Former Northfield City Administrator Susan Hoyt departs ‘contentious’ Lake Elmo

Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader for alerting me to this Dec 2 Stillwater Gazette story: Things get ugly in Lake Elmo; shouting match prematurely ends Monday night’s city council meeting

For the second time is as many meetings, it took a motion to adjourn to break up a shouting match between Lake Elmo City Council members. Two weeks ago, council members settled down enough to finish the meeting, which ended with City Administrator Susan Hoyt announcing her plans to leave the city to take a planning position with the Metropolitan Council… Lake Elmo City Council meetings have long been contentious, but personal conflicts became increasingly common in the lead up to the Nov. 4 general election and have continued to crop up at a similar rate in the weeks since.

Nov 19: Lake Elmo administrator resigns

Susan Hoyt"Since Lake Elmo is very political and some folks may be looking for an angle to my decision, I’ll say right up front that this change is not related to the results of the city election," she continued. Still, Hoyt’s statements both during and after the meeting subtly suggested she had also grown weary of the contentious and sometimes accusatory nature of Lake Elmo politics.

She told council members one way in which she benefited from her experience in Lake Elmo was by "being consistently reminded of how important it is to build trusting relationships and to always, always treat people respectfully in thought, word and deed every single day."  When asked if the way she was treated in Lake Elmo was part of the reason she decided to leave, Hoyt said it was one of several factors she considered.  "You always look at the work environment you’re in, and the personal dynamics – how people treat you – but this is also about where I’m going," she said.

45 thoughts on “Former Northfield City Administrator Susan Hoyt departs ‘contentious’ Lake Elmo”

  1. Griff –

    Frankly, I found this to be one of the most thought-provoking posts that you or anyone has offered the community in quite some time. However, I’m probably just a party of one.

    For the second time in as many meetings, the Lake Elmo City Council Meeting was abruptly adjourned due to a shouting match between Councilors. Apparently, there are some deep divisions between the leaders in that community.

    The involvement of a familiar City Administrator was perhaps what triggered my thinking. I began to muse on the interplay between the hired staff and the elected officials in making major decisions on community projects.

    Over the past five years or so, Northfield has had two “permanent” city administrators and two “interim” city administrators. Both of the permanent city administrators seemed to be quite determined to make things happen in town.

    Some might think that these city administrators were motivated by their desire to add some big projects on their resume, others might believe that these people were only trying to act in the community’s best interests. Regardless of their motivation, I was struck that both of the recent “permanent” city administrators seemed to have a similar approach to realizing the projects.

    These city administrators appeared to identify a project or projects that was or were “ready to go”. Then they identified the person or persons on the City Council that was or were supportive of the project. Finally, depending on your perspective, they either hitched their wagon to those horses or drove those horses in pursuit of that project or those projects.

    Although I can see some logic in this approach, I can also see some potential problems. Events in Northfield and Lake Elmo would appear to be illustrations of these potential problems.

    When a city administrator “picks a side” for what is in fact a competitive process for often limited resources, in some ways they are, potentially, either setting up a new conflict or deepening existing divisions within a community. The results can be, at least in some of the cases familiar to us, at best, an acrimonious and ineffective process, and, at worst, the loss of a unified and productive community vision.

    It would seem to me (and, again, maybe I’m just a party of one), that if instead of starting by picking a team to ram the ball over the goal line, the city administrator merely provided information to the elected officials in their discussion of the options for decision-making, striving to remain neutral unless or until asked for a comparative evaluation of the proposals, and then worked to implement whatever decision the council choose, some of the divisiveness and acrimony could be avoided. The ultimate vote by the elected officials should be recognized by the citizens, the councilors, and the staff as the final decision to be implemented.

    What do you think, does my speculation about an ideal model make sense? Or does it break down as soon as you include real human beings in the process?

    Thanks much,

    Ross

  2. Ross: Great comment. The policy making MUST remain in the hands of those who were elected to (hopefully) make policy.
    A council which fails to entertain the deep and thoughtful discussion necessary to make policy , leaves the staff, and the citizens, in the same untenable void.
    Given clear policy direction, the staff will be very happy to use their professional expertise to implement the policy direction, thereby fulfilling the community’s vision for itself.

  3. Ross: Your “ideal model” sounds good to me. In fact, I thought that was how councils, boards, etc. were constituted to work with staff. Where it often breaks down is when the elected body doesn’t clearly understand the respective roles of the policy makers on the one hand, and the staff hired to execute the policies on the other. Furthermore when the policy makers don’t function as a group, staff, partly out of self-preservation, steps in and crosses the line between executing and creating policy. (He or she may also seek individual supporters on the council, further dividing the group.) A weak council opens the door for administrators to take over.

    I don’t know what kind of training city council members receive. Long ago, when I was a newly elected school board member, the Minnesota School Board Association provided very good training for new members soon after the election. In addition, the MSBA assisted local boards in developing local policies and procedures to clarify the distinction between the roles of the board and those of the superintendent. There was often training in parliamentary procedure to assist boards in managing meetings. Some might think this is a bit over the top, but I think a similar preparation for city councils (new and old, in our case) might help everyone function more productively.

  4. Jane, I completely agree – and I think a more thorough orientation would benefit the boards and commissions, too, especially with regard to the statutory status of public officials, accurate information regarding open meeting laws and the data practices act, the definition of “conflict of interest”, and familiarity with our city code of ethics.

    There’s too much unnecessary confusion about all of these.

  5. Griff- This article appears to support a theory I have- most cities, irregardless of size, will probably have tumultous politcal climates simply because city government becomes personal rather than objective.

    Ross- I think your analysis is correct. The question I raise, since there appears to be underlying personality conflicts in any organization, is who steps in to make a decision when opposing parties cannot come to agreement? It seems in one of the threads over the last year or so, there was discussion about a “strong mayoral” system and a “strong administrator” system. One of the things I remember about this was that Northfield has never really decided and put it in writing which system we intend to follow. It seems to me that someone must make a decision sometime, and that person must be clearly defined by the charter.

  6. Hey Scott,

    how’s life for my former neighbor in the BIG City?

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but in my analysis, you’re kind of ancient history.

    I was thinking Susan Hoyt, Bill Bassett, Al Roder, and Joel Walinski. That’s two “permanent” and two “interim” city administrators.

    I do appreciate your support for the paintings of the hunting parties on the cave walls back when you were city administrator.

    – Ross

  7. John George; you are 100% correcto-mundo. Its not the economy stupid its the politics, its not the policies its the people, and ultimately its not the systems, training, orientation, envisioning forums, procedures, nor processes but simply who has the last word.

    If you want efficiency you have to abandon the democratic process at some point and make use of a Representative Dictatorship model (used most effectively by the Japanese and others as the favored – because its the best – business model).

    If you want the democratic process right up until you decide to advance or retreat or turn right or left, then deal with the ongoing, neverending points of view, delay, obfuscation and daft compromises (ie just sit tight, do nothing just in case some bugger feels upset and brings a lawsuit).

    Over the last few years, Northfield has turned itself into a Marie-Celeste with no one at the helm (nope, that is not the right image but will have to do for now).
    And we’re fiddling while Rome burns (gawd, it gets worse!).

    Anyway, A.Renee Salon until very recently had a direct vehicular access from Jefferson Road to their front door. Now, much to their chagrin (and I believe to their ultimate business disadvantage after spending loadsamoney on their fine establishment) a customer has to turn right towards Tyres Plus, left towards nowhere in particular and then left again towards Jefferson Road and finally right to their carpark.

    This is a fine example of the daftness (equivalent to the new rental ordinance and the Liquorstoregate) intrinsic to the current operation, best described as Malevolant Dictatorship, of City Hall.

    Did anyone on City Council, EDA, Planning Commission fight this ‘order’. Or, once again, did staff just thump the barrel and make the ruling and enforce the dictat without any involvment of elected represenatives or appointed commissioners?

    And all this blether about ‘business friendliness’ bumbles along in a vaccuum without any reference to, or request for, anecdotal eveidence to show that this is the most business unfriendly City Hall in the known universe. IMHO.

  8. John G. –

    Yes, there are many people in Northfield who hope/believe that clarifying the charter will lead to a smoother process, including my comrade in blogging, Tracy Davis.

    Councilor-Elect Buckheit is currently a member of the Charter Commission. Perhaps she will lead or support an effort to address this matter in 2009…

    …although I personally hope that she’ll save a good portion of her considerable talent and energy for projects that I believe might produce more leverage for our community.

    – Ross

  9. Ross: Your comments are ironic. As I recall, the Planning Commission, who are neither elected nor staff, tried to ram-rod the Comprehensive Plan through. Staff, on the other hand, was very cooperative in working with the Chamber to address the Chamber’s concerns about the lack of attention to the business environment. As I recall, you even refused to meet in person to discuss the matter, so we had no choice but to go to staff.

    It was also the Planning Commission, you and Tracy included, who defied the City Council, and voted against the annexation, even though, as you admitted, you knew that the Council wanted the Commission to plan the annexation.

    And, wasn’t there also a group who tried to change the City Council’s decision on spending for the City Hall?

    Blaming the City Administrator because you don’t get your way is political bullying. Wouldn’t be better to talk directly to the elected officials, in a nice way, rather than cyber-gossiping?

  10. Ancient history? I’ll take it! Thanks Ross.

    BTW, life in the big city is pretty good. Northfield was a great place to raise my kids, but as I’ve said before, it was a tough town to work in. I’ve got a great gig in Eden Prairie. I wouldn’t trade it for another city job anywhere. And living in Minneapolis isn’t too bad either.

    Cheers!

  11. David L., I must protest on two counts.

    One, the Planning Commission never tried to “ramrod the Comp Plan through”. The accusation is ridiculous on its face, considering that the damn thing took two years. What evidence do you have to back your assertion?

    Two, I personally voted in favor of the annexation.

  12. Ross, I have resigned from the Charter Commission, but do urge interested citizens to work with the Charter Commission is they believe a change in the form of government is needed.

    I’m more interested in the other part of your comment about spending time on projects with more leverage – I think the first project and one which must be on-going is to provide clear policy leadership from the Council to the staff.

  13. David L. –

    Your comments are now degenerating beyond intentional distortions, nearing the territory of out-right lies.

    The Planning Commission never tried to
    “ram-rod the Comprehensive Plan through”. We held numerous public open houses and work sessions, probably far more such sessions than other communities, and passed it on to Council for final vote. I believe that the current Commission has been criticized by the local newspaper for the time it took in gathering and incorporating input.

    Although other members of the Planning Commission may one day be motivated to once again refute your misrepresentation of the reality, this will be the last time the I make the effort. It appears to me to be a complete waste of time.

    At the second Open House, you gave a speech in which you said that the 260 people at the first Open House, who were pretty much in agreement on the vision for Northfield’s development, were wrong. You seemed to argue that you represented hundreds, if not thousands, of people who simply didn’t show up to express their opinions. In my opinion, the Planning Commission worked hard to include your input throughout the rest of the process.

    At the Open House where current and former Planning Commissioners stood around poster boards which contained summaries of the priorities for each Chapter, you talked at me for about 45 minutes. In my analysis, David, your statements could all be summarized as contending that any and all protection of the environment is bad for business and should therefore be avoided.

    I would agree, and have always have agreed in my decision-making, that environmental protection can generate a cost for business, and the costs and benefits must be weighed before a decision is reached. However, I believe, and would like to believe that at least some members of the Chamber of Commerce would agree, that there are times when protecting the environment justifies the additional cost of doing business.

    Nevertheless, your opinion was so important to me that I, and at least one other member of the Commission, invited you, and others, from the Chamber to attend the work session on the Economic Development Chapter. My recollection of the meeting was that when I suggested (after seeing you sit there for about an hour and a half) that we open up the discussion to include the audience, staff expressed concern that the process would crumble into anarchy (or whatever seems to motivate their fear of public input). I, as Chair, responded that I thought that you had given of your time to attend, had long listened to the discussion of the Commission, and that you deserved a chance to speak.

    Again, it’s my memory of the event, but I thought that we, the Planning Commission, took about 80% of your comments without hesitation. Another 10% required some discussion back and forth before we understood your point, but in many cases, I think that the Commission sincerely believed that you helped us clarify our statements. Frankly, I think there was only about 10% of your suggestions that we didn’t include, completely based on my personal recollection, largely due to our feeling that they were handled in another section.

    David, the only time I recall you ever wanting to meet with me and talk was when you wanted to discuss my concerns about the former City Administrator’s contracting practices. I continue to hope that Goodhue County Investigator will comment on that matter, ideally in time for the new Council to make adjustments to the City’s processes, if necessary. I see no reason why you and I should meet to discuss that topic.

    As for the ancient annexation vote, you are beginning to sound like those handful of people who still remember the Great Target Vote as if it were yesterday. Your memory of the realities continues to show great weakness on this subject too. Tracy NEVER voted against the annexation. I voted against the 530 acres but for the 320 acres that the Chamber had been lobbying the Commission to support for about eighteen months.

    Since you bring it up, I continue to question the wisdom of annexing land so far from town, that requires $20 million dollars of taxpayer money for infrastructure, and that has no railroad access, when there were two other sites, both adjacent to town, both with railroad access, and both costing only about $20,000 for the infrastructure. No doubt those hundreds or thousands of silent people standing behind you understand and support that decision.

    But hey, let’s both you and I move on from that old discussion. We will all be paying for it until we retire, then our children will pick up the bill. I’m sure that we both hope that our grandchildren will benefit from that decision. We’ll call it truly long-range planning.

    As for bullying the City Administrator because I didn’t get my way, the only disappointment that I can recall from this past year was the Glass of Wine on a Sidewalk Table Ordinance. I didn’t want the inspections, fees, and requirements for alcohol extended to ice cream. As I recall, the City Administrator was unusually quiet during that discussion. The City Attorney did speak up, saying it was her sense the the initiation of the effort for the ordinance was to allow wine to be consumed at sidewalk cafes, and that she did not think it was necessary to extend it to food. However, a Councilor that we had met with a number of times over many, many months determined that it was time to “reclaim the sidewalks”. As a result, the Cocoa Bean couldn’t afford the ordinance-mandated insurance increase and couldn’t sell ice cream this past summer. As far as I am aware, I didn’t bully anyone after that disappointment.

    Some time ago, I adopted the philosophy of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ fans when dealing with disappointments resulting from government actions…

    …”wait’ll next year”.

    – Ross

  14. Tracy: Wasn’t the vote on the Planning Commission to annex all 530 acres 6-1 against? Wasn’t the second vote on a partial annexation? Didn’t the City Council annex all 530 by a 7-0 vote?

    On the Comp Plan, the only organization allowed any direct input was the Non-motorized Transporation Task Force. Even the Chamber and its 270 members, were not allowed any direct input in drafting; we had to go through staff.

    Ross: Your complaints ring hollow with me given how much influence and power you had, and you were neither elected nor staff.

  15. Tracy: I take that back. The first vote was 4-3 against full annexation. The second vote for partial annexation was 6-1 for. Isn’t that right?

  16. Ross is wrong. It’s the Cubs!
    cris-crossing
    David L I’m thunderstruck. over and over and over. #210 acres, 320, 530, six million two hundred and fifty thousand acres later … wall to wall sprawl. I don’t think that would satisfy you. Sewer pipes crisscrossing the globe, billions of dollars in infrastructure … and you think you’re taxes will go down.

    I’d love it if you were on the Planning Commission and the council rejected your recommendation. Or, if they asked you to deliberate on 530 acres, or two hundred cubits of rye, whatever … and your perspective was “bad options, thumbs down” (that’s your vote, your choice no materthe staff, you’re appointed … empowered) … would you still drop your vote to support the Council or the Staff that you intellectually opposed. Man what is it?

    Please don’t respond because I really don’t want to get into this dialogue. REPEAT: Man what is it!

  17. David L: Re your comments in #10:
    1. …”the planning Commission, who defied the City Council”
    I am absolutely thunderstruck, although I know this sort of comment from you is frequent, that you as an attorney have seemingly so little understanding of the law, and the structure of representative gov’t.
    “defied”??? what about ‘had a different opinion, and recommended such, as is their obligation to do’ ??
    It just doesn’t synch up with reality that you would say such a thing; I honestly, truly, don’t get it.

    #2. …”also a group who tried to change the City Council’s decision on spending for City Hall”.
    Do you vote for Seven Dictators? You are sworn , as an officer of the courts to uphold the laws of the state, and reverse referendums on bonding are one of a group of laws which enable the citizenry to disagree, with result, with their elected officials.
    I just can’t believe you have made these comments.

    On top of that you pit, yes, on opposing sides of the”pit”, the 250+ people who came to the Comp Plan open house against the 250+ Chamber members, and say the opinions of the citizens who showed up are “lesser” than that of the Chamber membership!

    I am completely sincere in saying I am so shocked by what I see as just irrationality; David … you are not making sense here.

    As a past president of the Chamber of Commerce, I would think you are also presenting a very difficult posture for them to deal with … first the sad explanation about luminarias (can’t anything be happy in this town anymore?) and now this resuscitated attack on the Planning Commission.

    If the PC “defies ” the city council by having a different opinion, and citizen input to the community they live in, AND PAY FOR, is not ‘allowed’, or even desirable, then we might as well have one big ole Dictator, instead of seven little ones.
    What about Hugo Chavez? He at least can smell the fire and brimstone, and he also sings on the radio!

  18. My name isn’t Ross, but I can give an example of a City Administrator “ramming the ball over the goal line”, and it is one that has had serious ramifications in the city. ***And before I give the example I’d like to say that there are definitely times when a city administrator has to take the chance of being accused of “ramming the ball over the goal line”, and the reasons are various and too many to go into at this time.

    Ok, Here’s the example, The last time the city was redistricted we went from three wards to four. There are many people who are concerned about the issue of the college kids voting here in local elections, so those numbers of voters always become a big (and IMO, a foolish) issue.
    So… Nf is moving from three wards to four, and this is in the middle of a couple of council people’s terms and so the council is struggling with how to redraw the ward lines, and getting all fussed up about the college vote etc, etc.
    Scott Neal (sorry, Scott, it’s just a fact; see ***disclaimer above) suggested , in a work session, that if the ward lines were drawn the way they are today, then CCLinstroth and Galen Malecha could both keep their seats, i.e. would not be affected by the redistricting. Two council votes right there!
    There are three conditions that must legally (supposedly; they are expert at evading this in TEXAS!)) be met in constructing the new boundaries of the wards and precincts: 1. close to equal population numbers, 2. contiguity/connectedness, and 3. communities of interest (that’s the hard one to tie down).
    The fourth Ward, and its two precincts, are completely illegal on criteria 2&3 because Precinct one is roughly the Way park neighborhood, from G’vale avenue south to Hwy 19 and west of Hwy. 3 . Precinct two is the neighborhood east of Hwy 3, and behind Target. There is NOT A SINGLE residence on the line down Hwy 3, that ‘connects’ these two highly separated precincts of ward four, so NO contiguity.
    Communities of interest? a 100 year old grid neighborhood and a brand new neighborhood of cul-de-sacs, and very different voting patterns; I don’t think so.
    Mr. Neal was VERY persuasive; maybe he needed to be, the council seemed to be tired of the issue. But we have a very bad ward/precinct map; and a ward that will always flip-flop on votes because the two precincts have little or no commonality, except that we’re all homo sapiens.
    And that bad decision will probably be with us for many more years.

  19. Scott’s “ancient” ???
    No, I’m”ancient” and feeling more so each day..
    I’ll think about it , David ; but there’s always the possibility you’re just trying to get me ‘beat up’ some more, and I’ve had enough of the trollish behavior this last week.
    I’ll think about it…..

  20. DavidL: Give me a post # where Ross said “Rammed”, etc., re: past 4 administrators if you want more examples, it’s all so tiresomely repetitive.
    Sorry, but it is.

  21. Perhaps instead of ancient history, some of the wise ones here could list of a few specific issues coming up in the next few months and suggest specific ways to end or avoid controversy.

  22. David L: actually,after re-reading, Ross did NOT say the last 4 administrators “rammed” anything; he said two of the last four used a more aggressive method of accomplishing THEIR goals than Ross thought was beneficial, and that had to do with hitching up the horses/creating teams, what I would call voting blocs.

    But I think this will be a discussion going nowhere …except into opposing voting blocs.

  23. Kiffi,
    Ross wrote,

    …It would seem to me (and, again, maybe I’m just a party of one), that if instead of starting by picking a team to ram the ball over the goal line, the city administrator merely provided information to the elected officials…

    Do you have any examples?

  24. Since you insist , Patrick, How about Mr. Roder’s sticking the taxpayers of NF with almost $27,000 of legal fees, by threatening (although denying that) legal action? And , I might add, the two councilpeople (Vohs and Pokorney) who were the negotiators with Mr. Roder constantly warned that paying these legal fees UPFRONT for Mr. Roder was “buying insurance” so that he would not sue the city. They (V&P) were consistently insistent on that point.
    And there have not been new invoices for Mr. Roder’s legal fees for a while now, but the rumor is the next bill will be large, also. We’ll have to wait and see on that; rumors are often not accurate, although often having a kernel of truth.
    Remember also these facts: 1. the city is statutorally committed to paying some of an employees legal fees, depending on the situation and the outcome.
    2. the original resolution on this called for reimbursement, NOT upfront payment; The council reversed that sometime this fall. 3. This is your, and a lot of other peoples’ money (maybe not yours , if you rent at this time) and finally what this looks like to me is an example of…

    Not only ‘ ramming the ball over the goal line’, but also getting the extra point, and doing it without the referees(council) ever hearing the many , many people in the stands (including the usually supportive NFNews) calling FOUL!

  25. Ross- The line that Patrick quoted above about “picking a team” is what Norm and I are saying about the need for someone to take leadership, and that person can be defined by the city charter. If the elected officials cannot come to agreement with the information at hand, and that is what I percieve as what goes on in council meetings, then what insight can the city administrator, or the mayor, or anyone else, for that matter, give them that would magically cause them all to agree? I just don’t think that concept is a viable proceedure to bring projects to fruition.

    Kiffi- Someone has to make a decision, and if you want to call it a “voting bloc”, I suppose you may. To me, a voting bloc denotes more of concept of cronyism, or possibly a monopoly. Would you call the majority in a community a voting bloc just because they all agree on something? It seems to me that any person in a minority who doesn’t agree with what the majority is doing can find all kinds of sour grapes in the cluster. That in itself should not negate a decision on an issue as long as legal procedures were used. This is where the charter comes in to play, and if that document is ambiguous, then there will always be discord in decisions made.

  26. The charter has nothing to do with what I call ‘voting blocs’…
    And I do not consider like minded citizens voting together to constitute any kind of voting block.
    What I’m talking about IS “cronyism”, possibly even violation of open meeting law, by sequential conversation…

  27. After all, it’s only a metaphor… “Ramming it into the end zone” or ‘goal line stand’ … what’s at issue here is inappropriate City Administrator pressure.

    Examples of Administrator “ramming” effort:
    Off the top of my head………

    Scott Neal and the NCRC
    Scott Neal and the Presidential Commons
    Scott Neal and the notorious NWTTS Task force

    Susan Hoyt ; Way Park (various situations)
    Susan Hoyt: trying to get out from under the NCRC debacle

    Susan Hoyt: blocking any discussion of D Kjerland’s second develoment (Her personal goal line stand in this case.)

    Susan Hoyt: Blocking any discussion of Liquor Store Dev at 618 Division St., e.g. goal line stand

    Roder: remember he was only here 27 months

    Al Roder: CityHall re-location
    Al Roder: Library relocation
    Al Roder: Liquor Store relocation until it started to burn him

    Does ‘mismanaged’ also satisfy your question?
    Al Roder: Johnson Controls contract
    Al Roder: Council Chamber A/V revamp
    Al Roder: various personnel moves

  28. Victor: Re: Scott Neal. Didn’t the NCRC pass through a citizen vote of 5-1? Further, if I recall correctly, there was also a $1.0 million anonymous gift, and the approval of the Superintendent of Schools that helped the project along. Now, a $0.9 million gift from the Gleason family on the liquor store doesn’t even warrant a look?!

    I worked with Scott for 10 months on the City Council. He was always very professional. He gave us the facts, the history, the analysis, and his recommendation. The final vote was ours.

    We gave him our goals at the planning session at the beginning of the year. My philosophy was that I needed a d*** good reason to vote against his recommendation.

  29. David L … I’m merely responding to your challenge, to name names … specific examples of Ramming in … or as I put it, resisting the community’s goals.

    As you have your take on the past and present forces, I have mine. The thing about personal observations is, they may be sincere examples of viewing aberrant behavior … with not too much proof. Sort of like when you come home and find a chewed shoe and a guilty look on the dog’s face. Or like voting on the city Council … you often use your gut instinct.

    In response to your suggestions about others that might have been involved in moving the NCRC project ahead, I’d say, perhaps? So, does that then mean they might have been involved in the plan and its goals and had personal motives, therefore sought to enlist the City Administrator’s support? None of those you mentioned were elected officials, but surely had more of the City Administrator’s ear than did the Plan Commission.

    Additionally, as to the referendum vote, I don’t recall the numbers; which may have been as you cite. What I do recall is the vote was cast in deep winter … not the best time to get full citizen involvement at the polls, included a misleading ad campaign … with a list of dollar advantages that didn’t seem to “add up”.

    Also, as a member of the Senior Center Board, I felt the seniors were sold a real bill of goods and were tugged at emotionally by the City staff with the promise of a big brick building, misleading facts and unfortunate outcome. I also know I was not alone on the Senior Board, and in fact was recruited for that role because of my stance in the previous year’s fall election on this issue.

    The debris of that deal carried over into Susan Hoyt’s term and she spent (if memory serves me) almost 50K with advisory consultants trying to find a way, out-from-under. The result was little change. The City, for the most part, still foots the bill (and that’s probably good, but never planned or part of the vote) and a lease arrangement that changed the game plan and the ownership (permanent use) for the original investors.

    Anyway, I’d say that was rammed through and at least one point-man was the City Administrator, who actually took it upon himself to write in its support to the Plan Commission and to come to a Plan Commission meeting and speak (encourage) that the project go forward.

    I think there also was a Child Day Care facility wrinkle there for a little while, that had some ties … if memory serves me. It was, after all, ten years ago.

    As a member of the City Council, can you say you considered any of this information or voiced any concerns about the Plan Commission’s fully deliberated resistance to this project and the Presidential Commons … the related housing project, or did you just vote as you were prodded?

    Incidentally, what were the dates of your 10 month service on the Council? What votes were taken on this while you were in office?

  30. Ross: Do you have any better examples than Victor? I don’t think that a 5-1 vote constitutes slamming something through. Further, I don’t think that it is fair for you to slander the City Administrators without any concrete examples.

  31. Back in 1998, I moderated a one-week web forum on the NCRC referendum. The entire transcript is available here:

    http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/about/issue-forums/community-resource-center-referendum-1998/

    Members of the NCRC advocacy committee were among the web forum panelists:

    * Alene Fink, Nfld Seniors Organization
    * Leisa Irwin
    * Carla Johnson, Community Action Center
    * Charlie Kyte, Nfld Public Schools
    * Jane McWilliams, League of Women Voters
    * Scott Neal, City of Nfld
    * Brett Reese
    * Steve Schmidt
    * Mike Thorsteinson, Three Rivers HeadStart

    Victor, I don’t see how you can characterize that process as an example of Scott Neal ramming the NCRC over the goal line.

    (Full disclosure: Scott Neal is a client of mine in his role as Eden Prairie City Manager.)

  32. Due to the difficulties imposed on my commenting to your blog, Griff, I can’t take the time to inform you and run the risk of delay in timely publishing and likely, extreme moderation. Suffice to say, you rise to protect your client and you are not as informed as I.

    Why not have a RADIO show with informed citizens on all sides of a city administrator’s preferred characteristics, a true FACE To FACE encounter.

    Finally, the fact that you conducted an online dialogue many years ago, does not necessarily say the problems were vetted along with the obvious assets of the project. Additionally, I ‘d say most of those on your panel back in the day, had vested interests in the project moving forward, unfettered.

    That all aside, what is considered Ramming of projects by a City Administrator? That was the initial issue. Regardless of the project, I view force of that nature inappropriate. You would too,and we might find examples of that, where your client wasn’t involved. And, if I were an administrator, I’d likely be as proactive. Therein lies the smell. Councils that don’t rein in aberrant staff.

    If you go back to my initial comment, you’ll read that the NCRC has had a lingering negative use response in this community, by many measures, has not lived up to its expectations and should have been a better “planned” rather than “rammed” project.

  33. 1,358 yes votes
    277 no votes
    David L. would be correct in his 5-1statement, in fact the actual number is 83%. Sure might sound like a mandate unless you figure that voter turnout was a paltry 16.8%. Important to the voters in Northfield, or important to some? People may have voted 5-1 in favor but less than 1 out of 5 even showed up.

    I think a better method might be to take the stated goals from the council’s yearly retreat and see what just happened to pop up and need action as opposed to a stated council goal. For instance what year was it a council goal to stop having individual contracts with department heads. What year was it a council goal to stop having the city administrator negotiate contracts but rather hire a labor negotiator that would cost the taxpayers over 50,000 dollars. What year did the council have spending 1.3 million to fix the ice arena at the top of it’s list? Public hearing? 1.3 million referendum? or just get ‘er done?

  34. As I recall, the problem with the public vote on the NCRC was that voters did not know their “yes” vote also brought in the Presidential Commons housing development in that wetland area next to it. It was a double deal.

  35. Ross: You brought up the “ramming”. Can you give any examples?

    Victor: Judging by recent elections, it might be better to have a radio show with “disengaged” citizens, so the engaged citizens don’t come to the station with their own preconceived ideas of what would be best.

    I would also suggest not having citizens who seem to have unstated complaints with previous Administrators.

  36. The rule of “named”, or personally owned comments aside, I’d say it’s just about … not quite, but proportionately … as nasty here on LG as it is over at the NFNews site.
    I think you all need to think about what you say here, not F toF, as opposed to what you WOULD say, F to F , in a public discussion.
    I know you don’t allow sarcasm, Griff; personally I think you allow way too much personal aggression as opposed to disagreement with the IDEA being discussed.
    This is also evident on the kiosk thread.
    People should be able to disagree with other peoples ideas, or the assessment of a past action, without throwing personal insults. How is that LESS damaging to the discussion than sarcasm, which can exhibit irony, without calling ***** an *******?
    I have no doubt that I will be reprimanded, in some way or other.

  37. Kiffi- I’m not sure how your comments in post #44 relate to the original thread, unless it is the “contentious” way in which some opinions are expressed. I reread the Kiosk thread, and I’m not sure what comments you think expressed aggression. Perhaps I’m just not connecting. I think there are other opinions in other threads that definitely fit this pattern, some I have expressed, some you have expressed. I think part of maturity is being able to recognize a person’s own mistakes and take steps to rectify them. If we all had perfect control of our emotions and our tongues, this would be a much easier world to live in. Unfortunately, that is not the case, but I think that working out disagreements with someone is a great way to build relationships. Don’t give up on the blog, or your idealism.

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