I warned y’all in my December 10 blog post, A lunch portends changes for LoGro. It’s now happening. I’ve got a contract with the City of Northfield, wearing my Wigley and Associates consulting hat, to create and manage the online platform for a City project: Developing a parking management plan for downtown.
That’s a link to the new blogsite for the project where all the activity will occur (not here on LoGro, which is why I’ve got comments turned off for this blog post.)
I’ll be teaming up with Ross Currier, Executive Director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC).
I’m pretty excited about doing this, actually. I hope you Northfielders who follow things here on LoGro will participate there, not only to help create a downtown parking management plan but to help me and the City get better at managing public projects which need a significant amount of genuine citizen engagement.
See you over there!
I had lunch at Chapati last week with Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan, NDDC Executive Director Ross Currier, and Chris Heineman, Northfield’s Director of Planning and Community Development. We were discussing the details of my proposed contract with the City to provide online citizen engagement services for two-month project starting Real Soon Now.
I’ve long contended that if I ever was appointed to one of the City’s boards or commissions, it would change the nature of my blogging about the City. And I’ve recently written that this would also be true if I ever got a consulting contract with the City. I think both situations demand that my relationships with the City’s leaders take priority over my public opinionating about them or the City. And in the case of a contract, I’ll have a conflict of interest when it comes to opinionating on city-related matters.
If I blog about anything related to the City of Northfield or its leaders, the tone of my blog post will be along the lines of "Here’s something interesting. What do y’all think?" Essentially, my role will be more of a moderator. The opinionating (praise or criticism) will have to come from all of you.
I may stumble, as I’ve been freely opinionating about the City here on LoGro for seven years. If you catch me going over the line, speak up.
I’m not sure what happened to promotion for this year’s Small Business Saturday here in Northfield but it seems to have tanked right along with Be Local … Buy Local (BLBL), the campaign by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation “that promotes the importance of shopping locally for products and services in the Northfield area.”
Keep it simple:
I was at a meeting of downtown office workers last week, hosted by the NDDC, when the discussion veered towards downtown amenities. NEC head honcho Megan Tsui brought up the issue of the lack of tables on Bridge Square that would be conducive for both meetings as well as eating. She said someone from the City once told her that they couldn’t put picnic tables on Bridge Square because pranksters would toss them in the Cannon River.
This little tidbit made its way back to Northfield City Hall and a few days later, NDDC ED Ross Currier told me that two picnic tables magically appeared on Bridge Square, evidently via
divine intervention an executive order from City Engineer/Public Works Director Joe Stapf.
Cool. And it makes me hopeful we’ll soon see even better table/bench amenities there that are conducive to meetings, games, socializing, and eating.
(With apologies to the author of the Book of Genesis for my blog post title.)
While I was gone, NDDC Executive Director and former LoGro blogger Ross Currier posted this comment to a 2007 blog post of his titled Is Northfield Business-Friendly?
I’m elevating it from a comment to a blog post because A) I agree with him; and B) it’s a big deal.
Griff has suggested in several recent comments that my overall evaluation of City staff may have changed. Actually, my valuation system hasn’t changed. However, over the past eighteen months, there’s been quite a bit of staff turnover down at City Hall.
I haven’t attended any of what I’ve heard to be excellent Candidate Forums at the Contented Cow. From what I’ve heard, one of the most-promised deliverables by the candidates is to “increase the business-friendliness” of Northfield. Apparently, it’s repeated like a slogan, something along the lines of “I’m for Mom, Apple Pie, and Increasing Business-Friendliness”. However, there has been very little definition of “business-friendliness” and even less on specific steps to take in order to increase it.
I’ll offer one definition of “business-friendliness”: a good attitude. In this specific case, I’m thinking of the attitude of City staff. Most the staff I’ve worked with down at City Hall over the past eight years have been great; more importantly, they have that good attitude that is a key component of “business-friendliness”.
Most of my work has been with the “worker bees”. If the City’s organizational structure is a pyramid, I’m working with the folks down at that rock-solid base of the pyramid. In thinking about the staff turnover over the past eighteen months, most of it has been at or near the top of the pyramid.
In my opinion, the staff members who departed from the higher strata of the City staff pyramid over the past eighteen months (or so) did not have that good attitude. I don’t wish to be overly dramatic, but with the City staff who departed, the City staff who were added, the City staff who were (at least on an interim basis) elevated, and the City staff who had been there for a couple of decades and were finally recognized for their long-standing good attitudes, there has been, in my experience, what feels like a 180 degree change in the, let’s call it, attitudinal culture of City staff.
The four “newer” Councilors, Buckheit, Ganey, Nakasian, and Zweifel, have been frequently criticized, at least by specific segments of the population, about their approach to economic development. They have been accused of being stuck in amber, trying to turn a lawnmower into a go-kart (which, frankly, made me think of Steve Jobs, who tried (successfully) to turn a telephone into multi-media device), and, most remarkably, “mean”.
Now, I admit, I generally limit (in fact I work hard to limit) my observations of the City Council to those times where they are discussing issues that have substantive impacts of areas or functions for which I believe I have some interest or responsibility. However, I have observed several instances in which some or all of the four “newer” Councilors were accused of being “mean”. At the risk of generalizing, the majority of these instances, in my opinion, seemed to be based on situations in which the Councilors were accused of being “mean” to City staff.
“Mean”, in my opinion, was not the appropriate word to use. In my personal observations of this handful of instances, it seemed to me that the Councilors had requested information from City staff at a previous meeting and City staff had not delivered the information, or at least not in the format or to the level of the Councilors’ expectations. Perhaps a better word might have been “tough” or “demanding” or even just “following up”.
It is interesting to me that the City staff members who were subject to this alleged Council “meanness” are the same City staff members who have moved on. Yes, that’s right, these victims of “meanness” were the same City staff members whom I, personally, thought lacked good attitudes.
So, were these Councilors “mean” to the staff with bad attitudes and “nice” to the staff with good attitudes? Perhaps it could be considered effective management, enforcing a policy requiring good attitudes.
Perhaps it is a management strategy shared by the chief of operations, in the last eighteen months, City Administrator Madigan. Certainly he has been clear from the beginning about his expectations for the attitudinal culture of the City staff.
Perhaps most importantly, there appears to be more agreement between a majority of the Council and a majority of staff on attitudinal culture at City Hall. From my perspective, over the past eighteen months, this certainly has been a rapidly and clearly emerging trend.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. After all, I’ve only had my current level of involvement with City staff for the past eight years. Perhaps six and a half years of a bad attitudinal culture and a year and a half of good attitudinal culture is not an adequate period of observation from which to draw a conclusion.
Then again, maybe there is a connection. Maybe the “newer” Councilors’ “meanness”, or “demanding” management style, or simple “following up” and the City Administrator’s “severity”, or “clarity” of expectations, or simple “following up” has played a role, perhaps even a key role, in the 180 change in attitudinal culture of City staff.
In which case, perhaps I owe them my thanks for the recent, steady, even dramatic increase, at least in my experience, of the “business-friendliness” in Northfield. Oh, and I guess I owe my thanks to Griff for pointing it out to me.
Northfielder Hans Muessig is a Director with the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities program at University of Minnesota Extension. Last week, he was the presenter for Doing business online, the first in a series of three workshops on ‘Reaching Customers in the 21st Century’ that’s sponsored by the NDDC, the EDA, the NEC, and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
See Ross Currier’s posts on his NDDC blog:
The Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) held its annual partnership celebration at the Grand Event Center on Friday night.
Ross Currier’s prediction came true. There was "live music, free appetizers, a cash bar, a low-key raffle, and a whole bunch of friends and neighbors."
See the large slideshow of 9 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:
Jessica Paxton, promoter of all-things downtown Northfield, is teaming up with Mr. music promoter Rich Larson to bring Trailer Trash, Minnesota’s premier honky-tonk band, to the Grand Event Center on Dec. 15 for the Northfield version of their annual holiday show, A Trashy Little Christmas. The evening will include an opening set by Matt Arthur and the Bratlanders.
I caught up with Jessica and Rich last night at the Contented Cow and coaxed Plum St. resident Angie Ekern to pose for a photo with them, holding up an article in the StarTribune from earlier this week that announced the details on the Trailer Trash series of Xmas shows:
Like the classic country songs they purvey year-round, Trailer Trash’s annual "Trashy Little X-Mas" marathon never seems to grow old. The Twin Cities honky-tonk kings have a stocking full of original novelty songs ("I’ve Shopped Everywhere," "Santa’s a Spy") to go with a bulging bag of covers and traditional holiday tunes, played in not-so-traditional and often rowdy ways. [See this StarTribune 2008 profile of Trailer Trash.]
Advance tickets for Northfield’s ‘Trashy Little Christmas’ show are available online via credit card or PayPal here for an amazingly cheap $8 (less than half the price for their show in Rochester). Don’t wait, however. This show could sell out and then you’ll have to confess to your grandchildren someday that you could have been there for the inaugural show but sat around on your fat ass until it was too late.
And yes, trashy old Locally Grown Northfield has signed on to be one of the financial sponsors of the show, along with the NDDC, KYMN, and possibly others. This could be an annual event that’s both great fun for locals and effective at bringing people from around the region to visit our fair city. Thanks to those of you who are LoGro members, LoGro advertisers, and who click on the Google ads. Your financial support is paying for our sponsorship of the show.
So what are you waiting for?
CLICK HERE TO BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!
When I was up at St. Olaf’s Buntrock Commons a couple weeks ago for the Eat Local Challenge, I noticed a big NDDC poster outside of The Lion’s Pause with the headline: Locate your business in downtown Northfield.
NDDC Executive Director Ross Currier published an Oct. 3 blog post that explains. An excerpt:
One of the new initiatives that this group developed was alumni entrepreneur recruitment. In addition to promoting downtown Northfield as a marketplace, we wanted to promote it as a business location, particularly to the graduates of Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges. We introduced the concept for the first time at this year’s Homecoming Weekends.
I knew this poster was in the works because back in early August, Ross had asked me to contribute photos for it and they needed one additional: a photo of creative class types working in a coffeehouse.
All month long, I kept watching for a good photo op from my early morning corner office at GBM but it never quite came together.
So on Aug. 29, noticing that I had the raw material for a photo, I asked the laptop users to switch tables. I then asked Nancy Amerman who was sitting with a group of runners to sit at my laptop for the photo. Perfecto.
It should be noted that Nancy felt no shame over helping to perpetuate this fraud, whereas at least I felt conflicted. And yet she calls herself a Christian. Go figure.
Ross Currier’s NDDC blog has the announcement about Crazy Daze today: Alaskan Doughnuts…er…uh…Crazy Daze, this Thursday!
But, yes, this Thursday (July 28th) is Crazy Daze in downtown Northfield. Starting at 8 a.m. with activities until 8 p.m., it’s a whole lot of fun brought to you by the Retail Committee of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s events include a Watermelon Seed Spittting Contest, 11:00 a.m., Just Food; Bean Bag Toss, 1:30 p.m., Fine Threads; Hula Hoop Contest, 2:00 p.m., Rare Pair; and Classic Cars, 5 p.m., on Division Street between 5th and 6th Streets.
But a glance at the home pages of Northfield.org, the Northfield News, Northfield Patch, and KYMN at 6:15 am this morning reveals a complete lack of information about Crazy Daze.
The Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce (the main sponsor of Crazy Daze) lists the event on its community calendar page but with this feeble, generic paragraph:
Don’t miss this crazy shopping spree in downtown Northfield every July. Fantastic bargains are provided by local retailers. Call for details and times for special events taking place all day! (507) 645 5604 or (800) 658 2548.
The featured event page on the Chamber’s Convention and Bureau’s site is even more cryptic:
Don’t miss this crazy shopping spree in downtown Northfield every July. Fantastic bargains are provided by local retailers.
nor is there any mention of the event on the Visiting Northfield Facebook page, nor on the Be Local Northfield Facebook page.
Last year, the Chamber had a Crazy Daze poster/flyer. Was there one this year? I’ve not seen it in store windows, but maybe I’ve just missed it.
Something has failed.
NDDC‘s Ross Currier has taken a cue from Governor Rick Perry’s Proclamation for Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas to issue a similar but opposite proclamation for Northfield this week. I took the photo of him on his knees this morning at the Church of the Blue Monday where we both attend religiously.
He wants sunny skies for the Sixth Annual Taste of Northfield (blog post here, full event info/schedule here), held tomorrow and Friday in downtown Northfield on Bridge Square.
Last year’s Taste was memorable; Day 1/Thursday night was a bust (photos) in part because of a botched triggering of severe weather sirens; Day 2/Friday night was spectacular (photos).
See all Locally Grown’s archived Taste of Northfield blog posts and photos for more.
Here’s the transcript of Ross’ adapted prayer for fair weather:
Almighty Lord God, who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world, except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again; We humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather for the Taste of Northfield, that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives, and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
June in Northfield means graduation and summer vacation. It also means that one of the best-loved community events of the year, The Taste of Northfield, is almost upon us. This year will be the 6th Annual Taste and the event is scheduled for Thursday, June 16th and Friday June 17th from 5-10 p.m. both evenings. All of the festivities happen in or near Bridge Square in Downtown Northfield. What a fantastic location for fun!
There will be a dozen or more food vendors (we’re still working on the lineup) surrounding the Square serving up their own special menus. There will be entertainment on the Showmobile both nights and a Beer and Wine Tent on the 4th Street bridge. The James Gang will do a Bank Raid re-enactment on Thursday night and Friday will bring the return of both a Silent Auction and a Live Auction. Both nights will feature a Street Dance from 8-10.
If you’re feeling up to it, this event also brings a great opportunity to volunteer. We need folks to sell tickets, police the waste stream, control admittance to the Beer Tent, tally up the silent and live auction bids, you name it! If this possibility speaks to you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did I mention that The Taste of Northfield is an official Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) event? It is. And we couldn’t do it without the incredible financial sponsorship given to us by:
COLLEGE CITY BEVERAGE
TAYLOR TRUCK LINE
I hope to see all of you next week at The Taste of Northfield! And no tornado this year. Promise! For up-to-the-minute details, visit Taste of Northfield 2011.
Someone from the NDDC put up this sandwich board in front of the Northfield Post Office this morning. I’m not saying who it was.
See the NDDC’s Keep the Northfield Post Office Downtown page for the latest news.
FYI, the municipal code for sidewalk signs reads:
Sidewalk signs in C-1 and C-2 zones. The use of sidewalk signs shall only be allowed in the central business zones (C-1 and C-2). All sidewalk signs shall be limited to two feet in width and 3½ feet in height, including the support members. No sign shall have more than two faces. Changeable copy is permitted except for plastic letters. The sign shall be placed only in front of the business without significantly limiting the normal pedestrian use of the sidewalk. One sign is permitted for each building/land frontage, and it shall be removed from the sidewalk at the end of each business day. No sidewalk sign shall be lighted. No sign permit is required.
That sign looks to be at least a half inch taller than allowed. Someone should report this.
Last June, I whined about all the ugly recycling bins and newspaper vending racks downtown. There were plans to do something about it.
After being removed for the winter, all 20 recycling bins are now back. And with more than two dozen newspaper vending racks currently downtown (most between 2nd and 5th on Division), it’s pretty ugly. Here’s my count:
- Northfield News: 9
- Star Tribune: 5
- Pioneer Press: 4
- Northfield News Home & Real Estate: 3
- Northfield Entertainment Guide: 3
- Signs of the Times: 1
- AutoMart: 1
Any chance that the City of Northfield Streets, Parks & Facilities Division, the Streetscape Task Force (website still out-of-date), the NDDC, Northfield in Bloom (website dead), 1st Ward Councilor Suzie Nakasian, and whoever else could get together and address this problem this year?
Alas, I wasn’t able to stick around and take photos tonight at the Winter Dance Party at the Grand Event Center, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Northfield and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC).
If you have photos or know of any posted online anywhere, let us know.
Join the Rotary Club of Northfield and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) for a Winter Dance Party at the Grand Event Center with Trailer Trash, Minnesota’s premier Honky-Tonk Band!
- Swing Dance Instruction begins at 8pm
- Music starts at 8:30
- ONLY $10 at the door
- Be Local – Dance Local!
For more, see Ross Currier’s NDDC blog post: NDDC and Rotary Celebrate Our Community at The Grand.
The theme is “We (Heart) Northfield”. We (Heart) our authentic downtown, our historic architecture, our wild and scenic river, our quality businesses and cultural institutions, and our fine schools and medical facilities. The list could go on…and will go on, at our upcoming event at the Grand.
We’ll start it off by thanking our partners and members, and then we’ll open the doors to the entire community to celebrate Northfield. It’ll be an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of the NDDC, the Rotary, and all of the community-based organizations in Northfield…and have a whole lot of fun in the process.
I weaseled my way into the Upstairs Rueb on Thursday eve to sneak some photos of some Northfield Downtown Development Corp (NDDC) board members doing a little socializing after their monthly meeting.
Ross Currier has a post on the NDDC blog titled NDDC Conducts Annual Planning for 2011 which summarizes NDDC’s major accomplishments for 2010. Jeesh!
You can follow the NDDC on Facebook, subscribe to the NDDC blog via RSS or email, and subscribe to the NDDC e-newsletter.
Update 12/20 - I’ve added this photo that Ross took of the NDDC board:
Back row: Jeff Hasse, Keith Covey, Jeff Johnson, Mark Quinnell, Julie Bixby, Dan Bergeson
Next row: Sam Gett, Joe Grundhoefer, Anastasia Balfany, Suzy Taggert, Joey Robison
Front row: Greg Kneser, Dave Shumway, Jessica Paxton
Missing: Robert Bierman.
Be Local … Buy Local (BLBL), the campaign by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation "that promotes the importance of shopping locally for products and services in the Northfield area," has a new initiative.
They’re selling these ‘buy more’ cards and putting up similar posters in store windows around town.
Roscoe Curry, VP of Public Relations for the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, had some reservations about the initiative when it was first discussed at a staff meeting with Executive Director Katarina Fellbore. "I thought some of the merchants might think it a little too doomsdayish," said Curry. He did an informal straw poll, going door-to-door with the merchants along Hwy 3, and all were in favor.
"I like that it’s direct," said Hugh G. Wreckshun, proprietor of Northfield Kwik Kondom (‘Kows, Kolleges, Kondoms, Kontentment’) near the intersection of Hwy 3 and Heritage Drive. "No sense pussyfooting around."
It’s been two and a half years since Highland Bank foreclosed on the Northfield Crossing development and a sizeable portion of the surrounding property is still a mess. I took these photos last week.
I first complained about the mess in 2007. In June, 2008, I blogged: Banks foreclose on The Crossing; now the City should clean up the surrounding property. A year later, June 2009, I added a comment containing the text of an email from Brian O’Connell, Northfield community development director, on the status of the clean-up.
The relationship is that the clean up items are essentially the same items. Piper wants to renegotiate the TIF note, Council is saying they would consider renegotiating the note if the site clean up issues are completed. Highland is now the owner of the residential condominium to which the clean up items are related. So Highland is now determining the cost to complete the items to see if they can complete in time which will assist in unit sales efforts. Everyone wants the same thing; the issue is determining cost and identifying sources of money to pay the expense.
WTF is taking so long to clean up this ‘gateway to downtown Northfield’?
This portion of the property doesn’t look that much better than it did in 2005 when NDDC‘s Dan Bergeson and Ross Currier took matters into their own hands and personally demolished seven buildings when it was known as the Riverfront Development Site. I think we need them again to take charge, this time to haul all the construction shit out of there.
Dan? Ross? How about it?
There is some good news, however. There have been some improvements to other (city-owned?) parts of the property in recent weeks: streetscape-style decorative fencing along Hwy. 3, with many new trees planted.
I saw this Fourth Street reconstruction chart in the downtown lobby of the First National Bank of Northfield this morning. (See the PDF of the top half of the chart on the City’s site titled Fourth Street Improvements 2010 – Project Phases.)
I asked EDA member and bank VP Rick Estenson what the delay was since the chart indicates (in yellow) that the Phase 1B was to be completed by July 2 and [sigh] there’s no explanation on the City’s 1999-style web page for the project. "Rick, the weather’s gorgeous. Why aren’t they at least pouring sidewalks this week?”
Rick suggested that the delay might be due to the fact that the NDDC, which agreed to contribute labor to help reduce project costs in front of its office on 4th St., might be hampered by its unskilled workforce.
Update 7/16, 8 am: Ross continues to do his part, however inadequate it might be. He poured the sidewalk outside the NDDC office yesterday.
With the departure of Community Resource Bank from its downtown location, there’s now an empty parking lot in the heart of downtown—at least until the owner of the building, First National Bank of Northfield (across the street), leases the building.
Last week’s City Council work session discussion of the Streetscape Taskforce Recommendations (P. 15 of the packet) had this item on the list:
Purchase of property to address perceived needs of Downtown Parking issues and potentially assist with increased parking need by future Library project.
The NDDC provides a Guide to Parking in Downtown Northfield. Ross has blogged about parking issues for years (example, here). There have been several studies of downtown parking (eg. the Walker Study, the Stolley Report, others? links?).
Here are some low-hanging fruit questions of an uninformed blogger:
- How often are the diagonal and parallel parking spots on Division completely full?
- Do downtown business owners and their employees too often park in these spots or is that a myth?
- How rigorously do the police enforce downtown parking ordinances?
- What do we know that has worked and not worked in other downtowns of our size/type?
Regardless of the strange wording (“perceived needs of Downtown Parking issues” – do issues have needs?) and regardless of what happens with the Library expansion, downtown parking is an issue that should be fun to argue about.
In the meantime, the now-empty Community Resource Bank parking lot is a perfect spot for a temporary skateboard plaza!