Category Archives: K-12

$35,000 and counting: It’s time to stop the outdated taxpayer subsidy to the Northfield News for City and School District public notices

Public-NoticeThere is a Minnesota state statute (Chapter 331A) requiring local units of government (cities, counties, townships, school boards) to publish public notices in newspapers, everything from minutes and agendas to tax levies, financial reports, project bids, forfeited properties, etc.

I blogged about this in early 2011 (Something Democrats and Republicans can agree on: Move public notices to the web) when there was a bill introduced at the legislature to change the law. Short description of the MN House version of the 2011 Bill:

Political subdivisions authorized to publish proceedings, official notices, and summaries on their Web sites in lieu of newspaper publication.

The bill didn’t get very far. See this 2011 MN House Session Daily story: Plan to post public notices online nixed.

I started thinking about this issue again when I saw this article in GovDelivery about the very same issue in the UK: Public notices: the case for radical reform.  So I requested information from the City of Northfield and the Northfield School District to see how much this was costing us taxpayers.

1. City of Northfield

The City of Northfield has a contract with Huckle Media LLC, the publishers of the Northfield News, to spend a minimum of $15,000 this year to publish public notices and other city-related ads. (See page 2 of the Jan. 3, 2012 minutes.)  The 2012 rate for legal ads is $13.35 per column inch.

Thus far in 2012, over $21,000 has been spent. Last year it was over $18,000.

Huckle Media 2012 Contract City of NorthfieldHuckle Media 2012 Check detail City of Northfield
The above is the 2012 documentation: 1) the 2012 contract with Huckle Media; and 2) the 2012 check detail. I have 2011 data as well.

2. Northfield School District 659

The District doesn’t have a contract with Huckle Media like the City, but just pays the legal ad rate of $13.35 per column inch. 

Northfield School District Public Notice Expenses Northfield News 2011 2012
In 2011, the District paid $14,000 to the Nothfield News, nearly all of it for publishing school board minutes. Through Oct. 15 this year, the total is $13,400. See the PDF.

3. Northfield Hospital; Rice County

A good reporter would have sought similar data from both of these bodies. If anyone reading this would like to request the info from them, I’m happy to add it to this blog post.

2011 articles present the arguments, pro and con

See:

The above articles contain many of the arguments, pro and con. 

One big issue is about government transparency, that requiring notices to be printed in a newspaper helps ensure this.  I disagree. Only a very small % of citizens are without internet access these days. (Over 85% of Northfielders had high speed internet access as of 2 years ago.) If local governments are required to post all public notices in public buildings (eg, post offices, libraries, etc) then that’s sufficient.  And the tens of thousands of tax dollars saved can then be put to better use.

A violation of the law?

State statute also stipulates that any paper that charges for subscriptions must put public notices on its website for free. Here’s the language from the Statute, Subd. 5. Posting notices on Web site:

If, in the normal course of its business, a qualified newspaper maintains a Web site, then as a condition of accepting and publishing public notices, the newspaper must agree to post all the notices on its Web site at no additional cost. The notice must remain on the Web site during the notice’s full publication period. Failure to post or maintain a public notice on the newspaper’s Web site does not affect the validity of the public notice.

The legals section page linked from the top nav bar of the Northfield News website is the same legals section used for all of Huckle Media’s newspapers in southern Minnesota. But only notices for the City of Faribault, Faribault Schools, and Rice County are listed there, an apparent violation of the law.

Our new DFL legislators

Kevin-DahleDavid-Bly

I’d like to see our new DFL legislators, Kevin Dahle and David Bly, team up with some of their Republican colleagues and get this antiquated law changed.  In 2011, then DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk were against changing the law.

Surely the combined efforts of the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota Association of Townships can muster enough influence to challenge the Minnesota Newspapers Association.

It has happened in other states. Follow the Legal Notice.org blog for the latest.

Downtown’s new recycling bins are a win for taxpayers and a lesson on collaboration, persistence, and civic problem-solving

Front: Arlo Cristofaro-Hark, Helen Forsythe, Antonia Cristofaro-Hark, Cliff Martin student welders Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt, welding coach student welder student welder

Last week, members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit) who worked on welding downtown’s new combination recycling/trash bins stopped by my corner office at GBM for a photo.  And they brought a few photos of themselves welding the bins with Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt.

In the photo on the left (L to R) are high schoolers Arlo Cristofaro-Hark, Helen Forsythe, Antonia Cristofaro-Hark, and Cliff Martin. Not pictured: Avery Swearer.  Behind them are two of the many adults who were involved in the project: George Kinney and Mary Jo Cristofaro. 

Back in July, I blogged about the arrival of the combination recycling/trash bins downtown.  Three commenters to that post told the story of how the project came to be. Northfield Councilor Betsey Buckheit wrote:

Betsey BuckheitNorthfield Transition Youth/YES developed the project to build recycling bins for downtown because, as Griff has complained, the plastic wheelie bins chained to the trash receptacles weren’t very attractive (and then they disappeared) and to encourage recycling. I believe they had a design competition, but their first design made of wood did not pass muster with the HPC. George Kinney was helping develop the project in its design/initial attempt, but I believe this was as a private citizen and not an EQC project.

The Downtown Streetscape Task Force was moving ahead to buy receptacles much like what has been created, but they cost $1500 apiece. Streetscape was willing, but that’s when Howie stepped in to say — Hey, we can do this cheaper here. I can teach kids to weld, we can cut apart old trash containers and “stretch” them with similar-looking slats. A bit more back and forth on this — keeping recycling dry is a big deal because wet paper, according to Joe Stapf, spoils the lot, so ensuring there were lids on the containers was critical. TJ Heinricy helped by providing old trash receptacles for creating a prototype. Streetscape Task Force worked out the details and is paying for the containers.

And, now they’re beginning to appear on the street. I understand from Howie that he’s got some great youth welding talent, too. The Transition youth, Mary Jo Cristafaro (another adult assistant), and Howie deserve a round of applause for their idea, persistence, and execution. Looks great; saves money.

NDDC’s Ross Currier wrote:

Ross CurrierBetsey, in addition to the much-deserving Joe Stapf and T. J. Heinricy, I think thanks, by name, are due to Bob Will, Chair of the Streetscape Task Force, Steve Edwins, Member of the Heritage Preservation Commission, and Betsey Buckheit, Second Ward Councilor, for walking down to Eco Gardens and checking out Howie’s prototype. They all went the extra mile (okay, maybe it was only half a mile) to give the local option a chance.

Although having a decision-making rubric is a great idea (it can promote fairness and efficiency), it would appear that sometimes it’s a good idea to add a little “common sense” or, for a lack of a better term, subjective valuation to the decision-making process. The decision had been made according to the proper policy/procedure and the process/organization was moving toward timely implementation when Howie basically asked, “Could you give it another minute or so?” and Joe, T. J., Bob, Steve, and Betsey said, “We can give it another minute or so”.

Understandably, it would be a challenge to municipal efficiency (in terms of time and, sometimes, money), if we essentially second-guessed every decision made by a public sector group or entity. However, in this particular example of a sometimes stumbling (or seemingly inefficient), and admittedly stop and go process, reviewing the decision, particularly double-checking both the explicit and implicit values likely to be used by the community to judge the results, before taking irreversible steps to implement the plan, resulted in a better outcome.

City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney wrote:

George KinneyWell deserved credit goes to the stalwarts of Transition Youth/YES, Mary Jo, and Mera Colling, who worked on quite a few designs over the past year and a half or more — lots of prototypes, many false starts, and I think we are so happy that the final design received everyone’s approval. TJ and Howie really came through for the group — helping to find solutions and getting the process moving. It wouldn’t have happened without their help. The group received additional support and encouragement from Northfield in Bloom and Curt Saffle of Waste Management.

As far as the EQC is concerned, we’ve been pushing for permanent downtown recycling options for probably close to 10 years, with Suzie Nakasian being the champion for several years on EQC (and then Planning Commission).

Happy to have had a hand in it.

In August, Jordan Osterman at the Northfield News did a story: Northfield youth group leads the way on recycling in parks, downtown

Thanks to the leadership of a group of Northfield High School and Arcadia Charter School students, along with the help of the community, city workers are now in the process of installing what will eventually be 28 new recycling/garbage bin combos in the downtown area and parks where no recycling bins were previously available.

In October, high school student Logan Regnier produced a video about the project and it’s up on Northfield Patch: Youth, City Collaborate on New Recycling Bins

Recycling bin video by Logan Regnier

Transformation Northfield and the election campaigns of Rhonda Pownell, Jeff Quinnell, and Dan Cupersmith

In Feb. of 2011, I published a post titled What is Transformation Northfield’s public agenda? that detailed my concerns about the local public officials who were involved with the group.

Two of the local political leaders I featured in that piece were At-large Northfield City Councilor Rhonda Pownell and Northfield School board member Jeff Quinnell.  Rhonda is running for mayor of Northfield; if she loses, she’ll retain her At-Large seat. Jeff has decided to not run again for the School Board and instead, is running for Rice County Commissioner, District 2.

New on the local political scene is Dan Cupersmith who’s running for Northfield School Board. Dan is a member of Transformation Northfield and Rejoice! Church.

1. Rhonda Pownell

Rhonda Pownell (2)I spoke with Rhonda after one of the election forums at the Cow and told her that while I was initially concerned about her connection to Transformation Northfield (TN) and Rejoice!, I was no longer worried.  Yes, she abstained on the marriage amendment vote and was the only council member to vote against the domestic partner registry ordinance this summer and I disagree with her on those issues. But those votes in my mind have been outweighed by her overall performance as a councilor and to my knowledge, she’s never spoken or acted in a way that would convey she believes God or Pastor Dan Clites are telling her what’s best for Northfield.

Am I voting for Rhonda or Dana Graham for mayor? I’m still undecided.

2. Jeff Quinnell

Jeff Quinnell (2)I haven’t followed the School Board very closely in the past four years and I have no specifics, pro or con, to say about Jeff’s performance.

It does bother me, however, that on one of his campaign websites he links to his personal Facebook profile where, if you become his ‘friend,’ you’ll see that he regularly posts Bible verses to his Wall, as well as, at times, questionable quotes for a school board member, for example:

"Education is useless without the Bible." — Noah Webster

So Jeff is still a concern to me. I’ll be voting for Galen Malecha.

3. Dan Cupersmith

Dan CupersmithDan and his wife Karianne just returned from the 23rd annual Harvest Evangelism conference in Hawaii with Dan Clites, Brett Reese (co-leaders of Transformation Northfield) and a dozen or more other Northfielders.  You can hear their testimonies in the Oct. 14, 2012 "Aloha to Transformation!" podcast, listed on the Rejoice! Weekly Sermon/Podcast page. A partial quote from Dan Cupersmith:

This is starting with the youth. One of the examples/testimonies that we saw was Valley Christian School in California, a school that was really on the down and out [garbled] and possibly being closed and now has turned around to be one of the top schools in the nation and it was all led through prayer evangelism.

Dan ClitesBrett ReeseThat may not seem like much but it’s worrisome to me, especially when you hear Brett Reese predicting that "Northfield will become a city of God" and Dan Clites proclaiming, "If you really want to change the world, you have to change the marketplace. You gotta change the atmosphere of the government, you gotta change the atmosphere of the education system…"

I will not be voting for Dan Cupersmith for Northfield School Board. I will be voting for Rob Hardy, Ellen Iverson, and Anne Maple.

The race for Northfield School Board: Cupersmith, Hardy, Iverson, Maple, Stratmoen

Dan Cupersmith, Rob Hardy, Ellen Iverson, Anne Maple, Noel Stratmoen  (Northfield Patch image)
It’s one month till the election and the race for Northfield School Board is between Dan Cupersmith, Rob Hardy, Ellen Iverson, Anne Maple, and Noel Stratmoen (top four vote-getters will serve).

If you’re looking for an online venue to discuss the race with your fellow Northfielders, this is it.

See the Northfield Patch article, Election 101: Meet Your School Board Candidates

Patch has compiled basic biographical information about this year’s five school board candidates. Click on their names for more information.

Close the gap! Accelerate Northfield’s Joe Amerman says teachers need community tutors for their students

Joe Amerman Joe Amerman and Fritz Bogott Accelerate Northfield home page

I got an email last week from AmeriCorps VISTA member Joe Amerman, asking my help in raising community awareness of Accelerate Northfield which

… recruits tutors from the community and the colleges to work with children in Northfield’s public elementary schools. Founded by Rachel Matney and Fritz Bogott, the program’s aim is to use one-on-one tutoring to close Northfield’s large achievement gap.

Joe stopped by my corner office at GBM for the obligatory promo photo and then a few days later, I saw him meeting with Accelerate Northfield co-founder Fritz Bogott.  Fritz and Joe said that their big goal since they launched the project a year ago was to raise awareness among more elementary teaches so that they’d list their students’ tutoring needs on the Accelerate Northfield website.  This fall, they’ve accomplished that beyond their expectations and now they’re in need of more tutors.  See the three ways that can you help.

And see the Aug 30, 2011 article on Nfld Patch  by Myrna Mibus:  Accelerate Northfield Aims to Bridge Achievement Gap.

Save the date: May 15 high school mountain bike racing team information mtg for student-athletes & parents

Cannon Valley Mountain Bike Team blogsite CVMTBT Team Director & Assistant Coach Griff Wigley at GBM Northfield Activities Director Tom Graupmann and Assistant Coach Griff Wigley with MTB poster at Northfield High School
I’ve had my Team Director hat on this past week, putting up a new website for the Cannon Valley Mountain Bike Racing Team (also a Facebook page and a Twitter feed).

I also started plastering posters around the area promoting the first information meeting for student-athletes and parents: at misc retail locations, eg, GBM; with Activities Director Tom Graupmann at Northfield High School); at ARTech High School and the ALC; and at area bike shops FIT to be TRI’d, Mike’s Bicycle Shop, and Milltown Cycles.

It should be noted that this team does not yet exist! So this meeting is for those student-athletes (and their parents) who might be interested in joining this new team.  Details:

WHEN? Tuesday, May 15, 7 pm

WHERE? the Northfield High School cafeteria

Gary Sjoquist, Founding Chair of the Minnesota High School Cycling LeagueGary Sjoquist, Founding Chair of the Minnesota High School Cycling League and QBP’s Advocacy Director, will be presenting. Head coach Sue Welch and I will be there as well.

CVMBT-poster-May15-mtg

Help spread the word by downloading and printing out this poster (DropBox link) and putting it up in public places.

The QR code in the lower right corner of the poster links to the Cannon Valley Mountain Bike Racing Team website.

Photos & video: Out of the Silence, Onto the Streets march

Out of the Silence, Onto the StreetsNorthfield area high schoolers and a group of other high school students marched down Hennepin Ave today in Minneapolis from Uptown to Loring Park in an event they titled Out of the Silence, Onto the Streets.

See my Thursday blog post for more background.

View the large slideshow of 36 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Watch this 30-second video clip:

Cliff and Sofie want you Out of the Silence & Onto the Streets for a LGBT rights march on Sat. May 5

Cliff Martin and Sofie ScheuermanLocal high school students Cliff Martin and Sofie Scheuerman stopped by my office at GBM today to let me know that they and a group of other high school students are leading a LGBT march on Saturday in Minneapolis titled Out of the Silence, Onto the Streets (Facebook event page). 

From the event page:

Out of the Silence, Onto the StreetsWe believe in the safety and equality of all youth; that everyone in the classroom is entitled to a safe environment. We also believe in the importance of the youth voice. We are youth promoting the acceptance of all genders, sexual orientations and gender expressions. This march is driven by our communal beliefs, and it aims to apply our zeal by exposing people to the challenges that face the LGBTQ community. We envision creating a welcoming environment for all voices to be heard.

See this week’s Nfld News: Northfield youth to lead gay rights march

Videos:

httpv://youtu.be/IXuf3Zn_lBI

httpv://youtu.be/hU_WT—2Gk

Do Northfield area educators still use cheesy self-esteem tactics on kids?

Doonesbury, April 13, 2012
I laughed at this Doonesbury cartoon last week, thinking that the self-esteem movement was long gone.

DSC08692 copy DSC08691 copy
But then on Saturday, I saw these posters at the Byron, MN Middle School, praising Melissa and Avery for their "outstanding participation" as musicians of the week. (Notice how I’ve redacted their last names from the photos of the posters.  I’d hate to have their self-esteem damaged by this blog post.)

Do any Northfield area educators still do this type of stuff?