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.
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
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.)
Tracy Davis, former queen of the Locally Grown Triumvirate, now has her own radio show on KYMN called Think Twice, ‘Ideas and Insight for a Vibrant Community,’ airing Wednesdays at 6 PM. (She also has a Think Twice show page on her City Commons blog site.)
This week, she invited me and Ross Currier as guests, talking about the City issues. (Apologies for the crappy smartphone photos.) I had fun and I’m guessing that we were marginally adequate in pumping up her audience numbers.
See the Episode #6 show notes and MP3 here.
Historical note: the Locally Grown Northfield radio show/podcast ran from early 2006 to mid-2010. You can still listen to all 189 episodes.
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.
I first blogged about the New Moon Trio back in December of 2008 shortly after they formed the group.
I took the photos below of the band members (Ross Currier, bass; Lance Heisler, drums; Justin London, guitar) last night at the Contented Cow.
Their physical deterioration is evident. They continue to age like a fine wine.
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:
Ross Currier has sent this to City of Northfield Mayor Mary Rossing and other members of the City Council.
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,
I put on my treasured Xmas tree balls hat this morning at the GBM, as NDDC ED Ross Currier and I are in full promo mode for tomorrow night’s big event:
Trailer Trash brings their celebrated holiday show, A Trashy Little Christmas, to the Grand Event Center here in Northfield. Details here.
VitaMN’s Dec. 8 Naughty Holidays blurb:
Honky-tonk band Trailer Trash has drawn sell-out crowds for nearly 20 years with its debaucherous “Trashy Little Xmas” show at Lee’s. These guys are the real deal — the band’s first collection of Christmas covers, 1996′s “Hell, It’s X-mas,” remains one of the best local holiday albums of all time. For the show, revel in the band’s revamped classic and not-so-classic holiday tunes, from Clarence Carter’s “Backdoor Santa” to Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (along with a few originals), and get into the spirit by coming dressed as Santa, Mrs. Claus, or one of their elves.
Yesterday afternoon, Megan Allen Tsui, Executive Director of the Northfield Enterprise Center (NEC), convened a meeting of possible stakeholders and other people interested in creating a coworking/incubator/accelerator space in Northfield (background blog post here). We met in a conference room at the Neuger Communications Group.
Other attendees: Ross Currier (NDDC), Tami Enfield, Rick Estenson (First National Bank Northfield, NEC, Chamber), Kathy Feldbrugge (Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce), Jody Gunderson (City of Northfield), Beth Kallestad (CRWP), Julie Kildahl, Dave Neuger (Neuger Communications Group, Chamber), Rhonda Pownell (Northfield City Council), Donna Rae Scheffert, Mary Schmelzer (Northfield Enterprise Center), Justin Volling (St. Olaf student), and Erica Zweifel (Northfield City Council).
Tentative next steps include a community awareness meeting in January, as well as a couple of coworking jellies.
After the meeting, I attended an event at CoCo MSP’s new space in the Grain Exchange Building in downtown Minneapolis.
Here are some photos of what it now looks like, with its:
large event space;
and dedicated desk and ‘campsite’ spaces.
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.
Ever since his daughter Athena’s comic strip about his anatomical nickname as a kid, Ross Currier has been using his physical attributes to advertise various causes.
This morning it was his Duluth Does Dylan t-shirt which he was using to promote tonight’s Dylan Fest at the Contented Cow, celebrating Bob’s 70th birthday today:
More than 20 Northfield area musicians will perform songs from Dylan’s legendary catalogue in a five hour concert on The Contented Cow’s popular outdoor stage.
I’ve obtained the performance schedule. Ross’ band, the New Moon Trio, performs at 7:40.
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.
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.
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.