In what is perceived as a social stigma in a two-college town, members of Northfield Southwest Neighborhood Association (NSWNA) have filed a discrimination law suit against the City of Northfield for it’s refusal to replace the four street signs in the neighborhood which have the words ‘W Nineth St’ on them in stead of ‘W Ninth St.’
Three of the neighbors in particular are perturbed because they are accomplished spellers, finishing 2nd as a Northfield Rotary team in the Friends of the Northfield Public Library Spelling Bee in 2007. NSWNA neighbors Jeb Flufkin, Ricky Coldman, and Mitch ‘Penny’ Lane say that its not just the image of the neighborhood that’s at stake.
"Northfield is known for it’s educational values and the value of our homes in the neighborhood are likely to be negatively effected the longer that we have to live under this cloud of misspelling," said Flufkin. "My stomache just churns when I drive down the street every day and see those signs."
The group has retained the services of Northfield attorney Dave Hviscerate. "This is yet another sign of the incompetence at City Hall, and their intransigence is unconscionable. How hard or expensive could it be to change four signs? These people have suffered enough. Residents of 9th St. east of Division don’t have to put up with this embarrassment. Neither should those west of Division."
Ward 4 Councilor Jesse Anderson Black declined to comment on the suit but Public Works Director and City Engineer Jose Staphylo said it was with out merit. "We know their misspelt and we plan to fix them. But its not cheap. We tentatively have it in the department budget for 2014. Its not like people will be unable to navigate the neighborhood in the meantime."
Below are photos of the Ninth St. signs west of Division St.
Fast forward two years and now the opportunity of further collaboration and sharing of services may be available, depending upon the result of the fire services study. If the study indicates consolidation/collaboration is not only possible, but recommended, maybe a regional fire services director versus a public safety director is the answer. With an open position as yet undefined, that’s a possibility. Perhaps the study will suggest such collaboration would not work. The new city council will then have the opportunity to review the post, especially considering the strides the fire department has made in improving its bookkeeping and operations.
Or is having the best possible police chief more important to the City than whatever secondary fire-related role might be included with the position? Are there downsides to waiting 4 months or longer to having a permanent police chief?
Members of the Park and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) skatepark met with the Northfield City Council last night in a work session to discuss the recommendation to permanently locate the skatepark at Riverside Park and to contribute $30,000 towards its construction (concrete).
PRAB members Neil Lutsky and David Hvistendahl presented the details of their report which was approved earlier this month by the PRAB. Chair Nathan Knutson was there to make sure they didn’t screw up. Member Grace Clark presented her dissenting view that the skatepark should be located in Babcock Park.
I was pleased with the thoroughness of the discussion last night and if I was on the council, I’d vote to accept the PRAB’s recommendation.
‘The Davids’ (David DeLong and David Ludescher) will be joining the Northfield City Council in January. Every time I hear the phrase, it seems to indicate some anxiety on the part of the speaker, given that both men have a reputation for not always practicing Minnesota Nice in the arena of public affairs.
I like plain speaking but I’m hoping that both Davids will consider the how of governing, not just the what, once they begin serving. We elected them to get things done and in the world of politics, that requires developing and maintaining relationships.
(If you were a movie-goer in 1966, the title of my blog post will likely strike a chord. See this Wikipedia entry if you’re curious.)
Northfield Mayor-elect Dana Graham stopped by my corner office stand-up table at the Spur this morning. He’d finally gotten some sleep after being up all night for the election on Tuesday so he was more than marginally coherent.
Lately I’ve been sermonizinglecturingbrow-beating suggesting to him and a few other city officials that the time is ripe for using a variety of online tools to ramp up citizen engagement. The City’s new website will launch early next year but the technology by itself won’t automatically make citizen engagement happen.
So I proposed a few different ways that he could do a "Q&A with the Mayor-elect" here on LoGro and he opted for a live, one-hour text chat.
Here’s the FAQ:
WHEN IS IT? Monday, Nov. 12, 8-9 pm.
WHERE? Right here in this LoGro blog post. I’ll move it to the top of the page on Monday so it’ll be easy to find.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PARTICIPATE? If you’re reading this on an internet-connected device, you’ll need nothing beyond what you’re using now.
HOW DO I PARTICIPATE? Just type your comments or questions in the text box. I’ll select the ones that I think are best for Dana to respond to.
WHAT?! HE MIGHT NOT EVEN SEE MY QUESTION OR COMMENT? Correct. I’m the emperor moderator.
WHAT IF I CAN’T ATTEND? You can submit a comment or question ahead of time. Attach it to this blog post just like any comment. I’ll archive a transcript of the chat here so after it’s all over, you can read what happened at your leisure.
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.
The City’s Candidate Filing page says that the “filing period for Northfield Council positions will begin on Tuesday, May 22 at 8:00 am and continue through Tuesday, June 5 at 5:00 pm in the City Clerk’s office. The filing fee is $5.00.”
In a Dec. 28 letter, 27 of the department’s 32 firefighters asked that the City Council schedule a work session “to discuss improvement to the road map for the Fire Department, specifically the selection or election of the fire chief and appointment of officers and the new fire hall.”
Northfield Fire Chief Gerry Franek said last week that he believes a meeting with the council will alleviate some of the firefighters’ concerns. In meetings with the city’s administrator and public safety director, who oversees the Fire Department, several firefighters have voiced their unhappiness with proposed changes the city plans to make when choosing a fire chief…
The mayor also prefers to honor the established chain of command, and continue communicating through the city’ administrator, public safety director and fire chief.
It’s an odd request for nearly an entire department (27 people) to want to meet directly with the City Council, seemingly without the involvement of their supervisor, in this case, Public Safety Director Mark Taylor. Imagine if all the public works employees made a similar request, going around their supervisor. Something’s amiss here and I don’t understand what it is.
A discussion about how Northfield should go about redistricting took a left turn Tuesday as the city council approved a proposal to do away with its four wards and elect all its councilors at-large… “I don’t think we have a need for wards at all,” said Patrick Ganey, who represents Ward Four. “I feel we could do a much better job with at-large representatives.”
Councilors Suzie Nakasian and Erica Zweifel said their positions as ward representatives foster relationships between council member and residents. Rhonda Pownell, who at one time suggested doing away with wards, said she’s since changed her mind, agreeing with Nakasian and Zweifel, saying that electing councilors only at-large eliminates the personal connection residents can have with their ward rep.
Having discussions about eliminating wards while considering redistricting irritated Nakasian, who said parallel discussions would be “prejudicial;” Zweifel added that they would “feel disingenuous.”
Ganey defended his proposal, saying that the time and energy needed to redivide the city into voting wards is too great and that the city isn’t large enough to have sections of town with similar issues. “I’d like to avoid the redistricting process,” he said.
Anyone know if Rossing, Buckheit or Imm weighed in on the issue with their rationale for supporting Ganey’s position?
I’m undecided about whether 1) wards for a city the size of Northfield make sense and 2) if this is a good time to consider the issue. See Northfield’s Ward and Precinct map (PDF) and chime in.
Randy Jennings has a guest column in yesterday’s Nfld News titled What is economic development? Yawn? Nosiree. It is a benign title for a hard-hitting piece. (I assume the headline was crafted by the editorial staff at the paper, hence my use of the word ‘excoriates’ in the blog post title. It essentially means ‘kicks the ass of’ but you can look it up.)
With its takeover of the Economic Development Authority and the resignation of yet another member of the city’s professional staff, the city council has completed its dismantling of Northfield’s economic development, community development and city planning efforts…
Since then, the city council has new members with their own agendas and priorities. Community re-engineering ideas with clever names like “green steps,” “strong towns” and “complete streets” get attention. Job creation and tax base expansion do not…
Several current council members are actively opposed to commercial and industrial development. They spent more than a year angling to take control of the EDA without advancing a single idea about job creation or tax base expansion. They are instead funding specific organizations and activities that enhance their definitions of quality of life in Northfield. No impact on attracting jobs or expanding the tax base. Not economic development…
Perhaps the next election will serve as a referendum on what kind of a future Northfield would like to develop: more quality of life re-engineering, or more jobs and an expanded tax base…
I’m not well-informed on matters of economic development but I’m more supportive of the direction the current City Council has taken. Two large Northfield employers, Monster Games and Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting, were featured in the Northfield Community Video project for which Randy was hired to be the Project Coordinator by the EDA. If you watch the videos that feature their owners (here and here), you’ll see that they attribute their location of their businesses in Northfield in large part to the very things that Randy criticizes in his column: Northfield’s vibrant downtown and overall quality of life.
So let’s talk Northfield economic development: the good, the bad, the ugly.
I am writing to you not as executive director of the NDDC but as a citizen of Northfield. It is on a subject about which I have very strong beliefs.
Northfield’s economy is driven by knowledge workers, the "creative class", or economic innovators. These individuals, businesses, and institutions "export" their information-based products and services around the country and the world. Their clients and customers reflect the diversity our our country and our world. In addition, our economic future is based on our community’s ability to continue to attract and retain these people and these organizations. Northfield must be safe and welcoming to all people.
Working with a small group of Northfield citizens, I have drafted a statement (which I have attached) that I hope the Council will adopt for MLK Day 2012. For many Americans, Dr. King has come to symbolize the on-going struggle for human rights. I thought adopting the statement for his birthday was a way of honoring his work.
I have only managed to share this idea with a dozen or so people. I plan to come to the January 3rd City Council meeting to ask for Council adoption of the statement. I may be alone or I may be joined by others.
Thank you for considering my request and thank you for all you do for Northfield,
The Northfield City Council invites persons interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy on the Council created by Councilor Kris Vohs’ resignation, to submit an application to the City Clerk no later than 5 p.m. on November 29, 2011. The term of the appointment will be January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012. Additional information can be found in the attached press release and attached application packet.
On a number of occasions during my tenure as Mayor I have felt the need to address the Council publicly, and to remind my colleagues that in order to be be effective in our jobs it is important that we maintain a level of protocol and respect in our deliberations. This is expressed in how we speak to each other, to the public or to our City Staff. In recent weeks I have personally observed, and have had it pointed out to me by various members of our community that it appears that it has become acceptable for staff to be discredited and put down in public.
That is not right and it should not be acceptable in these Chambers. That is not to say that we must agree with staff opinions or with their recommendations or that we cannot question the basis for such opinions. But when they speak from their position as professionals, they must be respected.
Councilors Kris Vohs and Rhonda Pownell are quoted in the article as also being unhappy with the tenor at times at meetings and elsewhere. No word from the others:
Councilors Betsey Buckheit and Suzie Nakasian declined to comment for this story. Councilors Patrick Ganey and Erica Zweifel could not be reached for comment.
Since I’m someone often accused of having a bug up his ass about the importance of civility in conversations, I’m interested in this issue. But neither the article nor Rossing’s statement mention any specifics, so it’s hard to know what’s going on. Sometimes when people are critical of others, that’s seen as automatic disrespect, whereas I believe that public criticism can be done in a way that’s respectful.
Can anyone who’s been at Council meetings lately or who has watched the proceedings via cable TV or live streaming cite some interactions that might be examples of disrespect towards city staff by councilors?
The Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition is a cooperative effort that began in 2009 through the work of Fresh Energy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Transit for Livable Communities. The coalition “seeks to improve and ensure access to safe travel choices for Minnesotans” by encouraging cities to build their roads with all users in mind, not just cars.
For a street to be "complete," it must take into account what types of transportation the road is used for, how heavy the traffic is and what the surrounding area is like. Along with attending to the needs of road users, the coalition urges cities to make wise environmental choices during construction projects.
On Monday, an alert citizen used his cell phone camera to capture this photo of a truck parked improperly in front of the Goodbye Blue Monday. He used the Tell the City form on the City of Northfield’s website to report the problem.
This is a PDF of Northfield City Councilor Kris Vohs’ letter to his fellow councilors last week. In it, he addresses issues related to:
Inaccuracy of information from citizens
Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code
Business Park Master Plan
The short paragraph at the end addresses his concerns about council relationships:
Bulling [sic] is a big focus among young people now. I don’t think it’s a council we are doing a very good job in this area. We have bordered on bulling at some of our meetings. We call it disrespect and we are setting an example for our young people. This is my opinion.
Vohs, who holds one of the council’s two at-large seats, says that the stress caused by the regular battles between council members is wearing thin and that if they don’t abate he’ll call it quits. “It’s just not worth it,” Vohs said on Thursday after issuing an open letter to his fellow council members.
Vohs said he would have preferred to speak publicly, but recent agenda changes gave him no forum. Now in his third term, Vohs said this council — out of all he has been part of — is the “hardest to work with.” And, he added, “They just don’t like each other.”
Vohs’ vague statement about bullying in a letter and then detailed critical comments to a newspaper reporter seem to me to be a very poor approach to trying to solve relationship problems.
Whether or not his complaints are justified/accurate, why wouldn’t he bring this up at the end of a council meeting? Why not call individual councilors on the phone or meet with them 1 to 1?
In this economic climate, I don’t understand why the Council doesn’t want the public to weigh in on such an important decision. Getting it built a little sooner hardly seems reason enough. I’m not the only one. See this Nov. 19 Northfield News editorial:
Now that the Northfield City Council has agreed on the scope and cost of a new Safety Center, we want to reiterate our belief that the question of how to fund the facility needs to go before the voters… There’s little doubt that the police and fire departments need a new facility, one out of the flood plain that will allow their staffs to work more effectively and efficiently. But we believe those shouldering the burden need to decide if the added cost is a payment they’re willing to make.
For those of us taxpayers who object, we can gather signatures to try to reverse the council’s financing decision, forcing the Council to put it before the voters in November. The City’s website says:
A reverse referendum petition must be signed by voters equal to five percent of the votes cast in the city in the last general election and is filed with the City Clerk within 30 days after the public hearing. Should the decision be made to issue CIP bonds and should a reverse referendum petition succeed, the question would be put to the voters in the fall general election.
Even brief exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to the body, damaging cells and inflaming tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report on tobacco, the first such report in four years.
While the report, out today, focuses on the medical effects of smoke on the body, it also sheds light on why cigarettes are so addictive: They are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and more efficiently than cigarettes did decades ago.
Unlike (many? most? all?) municipal liquor stores in the Twin Cities area, the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store continues to sell cigarettes, hundreds of dollars worth every month, for an annual profit of aboutf $5,000/year.
In early June, the Northfield City Council published its Strategic Direction for 2010 (5-page PDF). Strategic Direction 1 of 3 was: "Continuously improving communication with staff, citizen advisory groups and community."
Let’s take a closer look to see how the Council is doing on these with one month to go.
Goal #1: Develop and implement a communication plan for 2010 Council Goals.
1.1.1 Establish Council Goals.
1.1.2 Communicate Council Goals to staff.
1.1.3 Communicate Council Goals to citizen advisory groups.
1.1.4 Communicate Council Goals to public.
Goal #2 Develop and implement a plan for sustainable citizen communication.
1.2.1 Complete laser fiche project.
1.2.2 Update city website/sustain and improve city website.
1.2.3 Add council pages to website (info, liaisons, map of ward, area of interest).
1.2.4 Consider including social media as part of communications plans.
1.2.5 Establish face-to-face communication plan.
1.2.6 Evaluate cable broadcast.
1.2.7 Consider live streaming.
1.2.8 Maximize print/traditional media use.
Goal #3 Involve citizens/groups in work of the City
1.3.1 Establish book of projects format and approval process.
1.3.2 Establish adopt a park procedure and oversight.
Helen Albers: A big Tree Hug to all of our town tree-lovers! With thanks to all who have responded to express their appreciation of trees! Happy Holidays! Helen Albers
Beth Kallestad: Thank you Helen for your tree planting and reminding us of the need to protect those trees!
John S. Thomas: It truly is a beautiful tree. I am still “sick” of the way the trees on Fourth Street look. It will be MANY years before they mature… and I hope they do!
Marsha Kitchel: What a lovely photo of Helen Albers, beautiful in red, hugging her red maple. Hold on for dear life if “new and improved” means touching this gorgeous tree or any of the trees on Bridge Square. Northfielders would be...
Griff Wigley: Northfield City Engineer Joe Stapf sent me these photos today of the repairs to Armstrong Road and the adjacent Mill Towns Trail. Joe wrote: The trail paving is complete (still being rolled so not yet open), and the roadway is...
Doug Peterson: Hi Griff, After reading Jan Hill’s reply, I realize my mis-understanding on “riding the rails”. You got me. Can I blame that on getting old?
Jan Hill: I knew this was a send-up, Griff, having investigated possible routes ourselves (and knowing you!) But I thought for sure the cyclist on the rail was a fake–until I watched the video. Now that’s scary.
Griff Wigley: Nick, I’ve heard from another Northfielder on this who wrote via email: The part where you suggest that riders go on to the active rail line does not make good common sense to me. I have worked on the railroad as a head...
Nick Benson: Your non-pussy readers should note that trespassing on railroad tracks, as shown there, is both dangerous and illegal; trains can be surprisingly quiet when approaching on smooth welded rail like that, which doesn’t...
Ross Currier: I just walked through Bridge Square and ALL THREE of the tables were occupied. It didn’t look like they were playing chess, though, more like eating lunch… …and what a day for it, in beautiful downtown Northfield,...
Griff Wigley: The three picnic tables were installed last week. Each has an inlaid backgammon and chess/checkerboard. I’ve added photos to the blog post above.
Griff Wigley: Joe, thanks for that explanation. And if your eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. Gentilini, is still around, I think she might approve of your communications style.
kiffi summa: Joe or Mr. Stapf… Thanks for the explanation; I think its/they’re great, and long overdue… I just didn’t want anything to put off the Bridge Square redesign implementation … and often it’s...
Joe Stapf: Ah-h-h-h, yes, The Gaming Tables… Question #1) Who authorized them!!!??? I did. The picnic tables (if you recall, a trial) were deemed by me to have been a success. We received absolutely 100%, pure, unadulterated positive feedback...
Griff Wigley: Two new parking-related blog posts: A bicycle field trip with Dale Gehring to get smarter about ‘making the connections’ http://northfielddowntownparki ng.org/2013/08/30/a-bicycle-fi eld-trip-with-dale-gehring-...
Griff Wigley: New blog post: Proposed layout of directional and way-finding signs for public parking
Griff Wigley: New blog post: Washington St. lot restriped to optimize parking spaces
Griff Wigley: Blog post update: recommended downtown parking management action steps for Aug. 13 Council work session
Griff Wigley: Blog post update: July 31 parking management planning meeting at City Hall
Griff Wigley: There is a Prayer Walk for the Northfield School District today, 4-8 pm: By Maria KayLynn Olson and Kiersten-Kiwi Williams Bielenberg Schedule: 4:00-4:25 Prairie Creek 4:30-4:55 Arcadia 5:00-5:25 Greenvale 5:30-5:55 Sibley 6:00-6:25...
Griff Wigley: Hi Marie, thanks for asking. I’ll contact you via email.
Marie Wright: I’d like to use this photo on my website. My theme is vintage Main Street USA. I feel that I need your permission to copy this photo and use it. (Julia Rose Grey is my pen name for my genre of novels.)
Griff Wigley: Dave, I like the two-prong attack, too. Can you let us know when the short-term task force is due to meet? I’d like to attend, and I’m sure some of the neighbors would as well. And make sure that pizza with mushroom...
Griff Wigley: Nfld News article on Tuesday’s Council action on this issue: Subcommittee to explore fixes for tax-forfeited land acquired by Northfield During heavy rain, water has overtaken the yards and basements of Karen Moldenhauer and...
David DeLong: Griff, I’m told there’s over 50,000 cubic yards of dirt in the pile which translates to over 2,500 dump truck loads. I think there’s enough to go around. The problem is moving all that over residential streets, if we sell it or...
Griff Wigley: At last night’s meeting, the City Council opted to A) form a 4-week task force of 3 council members plus engineering staff and citizens to deal with the runoff problem in the neighborhood; and B) ask the Parks & Rec...
kiffi summa: good to know, Griff… I trust that you’re correct about the amount of dirt needed for the create of a bike park. Maybe if there’s so much more than needed, a berm could be created between the park and the houses, if...
Nancy Averill: Ah KDWB. THE best radio station ever. We had the KDW-Beatles. We had the KDW-Beach Boys. We were color radio. We had leaky billboards. I maintain that Professor James Francis Patrick O’Neill is the very basis of my humor. We...
Griff Wigley: Paul/George, they reopened the old culvert and put in a new larger secondary one. I’ll try to get photos.
Griff Wigley: Thanks everyone for your kind comments about the photos. I’ve added a few of downtown to the blog post above. See Rob Hardy’s comprehensive listing of links related to the flooding on Northfield.org.