Election 2008 discussion: Northfield City Council 2-yr At-Large – candidates and issues

Joe Gasior Rhonda Pownell Victor Summa Lynn Vincent

L to R: Joe Gasior, Rhonda Pownell, Victor Summa, and Lynn Vincent are running for Northfield City Council, At-Large, a 2-year term (remaining years from Noah Cashman’s seat). 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:

  • Joe Gasior (none)
  • Rhonda Pownell (none)
  • Victor Summa (none)
  • Lynn Vincent (none)

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

Northfield News:

Northfield East Side Neighborhood Association

26 thoughts on “Election 2008 discussion: Northfield City Council 2-yr At-Large – candidates and issues”

  1. Can y’all comment on the plan for $880,000 of City Hall renovations?

    What are your top five, in order, Capital Improvement Plan projects?

    And has your thinking about this changed at all since the global financial meltdown has hit hard in the past month?

  2. I am personally opposed to the proposed renovations. I believe that with the number of projects before the city that would be more of a benefit, this one should be put on the back burner for a while. I understand that there are items that need to be repaired at city hall such as leaky windows and the like, but these should be handled as part of regular maintenance.

    As for my top five capital improvement plan projects, they are:

    1. The liquor store – As I stated at the Chamber forum yesterday, we lost the right to prioritize this when the city was fined by OSHA and told to correct the problem. As to how we handle it, we have a couple of options before us. They are to 1) build a new store, 2) renovate the existing store, or 3) get out of the liquor business. I am in support of choice 1. The liquor store is a revenue stream for the city and building a new store, if done correctly, can enhance that income.

    2. The safety center – As a city, we need to ensure that we provide our police and fire departments with the space and resources they require to adequately service the community for the next 20 to 30 years. Quite frankly, they don’t have that in the current safety center.

    3. The library – This project is much farther in the planning process than most of the other projects. The Library Board has a solid vision of where they think the library needs to be in 20 to 30 years.

    4. The skate park – The support and organization of the youth involved in this project is phenomenal. There is a need for more youth-centered projects within the city and I think that this project in particular should be moved forward when it fits into the city’s long-term financial plans.

    5. The ice arena – This project has some regional significance as well as a benefit to the city. I heard one individual at a previous forum express some ideas for its use in the off-season for different shows such as dog shows or a home and garden show. However, I think that this project does need to involve some type of private fundraising in addition to what the city would provide to make this a reality.

    The recent financial meltdown has not affected how I prioritize these items. I believe they all need to be done, but it will be necessary for everyone to be patient on these items. The city needs to weigh these expenditures against the other ongoing needs of the city such as maintenance and the other city services currently provided. With the budget restrictions that the city will face over the next couple of years, along with the potential for decreased income due to the financial downturn, it will be necessary to control city spending and proceed on any of these projects such that they don’t create a burden on the city’s finances.

  3. Thanks for the substantive reply, Joe… and kudos on getting your Gravatar working! (Other candidates, let me know via private email if you’d like help getting your Gravatars working — they’re the little headshot photos that automatically appear next to your comments.)

  4. Thanks for setting this opportunity up, Griff. I am opposed to spending $880,000, which I understand may now be closer to $1,000,000, on City Hall. The economy is very uncertain, the state is facing a 2 to 3 billion dollar shortfall, and while there are some repairs that could be done or need to be done, the building and space are not making life too difficult for City Staff – just a nuisance and inconvenience. The repairs need to be incorporated into the maintenance cost of the building, like replacing the single pane windows with double pane – that could save the City money in heating and cooling costs in the long run.

    By not taking action on the liquor store issue Northfield lost the right to prioritize the liquor store when OSHA fined the city for not making the corrections they noted needed to be done. OSHA made it very clear what needs to be done and I hope this gets resolved before any new City Council members take their seats next January. . I don’t think the City should be in the liquor business, or any business other than the business of City Government for that matter, and I am in favor of privatizing particularly if, as I understand it, the City would receive the same level of income not owning as owning. Why take on the liabilities connected with liquor sales if it isn’t necessary?

    I put the Safety Center at the top of the priority list. Fire and police protection are critical to the survival and well-being of the community, and the condition and size of that building is hampering the ability of those who serve to provide the level of security and safety Northfield residents deserve. The City needs to provide the resources it takes to get the job done – and that includes a location that can continue to serve the community for the next couple of decades. What we have now is not even adequate for today, and that includes staffing.

    The library is second, and could move up to first only because they have much of the legwork accomplished and plans designed to meet the needs of a projected growth in Northfield over the next 20-30 years. If they mounted a capital campaign that brought in $4,000,000 or better towards the construction of the site, the library could sneak into first place. Studies in South Carolina and Pennsylvania show that libraries can return $3.60 to $5.50 for every dollar spent. Northfield Library did their own mini study and learned that most people who come to town for a library visit spend time and money downtown shopping, eating, or meeting friends for coffee.

    I commend the initiative, energy and tenacity of the students who formed the skateboard coalition and have brought the Skateboard Park project as far as it has come. I think the park needs to be incorporated into the City’s Parks and Recreation development plans. It, too, lends itself to a capital campaign effort to reduce the cost to the city.

    The volunteers who renovated the existing ice arena showed the kind of initiative needed in providing a safer, healthier venue for the children of Northfield, and set a good example for the Skateboard Park advocates as well. It isn’t perfect, but much better than it was, and the citizens take great pride in what they have accomplished, as well they should. I think this could be put on hold for the time being.

    The state of the economy has not changed my thinking on the prioritization, just on the timing of the projects. I think the Council needs to weigh carefully the balance between the need and the cost of any of the projects, and include in their analysis the cost of ongoing maintenance of the buildings. The money being spent is public funding. The Council needs to recognize their accountability for their fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Northfield and the due diligence required in making decisions. Then they need to step up and make the decisions.

    You will notice a sameness to most of the answers that have been posted – what distinguishes the candidates from each other is the experience in leadership and making the hard decisions. Last night at the Contented Cow I spoke to my fourteen years of extensive experience in making those hard decisions and my tested ability to grow capacity. I think I can bring those skills to bear on the issues facing Northfield. We are asked often if we have the strength to stand for what is best for the community against any pressures from special interests. I do.

  5. Joe, Lynn, Victor, Rhonda,

    I’m posing the same questions to the other council and mayoral candidates; if you’ve answered them in other contexts, please point me to that information:

    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?

  6. Well, if you think the campaign commercials have a “tough” tone, you should see Griff’s reminders to Tracy and me to ask questions of the candidates…

    Joe, Lynn, Rhonda and Victor –

    In the last eighteen months, I’ve heard more discussion than in the previous five years regarding the allocation of resources between our existing businesses and potentially recruitable business. I think that this is a positive development.

    What are your thoughts about an appropriate allocation of municipal investments between exisiting businesses and desired business?

    Are there potential investments that might support existing businesses as well as hoped-for businesses?

    Are there non-financial incentives, programs or actions that might be supportive of or attractive to both existing and recruitable businesses that you would initiate, support and implement if elected?

    Thanks much,

    Ross

  7. RE: Griff’s initial question concerning the City Hall makeover: As the initiator hoping to put that question on the November ballot, I continue to oppose that expenditure I’d go to jail first!

    Generally speaking, I attributed this plan to be a goal of the former City Administrator, and in my opinion was part of his concerted effort, at Northfield’s expense, to create a brick and mortar legacy for his resume.

    I strongly opposed this idea.

    The signature count alone of the petition should cause the Council to readdress this decision.

    Recent discussion from staff to council seem to indicate that, is it’s likely direction, now.

    Other than that I find it significant that all my opponents seem to have indicated they are not in favor of this plan. Well?

    My question, where have you been?

    Did you know you were planning to run 3 months ago? Are you aware you’re welcome to attend Council meetings and get some real first hand information. Seems like a prudent step if planning to serve the community.

    There were two public hearing’s on the City Hall improvements … in July and August.

    I’d say this goes to the issue of who’s informed and involved, and who isn’t. Clearly on this as on other issues I pass the test.

    Ms Pownell may have indicated an interest in this City Hall improvement. I’m not too surprised, as the plan was Roder’s and she has a link to the former administrator. Perhaps, devoted to his plan.

    On the question of priorities for the balance of the CIP, here are my views:

    Northfield is in a crisis financially. We are not alone. As to the election, we need to elect councilors with common sense. MY SENSE is The CIP is on hold.

    No brick or mortar changes are in the offing.

    City staff continues to spend money on the City hall planning ,,, and the liquor store is like a cat… NINE lives. Still being studied as to siting. Don’t ask. I will!

    I haven’t seen the situation. Only the anointed elected officials have been give the brain washing survey by Roder. I’ll be looking close now and I’m sure I’ll come up with a better alternative than a new Liquor Store next year… or in the next five!

    At this point my vote’s for maintenance. Repair the electric panel and provide improved access up and down the stairs… nothing more. $125,000!

    Maintenance to this property is a win win affair as any improvements such as access and electric upgrades merely add to the value of the building … if and when we ever vacate that site.

    RE the balance of the 50 plus million dollars in debt staff is desirous to take on, PRUDENCE is the name of the game.

    I’d spend money on the Skateboard park tomorrow. Why? Because it benefits the kids. Is needed, and is relatively low cost .. and it adds to the vitality of the downtown.

    I’d also spread a little money here and there … also as needed … on premium projects.

    We’ve got a problem (or two) when the staff comes forward with an earmark in the ’09 budget to spend up to 60 K on another parking study when we’ve got a HOT one on the shelf.

    The Downtown hasn’t shifted since this plan was PURCHASED … why then another consultant’s plan?

    DISCLOSURE: It was justified by staff as an investigation into how to run the facility … if we build it!. Is that a no brainer or what?

    I said a problem or TWO.

    I see it as really scary when the city sends out a request to other greater Minnesota small towns basically saying: we cant get Northfield to move on BIG projects. Do you have any ideas on how to get the citizens and the Council in a spending mood?

    Here’s the deal my friends. City governments only need 4 of 7 votes to borrow money. Pay back is no concern for staff, regardless of the times, as all they have to do is have the tax payers pay the debt service. Meanwhile, staff moves on.

    Certainly we must look at the REAL needs and make accommodations to provide for these in some manner. Today, that’s not likely going to be a big new building.

    Times are tough. Tighten your belt. The big spender has moved to Nebraska.

  8. I would like to see City Hall renovated just like I would like to see all the other projects done. A large portion of this project includes some deferred maintenance items which would provide some energy cost savings. This includes the 1955 single pane windows and the back door which leak when it rains. It would be best to replace or close up the windows in conjunction with a remodel. The majority of the wiring is from 1955 and needs to be upgraded. The roof is also scheduled to be replaced in the next 2-5 years. In addition, there is no way of monitoring who is in the building at any given time. This is a safety issue which a portion of the remodel would address. Doing this renovation would take the need for a new City Hall building off the horizon for the next 20+ years.

    My top 5 Capital Improvement Projects are:

    1. Safety Center –The safety of our city comes first before anything else. It is clear that the current Safety Center hinders our Police and Fire Departments from doing their jobs safely and effectively.

    2. City Hall – There are some necessary updates that need to happen to this building.

    3. Library – It is clear from the studies the library board has done that the library is past due for an expansion. The library is a gathering place for children and adults and plays a key role in the success of our downtown.

    4. Skateboard Park – I would really like to see this get done. It’s very important to sow into the youth of our city. They are our future.

    5. Ice Arena – I would like to see all the organizations who use this facility partner with the city and provide a building that would more adequately meet the needs of everyone.

    The Liquor Store is not part of the Capitol Improvement Plan. Due to some OSHA regulations we will need to either build a new building or remodel the current one.

    The state of our economy has not affected the order in which I’d like to see the projects completed. It may affect when we can do these projects. However, the economy will turn around. It will not stay like this forever. I believe it’s important to continue to move forward on our list of projects. If we do not do so, we will find ourselves in a worse position than we are now with several projects due at the same time. That being said we need to carefully consider the cost, the impact on tax payers, and citizen support.

  9. Tracy asked: Why do you want this position … and what is your personal vision, passion, or hot-button issue as it relates to Northfield and public service here?

    Here’s my typically too long of an answer to both questions.

    Every election cycle some council seats are open for reconsideration. Frequently only one person offers to serve. Occasionally no one will, and the process is then reduced to a write-in candidacy. Of those that offer to serve, a large portion have not been involved to the extent that they really understand the role. And then there’s the resignations. All in all a sad situation.

    Some who might take the chance to run don’t prevail and are left with feelings of rejection … likely to never try again. I truly believe anyone who puts their neck “out there” is doing a service for the community.

    In any event, of those who run, the voters have the difficult choice of making wise decisions. I’m a frequent player. My positions are clear. Furthermore I think the city is in crisis even without the current financial stress facing it and the nation. A vote for me is not too difficult a choice to make

    I’ve intimately observed the process for over ten years, I’ve seen flaws in the structure (citizen based, council dependent, and subjected to staff implementation.) Those are the three legs of the stool. The leg most important but least likely enabled to keep the structure righted, is the “citizen leg”. Unlike most stools if one or more of these fail, this hybrid is structured for the staff leg to widen its support and takeover. The council also has that possible capability — taking over. In either case, cutting the citizen leg off!

    Accepting the responsibility to support and strengthen the “citizen leg”through listening, communications, transparency, and innovative thinking are my bed rock goals.

    I understand the task and I’m up to it. I believe I more sincerely grasp the problems and, I’m willing to fight the hard and sometimes uncomfortable battles.

    Here comes the rhetoric! We do have to plan, make changes, work together, and provide for the diverse needs and wants (as best we can)

    Here are the facts:

    I want this position because, I believe of the available voices Northfield needs my involvement the most.

    A resident of 13 years, I have immersed myself in Northfield’s public process.

    I demonstrate a realistic attitude about change pegged to Northfield’s assets.

    My vision is pragmatic, rooted in ideals for growth based on sustainable concepts, driven by community needs, for community benefit. 

    I believe that the economic development of this community comes from innovative entrepreneurs seeing Northfield’s potential as their opportunity.

    Good growth is a matter of matching community strengths with appropriate development.  Northfield’s community based assets must drive development that “fits”.

    These perspectives, and the willingness to seriously engage in effort devoted to those outcomes, are what I bring to this election.

    We need city councilors who are not hesitant, willing to work hard to sift through the rhetoric, consider new imperatives, bringing the kind of policy necessary to successfully move forward.

    Because I feel that describes me… I want to serve.

    I consider myself an informed, progressive thinker … within reach of the public’s ideals. I’m guaranteeing nothing more than a willingness to work for progress based on existing assets.  My promise is, I’m willing to hold myself and the governing group RESPONSIBLE for producing tangible results, sticking with time lines and ACHIEVING OBJECTIVES …  all in a fiscally responsible way.

    I consistently speak for the greater good and now, more than ever, feel that Northfield needs my voice …. I need your vote.

  10. Victor and Rhonda: Both of you promised not to run for this seat when you applied to fill the vacancy until the end of the year.

    Why did you feel it was necessary to break that promise?

  11. David L. I took great pains to inform the interviewing committee (City Council) that I was applying for the interim seat AND intended to run for the 2 year seat as well.

    Maren had told then while they might prefer the option you refer to, they could not mandate it. Of course they could if the asked candidates, simply not appoint a person who defied them. AS I recall, they did not ask at the interview.

    I DID state my intentions.

    It’s interesting that you’re the only person who has raised this issue. Since we were not allowed in the room when others were being interviewed, I really don’t know for certain what Rhonda’s position was. She may have told them to take a hike too.

    In any event, during the interview, I made my case for the value of continuity.

    I also challenged Dixon’s appointment. He wanted to and did hold on to his Hospital Board seat and the Council seat. Maren defended his holding these, saying for the Hospital Board Charter Amendment, all he had to do was recuse himself. I argued that the Council had to vote unanimously to approve the Charter Amendment therefore he couldn’t recuse, he either had to resign from the Hospital Board or not accept the council appointment.

    As you might expect Maren Swanson told me I was wrong and the Council listened to Maren.

    Her argument is that he is not an elected official to the council, as he was appointed. I pointed out the charter in chapter 6 (I believe) defines Public Official as one who is elected or appointed to the council.

    In any event, I did not agree to NOT run.

    victor

  12. Hi, Tracy,
    I want the position, Tracy, because I know I can help bring common sense and focus to the work of the Council. I’ve worked in Northfield since 2000, and we chose the city as our retirement home because of the citizen involvement in all aspects of Northfield life. That makes for a very vibrant environment. As far as I know I am the only candidate for the two year seat that has any strong leadership experience. I know Victor thinks leading a Girl Scout council with limited staff isn’t much, but with 19 staff full time that expanded to more than 40 staff with the summer hire, and serving seven counties to me is pretty significant. No, it isn’t a Malt-O-Meal or a College, but the processes and decisions are very much the same. I had to set direction, do strategic and tactical planning, expand income, monitor expenditures, and practice due diligence in all aspects of the work of the council while working with 1,500 volunteer staff and volunteer task groups, committees and management teams. Non-profits follow the FASBE rules of accounting and fund accounting which is very comparable to the City who also uses fund accounting but follows GASBE accounting – very similar rules. I’ve worked with cities, architects and developers to design and build, and I conducted a very successful capital campaign. All that experience lends itself to some of the issues facing Northfield and decisions that need to be made.

    I have a vision of Northfield as a progressive caring community that is inclusive, cherishes its heritage, believes in its future, and practices environmentally sound principles. By progressive I don’t mean growing in leaps and bounds, but one that grows in a controlled thoughtful way that looks to best practices and the future. I have unwavering faith in the future of Northfield if together we confront the issues and create a culture of discipline and accountability, we can plan and build for the future. I can help get that done.

    I have a passion for inclusiveness, bringing all the voices to the table. That’s why I say WE plan for the future, not I plan. Northfield is a tapestry of a variety of “communities” if you will – racially diverse citizenry, youth, neighborhoods, old, young, middle-aged, collegiate, poor, rich, and in between – all are threads in the tapestry and are impacted by the decisions that are made for their city. All voices need to have an opportunity to be heard and to receive responses to their concerns, even if the response is not what they want they deserve to know the rationale behind the decisions that are made.

    My hot button is money – spending what we don’t have, and wasteful spending. For example, in three different annexations the city, in my estimation, reimbursed the townships far more than was necessary to replace for a period of years what the township would have realized in taxing the annexed land. There are to my knowledge three ways the city can annex – hostile annexation, reimbursement of tax loss at the level the land was taxed prior to the annexation, or reimbursement of tax loss for much more than the township taxed.

    There are at least three annexations where the tax loss reimbursement was not at the level the township got before the annexation, but at the level of what the city could tax the property. When the township has zoning ordinances that limit construction to one home per every 35 to 40 acres, and the city has zoning ordinances that allow three or more houses per acre, you can see how reimbursing the township at the level of taxes that the city could tax becomes extremely pricey. For the life of me my common sense approach cannot fathom why that was done.

    Another example of wasteful spending is completing all the infrastructure of roads, sewer lines, electrical supply lines etc. for the total area annexed. Why? The city bears that expense for years waiting for a business to decide to build in the annexed land and it takes away a bargaining chip that the city can offer an interested business
    I would think that laying the services to the edge of the annexed land would be enough until such time as a business or industry shows definite interest in building in or developing the annexed land.

  13. Ross asks questions that at best there are only elusive answers to.

    First let me say as your elected representative, I’ll welcome any input you have on this or other imperative issues for northfield. As you know, the NDDC ER team grapples with this issue weekly. Our attempts have provided few answers and I’ll stipulate that your sense (as I recall) is the city should put programs in place. My position (on the ER) is more like, “I don’t see how?

    Additionally, as a member of the EDA, I do try to push discussions facing these and other economic questions; the answers to which are not obvious. I’m more frustrated with the EDA dialogue than the ER, as at least the latter takes the time to chew on it!. The EDA is comprised of seven volunteers who meet at 7:30 AM with a plate full of diplomatic process and handicapped by the open meeting law… meaning some members don’t feel all that comfortable talking about sensitive personal financial issues, publicly.

    As you know, even when the ER and the EDA meet together to discuss these concerns, some in attendance are sensitively cautious (more than others) to discuss private property problems.

    This procedural inhibitor, in my opinion also hampers the Council in many of its discussions. This hesitancy (in my opinion) slows the citizen inut process and opens the door for staff to jump in and make more defining moves. That’s one reason why I’m running.

    The questions you ask are essential and need DISCUSSION, as I know no immediate answers … especially in these financially stressed times … and I’m not aware of any consensus on any of this.

    You said : “you’ve heard more discussion recently regarding the allocation of resources between existing businesses and recruitable business.”

    Well discussions have been going on for a long time about a plethora of needs and uncertainties. in that arena. To narrow the dialogue, lets at least loosely define businesses.

    There’s the struggling DT retailers … and their rich cousins out on the strip.

    Then there’s industrial business. i.e. Allflex, Sheldahl, Upper Lakes Foods, Cardinal Glass and the like. A real variety there.

    Finally, add in the empty infill sites and the beckoning green fields beyond the city Limits.

    Each of these has special needs and are on varying tracks … some slow … some stopped … some moving at a slightly brisker clip … but I dare say none are on the fast-track to development.

    There’s likely more interest in DT speciality shops, new eateries.. and a longing for some basics.

    Regardless of the struggle and the costs, there seems to be a steady flow of hopeful emerging merchants and other speculators itching to get in the swim. Unfortunately the DT waters seem brackish at best. I personally have had a few lengthy business involvement with some of these entrepreneurs. Very dicy.

    And, there’s where the subsistence programs imbedded in your question might hang out.

    Ross wrote: What are your thoughts about an appropriate allocation of municipal investments between existing businesses and desired business?

    Government support is part of the american dream. The big boys running all talk around supporting the middle class .. there’s a lot of talk about Joe The Plumber, etc. So it follows that Ross is curious if any of the local candidates have an ace up their sleeve.

    The EDA has funding programs. A Grant program that was initiated for start up cottage industry style innovators. Really hasn’t been very successful. Based on a small $5,000 grant, with only few restrictions, one might think the EDA would pass out ten or more a year. Only a hand full apply and few of those can look at much success as a result of the funding. WE are tossing around ideas to make it more significant and raise the appeal level. We’ll see how that turns out.

    Additionally there are the two conventional DT Revolving Loan programs. Very favorable terms, relatively easy to apply for. The program has two levels: One capped at 15 K at one half prime for seven years, the other caps at 75 K for 15 years at prime (If my memory serves me correctly) Using these within the guidelines has been a bit of a struggle, as (especially the 75K program) requires more cash (IN) from the applicant.

    There are some very limited dollars available to the EDA, but the discussion has not yet occurred as to if and how or when we might loosen our grip on those. Todays’ economy makes that even more a pipe dream.

    I doubt that this is what Ross is hopeful of hearing. I’m sure he wants bigger broader injection of funds to bring back a struggling DT and bolster our economy (DEVELOPMENT) and wants to hear our argument for dollars spent on Greenfield (annexation and in-fill) two aspects of business of which he has reasonable misgivings.

    The safer and more prudent use of limited funds is in existing businesses. Regardless, my inclination is, go slow. What’s yours?

  14. Tracy,
    I am running for city council because I believe I have the skills and experience to help the city face some of the difficult decisions that are rapidly approaching. A lot has been said regarding leadership and I believe I bring the type of leadership necessary for this position on the city council. As a project manager, I am responsible for all elements of the projects that I am running. This typically begins at project conception and initial budget development. Once the budget is developed and approved, I am responsible for actually implementing the budget as well as providing work direction for those individuals working on the project. Over the course of my career, I have been responsible for multi-million dollar budgets as well as the work direction of over 60 individuals on some of these projects. In addition, as a project manager, it is sometimes necessary to work with other individuals outside of my project span of control to get things done. This requires the ability to provide leadership through influence rather than through authoritative control. I think it is important to keep perspective on the position that we are all running for. A CEO does have leadership skills there’s no disputing that. However, leadership at the top is usually done through the authority of the position. A project manager, on the other hand needs to use both authority and influence as a regular part of the job. We are not running for the position of mayor, but rather for the position of council member at-large. The question is not about leadership, but the type of leadership brought to the position. It is here that I believe I bring the proper mix of styles and skill to the table to be the most effective council member of the group.

    As for a personal hot-button issue, one thing I plan to work towards on city council is building a partnership with the school district to address the safety concerns with the intersection of Hwy 246 (Division) and Jefferson Parkway. It will be necessary to get the state to realize that this intersection is a major safety concern for our community, and I believe that by working together with a unified message, the city and the school district can have a positive effect on getting our message out. Ultimately, both the city and the school district stand to benefit from improvements to safety at this intersection.

  15. I had to do a bit of thinking and asking around for help on this question, Ross. I may not know all the answers, but I have contacts and the ability to research the possibilities. I’m sure there are a lot of things that the EDA, the CVA and the NCCD have looked into and are doing, like the cameras the CVA wants to put downtown that would show in real time what potential visitors might find in Northfield by streaming the video to the Northfield web page. I think that is a great idea. I know the Police Department is already set up to accept such video, and the cameras could do double duty. It is the downtown area that is getting hit the hardest by graffiti, and it is difficult to catch the culprits. With cameras mounted in strategic locations the police would have a much better chance of detaining these miscreants and saving the business owners one big headache.

    Graffiti is something the America in Bloom committee found very disturbing and created the Graffiti Watch team to partner with the businesses and the Police to look into stopping this. I also know there are loans available to small businesses who want to expand. America in Bloom, a project I have been involved in since its’ conception, is a great project to enhance the assets the city already has, and to drive people into the downtown area where they will enjoy supporting local businesses. I would be more than happy to provide a presentation to any group on how the program can benefit a community. This is a very low-cost effort at enhancing and showcasing the assets of a community.

    Another option is to have build-ready locations where new businesses can locate. The infill locations are already prepared because city services are already connected to those locations. What I would not do is to put roads, sewers and other systems into any newly annexed land before The city knew what the business needed – as I said in answering Tracy’s question, such support could be a great negotiating tool. In all honesty, because of the state of the economy Northfield may have some breathing room to develop a great recruiting tool during the recession period in preparation for the upturn when it comes.

    There are several web sites on community development, but the one I found the most interesting was the one for Rhode Island – riedc.com that had lots of ideas that Rhode Island cities are doing, and coolnewjersey.org is another great site.

    Perhaps the city could partner with the state to reduce the corporate tax rate in increments to companies that create new employment. In Rhode Island they reduce the tax by a quarter of a percent for every 10 new jobs created over a three year period, and the reduction is permanent if the company maintains the job level it has at the end of the three years. Perhaps the same sort of thing could be worked out for businesses that pay at least 150% of the state minimum wage.

    A manufacturing tax credit could be established against the corporate income tax and personal income tax on buildings and structural components, as well as machinery and equipment, which are owned or leased and are principally used in the production
    Process.

    Perhaps some sort of break or incentive could be devised for small businesses that collaborate on providing day care for employees – there are a lot of empty office spaces downtown that could be used for a city daycare center close to the workers’ place of employment.
    Perhaps the city could collaborate with the colleges providing more internship opportunities for students for experiential learning in the real world saving the company the cost of hiring a staff person. There may be job training grants that the business collaborative could apply for to underwrite this program.

    To me, one of the most interesting opportunities Rhode Island offers is the Historic Preservation Investment Tax Credit for rehabilitation of historic income-producing buildings. It is one of the most innovative in the nation, and has generated over $485 million in new private investment. Buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or which are located within a National Register Historic District (and contribute to the district’s significance, or if it is part of a local historic district) are eligible. I don’t think I would require the National Register part of this, but the rest is a good idea. The credit equals 30% of the cost of approved rehabilitation work. Exterior and interior rehab qualifies for the tax credit as long as the work meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitating Historic Properties. Eligible projects include
    work on the roof, exterior walls, windows, foundations, structure, heating, plumbing,
    electrical system, and interior improvements that are capitalized to the building.

  16. I’d like to add, Ross, that I see the lack of an in-depth workforce a negative for companies wanting to relocate. One way to increase that workforce is to contract with a technical school to hold classes in Northfield. I don’t see a need to build a whole new complex, but there are a great number of spaces – classrooms for evening and Saturday classes – available that could be used for instruction. And one thing Northfield does have are a lot of successful people that could become instructors for such classes under the auspices of a Minnesota Technical Institution. It is a more long-term solution, but fits with a “do something while you wait for economic improvement” plan.

  17. Anyone who has worked in the non-profit world, Joe, knows that leadership from the authority of the positon just does not work! There is no paycheck to rattle of performance review when your 99% of the work of a volunteer organization is done by a volunteer work force. Non-profit leadership catalyzes commitment to and the vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision. Volunteers and resources must be organized for an effective and efficient creation and implementation of goals and objectives in support of the vision. While I agree that a project manager must show leadership skills and work from authority and influence, in the end those you work with are working for the paycheck.

  18. David, here is my response to your question about breaking a promise to not run in this election.

    This is what the Council Vacancy Notice for the inerim position stated:

    “The Council indicated that they would prefer to appoint someone who is not planning to run for office in this election. Applicants [for the Interim At Large position] should confirm whether or not they are planning to run for office in this election.”

    The Council did not ask us to make a promise and I did not give one. In my letter of application to the council for the Interim position, I let them know that I was strongly considering running for the 2 Year At Large Council seat.

    Thanks for the question.

  19. You are correct, Lynn, that authority does not work in the non-profit world for those whose primary task is to work directly with volunteers. I have seen this myself with the extensive volunteer work I have done, including with the Boy Scouts as both a unit leader and a leadership trainer. What I have also seen is that it is usually not the top paid staff that interacts directly with the volunteers. It is usually the second or third tier paid staff. Top staff usually interacts with that second and third tier staff. Though these individuals may believe in the program, they are still working for their paycheck, too.

  20. I would think the pledge or request not to run would matter for the person who was appointed, to prevent giving the interim person an advantage in the election and to provide a truly neutral caretaker through this transition period. I can’t see how it makes sense to tell people who weren’t appointed that they should sit out the special election.
    It seems there’s a pretty level playing field in the special election, which should be the goal.

  21. For the most part you are right, Joe. The CEO does work with staff and the board of directors and board committees. I can’t speak for Boy Scouts, but in Girl Scouts the board is all volunteer, as are the finance, fund development, nominating, and property committees, and the local management teams. Perhaps I should clarify, then I’ll stop beating this dead horse. I started my career in Girl Scouts as a Field Director in 1979 and worked directly with volunteers only for most of the first 14 years I worked in Girl Scouting. As I moved upward in the organization I began supervising staff as well as working directly with volunteers and I carried those skills into the CEO position. For those of you who want to know more I would offer the opportunity to speak with the staff and volunteers at the council to learn more about my work there. These will be my last words on this subject on this blog, Girl Scout’s Honor!

  22. Ross,
    This particular set of questions gave me pause for thought and I’ve been doing just that for the past couple of days. To answer your second question first, there are investments that will benefit both existing as well as newbusinesses. These, I believe are the typical infrastructure improvements such as the much talked about safety center. Others are a little more subtle such as the liquor store and library. Both of these bring traffic into town from outside as they service not only the city, but the surrounding region as well. Increasing the number of people coming into town for one reason such as getting a book increases the potential traffic to other businesses. I realize these are not direct to the business investments, but I believe these projects provide a tangible benefit to both businesses as well as the community at large.

    Now, back to your first question. Any investment by the city with respect to businesses, existing or new, as well as any other investment will need to be weighed against the other demands on the city’s pocketbook. The next few years are going to be tough and it will be necessary for the city to be selective in what is done and what is not done. At this point, to put down an arbitrary number is meaningless as it is out of context and would be changed by all of the other items the city will need to consider.

    To answer your final question, one potential incentive that has been talked about is improving the transportation opportunities within the community. Being able to get more citizens easily around town will help to open up the potential pool of both employees and customers. Though good transportation is non-financial to the business, there is still a cost to the city and as such, it will need to be considered in the context of the other financial obligations of the city.

  23. Citizens, feel free to keep asking questions of the 2 year at-large candidates and/or discussing the candidates and issues among yourselves.

    Only five days left till the election!

  24. Tracy, here is my answer regarding your questions on why I want this position and my vision for public service here.

    I’ve been attending city council meetings and work sessions for over a year now out of concern for our city. It’s out of that concern that I chose to run for the 2 Year At Large position. Having lived here for over 19 years, I know our city. I am a strong visionary leader with excellent character and a will to get things done. We need leaders right now that can learn from our past, decisively move forward, and lead our city into an excellent future.

  25. Ross, here are my responses to your questions about economic/business development in Northfield.

    Ross’s question: What are your thoughts about an appropriate allocation of municipal investments between exisiting businesses and desired business?

    My response: Resources need to be offered to both. We need to make sure our existing businesses prosper and make every effort to help new businesses get up and running.

    Ross’s question: Are there potential investments that might support existing businesses as well as hoped-for businesses?

    My response: There are some existing grants and loans which have already been mentioned. There is an even longer list (a total of 22) on our city’s website under public financing in the Business section although most of these are administrated outside of Northfield. Here are some others that are administrated through our city: the Master Development Fund Public Expenditures, the Master Development Fund Loan, and Tax Increment Financing. We need to make good use of the ones Northfield administrates as well as make all of the other opportunities known to area businesses.

    Ross’s question: Are there non-financial incentives, programs or actions that might be supportive of or attractive to both existing and recruitable businesses that you would initiate, support and implement if elected?

    My response: We have a strong healthy town that’s constantly bringing in people from outside our city for numerous arts, community, and sporting events. I’d like to see these events expand or new ones be created. This provides an excellent source of income for our local businesses. In addition we need to continue to advertise our city by placing another Historic Northfield sign along the interstate, marketing our city on the web, participating in competitions like America in Bloom, and publicizing our events via the web.

    Our city is one of our greatest assets. It’s a great place to live and raise a family. We have a strong pool of professionals here and a continual supply of highly educated new talent coming from the colleges. There are also excellent opportunities for internships through the colleges which I would like to see expanded.

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