Way back in November of 2010, two area teams of 24 people each (one team from Northfield; the other from Northfield/Dundas/Bridgewater) attended the Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP) in Grand Rapids.
On early Wednesday morning, eight people from those groups departed Northfield in an Eco-Trans van for a few days of meetings at Breezy Point. Left to right in the photo: Erica Zweifel, Hans Muessig, George Kinney, Bruce Morlan, Paula Manor, Joe Gransee-Bowman, Matthew Rich, Norman Butler.
What were they doing up there? How were these 8 selected from the 24? What’s been happening with the two groups in the past two years? As before, inquiring minds want to know.
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:
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.
NDDC’s Ross Currier wrote:
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.
City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney wrote:
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).
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
Back in late May, I blogged about Roosevelt Drive’s new sidewalk and at the end of the post, wrote:
One thing that still puzzles me, however, is the end of the trail that goes through Jefferson Park. It connects to the sidewalk but across the street, there’s a sign on the north side of Jefferson Parkway that says “TRAIL ROUTE” with a 90 degree arrow. If the intent is to signal people that now on-street walking/biking is required, it seems like there should be a curb cut there where a section of the sidewalk was just replaced. Or am I confused?
George Kinney reported that he’d brought it to the attention of City Engineer Joe Stapf and about a week ago, I got CC’d on an email from George to Joe:
Thank you, Joe and TJ! From a distance, I saw a crew working yesterday at the Parkway entrance to Jeff Park, and hoped it was the trail/street completion. I rode past at 5:30 this morning, and it looks great! Now I won’t have to try to jump the curb.
Actually, it was Sean Simonson and Steve Bennett from the Engineering Department, working thru the Street Improvements project contractor, Heselton Construction, and their concrete subcontractor, who made this happen. I will pass on your thanks.
I rode my bike on the trail yesterday and indeed, it’s just like George said. Cool. I love it when City staff pays attention to citizens on small stuff like this and quickly gets things done.
Longtime City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney stopped by my corner office at GBM last week to alert me to a solar energy workshop coming up on Saturday. See the flyer (PDF) and the press release below (links added):
Solar Workshop: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Solar Energy But Were Afraid, Or Didn’t Know Who To, Ask
A workshop on residential and commercial solar energy opportunities will be held at the Just Food Community Room (Just Food Co-op, 516 Water Street South, Northfield) from 1:00 to 4:00 pm Saturday, May 19th. The workshop, sponsored by RENew Northfield and the Southeast Clean Energy Resource Teams (SE CERT), will cover currently available active solar technologies, the economics of solar installations, and the experiences of local homeowners and business owners with recent solar projects.
Presenters include representatives of three solar energy vendors, who will discuss solar air heating, solar water heating, and solar electric systems for homes and businesses. The head of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association will present an overview of solar energy opportunities in the state, and a Minnesota Division of Energy Resources representative will discuss current solar rebates and financial incentives. A panel of local homeowners and small business owners will talk about their experiences in selecting and working with solar contractors, and the performance of their systems.
The solar vendors will have informational displays, and will be available for one-on-one discussion after the formal presentations. Attendees will also be invited to view a nearby solar installation after the workshop.
The workshop is free. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. For more information, contact SE CERT at Joe@cleanenergyresourceteams.org 952-406-1215.
Last week I stopped by the Northfield Senior Center to take a few photos of George Kinney teaching an AARP Driving Safety Course. The Northfield Senior Center, Fall 2011 Program Guide (PDF) describes the class as:
Classroom instruction for motorists over age 50 that may lower automobile insurance rates for three years.
I noticed there were a lot of Buicks in the Northfield Senior Center parking lot. It’s not an urban myth.