City Council declines to relocate liquor store; opts to repair and renovate

img-5923 Both KYMN Radio and the Northfield News reported this morning that the Northfield City Council decided yesterday afternoon to repair the existing Northfield municipal liquor store instead of locating it elsewhere. This is great news, IMHO. See our straw poll from November and the related RepJ story and discussion.

KYMN: Council makes decision on Northfield liquor store site.
Northfield News: No new liquor store for Northfield

27 thoughts on “City Council declines to relocate liquor store; opts to repair and renovate”

  1. Personally, I think it’s a good decision.

    In fact, maybe I’ll head on over to the good ole Muni and buy something with which I can raise a toast to the Council’s wisdom.

  2. OH MY GOODNESS! What will Northfield fight about next?

    We will have nothing to discuss. We need to find another controversy QUICK! 😎

    Only kidding! This is outstanding news, and a very good decision.

    Kudos to the council for making a practical decision.

    Can we all move on now?

  3. Hey… wait a minute… spring is only 6 months away. What about that Outdoor Dining/Drinking ordnance?

    That has gotten pretty quiet. Anyone have an update?

  4. John T.
    I believe this is proof positive that we have moved on. A 7-0 vote and there was not one single person in attendance to watch it go down–no citizens, no media, no observers. This is perhaps something for us to remember as we move into other areas of discussion where there might be disagreement. This will pass, we can move on…we all want the best for the city of Northfield, and we will try our best to make wise decisions.

  5. The decision was also based on a comparison of the 5 sites based on a financial model the staff (and EDA?) developed, so not only was there no controversy, but the decision was based on evidence rather than gut feeling about what’s best.

    Decisions based on data and plocy documents will continue and may avert some (but I’m sure not all) controversy. A subcommittee of the Council (myself, Rhonda Pownell and Jon Dennison) are trying to develop a decision-making template which will ensure that we’ve checked our plans, our budget and other factors to ensure consistency, tranparency and accountability. I hope you’ll all keep giving us feedback on how well you think it’s working.

  6. Wow that’s huge…and to think how much time we all spent yammering on about new locations etc. 🙂 Well I think we learned a whole lot in the (long) process of this decision. I look forward to seeing a souped-up sauce stop (excuse me, I had a bout of alliteration).

  7. Bonnie, I was puzzled about the timing and process of this decision. Does anyone know when the agenda on the city’s web site was revised? I had earlier understood that the meeting was to be closed and decided to give it a pass. Now I see that the council anticipated taking action on the issue following the closed meeting. Perhaps the News and KYMN also had not caught on to the change.

    After all the money, time, conflict and personal loss invested in this decision, it is good to have it behind us, ending ‘Not with a bang, but a whimper.”

  8. I just received a response from Interim Administrator Joel Walinski to my question about the timing of the agenda revision. He said: The amended agenda was posted Monday January 26, 2009 at approximately 2:30 PM. The notice was posted on the City Web Site and sent to the radio station and newspaper. The amended agenda was to provide the Council with an option to take action Thursday evening after the executive session. My mistake on not identifying nor catching the error immeadiately on the original meeting notice. Sorry for any problems this may have caused.

  9. I am personally very glad the decision for the liquor store is to ‘stay and repair’; however, regardless of noticing, e-mails to news outlets, whatever, it just seems bizarre to me that none of the usual observers felt it necessary to attend this meeting. Have the News and KYMN said anything about why they did not feel it important to attend this watershed event? After all, a closed session begins as open, then the decision is made to close, and if there was even a possibility of another open section to reveal a decision, I can’t imagine them not being there.

    Let’s face it, the liquor store has been not only a focus for maybe the last five years, but almost a fixation in the last two . Its fate has ‘brought down’ a mayor, left a body in the streets (metaphorically), and caused tens of thousands of dollars to fly into the pockets of financial advisors and various consultants/report writers.

    I have read Mayor Rossing’s comments above several times and am not sure how to take those comments. Do they mean that the business of the city is more efficiently done out of the public eye? I don’t think so, given all the campaigning on the issue of transparency….I just paged up and read again…… What is it that we are to remember when there is disagreement in the future? That it is best settled in a closed meeting?

    What is to be made of the fact of the ‘sea change’ in the thinking of the three remaining councilors from the ‘old’ council? There was virtually no discussion of ‘stay and repair’ versus ‘move and build’. No financial model, or cost benefit analyses of the two modes was ever a focus of discussion. Did the three get a $$$$ wake up call in their stockings over the Christmas season?

    The ‘new’ thinking says don’t look back; just ‘move on’; but this liquor store process has been destructive to personal lives as well as to the community as a whole.

    What is the lesson(s) for the future? Closed meetings are more productive than open? Rancorous meetings lead to non-productivity? Council meetings should always be colleagueial and lead to 7-0 votes? Past behaviors should be analyzed to produce better futures? EDA should be more in the advisory process? Cost benefit analysis should always be a part of city process?

    Even though the solution is one that I think should have been reached long ago, the ‘dramatic arc’ of this story leaves a lot of questions, a lot to be learned about unproductive process, and many sad personal outcomes…. and as Jane said “ends not with a bang but a whimper” .

    What IS the lesson for the future?

  10. The lesson is that decisions should be focused on what is best for the city, not for an individual using his position to manipulate the outcome to his benefit.
    Really, if the council had decided to build, people would be screaming. If they delayed a decision until the next public meeting, people would have been complaining that they were dragging their feet on the only reasonable decision possible.
    Without criticizing any individuals here, it is interesting how many people who supported the relentless drive for a new liquor store have developed a case of collective amnesia and now say repair was the best approach all along. Where were their voices the last two years?
    This meeting was an anticlimax, a procedural necessity to formalize what the council and the community had concluded long ago. The annual revenue of the store was well known; the cost of building new had been considered over and over during the past two years. It didn’t take long Thursday to look at the proposals and see that they wouldn’t produce more revenue but would, in fact, wipe out the badly needed current revenue.
    The council made the same decision it would have made if it had delayed the vote until Monday and sat through an hour of lectures by the public.
    The lesson is that this council is going to do its job without a lot of handwringing and public drama. The public will be given notice, but there will be no insiders getting personal invitations to participate.
    Seems like a lesson in good government.

  11. Kiffi…Why can’t ‘…something for us to remember’ in the Mayor’s comment, be the very next sentence…”This will pass, we can move on…” Seems like a fairly logical read of what she means by her post.

  12. You are correct, William. Perhaps my comment would have been clearest in its intention if I had put a colon after the word disagreement instead of a period. Good decision making includes a process of figuring out what information you need, gathering that information, gathering citizen input, doing the analysis of options and honoring the process to closure. It’s not simple, but it can be deliberate. I will try to be as “transparent” during the process as I can, helping citizens to see my own thought process and reasoning.

  13. All of a sudden, Griff, Anne’s comment is inserted between my last one, and Wm. Siemer’s and Mayor Rossing’s… Once again, for maybe the umpteenth time an assertion is made that is stated to not be naming anyone , but that is clear in it’s implication. I believe this is because you have told Anne and I not to reply to each other.

    I am tired of having to explain my position , over and over, Griff, from these relentless statements.

    I am going to state this one more time and that is the end of it.

    Both Victor and I have ALWAYS, from ‘day 1’ , felt the liquor store should remain where it is, and that it should be repaired, and that if it needed to expand it should acquire the building to the east of it, thereby gaining the additional needed space and a direct alley delivery access to the lower level.

    This opinion has been expressed to Mayor Lansing from the very beginning. It was an area of friendly disagreement between us.

    However,our support for Mayor Lansing was based on the PROCESS of gov’t failing, with a (what I term ‘rogue) council that felt it had to ally itself into a voting bloc to support the city administrator in a personal struggle against the Mayor, rather than have policy based process that respected all issues for their intrinsic worth, and left the personal out of it.

    I resent the continual stating of a perceived ‘history’ by Ms. Bretts , and I think you should just let the pieces fall where they may, rather than forcing a situation by your moderation, which allows for continual insinuation.

    Once again, neither I nor Victor, and I think it is safe for me to speak for him in this instance, have EVER felt the liquor store should be anywhere but where it is now, for all practical and fiscal considerations and factual reasons. It was an area of disagreement between our friend, Lee Lansing, and ourselves.

    Our personal support for the Mayor comes from having asked him a lot of hard questions, having attended all the meetings, having read all the background documents of the Everett report, and having a deep respect for the STATED processes of NF’s government, and a lack of respect for the prosecution of the former Mayor, by the former Council, in what in my opinion , was a prosecutorial defense of its own actions.

    Griff: I ask that you let these comments stand as written.

  14. Now back to content:
    Mayor Mary… Thank you for your reply, although you directed it to Wm………. It is often difficult to discern ‘tone’ in comments like these which are no way near as complex as people speaking directly to each other with the additions of smiles, raised eyebrows, gestures, whatever……. and because of the importance of this issue to the community in the directions it has taken over the last two-plus years, I felt it was important to raise questions.

    The question still exists re: the noticing of the meeting. It boggles the mind that no media were there, as well as the LWV observer. Regardless of Mr. Walinski’s e-mail, the notice somehow did not ‘reach’ the involved parties. Indeed, a current councilor called Victor last night on another matter, and expressed how amazed you all were as to the fact that there was no one, not even the media, there.

    As I have said many times, the personal ramifications of the liquor store discussion became all out of proportion during the previous council’s term. One can have whatever personal perceptions one holds on that issue, but collectively, as a community, it became disruptive ‘to the max’.
    That is why it is most important that this bad dynamic be corrected, even if it takes even possibly over-explicit behaviors and practices to re-establish trust. ( I believe you could talk to Pat Allen, a really thoughtful, experienced facilitator, about the importance of this issue of trust, and how to insure the public feels that it is being heard.)
    It was very obvious from your campaign that you have seen this as an important facet of your administration; no one expects it all to be perfect immediately, however it cannot be left to any chance of going awry, as it did ‘last time’, because all of a sudden it’s just too big a divisive mess to correct.

    A fresh start is GREAT; let’s just be sure one of the aspects of that ‘fresh start’ is, if need be, a possibly excessive concern for that too-much used word, transparency.

    Thank you.

  15. Points well taken, Kiffi. And I would ask you, and Victor, and the rest of the citizens to keep telling me (us) when you have concerns. My greatest hope is that this can be an open and respectful conversation. I do not pretend to know as much about process as you who have been involved for much longer. But I believe we are all open to suggestions for improvement. As you know, we will be discussing how to best gather citizen input. (Erica has asked for input here)

  16. Kiffi – you and Victor are citizen rights fighters, but I feel the need to remind you – you got what you wanted. You won! And its a good choice for the city. Target Shmarget.

  17. david H: Thanks for the reminder; I needed that…….. But with the way things have been, nothing feels like a “win”. With 123 vicious defamatory anonymous comments on a recent NFNews article, calling us every name in the book as well as completely misrepresenting facts, it’s hard to not be on the defensive.

  18. David H: the last 48 hours have seen me thinking a lot about what has been said here about ‘winning’…..
    Although it was YOU that said I ‘won’, NOT I , who said that……The comments on the NFNews site have started up with their usual accusations, misrepresentations and outright lies, stating that I am “crowing” about “winning”.

    There is no end to the hatred that has been generated by the divisive issues of the last two years. Those who have exhibited such extremes have fought on the basis of the personal, not on the issue. When one tries to keep to the issue, the accusations and defamations just escalate.

    At one point, I tried to counter each argument with facts, and referrals to actual actions taken by the council as to their designations of sites (including the Mayor’s) for a new liquor store. The lies, and accusations escalated. Realizing the futility of arguing facts with anonymous attackers, supported in their destructive anonymous process by the newspaper’s policies, I gave up, opted out, once with a joke, and once with a dismissive comment, “puke and barf”. That really brought on the attacks!

    So here’s the question? How can the issue of a municipal liquor store be worth all the division and angst it has caused?

    The common sense solution, arrived at by this council, four of them new, and three who have changed their previous positions, seems to be a total anticlimax.

    The most interesting part of the equation is this? WHY did the three councilors from the previous council change their positions? They never argued for leaving the store where it is; they never made a case for the fiscal responsibility of leaving it where it is.

    How do those three councilors explain this complete reversal of position?

    How do they then evade the assumption that the last two years of fighting about the liquor store was not just a PERSONAL struggle, and a way to negate the effectiveness of the Mayor, and frankly, wreak havoc on him personally, far beyond the political? Is the fallout all on the one, from the ‘gang’?

    Should the community just say, “Whew! Glad that’s settled?”

  19. Kiffi: I think the economics about a new downtown liquor store decided the case. My question is how or why we ever came to the silly idea that the liquor store could only be downtown.

    We never explored the idea of a non-downtown liquor store or getting out of the liquor business, and letting the private sector run it.

    So, the offer from Gleason to donate a $900,000 piece of land to the City never even got an airing.

  20. Kiffi, yes – the community should just say, “Whew! Glad that’s settled?”

    The council and mayor are elected to make decisions and they made one.

  21. Yes, they did, David…. and now that only a few days have gone by, over on the Key thread, and on the News website, are suggestions that the council’s solution not be final; that ” some people” have other ideas and simply wanted to have the liquor store controversy “die down”.
    Maybe that writer could name the “some people”……

    P.S. just for clarification: I am certainly neither associated with the ‘writer’, nor the “some people”, of the aforementioned comment; I want the liquor store right where it is, thank you.

Leave a Reply