Major Turnout for Citizen Meeting at the Northfield Armory

The City had planned for about 125 people at tonight’s public meeting, “Put Your Fingerprints on Northfield’s Blueprints.” We ended up with about double that amount, which was a great problem to have. I wanted to post a few photos tonight without waiting to do a full writeup. Unfortunately, I had a setting wrong on my camera and didn’t know it till I got home; most of my photos were blurry. But at least you can see how we filled the place.

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Special thanks must go to our Community Outreach Task Force, who were able to get the word out and mobilize so many people from so many walks of life. It wasn’t just “the usual suspects”.

7 thoughts on “Major Turnout for Citizen Meeting at the Northfield Armory”

  1. Wow. That’s great to see the turnout.

    Tracy and anyone else… do you agree with Scott’s comments?

    After going to the public meeting, I think that the planners will get some good citizen input. The interactive portion of the public meeting was the most beneficial, and I wish we had more opportunities to really dig into the “maps” of Northfield more.

    As far as the consultants… well, I think that there were times when they became a bit “testy” and I feared at one point that the whole process could break down. Next time, I hope that folks from the planning commission or city officials would facilitate. I think that some folks could have felt more listened to and validated. The process was rushed, and not clearly explained. I felt badly for my table’s 80+ year-old, yet very WISE man participant, who needed things explained to him more clearly.

    However, all in all, the chance to get together with neighbors to talk about these issues and bring something concrete to the table was incredibly valuable! – Scott Schumacher

    I saw George Kinney this morning (pictured here in the dark shirt) and he agreed that one of the consultants was inappropriately ‘testy.’ Who is the consulting firm and which consultant was it?

    Update: Ray Cox blogged the event and reported that ACP-Visioning & Planning from Columbus, Ohio was the consulting firm. He named Jamie Green as one of the consultants. Was he the only one?

  2. I have to admit to a few moments of distraction last night, so I didn’t catch the details of the exchange between Jamie Greene and one of the citizens – I can’t speak to whether he was appropriately or inappropriately testy. But let me lay out the scene: City staff had prepared materials, maps, questionnaires, etc. for 120 people; close to 250 were there. The meeting started about 20 minutes late because we had to wait to get everyone signed in, seated, and ready to go. During this time, staff and volunteers were frantically making copies, setting up tables, scrounging chairs, and looking at the clock, wondering how in the world we’d make it through a two-hour citizen input session with that many people in attendance.

    As I said in my post, the large turnout is a nice problem to have, but it’s not the kind of thing that lends itself to a one-on-one Q&A of the consultant by any of the participants, and I think that’s what Jamie was trying to address.

    As a planning commissioner, I’d like to refrain from giving a detailed opinion about what was said and done last night. At least for now, I need to focus on encouraging people to steer their comments to City staff, planning commissioners, or better yet, making their comments on NorthfieldPlan.org.

  3. Although I’m Chair of the Planning Commission, I don’t feel a need to refrain from giving a detailed opinion on last night’s event. In fact, I think that I owe it to those citizens who showed up and participated last night.

    I stayed an hour after the meeting, folding up tables and chairs and talking with folks. I also have informally met with a few people this morning who participated in the event and discussed the process with them.

    Everyone seemed to agree that we were trying to cram a lot into a limited time period. In particular, people said that they needed much more time to write comments on the 19 things that we rated from 1 to 5 than was allocated. I also heard from several people that some folks had trouble with the math, understanding the rankings or reading the maps.

    However, as folks tried to make clear last night, it was only the beginning. In my comments on the questionaire concerning the process, I suggested that there could have been a “bucket” by the exit for any comments or concerns that didn’t seem to be elicited by the process.

    I guess that Tracy’s point is that the Planning Commission members and City staff will serve as that “bucket”. Scott pointed out perhaps the most important result of last night’s gathering, people started to talk about these issues. They also helped clarify some of the potential costs and benefits of various decisions, from their unique points of view. Let’s keep the conversation going.

  4. Here’s a link to Bill Ostrem’s post that articulates the public meeting well, and goes into a little more detail as far as how the consultants handled (or didn’t handle) some citizens’ concerns.

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/NorthernLetter/~3/106605949/

    But yes, major kudos to Ross and Tracy and everyone else who volunteered to assist! Having TWICE the turnout than was expected did create some stress, but everyone took it in stride.

  5. Thanks for that link to Bill Ostrem’s blog, Scott… I’ll add this permalink to see if a trackback/pingback works on his site.

    If 250 people showed F2F, I wonder how many would show up for a complementary online forum. I couldn’t be there and I’d guess many more citizens couldn’t be, either. I’m not angling for an online forum moderator gig, as I’m booked for the foreseeable future but I think it’s a component that’s needed.

  6. In today’s Nfld News: 250 give feedback in turbulent meeting

    It’s interesting that the reporter, Suzanne Rook, used the phrases “appeared to be instigating trouble” and “became more and more abrupt and irritable.”

    The meeting nearly came undone when several Northfielders questioned Greene about his assumption that the city would grow. Greene based his growth projections on historical data and a state estimate of the city’s population in 2020. Richard Goerwitz, who appeared to be instigating trouble, said he wasn’t trying to be difficult; rather he was asking for clarification regarding Greene’s question about where future growth should be located.

    Goerwitz later said he was surprised that the consultant would ask for input and then squash it when it came in a form that didn’t adhere to the meeting’s agenda. As others followed up with questions of their own, Greene became more and more abrupt and irritable, telling the crowd it was “naive” to believe growth wasn’t going to continue to come to Northfield.

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