No City Hall Friday Memo again last week; Council Meeting tonight

Alas, no Friday Memo was published last week by City Hall/Joel Walinski. The last one was Nov. 21.

NOTE!

Update 12/11, 9 am: The Dec 1-5 Friday Memo (PDF) is now up!

13 thoughts on “No City Hall Friday Memo again last week; Council Meeting tonight”

  1. You’re right, Griff, about the special meeting and work session agendas. There is info there now.

    I stopped by City Hall around 3 this afternoon to pick up the packet for the League of Women Voters because at that time there was no info on the city website. There was no packet on the shelf where I usually pick it up for the League of Women Voters, but I got one from the city clerk who didn’t know the info hadn’t been posted. Clearly, she subsequently corrected that problem.

    For anyone interested, there will be a joint Planning Commission/City Council meeting tomorrow , 6:00 to 7:00 to discuss the 2008 Comprehensive Plan.

  2. Hey Griff, allow me to add my two cents about the open, closed, open meeting on Monday night. It was almost 25 cents worth as Mr. O’Connell was going to charge me 25 cents for a copy of the motion that he had just given to the newspaper reporter for free. I don’t know if he was trying to be sarcastic, funny, or both but after waiting in the hall way just short of two hours for the meeting to become open again, I found his comment more disrespectful than anything else. Anyway here goes.

    The following is the motion that was approved by the Northfield City Council Monday night after a lengthy discussion of the relative merits of a new liquor store site. One small detail however, the discussion was held behind a closed and locked door while the public waited outside unable to hear any thing about how or where the City might end up spending a million or more dollars.

    Motion:
    The council rejects the two proposals which will be identified by Brain O’ Connell, which do not meet the minimum requirements of the RFP.
    (the Gleason site and the A. K. Kayoum building)

    The council directs staff to negotiate with the other five proposers for a lease or sale price which is favorable to meet or exceed the council’s optimum business model.

    The council directs staff to begin design of OSHA required repairs for the existing store, in case an acceptable agreement cannot be negotiated for a new store.

    The city attorney read it. The council approved it. Bada bing, bada boom. Don’t blink folks it was over in a flash. It’s amazing what you can seemingly accomplish when you cut the public out of the loop. Of course we don’t know what was said behind closed doors during that hour and 52 minute wait the public endured while the council reached this decision. A decision that they then rubber stamped at the open portion with absolutely no council discussion and no public input nor even an opportunity for public input. Clearly the council and staff were not of a mind to even consider the presumption of open government.
    After all the City Attorney sent the mayor and council a memo about the justification for closing the meeting referring to State Statute 13D.05,subd. 3(c) and repeated that justification right before the closing of the meeting. What she didn’t mention was that this was the exact same justification the city used when closing the previous liquor store site meetings. I’m sure everyone remembers the Lansing lawsuit that sought to have the tapes of those made public.

    Any way what hadn’t been mentioned was that the Information Policy Analysis Division, from which the city attorney had asked the Commissioner to issue an advisory opinion relating to the classification of certain data and certain of a governing body’s duties under the Open Meeting Law, concerning the release of the tapes; part of the opinion reads as follows:

    Issue 2: What is the classification of the tapes under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13, before and after one of the events specified in Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.05, subdivision 3(c) has occurred? Specifically, but not by way of limitation, if data that are not public data are discussed on the tapes, are those parts of the tapes public or not public once the tapes are available to the public pursuant to the statute?
    IPAD briefly reviewed the videotapes in question. As the Commissioner previously has opined, a government entity generally is in the best position to make specific determinations about data it collects and maintains. Ms. Swanson wrote in her letter that the City Council closed the meetings to consider offers and counteroffers for acquisition of an interest in two specified properties. The Commissioner is not aware that such data are classified as anything other than public.

    I realize this was way back in March and I guess people were more interested in putting the hurt on Mayor Lansing then reading the fine print of a state agency’s opinion, but heck it seems pretty clear as to the meaning of PUBLIC data. How can the council continue to try to suppress public involvement in this matter? What did all this smoke, mirrors, and lack of public involvement accomplish? All locations were identified prior to closing the meeting, contrary to the Northfield News account. Two proposals were officially rejected, confirming speculative guesses on local websites and the five that remained failed to meet the council’s “optimum business model” what ever that might be. So instead of having one preferred site the city is back up to five sites and will now begin trying to narrow the field down to one again, and this is progress?

    The one glimmer of original brain activity was the inclusion of plans to make the required repairs to the existing location. The original estimate was 90 to 100,000 dollars, by Doran Construction of Bloomington. It has been escalated, by “sources” along the way, most recently appearing on the Northfield News website as $300,000. I only know about the one estimate. We have capable contractors right here in town who could do the work, need the work and being more familiar with the location and circumstances, they might be even come up with a way to solve the problem for less money than estimated.
    Gee I’ve even heard it suggested, the city buy out the Reese, Winter building and expand there or at least lease the basement and then knock a hole into the muni basement. Probably just a pipe dream, or is it and how would we know with the propensity of this council to conduct business behind locked doors. Will the negotiations with the five remaining sites be completed before this group leaves office? I doubt it. I wonder what fate awaits the muni in the new year?

  3. Dave D: Thank you very much for the update.

    Just for clarification of the “public data” aspect of the council tapes you referred to, here is the summary from IPAD:

    08-001 As allowed under the Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statutes, section 13D.05, subdivision 3(c)), a city council closed public meetings to consider offers and counteroffers for the acquisition of two properties. The city asked whether it could release the tapes of the closed meetings. The Commissioner concluded that the city council’s duty under the Open Meeting Law was to withhold the videotape recordings until one of certain events occurred or eight years had passed. The Commissioner also concluded that the classification, under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13, of the data on the tapes was presumptively public. Based on Minnesota Statutes, section 645.26 (conflicting statutory provisions), the Commissioner determined that the language in Chapter 13D prevailed and that the city must withhold the recordings from the public.

    (emphasis mine)

  4. Thank you David, for this thorough report.
    Amid all your larger comments , a small piece stands out as ‘telling’ to me… one that has been an ongoing problem for years… access by the public to open information.
    By law , the council is required to have all available ALL documents relevant to the action taken, easily available and offered to the public. It is often the case that documents must be asked for , although Mr. Walinski has generally been attentive to the ongoing problem.
    There is no way you should have been asked for 25c, even in jest; the copies should have been there for the public, it’s mandatory. I don’t know if it is arrogance , or the pressure of these convoluted procedures, that causes such incomprehensible behavior, but it is not humorous.
    I asked Mr. Walinski for a copy of the motion for the LWV observer, and one for myself. He immediately went to get copies, and gave them to me.

  5. David, thank you for that update. Had yesterday not been by 24th wedding anniversary, I would have been waiting 1 hr 52 min with you, wondering why I was doing that. And Tracy, I second Patrick’s thank you.

  6. Tracy, I sought to highlight a portion in the discussion portion of the opinion that I thought was important ( The Commissioner is not aware that such data are classified as anything other than public.) Your emphasis skills are far superior to mine. But even in the part of the opinion you clarified, the words presumptively public jump out at me. In the third and final part of the opinion the commissioner again uses the words presumptively public.

    “Anything other than public“, “presumptively public“, “presumptively public“.

    Public, public, public, yet this meeting and this process has been closed, closed, closed. Sorry I wasn’t clearer in trying to convey my point.

    Thank you for the link to the IPAD I couldn’t get the link I had to work. Once again your superior skills shine brightly. Heck I haven’t even figured out spell check, much less shading or quoting.

    The Information Policy Analysis Division web site is an excellent, informative site, with lots of interpretations of Chapter 13 and Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law, including an opinion about proper notice requirements for special meetings. We know no information about this meeting was on the city web site until Monday afternoon. I wonder if the three day notice was satisfied when the city posted a notice on the “official” bulletin board on Friday, then closed and locked the doors for two days. Do actions like this encourage or discourage the publics right to be informed?

    Steve, Happy anniversary. I guarantee you had a better time than I had Monday night. You made the right choice, besides you didn’t miss any thing cause the council didn’t accept any of the proposals instead it directs staff to begin to negotiate with the five proposers for a lease or sale price favorable to meet or exceed the council’s “optimum business model”.

    Why would potential developers jump through all the hoops, take the time and effort to prepare and comply with the pages and pages of requirements in the RFP, submit the $1000 dollar “good faith” fee, not to get a project but only to get in line to be eligible to negotiate? Is that what they were expecting? Is that what the citizens were expecting? I think a lot of citizens expected to see a headline after this meeting which read “Site X picked as location for the new municipal liquor store”. I think a lot of citizens also were hoping for a headline “Muni to stay put move postponed till economic climate improves.” I’m also sure a lot of citizens are scratching their heads in continuing disbelief over the whole convoluted cotton pickin mess. Apparently this is far from over, so I am sure there will be more closed meetings that you will be able to attend.

  7. What happened to the results of the rating process so hotly discussed? I take it that the council either didn’t receive the results or chose to ignore them, Why else would they direct “staff to begin to negotiate with the FIVE proposers for a lease or sale price favorable to meet or exceed the council’s “optimum business model”.

  8. Jane, good question… what has happened with the liquor store proposal rating process?!!

    I see you have your LWV Observer Report on Monday’s council work session posted, including follow-up comments by Kiffi and you!

    And there’s an updated story in the Nfld News that ends with this:

    Walinski said he hopes to sit down soon with each of the property owners whose sites are still being considered and see whether any can come close to meeting the city’s financial expectations. Once negotiations are complete, the administrator said, city staff will again meet with the council, sometime in January or February, he said. Depending on what comes from the negotiations, Walinski said, there may be still an opportunity for public input.

    So it appears that a liquor store site decision will be made by the new council?

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