the government should be involved in the liquor business. If the city council or Ward 2 does not agree with me, then because of OSHA’s warnings and the store’s increased revenue potential, I would move the liquor store to share first priority with the Safety Center. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to close the liquor store and open the field to private liquor entrepreneurs. I’m informed that municipal or private liquor stores will provide Northfield with about the same revenue.

    Any maintenance that relates to safety shares first priority.

    We agree on the library, although if a clear majority of Ward 2 disagrees with us, I’ll vote along with Ward 2.

    Any maintenance or development that will save Northfield money in the long run is a high priority, as the budget allows. For example, upgrading our utility billing hardware and software will pay for itself and continue to save Northfield money.

    We agree on City Hall.

    Earlier, I said that I don’t think government should provide retail services, and the internet presently is a retail service. Despite that, I am interested in Northfield becoming an internet provider mostly because, according to Northfield’s IT department, Northfield’s few internet providers have no intention on improving service here, and for Northfield to grow economically we need to be able to meet business demands for top class internet service.

    If the internet can be fairly classified as a utility and not retail, then I have no principled conflict with a city providing access to the internet. Rather, I think that the internet is in transition to becoming a utility.

    Because of our economic needs, the internet providers’ refusal to develop here, and because the internet is in transition to a utility, I am very interested in Northfield providing this service. If it’s feasible, Northfield wins in three ways: we will attract new businesses with superior internet service, we collect revenue for this service, and residents will have the option of paying a good rate for superior service as well.

    All things considered, I think the annexation for light industrial development is important for Northfield. Like the Safety Center, there are remaining serious issues that need to be resolved. This doesn’t move the annexation down my list of priorities. It simply keeps it as a top priority with unresolved issues. It may be that some issues are unsolvable so we abandon the annexation. Perhaps its annexation price will be too steep for our speculated return on the investment. Perhaps undiscovered costs will make us change our mind, such as it possibly being too expensive to upgrade our roads in order to support the needs of the light industry. Because the potential benefit to Northfield is great, the annexation must be a high priority. Let the remaining annexation issues determine its fate, rather than reducing its priority because it has problems.

  13. Jerold, Betsey,

    I’m posing the same questions to the other council and mayoral candidates; I believe you’ve both answered these above by implication if not directly, but could you summarize your answers in a paragraph?

    1. Why do you want this position?

    2. What is your personal vision, passion, or hot-button issue as it relates to Northfield and public service here?

  14. Tracy: A paragraph for each…

    1. I would like to become a City Council Member because of my desire to help Northfield, my new home, to be a leader among cities in its respect of its people, its land, water and air, and how it governs generally. Sometimes, I liken it to jury service because most people don’t want to serve on a jury, yet most people complain when juries return seemingly wrong verdicts. I take a different approach. I would want to serve on a jury (and I have) to do my best for the community. I want to serve in City Council also to do my best for this community. For most of my adult life, I have been politically active. I believe in civil service. I believe in making one’s home better through work, sometimes hard work.

    2. My personal vision, passion, and hot-button issues are blended into the above paragraph. The government needs to respect its people: civil rights. The government needs to protect our ecosystem: environment. The government needs to manage the city for everyone’s benefit: infrastructure.

  15. I’ve been holding back so Betsey can answer some of the posed questions but things have been quiet here… so I’m posting the questions presented by the Chamber of Commerce at last week’s forum, along with my answers. (Remember, our answers were limited to 45 sec., so I added some content below.)

    Economic Development
    Q1. How will you prioritize and support “infill and redevelopment” projects along with “new development” projects?

    Q2. What changes should the city establish that would improve the local business climate, encourage more business growth and development, and provide more property taxes and jobs for Northfield?

    A1&2. Overall, we should target businesses that fit well in Northfield. We don’t want more universities, we could use more restaurants. The City Council should lead the EDA and partner with the Chamber’s members and non-member businesses to guarantee that the city is responding to business sensibilities.

    Otherwise, I always prefer infill/redevelopment to new development unless, under the circumstances, new development is our only option. Also, the city needs to streamline its various business processes to make it easier to conduct business in Northfield, and review its policies to ensure that they’re appropriately business-friendly. This includes ensuring our ordinances are business friendly as well as our staff’s “customer service” skills.

    Transportation
    Q1. What more could the city council and staff do to ensure that Northfiled will obtain upgrades to Highway 19 west to I-35 as soon as possible?

    Q2. What are your local transportation priorities?

    A1&2. For county and/or state funding for the highway improvement, the city just needs a clear understanding of what is expected of us and then be diligent to fulfill the expectations.

    Regarding priorities, reviewing unsafe roads and intersections comes first, then expanding intercity mass transit, then the upgrades to the highway. If Northfield wants to attract industrial businesses, we will need an airport, seaport or a better highway for them to send their goods. Obviously the highway upgrade is the best option.

    Tourism
    Q1. Can the Chamber count on your support of its tourism initiatives and the continuation of the total local lodging tax to the CVB, a department of the Chamber?

    Q2. How can the city assist with enhancing local tourism initiatives?

    A1&2. Personally, I have been a computer programmer for the Anaheim Area Visitor and Convention Bureau. From my work with each of its departments, I know how essential its role is in its city, hence the Chamber’s role in Northfield. Therefore, I am inclined to support the Chamber in all of its resolutions unless my constituents are expressly opposed. My position is that you are the business experts, not me. Of course I’ll decide on a resolution-by-resolution basis, and nonetheless, I will work hard to make all parties (Chamber members and non-members, residents, and city council) find common ground for everyone’s benefit.

    The most important fund raising activity for businesses is advertising. So we need to work constantly on strategic advertising. For example, the city should work to cooperate and cross-promote with other businesses and cities.

    City Budget
    Q1. Prioritize the building/renovation of the following city facilities (your first one being the most important): ice arena, liquor store, safety center, city hall, library, skateboard park.

    Q2. What expenditures should be cut from the budget, and what new expenditure would you be willing to support?

    A1&2. Safety first, so Safety Center #1. Economy second, so Library, Ice Arena, Skateboard Park #2. I would rather the liquor store be privatized. If my constituents or the city council disagrees, then the Liquor Store is #2 as it brings revenue, or call it #1.5 because of OSHA’s looming fines. City Hall is last.

    I’m not prepared to cut anything from the budget. The talk of cutting attorneys’ fees and consultants’ fees sounds appealing, but there may be need for them. So I am in favor of reducing these fees, but not necessarily eliminating them. The rest of the budget should be organized and prioritized for safety first, investing in efficiency second, listening to constituent needs third, and business owners fourth. This is not to say that I can only do one at a time, but when forced to be selective, that’s my method.

    Finally, Northfield should seek to attract a balanced economy. Presently, we are bursting with residential land and lacking in industry. As our economy shifts, we should always work toward keeping it balanced.

  16. Jerold the liquor store net profits are around $150-$200k per year, depending on the year. The tax or fee the city can charge a private liquor store is, and I am going from memory is about $2500-$3500 annually. And they will pay property tax, but I don’t think it would add up to $150k.

  17. Scott: When I spoke with Finance Director McBride, she said the projected revenue to the city between a private and municipal store was “not much”. If we increase the size of muni liquor, profits are expected to increase. If we permit several private liquor stores, city revenue would increase as well. Leaning on McBride’s assessment, there is no compelling financial incentive to keep a municipal liquor store.

    Add to that the debt that the city will incur renovating or replacing its building, and the balance sheets should favor privatization.

    Finances aside, I greatly dislike the government being involved in retail. In my opinion, the government is supposed to protect the health, welfare and safety of the people, not sell stuff for profit.

    I also find a conflict in government when it sells a drug out of one hand and runs programs to reduce the abuse of the drug out of the other.

    As stated, I’ll represent my constituents on this. Their vote is my vote, but I think that it should be privatized.

  18. Sorry to be holding things up here folks, but (for those of us who aren’t Griff, anyway) there is more to do than read and write LoGroNo.

    Tracy, I’m not sure your two questions are separable, so here’s my take on them – tell me if I’ve gone off in the wrong direction.

    I am running for Council AT ALL because I would like to help Northfield make decisions which are fiscally sustainable, environmentally low-impact, and based on our long term planning documents. Having served on various boards and commissions, I want to harness the talent of Northfielders who serve on these bodies and find more substantive ways to include these voices in decision-making.

    I would like to be the Ward 2 representative in particular to be able to focus on increasing communication to and from residents in my home ward and because there are city issues in Ward 2 which are critical right now including safety near our schools (Ward 2 “owns” 3/4 of the Jefferson Parkway/246 intersection, for instance) and city facilities (NCRC and Safety Center sit in Ward 2).

    My vision is this: Northfield’s Council will work productively as a group, provide clear policy direction to city staff, and responsive, effective service to its people. The City will be a thriving and distinct city which makes steady progress towards its long term goals (see the Comp Plan, etc) and is a regional leader. I want to be part of making this happen and believe I’ve got experience and skills to play a strong role in the process.

    That’s 3 paragraphs, Tracy so I’m over the limit, but did I mention that I think being involved with local government is just a lot of fun? I love being able to talk to my neighbors about what’s happening right here (indeed City Hall is in Ward 2, too), help explain issues and decisions, and think together how we can build Northfield into an even better community.

  19. Jerold: At tonight’s City Council work session, I asked Ms. McBride the question regarding the revenue differences between a municipal liquor store and a private one. A city our size could conceivably host two liquor stores that would bring in an annual license fee of $450.00-$500.00 each and property tax up to 20k annually total… 180k less than our current income.

    I think she may have meant that the projected revenue to the city, of a private liquor store, would be “not much”. Hope this helps clarify.

  20. Since you’re using LoGroNo to direct readers to your website Jerold, I will, too. I’ve been trying to post some current news and issues on my blog lately.

    Jeff Johnson of KYMN has been interviewing all the candidates (he may be the best informed voter in Northfield) so I hope LoGroNo readers have been able to catch some of them as they make up their minds.

  21. I’ve been thinking about “Coffee with your Councilperson” as a regular (weekly? bi-weekly?) opportunity to talk with me.

    I like the idea of Ward 2 meetings but I’d probably use them either for specific controversial issues, or have them quarterly.

    Would “Coffee with your Councilperson” be something you’d participate in from time to time?

  22. Jerold- “Coffee with your Councilperson”. Has a nice ring to it. I think it would be “grounds” for a lot of grass roots input. I will participate if you scheduled it when I could come, but for heaven’s sake, don’t try to schedule it around my screwy schedule.

  23. Coffee with your Councilperson is a good idea, Jerry – and not only because I’m in favor of coffee, generally speaking. But could we be brewing up trouble by having coffee in Ward 1 and 4 coffee houses? Such disputes would be groundless, of course, but we could avoid them by having Ice Cream with your Councilperson at the Ward 2 Cocoa Bean.

    OK, got those puns out of my system, but have perhaps revealed my secret ambition to take Dixon Bond’s place as council punster.

  24. Betsey: I’m sad that you think ideas for being more accessible to our constituents isn’t more serious than our 20 minutes at the League of Women Voters/Northfield News forum. Yes, the Q&A at the forum is important, but so are ideas about how to represent Ward 2. I keep hearing from Ward 2 residents that they want their council person to be accessible!

    Phone calls, e-mails, even blogs are nice but meeting in person is better. Ward 2 meetings are a great idea but they cannot be sustained weekly or bi-weekly.

    I’m thinking of selecting six or more morning restaurants/coffee shops and assigning each to a month. Then weekly or more likely bi-weekly, I’ll be at the month’s restaurant and all Ward 2 constituents are welcome to join me in a casual atmosphere to talk about anything. I’ll publish the schedule on the city’s web site and the Northfield News (and here, if there’s a spot for it). Then, as the months pass, I’ll select new places and advertise them.

    If this turns out to be popular for Ward 2, I hope that other council people join with their own select restaurants.

    After all the complaints of accessibility and lack of transparency, I think reaching out to our constituents in such a manner is important. There will even be the fringe benefit of giving our city’s restaurants some free promotions.

    My sense of governance is to keep finding ways to inspire our constituents to be involved. I take this very seriously.

  25. You misunderstand me, Jerry. My coffee humor obviously fell flat, but I think having regular “office hours” at local coffee houses or other restaurants is a great idea and agree that face to face contact is indispensable.

    We’ve talked about organizing face to face meetings, but I’d also like to put in a plug for the random encounters. Once of the advantages of being involved in multiple ways in the community is that I get questions and input about city government on the soccer field, at church, and at school events as well as through deliberate campaigning or city meetings.

    My position has always been to keep working with many media and in multiple ways to stay in touch with constituents.

  26. Betsey: Sorry if I misunderstood your humor. Because I have heard so many complaints about the inaccessibility of council members, I take the issue seriously.

    Random encounters are good, especially if your constituents have similar habits. I’d worry about relying too much on random encounters because my constituents may not shop at Just Food, and your constituents may not go to your church.

    Being available in the usual ways (phone, e-mail, postal mail, open mic), having Ward meetings on specific issues, and publishing a schedule of where to meet me for informal discussions, seems very accessible especially for a city our size.

  27. I take the accessibility problem very seriously, too. So I must object (again) to your overgeneralization of my comments.

    Nowhere did I say I would “rely” on chance encounters because, of course, they are just that, chance encounters. But I do believe that accessibility can only be enhanced by broad community participation and I have learned much from each group I’ve been part of in Northfield.

    Nowhere did I say I would not be “available in the usual ways.”

    Indeed I’ve been thinking about this issue for longer than the headlines of the last week/year because it’s not a new problem – at least as long as the election 4 years ago residents have complained that City Hall’s doors are closed and city business seems to happen behind them.

    Accessibility and transparency in city government are not limited to the personal availability of the Council, but can also be improved through Northfield’s procedures for publicizing projects, by how it responds to input at public hearings and other meetings, by its boards and commissions, and by how the Council directs staff.

    Which gets back to my fundamental position: Accessibility, responsiveness and transparency are issues which must be addressed in multiple ways and many media. There’s no one method or policy which will fix it, but elected officials must continually assess how the City is doing and continually look for ways to improve.

    I’m prepared to work on all these, as well as reaching out to Ward 2 residents specifically.

  28. Congratulations to Betsey Buckheit.

    I like seeing that Betsey’s involvement in Northfield’s volunteer government has earned her a seat at city council. Betsey has been honorable with me when our campaigns intersected, despite one’s natural desire to the contrary. If for no other reason, this is why I trust that Betsey will bring to the council an illuminated work ethic and a commitment to the public trust. Along with the other successful candidates, she will help create a clean break from the apparent problems of the last administration. Working with the people of Northfield, the council is now in the best position to bring prosperity to our great city.

  29. Congrats to Jerold for leaping into Northfield city politics so soon after arriving in town; it’s a great place to invest time and effort.

    Jerry, I hope this will just be your first leap and we’ll be seeing you and hearing your voice often. I’m quite certain (and happy) you won’t be a passive constituent. Thanks for a good race!

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