With the power shift in the state legislature, I’m looking forward to the legislative session with a teeny tiny bit of hope and a whole lot of apprehension. My apprehension level rose precipitously yesterday when I read my new state senator’s tweet (@KevinDahle) that he’d been meeting with a district mayor as part of working to increase local government aid. Oh dear, Senator Dahle, but that’s starting at the wrong end of the policy process and so early in the session, too. (continued)
I don’t know if we’ll get the benefit of a substantive online response from Kevin to her since his blog appears to be dormant and his Facebook page is brand new, where so far, he’s having his tweets auto-posted. Maybe he’ll attach a comment to her blog post?
It has the potential for a good discussion. I’m not informed enough to lead it/ask the questions but I’m hoping some of you LoGro readers might chime in, either here or there.
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.
Northfield 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.
Betsey, 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.
Well 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).
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.
Contented Cow proprietor Norman Butler hosted a two-hour forum for Northfield City Council Ward 2 and At-Large candidates last night on the Cow’s outdoor patio.
At-Large Council candidates: Betsey Buckheit, Joe Gasior, David Ludescher
2nd Ward Council candidates: Frank Balster, Paul Reiland, Wade Schulz; David DeLong did not attend.
Steve Engler moderated the panel and made it much more interesting by interacting with the candidates when he thought their comments needed to be clarified. I loved it whenever he refused to accept empty platitudes.
Norman goaded citizen/patrons into expressing their opinions instead of just asking questions.
On June 5, the Northfield City Council decided to use lease/revenue bonds to finance the Safety Center. Councilor Betsey Buckheit has a detailed response in her June 11 blog post titled Financing the Public Safety Center-what and why. An excerpt:
Procedurally, the meeting was complicated by Patrick Ganey’s absence. A motion to use GO referendum bonds and the motion to issue CIP bonds both failed on tie votes (Rhonda Pownell, Suzie Nakasian, and Ivan Imm supported both; Mayor Rossing, Erica Zweifel and I voted no). Erica Zweifel made a motion – not impromptu as the LWV blog called it, but well thought our [sic] and justified – to use EDA/HRA lease revenue bonds; the motion was adopted on a 4-2 vote (Yes – Rossing, Buckheit, Imm, Zweifel; No – Nakasian and Pownell.
It was LWV Observer Jane McWilliams who labeled it ‘impromptu’ in her comments:
The lease revenue bond decision, like others the council has made, while it might make sense in the long run, seemed impromptu. Several councilors seemed unprepared for this outcome. One wonders whether all members of the council had time to seriously consider the merits and shortcomings of this funding mechanism. There definitely was a sense that several of the councilors were not in favor of letting the public decide. That seemed the primary goal and justification for the selected bonding method.
If it was "well thought out and justified" as Betsy wrote, I’m not aware of when and where that discussion was made public. I was stunned at the move as some others were. I had no idea this form of financing was even a possibility. My first reaction: this is similar to when the EDA issued the bond for the outdoor swimming pool, a really inappropriate use of its financing authority.
I agree with Betsey that:
… since earlier this year, the Council has made significant progress in defining the scope of the project, cost, location, and creating flexibility to address fire department organization, equipment and facilities issues…
but the deliberate public engagement (this year) on all this has been nearly non-existent, somewhat understandably so. Now is the time for it but it’s moot now because the Council has removed the citizenry from any direct influence on the outcome, a complete end-run. It’s a short term solution that increases public cynicism, an opportunity lost for creating a partnership with city hall on a really important capital improvement project.
And Councilor Patrick Ganey owes the public an explanation of why he wasn’t there for this important vote and a detailed explanation of how he would have voted on all the motions.
Strong Towns is a Minnesota-based non-profit that advocates "for changes in our pattern of development and a complete understanding of the full costs of our methods of growth." Their mission is "to support a model for growth that allows America’s towns to become financially strong and resilient."
They’ve been invited to bring their Curbside Chat program to Northfield on November 29. I don’t yet have the details on time/place.
This booklet is a companion to our Curbside Chat program. The Chat presentation itself contains so much information—information that challenges the very core of our collective beliefs on growth and development—that it was overwhelming to many participants.
Our hope is this companion booklet will be an additional resource which people can go back to again and again to absorb, at their own pace, the enormity of the change that is upon us. We urge you to share it with others.
In preparation for their Nov. 29 visit to Northfield, I thought it might be interesting to engage in some online discussion of the Strong Towns approach to development and how it relates to Northfield.
(More) Jobs and (increased) tax base are good things which I, too, would like to see, but pursuing these as isolated goals, throwing huge dollars at big projects and subsidizing individual businesses is not how I think Northfield should allocate its (very limited) resources.
I have a bigger vision for an economically healthy community than the Mayor’s and EDA’s rather old-fashioned conception of economic development (I’d call the Mayor and EDA firm Second Wave proponents). Here are 2 visions: