Category Archives: Media

Props to the Northfield News for the Fire Relief Association ethics story

Northfield NewsSaturday’s Northfield News carried a front page story titled Concerns arise over Fire Department expenses; Northfield officials fear funding is going toward non-firefighting expenses.  (The headline used for the online version: Ethical questions arise over Northfield Fire Relief Association expenses.)

Griff Wigley with May 12, 2012 edition of Northfield NewsI’ve done four fire department/association-related blog posts since January (here, here, here, and here) as well as a three more on attorney David Hvistendahl (here, here, and here) who’s representing the fire and rescue squad associations. It’s a complex and constantly evolving issue.

So it’s really helpful to have a someone else, in this case, Northfield News reporter Suzy Rook, digging into the story, too.   And for the first time, the paper cited Locally Grown (twice) in a story:

Fire Department officials, including Fire Chief Gerry Franek, did not respond to several requests from the News for association financial records or comment. Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson at an April 24 City Council meeting said documents posted on the blog Locally Grown are 2010 and 2011 relief association check registers. But those registers don’t clearly state how and where monies were spent, and are likely a listing of transactions from several accounts compiled into a single document…

The association had a net revenue of $14,263 in 2011, according to a Gambling Control Board report to the Legislature. Of that, $4,110 was used for what’s termed lawful purpose expenditures. In 2010, its net receipts were $17,730. Of that, $8,354 was used for lawful expenditures. Figures provided to the state Gambling Control Board don’t match the association’s 2010 tax return, a document Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson says he provided Locally Grown. According to that document, the association lost $2,209 in 2010.

I appreciate that. Follow Suzy Rook on Twitter @rooksuzy.

Who needs LoGro? See Northfield’s mainstream media for news about the upcoming high school mountain bike racing team meeting

I’m appreciative of Northfield’s media organizations who have been very helpful in drawing attention to Tuesday night’s (May 15) information meeting for the new Cannon Valley Mountain Bike Racing Team for area high school students.

Northfield News: Northfield high school mountain bike team forming Northfield News: Northfield high school mountain bike team forming Northfield Patch: Cannon Valley Biking Team Pedaling Toward Starting LinePeter Behm with KYMN News Morning Show host Jeff Johnson

Northfield News reporter Jordan Osterman: Northfield high school mountain bike team forming

KYMN News Morning Show host Jeff Johnson: Griff Wigley and Peter Behm on C.V. Mountain Bike Racing (blog post with streaming audio). Alternate: download/listen to MP3.  (Peter Behm is a student at ARTech.)

Northfield Patch reporter Michael Garlitz: Cannon Valley Biking Team Pedaling Toward Starting Line

One point Wigley stresses when talking about forming the team is that the activity is open to girls, as well as boys.

“The big push nationally is to get girls involved,” he said. “And, there is an incentive for having girls on your team. Points earned by girls are worth more, which helps in recruiting.

Can’t make the May 15 meeting? Area student-athletes who are interested can now fill out a form on the CVMTBT website to be kept informed on next steps on the team’s formation.

Northfield News revamps its website again; and again, bad things happen

SouthernMinn.comLast Monday, the Northfield News launched a new website using a new content management system for all its regional newspapers, putting all of them under the domain name southernminn.com. So the Northfield News site is now at southernminn.com/northfield_news (there’s an underscore between the ‘d’ and the ‘n’).

I have no problem with this change on the face of it.

Currently, none of the old articles are available. Presumably—hopefully–they will be restored in some type of online archive. But just like in Feb. 2011, the URL’s for those articles will change and the old ones will evidently not redirect.  Last year, I wrote to Publisher Sam Gett:

At Locally Grown, we have linked to hundreds of your articles over the years and now, none of the those links work any longer. As you know, we drive a lot of traffic to your site. (And likewise, our discussions benefit from your content.) So it seems like you’d want to continue to maintain the old URL’s, if for no other reason than to continue generating pageviews.

I never heard back.  So I again wrote to him early last week, resending that paragraph. He said he’d look into it, but I’ve not heard back.

And this morning, if you go to NorthfieldNews.com, you don’t even get redirected to the new site. Instead, you end up at a GoDaddy.com page that says:

Want to buy this domain? Our Domain Buy Service can help you get it. This page is parked free, courtesy of GoDaddy.com

NorthfieldNews.com
See the above screenshot. This may be a temporary situation, an oversight on someone’s part, but it’s certainly startling.

Lastly, the changeover also removed all previous usernames and comments. People are being asked to re-register.  I’ve never like the paper’s policy of allowing anonymous comments so I don’t consider this a great loss. But it’s indicative that they don’t value their readers’ comments either.

Smackdown on KYMN: Hvisty gets his ass handed to him

After my confrontations with Northfielder David Hvistendahl over the weekend, I  emailed him a request to be a guest on his KYMN Law Review radio show this week. He replied:

U R hereby invited to a verbal smackdown, 6 pm, KYMN. Will B War of the Worlds II. Will expose U as a royalist and rumor monger.

KYMN smackdown: David Hvistendahl, Griff WigleyWe did the show tonight.  KYMN emperor Jeff Johnson was on hand to moderate (he used a digital referee whistle) but only had to use it a couple times.

The audio of the show is now available in this mistitled KYMN blog post by Jeff:

KYMN web player image 
Law Review | SMACKDOWN! Wigley cries UNCLE!! 

(For the culturally deprived, see the Wikipedia entry for Uncle Wiggily.)

Northfield News story on firefighters’ pension is misleading

Northfield Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson; Griff Wigley March 13 Nfld News:  Northfield’s firefighter wages, pensions among highest in state DSC08083 Northfield Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson; Griff Wigley
Northfield Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson stopped by my corner office at GBM yesterday. We mostly argued, hence the scowls in the left photo. (Feel free to sort through the 180+ comments to my blog post to find my criticisms of the Northfield Fire Department. More to come?)

But one thing we did agree on (hence the smiles in the right photo) was that the two versions of the Northfield News stories about the firefighters’ pension contained some misleading information. In the March 6 version, Northfield firefighters: paid or volunteers?, reporter Suzy Rook wrote:

According to a state auditor’s report for 2009, the city’s firefighters, who also serve the Northfield Rural Fire District, have $7,500 apiece placed in the fund annually;

In the sidebar:

$7,500 — Northfield’s annual pension contribution per firefighter

After the March 6 story appeared, Tom’s email to me and Suzy included this:

Northfield Fire Relief is presently at $7500/yr of service.  This is not to be confused with “The City pays each member $7500/year” as was stated in the Northfield News e-edition last week.  The impact on the annual budget is only the Municipal Contribution amount.  For this year, the impact is slightly more than $900/fire fighter.

Likewise, in the comment thread attached to the March 6 story, firefighter Aramis Wells argued with her about this issue.  But to no avail, as this week’s March 13 version, Northfield’s firefighter wages, pensions among highest in state, contained the same text and sidebar.

My take

Individual firefighter pension obligations DO NOT cost the City of Northfield/taxpayers $7,500/year, as the Northfield News’ stories indicate.

Rather, if they stay on the job for 20 years or more (and past the age of 50), the pension fund pays them $7,500 per year of service. Big difference.

The amount in the fund fluctuates with the stock market and so the City’s annual contribution to the fund fluctuates.  Back in 2008, the City contributed nearly $100,000 to the fund. In 2009 it was half that. This year, Tom says it’ll be about $29,000.

I think the City of Northfield and we citizens get a good deal with this arrangement because the pension encourages firefighters to stay on the job.  Lack of turnover is generally a good thing when it comes to firefighting and I think we’re better served by having so many firefighters with so many years of experience.

But we need not worry too much that the current turmoil with the City and the Northfield Fire Department will cause many firefighters to quit.  Fire Chief Gerry Franek’s attorney David Hvistendahl, Northfield Area Rural Fire District administrator Jerry Anderson and others are wrong to, um, fan these flames.

Why?

The firefighters get a good deal, too. If they stick with it for 20 years, they get a decent lump sum payout of $150,000. A few are going get twice that as they been on the job for nearly 40 years. Plus, they have an interesting and challenging part-time job in which they get to make a real difference in people’s lives, contribute measurably in the community’s quality of life, and earn our respect for doing so. Not many $21/hr part-time jobs offer all this.

I’m glad the Northfield News did the story because it has helped raise awareness of the issue.  But I think they owe it to the firefighters and to the citizens to run a correction.

Where might this Minnesota lake be?

Nfld News MN mountain lakeLike many newspapers around the state, the Northfield News regularly publishes articles via an arrangement with MPR News.

On Monday, the paper ran an MPR story titled More Minnesota lakes and rivers added to impaired list. The paper chose this photo (click to enlarge) to accompany the article.

I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and I’ll be damned if I can identify where this picturesque lake might be.

Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

Photos and video: 3rd anniversary show for KYMN’s The Long Way Home

Will Healy, Stephen Kampa, Craig Wasner, David Henly, Mike Hildebrandt,  Craig Wasner, Mike Hildebrandt Stephen Kampa (with Jesse James in the background) Will Healy
Host Will Healy and co-host David Henly celebrated the 3rd anniversary of The Long Way Home  tonight at KYMN’s studios.  Some of Healy’s former colleagues from Over and Back stopped by for an in-studio performance: Stephen Kampa, harmonica; Craig Wasner, keyboard; Michael Hildebrandt, fiddle. Here’s a one-minute video clip: