City Council elections, 1998

An online forum featuring the Northfield City Council races ran from Wednesday, Oct. 21 through Tuesday, Oct. 27 in the NCO Web Cafe, Topic 53 of the Government conference. A lightly edited transcript is below. For more information on the project, contact Jane McWilliams, Election ’98 Online coordinator at , or forum moderator Griff Wigley at Election `98 Online was funded in part by a grant from the Martin Foundation.

Government.53.13: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 20 Oct 1998 22:53:03 CDT (7 lines)
I attended the LWV-sponsored City Council forum at the UCC tonight. It looks like we’ll have both Ward 1 candidates, David Koenig and David Ludescher participating here. At-large candidates partipcating will be Phil Zrimsek, Sean Allen, and possibly Galen Malecha.

This forum will be open for audience participation right from the start… and you don’t have to ask for posting priveleges.

Government.53.14: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 20 Oct 1998 22:54:30 CDT (20 lines)
City Council candidates, thanks much for being willing to participate in this forum, even though most of you are somewhat new to this medium and in the last month of your campaigns.

Normally, you speak to an audience about your own positions or one another’s positions. Here, however, I’d like you to challenge and question one another directly as if you were talking across the table from each other at a local coffeehouse. It’s a debate but it’s conversational — sustained exchanges between you that get at some of the complexities of the issues involved.

The ground rules for everyone, both candidates and audience members alike: address each other directly using first names; no sarcasm or condescending tone.

Tips for everyone: write conversationally, not via canned position statements that read like a memo or press release. Keep it short; a screenful or less is usually best. Otherwise, audience eyes glaze over and it starts to feel like a speech instead of conversation or a debate.

Government.53.15: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 20 Oct 1998 22:59:10 CDT (6 lines)
I’d like to start by asking the candidates to comment on the current relationship between the city council and the planning commission.

Galen, Victor and Sean are on the planning commission and David L and Phil are on the council. What’s working and what’s not… and what would you propose, if anything, to improve the relationship?

Government.53.16: Susan Hudson (shudson) Tue, 20 Oct 1998 23:14:56 CDT
Where do you personally stand on the Target issue?

Government.53.17: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 21 Oct 1998 06:31:02 CDT (11 lines)
Yep, ‘twould be good to have a quick “Target statement” from all the candidates. Keep it short, tho, then people can ask more specific questions.

I’d also like to point people to David Koenig’s “opening statement” in post:4 and Phil Zrimsek’s in post:6. Other candidates are welcome to post something similar. (For people on the NCO-Discuss listserv, I’ll attach below Phil and David K’s opening statements from a couple of weeks ago.)

And of course, see the various experience and position/priority statements posted on the LWV’s website at:

Government.53.4: David Koenig (dkoenig) Tue, 22 Sep 1998 08:07:46 CDT Greetings! Thank you for creating this forum. While there will be plenty of opportunities for public discussion of the important issues facing Northfield, the NCO Web Cafe will give us a unique venue to discuss issues in both a contemplative and responsive manner.

There is no doubt that the upcoming election will be about stark choices for the future of the community of Northfield. As engaged citizens, we will have to consider seriously what we value in our lives, both individually and as a community. Upon reaching conclusion, our beliefs will be measured by vote on November 3rd. That vote will help to determine the direction our governors take the city.

I am seeking election as the representative of the First Ward to the City Council. For those of you who do not know me, perhaps I can provide you with some background information:

For the past twelve years, I have worked in the financial markets. Most recently, I was the Director of Financial Risk Management for the nation’s largest issuer of private mortgage-backed securities. I left this position in May and am pursuing the development of a Northfield/Internet-based business designed to support small-town bookstores. My academic background includes a Master’s degree in Economics from Northwestern University and undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Economics from Miami University in Ohio.

I am extremely fortunate to be married to Jennifer (St. Olaf, 1987) and we are the proud owners of our dog Luther. We are also members of St. John’s Lutheran Church where I teach Sunday School and serve on the board of the St. John’s Foundation. Through the years I have been active in a variety of volunteer organizations both as a leader and as a committed assistant.

Jennifer and I feel very blessed to be living in this community. The stewardship of the gift of Northfield should be what drives all City Council decisions and should be the focus of each of the forthcoming election debates. I hope that all of the important issues facing Northfield will be discussed in deep detail here and I look forward to the debate of ideas.

Government.53.6: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Thu, 24 Sep 1998 04:18:21 CDT (46 lines)
Hello, I am Phil Zrimsek, a candidate for one of the two city council at large seats. I invite anyone to correspond with me via e-mail via regular mail (PO BOX 840, Northfield, MN 55057) or phone (645-2755 days, 663-7114 nights).

My purpose in seeking a council seat is to open city government back to the people of Northfield. I have been involved with city government as a member of the HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) since 1994. I believe that the city government has become more closed to input from the citizens each year. I have watched several major projects be proposed over the past year (NCRC, Presidential Commons, Target, Rec Center, New Hospital) and the impression I am getting is that the city government is trying to get these projects built with little or no input from the citizens. By the time neighbors and the town as a whole are informed about a project, the project seems too far developed to be backtracked. The various government officials (staff and council members) become very defensive when questions are asked.

I am not against any project listed above (with the exception of Presidential Commons) but I am not gung-ho for any of them either. I think questions need to be asked and answered before an informed decision can be made. I believe Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAW) should be done for each and every major project undertaken with city funds. As a council member I would invite all citizens to tell me their feelings about any major project, whether they are affected neighbors or just concerned townsfolk. When i make a decision I try to hold off judgment until I have received all critical information. case in point, Target, it is too complex an issue to simply state, “If we don’t get it Dundas will.” or to state, “We cannot afford to lose that type of tax revenue.”

It is not a foregone conclusion that either Dundas is interested in Target or Target is interested in Dundas. Likewise, we have not seen spread sheets showing tax revenue vs city expenses for a Target. Nor have we seen an impact statement on what Target may do to downtown businesses and how that might affect the property values of downtown Northfield. It is immensely complicated. I am not against Target (I shop Target in Owatonna, Burnsville and Apple valley) but in my mind, i have not been convinced Target is the right fit for Northfield.

Anyway, i appreciate discourse on any and all issues and I am more interested in hearing citizens opinions than spouting my own. If elected I would try to listen to constituents and vote with their needs in mind–not my own.

Government.53.18: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Wed, 21 Oct 1998 09:19:43 CDT (25 lines)
Target sure seems to be the hot topic, I think we answered about 20 Target questions yesterday at the three candidates forums. But it certainly worth posting here as well.

Personally, i have waffled on the target issue. Initially I was a bit excited about the prospect of shopping Target without driving 30 miles. However, upon further reflection i decided that Target is not about my needs and wants, but about how it will affect Northfield over say the next 20 years. I have listened to a lot of what David Koenig’s research has shown. Right now, David is really the only voice that relies on facts not sentiments and emotions.

So far David’s research shows that Target will likely have a negetive overall impact on Northfield’s standard of living as defined by tax rates (the research shows that our taxes would likely go up rather than what our intuitive thinking might lead us to believe) and it shows that we would likely lose more downtown businesses and finally it is a given, i think, that our present transportation plan does not come close to meeting the needs of a Target Mall. There may be other facts available to debunk these findings by David, if so I would listen with an open mind.

I have only heard one convincing side of the argument. I would invite Target’s advocates to do as much research as David and show us how Target will benefit Northfield–until that time I will remain on the fence with a leaning towards not accepting the target proposal at this time. Remember they are the developers, they are seeking to change Northfield in a very fundamental way–therefore, it is their responsibility to show how the benefits outweigh the negetives.

Government.53.19: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Wed, 21 Oct 1998 09:27:28
A response to Griff’s question about the tension between the city council and the planning commission.

Let me say that I am dismayed at the council. The planning commission members are volunteers who try to preserve Northfield as a “special place”. They are not paid for their time, yet they have worked long hard hours on both Target and the transportation plan. As I understand the present situation– the city has demanded that the planning commission work out a plan to change the comprehensive plan regarding “big box” development, specifically as it relates to the proposed area just south of town.

The planning commission is struggling with that request, has held public hearings and is seriously considering what its proper role is. As I understand it, the city council is now frustrated with the planning commisssion because they are not acting quickly enough on orders. last night I stated in the League of Women Voters Forum that I believe we are putting the cart before the horse. It seems to me we need to have the fundamental debate about the cost/benefits of Target and whether we want target before we start to amend the comprehensive plan.

David Ludescher last night stated that we have to have a proposal to amend the comprehensive plan before we can debate Target–I quite frankly do not understand this logic. If I can be enlightened please help me. At this point I support the hard work of the planning commission and I hope the city council allows them to do their job as dedicated members of an important advisory committee without mandating to them what the council believes their job to be.

Government.53.20: David Koenig (dkoenig) Wed, 21 Oct 1998 12:28:29
Greetings Susan!

Phil, you and I have had a good chance to talk about the issues facing the city and I appreciate your reference to the research I’ve been conducting. There is no doubt that the proposed introduction of a big box retailer into our immediate area is an important issue for study.

Since the day I first read about this proposal, I was concerned. I spent the first 18 years of my life in a town roughly the size of Northfield, 45 minutes from a major metropolitan area (Chicago) and anchored on one end of town by a Lutheran College. That town had a vibrant and somewhat historic downtown that was damaged by the introduction of a big box mall. The similarities to the current situation in Northfield are a bit too familiar. Nevertheless, such observations and anecdotal evidence are not enough to rely upon when considering whether the same thing might occur here.

We do hear a lot of *I think*, *I believe* and/or *I´m sure that* when people express their viewpoints about what the impact will be. The truth is that we just don´t know with certainty. Even exhaustive research will only help us to change those statements to *It is likely that*. But having evidence that suggests a likely outcome is far better than to come to a conclusion that relies only on our gut feelings or, even worse, our desires. This is especially true when the evidence appears to be overwhelming.

In the next post, I´ll list the research pieces I have read so that you can see the sampling that I have used. (Griff, I´ll attempt to hide the post so as not to use up too much screen space). In addition to that which I have uncovered, I have also asked for research from proponents (EDA, Mayor Rossman, Scott Neal), but have not received any to-date. I´m happy to add to my reading list, though, should it materialize.

In short (I know it´s too late for that!), there are five major arguments made in support of projects like this one and the research shows that these arguments are strikingly consistent every time a big box retail mall is proposed. I´ll only address one in this post and will state the others. As time permits, I´ll try to address them in subsequent posts.

First: A big-box mall will add convenient shopping to a town´s mix.

This is one that research cannot answer because it will be a determination that each of us will have to make individually. Not needing to travel to Apple Valley will have high value to some. To others that don’t shop there often, it won´t matter. It is important, though, that we note that such convenience will come at a cost.

The nature of a mall is that it will attract a large amount of traffic. Based on the estimates in the EAW for this project, the traffic everyday will be slightly greater than that experienced during Defeat of Jesse James Days. This will occur every weekday and will be higher on weekends. At Christmas time, I don´t know what to expect.

Again, using the data from the EAW, when the remainder of the land near the current proposal is developed (land that was described by Target´s developer as *virgin land*), there will be an estimated 41,000 car trips per weekday. This is roughly 8 times the average daily traffic currently experienced on Hwy 3 south of town.

Will this add convenience? First, consider the number of times that you might travel to Apple Valley in a year and the time that it takes you to get there and back. Multiply these two numbers. Then, subtract the incremental increase in travel time that an additional 20,000 to 40,000 cars per day will cause for each of your trips in and about Northfield. Let’s say that you travel to Apple Valley every other weekend and that you spend 1 1/2 hours in the car on each trip. This means that you will spend 2,340 minutes each year traveling to and from Apple Valley. Now suppose that you make 3 trips per day in Northfield. If those trips now take 2 minutes longer because of additional traffic, it´s basically a break-even from a time standpoint. Does it take 2 minutes longer to get places during Defeat of Jesse James Days?

This point of contention is hardly enough to force one to conclude that a big box mall will be bad for Northfield. I only begin with it to illustrate the point that we have to go beyond the surface of the issue and look at secondary and tertiary impacts.

Griff, I’m sorry for this long post. I promise that it will end soon!

The other points made in support are generally:

1. This will bring jobs to Northfield.
2. This will add to our tax base, softening the load on homeowners.
3. There will be spillover traffic into our downtown, helping local merchants.
4. This will allow Northfield to recapture dollars being spent currently being spent outside of our town.

I’ll address each one as we move along.

Government.53.22: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 21 Oct 1998 14:47:27 CDT (3 lines)
Hidden post:21 is David K’s Bibliography of Research on Big Box Malls.
Thanks for posting that, David.

Government.53.23: David Koenig (dkoenig) Wed, 21 Oct 1998 21:01:21
I just got back from an interesting meeting with a group of downtown building owners and merchants. They are quite interested in organizing to promote activities in that area and in proactively developing a plan for improvement. This is quite consistent with both our town’s vision statement and the EDA’s four cornerstones (retaining money, strengthening existing businesses, building local enterprise and adding compatible new businesses).

Phil Zrmsek was there and Victor Summa had been at a prior meeting of the group. I believe that both are supportive of downtown investment as a priority in our city’s plan. It’s the first bullet point on my flyer, so I too am in agreement and would support a public/private partnership for this. (Also, you can see my thoughts at the following web site:

Would anyone care to discuss?

Government.53.24: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 06:20:57 CDT (12 lines)
David K, did you get a sense of whether the downtown business owners who attended that meeting have a position on Target?

I find it interesting that the downtown business owners feel the need to establish their own organization — that evidently the Chamber of Commerce and the EDA are not seen as organizations that can do what they feel needs to be done. I’d be interesed in candidates’ thoughts about this.

Phil, thanks for your frank appraisal of the current state of affairs between the council and the planning commission. Can the other candidates comment on Phil’s comments?

Government.53.25: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 09:08:20
Generally speaking, the downtown business owners (both buildings and stores) do not want to come out as anti-Target. They are not looking to organize because of Target. What they are looking to do is to build on the current strength of downtown. Our current strengths are convenient location, easy access, beautiful buildings, beautiful river. Our weakness is that we do not have enough going on–we need more eating and entertainment establishments, more places to hang out, more places to park and a little more something to get people downtown.

Several people pointed to Boulder CO as an example of a rejuvinated downtown–obviously Boulder is much larger than Northfield–but the similarities are there when you consider Boulder is a high tech college town in a beautiful location. The downtown businesses are looking to start with small manageable projects and build on success. The downtown businesses look to work with both the chamber and the city to accomplish their goals. This should not be seen as an adversarial group, but as a group looking to build on Northfield’s strengths.

Government.53.26: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 11:40:52 CDT
Phil, I agree. I hope that I didn’t give the impression that this was a hostile group toward the EDA, the Target mall or the Chamber.

It was my impression that they are taking a proactive approach toward enhancing an area about which they care dearly. This is the type of initiative that should get “buy-in” and support from the city and will likely be supported by neighboring residential areas as well.

Lots of creative minds and lots of energy! I enjoyed the meeting.

Government.53.27: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 12:10:59 CDT
Griff, about the Planning Commission’s relationship with the Council:

Sean Allen stated in one of our forums that he was generally happy with the relationship. That was encouraging to hear, because the impression that has been made on me during the Target mall discussions has not been a good one.

Time and time again we see the word “planned” as a modifier to the words “growth” and “development” in city documents and on the NCO discussion sites. Our city’s Vision Statement says “We will make Northfield better by planning for, managing and controlling change.” Since our Industrial Site Analysis says that the site the Target mall developers are considering is “remarkably suited to industrial land utilization” and describes it as being far superior to the other sites they identified, we would be advised to plan to use it for light industry. We did not plan for a retail mall.

So, if we didn’t plan for the mall, shouldn’t we let our Planning Commission study the proposed change in plans quite thoroughly? I would say yes. Yet, the City Council directed the Planning Commission to “review, consider and approve new land use regulations to include a Planned Development Zone and changes in the current City land use regulations which will facilitate the proposed Target stores development project.” This is the language from Resolution 98-282 which was passed on September 21st with only David Garwood-DeLong dissenting.

Essentially, the decision was made by the City Council that the proposed mall was a good idea before the Planning Commission had given their input, before the LWV Target forum, before any cost/benefit studies were done, etc.

This doesn’t seem like a good utilization of a very capable advisory body. Phil is correct. They volunteered to help the community plan for a future that keeps Northfield a “special place”. Let’s let them do their job and honor their effort by paying careful attention to their advice.

Government.53.28: David Ludescher (ludescher) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 13:04:12
Seventeen years ago, I received a computer science degree. I am amazed with the change which has happened in the industry. I fear that Bill Gates has too much power and control over our lives. However, I would not pretend to limit the rights of others to use the technology of Mr. Gates for their own personal use and agendas, much as we are doing today. Some of those same arguments apply to Northfield and Target. There are many people who are interested in having a big box retailer in Nfld. There are many who fear that the Target while change “our” lives for the worse. Target’s interest in Nfld. is fueled by the wishes (market demands) of Target shoppers in the Nfld. area, not gov’t officials seeking personal or gov’t reward.

This does not mean that the City Council should approve requests based upon solely economic factors. However, we should not ignore the fact that enough people are interested in shopping at Target that Target can be a service to those people, especially among those for whom transportation and time are critical factors (primarily middle and lower economic classes).

By beginning to draft a PDZ for the Target area, the Planning Commission can articulate and formalize those issues which the City Council needs to seriously consider in deciding upon the future of Nfld. While drafting a PDZ may be the first step in allowing a Target, it will not be the last step. The PDZ discussion will also allow the Planning Commission to address the Target issue in a structured format rather than simply debating the philosophical issue of whether a Target store wiil improve our quality of life.

We must also remember that while many of us want to retain the small town atmosphere as it is, those who would prefer a different kind of town have an equally valid point of view. That is why I prefer that we debate this issue in terms of land use planning through the planning commission, rather than through a citizen initiative or referendum.

Government.53.29: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 13:38:43 CDT (4 lines)
David K. and Phil, I’d like to hear each of your views on the ways that the Chamber of Commerce and the EDA are doing a good job for their members and constituents, and ways in which those organizations could improve. Thank you.

Government.53.30: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 13:47:10 CDT
David, I really enjoyed the forums we had on Tuesday. I have told people how much I appreciated the civility of discussion and am personally glad to have become better acquainted with you through this process.

Cheers to debate.

I need a little help with understanding the language in the resolution I cited in post:28 that says “Whereas the City Council desires to support the proposed Target store’s development on the City’s southern periphery, and” ?

Doesn’t this imply that the debate has ended according to the City Council? It says that you desire to support the mall

Government.53.31: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Thu, 22 Oct 1998 15:47:52 CDT
I’d also like a clarification by David L.’s statement in post:28 — “We must also remember that while many of us want to retain the small town atmosphere as it is, those who would prefer a different kind of town have an equally valid point of view. That is why I prefer that we debate this issue in terms of land use planning through the planning commission, rather than through a citizen initiative or referendum.”

David, this sounded contradictory to me and I’m hoping you can take the time to flesh out the thought. If the opposing points of view of Northfield’s growth are “equally valid”, how will the discussions be furthered if the issue is decided by the Planning Commission rather than said citizens?

Government.53.32: David Ludescher (ludescher) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 08:22:23 CDT
David, as I told you at the forums, those opposed to the Target development have an articulate spokesperson.

I believe the City Council has informed the Planning Commission that, as a whole, we are in favor of a Target store at the proposed location. However, we have not concluded what the size, scope, or “feel” of the project will be. I trust that the Planning Commission will come back to the City Council with their concerns, based not only on their individual preferences, but also upon the comments of the citizens.

David, I am extremely concerned with using a standard of “quality of life” as a guiding principle for gov’tal action. Arguably, those who take the opportunity to shop Target will have their quality of life improved because they may save time, money, and valuable resources (gas) by shopping in town. Shouldn’t I assume that their shopping habits are a good indication of what they believe is best for themselves?

On the less philosophical side, Nfld has suffered a steady loss of retail shopping since my arrival to town. This is not the result of Target, but is a fact of modern, small town living. Unless we recapture some of the retail market, the only retail opportunities which will be left are the small specialty stores which are becoming an increasing part of the downtown.

We should not dismiss the thought of Target before we have had a chance weigh both the pros and the cons. I encourage the Planning Commission to focus on the land use planning issues, and I would encourage the citizens to speak directly to the City Council on the other considerations.

Government.53.33: Larry DeBoer (dutch2me) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 09:09:50 CDT
David Koenig, can you give us more specifics on what you would do as an elected city official? You have been obsessively clear in this on- line forum that you totally against a Target store in Northfield, nor in any town in America from the text and tone of all your retail research studies. But this city election is not a Target vote, it is about the health and welfare of this community. I would assume from your vast economics background, both in academics and in practice, that you agree with the axiom that free enterprise in the private sector should stand on it’s own merits in the free market system and that government has no place here, other than maintaining law and order and administration of the rules such as taxes, HR, etc. Same is true for churches and private colleges. If it is a “Target Vote”, you wouldn’t have mine, nor a large majority of Ward 1, who strongly support a Target.

So, what else does David Koenig stand for? What else would you do for our taxes, our streets and sewers, our law and order and our environment to assist and welcome population growth and business enterprise? It would appear that the free market system is at work in Northfield, without government help, as evidenced by the proactive meeting of local downtown businesses this week to address the issue of the sleepy, insipd downtown area. It’s a shame that it took Target to “light the fire”. David Ludescher, in post.32 has the right attitude and clearly speaks the majority opinion. Keep it up D. Ludescher

Government.53.34: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 11:15:16 CDT
Larry, what facts are you using to make your assumption that Mr. Ludescher “clearly speaks the majority opinion”? Just curious.

Government.53.35: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 14:20:12 CDT
Larry, thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts. I have read your letter to the Northfield News about supporting Target and I am interested in your opinions as a citizen. However, why do you think the majority of Ward 1 favors Target? I have met with many people over the past month and my conclusion is that the majority of people in Ward 1 oppose Target as presently conceived. It seems likely that you and I both are operating on gut feelings. That is why I am interested to hear David K’s discussions of facts and empirical data. I have not yet made up my mind on the Target issue and I again invite the pro-Target supporters to present this forum with the same type of research and data that David K has provided. If we do not ever receive this type of information, then it seems like David K’s arguments win by default. Because sweeping generalizations do not provide the city with the information it needs to make the best decision in this matter.

Government.53.36: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 14:43:46 CDT
David L., thanks for finally weighing in on this forum. Can you explain how the Northfield City Council came to its decision to favor Target at the proposed development site. What data did you discuss. What “philosophical” points were made. Did “quality of life” enter the discussion?

Second, why are you so opposed to a quality of life analysis. Don’t we implicitly do that in every government decision. Lower taxes– why, so we provide citizens with more money so they can buy more things that raises their quality of life. New highway resurfacing– why, because we don’t like potholes because they are annoying and damage cars and damaged cars would decrease quality of life. Pro- business, why, because it leads to jobs and jobs gives people income which allows them to buy things which inreases quality of life. Tough against crime, why, because criminals take away things from citizens which decreases the citizens quality of life.

So I don’t think your argument really gets you anywhere. You seem to be trying to say that you don’t want to judge what constitutes another persons quality of life–but I bet you would not favor an adult bookstore or a strip club in downtown Northfield–why, because it would adversely affect many people’s lives, yet undoubtably some people would enjoy the strip club. Extending your argument regarding Target, the adult- entertainment purchasers should be able to pursue their prurient interests and the rest of us should allow it because we should not sit in judgment on quality of life issues. Does this make you rethink your position, David L., or am I employing faulty logic?

Government.53.37: David Koenig (dkoenig) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 17:56:33 CDT
Larry, the Target mall issue is a very important one. Scott Neal described it as one that would result in a fundamental change in direction for the City of Northfield. Pardon my obsession with thorough study of the potential for fundamental change. This is standard operating practice in most business settings. If Northfield Freezing decided to build cars as well, I assume that you would give careful consideration to the advisability of such dramatic change.

My continued postings about the scope and impact of this project are only to serve further education. A significant number of people in town still believe that this is a Target store and are quite shocked by the size of the proposal. Once they hear about traffic and the economic research, they quite often change their minds. Therefore, I would assume that a proponent of free enterprise would have no problem with the free exchange of information. Information, after all, is assumed to be perfectly available in the models of free enterprise on which you base your advocacy. Without that assumption, things get nasty.

Nevertheless, as I stated in my conclusion at the LWV forum, the mall is one of many “current” issues. What now is *many* may seem like “few” in comparison to what will be considered during a City Council Member*s term. How should you choose a candidate if not on one or all of the current issues? This takes us to philosophy and approach to decision making.

I personally believe that the free market is an incredible machine to watch in action. It has yielded many of the advances that have improved our quality of life. With the exception of outdoor farmer’s markets, the financial markets are probably the freest markets in the world. That’s where a majority of my career has been spent, so I am intimately familiar with the workings of the free market. I will tell you, that while incredible, the free market can also be quite brutal and can have some unintended consequences. Is this brutality wrong? Not necessarily, but nor is it always appropriate for every aspect of our lives.

Would you advocate that the free market determine which attorneys get to practice law? Why have a Bar Exam? As a few innocent people go to jail, a few guilty go free and a few harmed receive no compensation, the market will ultimately sort out the good from the bad. The legal profession is regulated because that protection improves our quality of life.

Does the City Council have a role to play in our lives? Remember first that our city government is you and I, so to speak, not some distant beast seeking to ruin us. Therefore, since we give life to the City Council it has a role in our lives. That role should be to provide *public goods* that cannot or are not best provided by individuals acting in the pursuit of self-interest. When information is imperfect, legislative bodies may also have a role.

Does the City Council have a role in maintaining a vital downtown? If we, as a community, claim that as being a public good, then yes. Time and time again, we have stated just that. Should it *run* the businesses in downtown? No. Should it help to foster an environment in which these businesses can thrive? Yes. If community members and business and building owners are willing to take the initiative to design changes to downtown that will enhance the performance of these businesses, our community interaction and our quality of life, the City Council should participate with financial and administrative support. If not all of these impacts are clearly positive, sound deliberation will be required.

What would I do to improve your tax situation? Manage and plan for growth that supports our tax base. Include all of the *downstream* effects of big box developments and you get a negative impact. I*m sure that your success in business has not come by subtracting from your company*s bottom line. Such a decision would be irrational, to use the economic term.

What is the cost to the city of allowing our best piece of light industrial land to be used for a retail mall? According to the Industrial Site Analysis, to bring water and sewer services to the other two available industrial sites studied would cost between $1 million and $5 million more than what it will cost at the site that the mall developers are considering. Do you advocate wasting this land on retail uses or would it be more prudent (savvy) to preserve it for light industry?

As to your comment about Target lighting the fire, I would disagree. These merchants are pursuing their goals regardless of what might happen to the South of our town. It is counterproductive to chide their effort.

Humorous note: quite by chance, Larry, your house was the first to receive one of my fliers. If you didn*t find it in your door when you got home, feel free to reference more details at my web site:

Government.53.38: Sean Allen (seanallen) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 19:45:51 CDT
I have finally had the chance to get involved in this forum. Thank you Griff for what I hope will be a thoughtfull analysis of all the issues. I look forward to answering any and all questions posed by the public as well as the candidates. This should be fun!

Government.53.39: Sean Allen (seanallen) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 19:57:25 CDT
Just to get it out of the way, I’d better comment on the Target issue. First of all, I invite everyone to the Planning Commission Public Hearing on the Comp Plan ammendment on Wednesday, Oct. 28. So far we’ve heard from many, many people who are against the Target, but I keep hearing about a silent majority who are in favor of the development. I am interested to hear both sides as I have not been given sufficient info on either side. David K., that doesn’t mean I need to see your research again. I would like info from a non-biased source, as well as Target themselves.

Frankly, I don’t think there is enough information to base a decision on yet, and I hope that we can concentrate on the many other issues that are important to the City. One I’d like to see discussed is public transportation. Again, that doesn’t mean I want to just hear what people think about public transportation as it relates to a new Target store. As I read through the postings already posted, I saw that there were so many Target related comments that I wonder if it might be wise to start a separate page for the Target issue. We all know what each other(the candidates) think about this issue, and it’s time to hear from the public.

Government.53.40: Chris Robbins (robbins) Fri, 23 Oct 1998 22:30:35 CDT
How should public officials make decisions? Sometimes I suspect that there is a hierarchy:

1. Provide for the long-term public good
2. Provide for short-term public benefit
3. Do what public opinion polls say
4. Do what your friends say
5. Do what people with money and power say
6. Do things “the way we always did it”
7. Do what is in your own personal and financial interest

The easiest thing to do is to hover somewhere around 4, 5 and 6 because that doesn’t require much information. People usually at least claim they’re striving for No. 1, and sometimes it is attained, but what does it take to do it? Any thoughts on this?

Government.53.42: David Koenig (dkoenig) Sat, 24 Oct 1998 08:09:30 CDT
Sean, my effort is only to gather information. I’m not doing any independent research, so I hope that “bias” isn’t creeping in. Most of the sources I cite are more academic or are cost/benefit studies for small towns. I think that you should know that my “bias” on the economic impact of the proposal came primarily after reading the resarch. Although, I did live in a town where the downtown died following the arrival of a big box mall, so it’s hard to put that totally aside.

The transportation issue is a good one to raise. It is linked to the mall proposal, though, in that we need to consider whether we currently have the infrastructure to support the expected traffic. This becomes especially important when we consider the coming construction work on Hwy 3 downtown.

When evaluating traffic patterns and proposals for roads, we need to consider the physical characteristics of a town that we hope to create. Do we want something more compact (which I would advocate) or do we prefer a more sprawling growth? Where and in what form you build your roads and bike/pedestrian paths will play a significant role in determining this. The current Transportation Plan looks to me like one that will foster more sprawl-like growth to our South and East. I personally would put the Bike Trail Master Plan ahead of the Transportation Plan because it will foster more community engagement and is less likely to encourage sprawl.

About a year ago, American Heritage magazine had an interesting feature on the impact of the automobile on suburban growth. They compared towns that were laid-out before the car, Boston, for example, with towns where growth was fueled, so to speak, by cheap gasoline, like Houston. Which city is more aesthetically pleasing to you? Granted, Northfield is not, nor hopefully will ever be, as large as either of the above cities, but I cite them only as contrasting images.

Des Moines is discovering that bad transportation planning led to the destruction of their downtown as a retail/entertainment center. Decades ago, they decided that it would be a good idea to build an interstate that facilitated the easy transport of people into the city. This also made it easy for them to leave the city, and that’s exactly what they did. Now, Des Moines has a western suburban ring that is sprawling with the usual fare, but downtown is really struggling.

As Chris noted in her interesting heirarchy, I’m sure that they were shooting for #1, but didn’t see the liklihood of such an unintended outcome. We can learn from this and from other experiences.

Government.53.43: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Sat, 24 Oct 1998 10:42:19
I think the post by Chris is very thought provoking and it provides me with a catalyst to explain the difference in philosophy between myself and one of my opponets (I hope I am not engaging in negetive campaigning here).

Phil Hansen stated at each of the three public forums on Tuesday that it does not matter what Phil Hansen thinks, that if he does his job correctly you will never know what Phil Hansen thinks, because he is a mouthpiece for the public. He will do what the citizens want him to do. Ok, maybe some people have misunderstood their civics lessons and figure that this is how to run a true democracy. Unfortunately, this type of governing system is doomed to failure before it begins. Why? Because it is impossible, even in a town the size of Northfield, to have a handle on public opinion. To try to achieve the type of city council representation that Phil Hanson advocates, by necessity you fall into points 4 or 5 on Chris’ hierarchy. If Phil Hansen just reflects the public’s view how exactly does he get this opinion on the public viewpoint. he gets it from friends or acquaintances. I doubt that he randomly surveys strangers. It is similar to the discussion Larry and I had a few posts back. Larry states that the majority of Ward 1 supports Target and I responded that that seemed unlikely since most of the people I talked to are at least wary of Target. How do Larry and I arrive at different conclusions–well, we have different friends and acquaintances. Therefore, if I were sitting on the city council and I used the Phil Hansen system, i would vote down Target because more of the people I know oppose Target than support Target. However, that is not the way I propose to make decisions on the city council.

As Chris pointed out most of us at least strive to look at the long term public good. However, that does need to be balanced with the short term public gains–Keynes, afterall, said “over the longhaul we’re all dead anyway” (sorry for the paraphrase, I don’t have Bartlett’s at the office). As a city council member it would be my intention to attempt to balance the long term public good with the short term public good. That means keeping the environment in mind in all development decisions and it means keeping our children and grandchildren in mind in all development decisions. Meanwhile, we have to realize that the present citizens of Northfield need a good transportation system and they have the right to expect that they can purchase basic goods and services in town.

Back to my philosophical difference with Phil Hansen. I believe in representative government. That means that the voters look at my goals, my priorities and my values as expressed in this forum, in the Northfield News and as expressed in the three candidates forums. The voters then decide if my goals and values fit with their goals and values. If I am then elected, the voters trust that I will live up to the goals and values expressed in the campaign. The voters trust that I will do the necessary homework to make informed decisions. Finally, the voters can voice their opinions to me from time to time if they feel strongly about a particular issue. I am a strong advocate for public feedback, especially at this level. However, my point is that we do not take a plebiscite on every issue that comes before the council and it is totally unrealistic for a candidate to say he is a parrot of the people. So stating automatically puts that candidate in either points 4 or 5 of Chris’ hierarchy.

Government.53.44: Larry DeBoer (dutch2me) Sat, 24 Oct 1998 11:52:34
Thanks, David for your enlightening us with more of your concerns on the land considered for retail and the alternate uses such as light industrial development. Wouldn’t it be nice if some industry was out there asking the Mayor for a place to build? We had one a few years ago, Henderson Motorcycle, but Northfield wasn’t accommodating enough and they went to Blooming Prairie. And just this year, Ryt-Way Packaging completed the final move of 450 jobs out of Northfield to Lakeville. When a high caliber business like Dayton-Hudson asked to be our neighbor, let’s accept them with open arms. But enough about Target.

When I read your campaign literature, I find words like Stewardship, Quality of Life and Community Values. All very nice. But how would we evaluate your performance on the City Council against these platitudes? Tell us how you will effect change on these platforms with some objective measurements in order to determine if progress is being made. And try to keep it short- the election is awfully close and we have much to do.

Government.53.46: David Koenig (dkoenig) Sat, 24 Oct 1998 13:56:45
Larry, valid concerns about light industry. What can I do to help?

Government.53.47: Sean Allen (seanallen) Sat, 24 Oct 1998 16:44:3
I think an issue that has been ignored thus far in our discussions both on line and at the forums is the issue of Public Transportation. I mentioned this in an aside to David K., but I think I was misunderstood. Jefferson Lines no longer services our community. I have a car, so this doesn’t affect me directly. We really need to look at Chris’ hierarchy item #1 and question whether the pulic good is being served. Many seniors don’t have access to the Twin Cities area or the airport without bus service. Carleton students used to take the Jefferson Lines bus to the airport regularly when it was in service. I know there is the Carleton/St. Olaf Coop bus that goes to the cities daily. I used to drive it. But without Jefferson Lines there isn’t an option for students who need to arrive at a specific time. There isn’t an option for seniors and people without cars.

What can we do to help these people and the public good? Our city bus service isn’t adequate. If you try to get somewhere in the morning or early evening on the transit you better not be in a hurry. In fact, they might not be able to help you. Again, this issue doesn’t affect me. But it affects people in Northfield. People who helped raise me in this town of ours. They matter. There are other issues that are important to Northfield that haven’t been raised yet. I challenge all of you to bring them up and try to come up with solutions. We have an opportunity to make Northfield a better place. By the way, the highway 3 improvements are going to be made. Really, the city has had it’s say in the matter. Let’s think about 25 years from now and what we need to have in place for traffic flow so we don’t end up with the Greenvale Ave. problem or the Woodley St. freeway. Ten years ago consultants told us what we should do. It is the same thing they are telling us now. We need to do something before it is too late. Let’s not get bogged down on the Target issue when there are so many other issues to think about.

Government.53.48: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Sat, 24 Oct 1998 23:43:51
Dave K, you have compared Northfield with the Illinois town where you grew up. Can you remember what the stores were in the downtown before the mall came? Was the business mix similar to that of today’s Northfield? It sounds like the mall has been cited as the reason for the decline of that downtown retail area. If that is the case, did people choose the mall over the downtown? Why? Was there an overabundance of retail stores in the town? If so, why didn’t the mall fail and the downtown thrive? Answers to these questions might provide some insight for us.

To all candidates: Thank you all for running for office. It is good that people are willing to commit the time and energy necessary to campaign.

Government.53.49: David Ludescher (ludescher) Sun, 25 Oct 1998 10:32:32
I have reread the issue paper presented by BRW. If we are to have a discussion regarding the Target issue, I would suggest that we the issues presented by BRW.

To David K. (and other candidates), The city staff has requested input from other similar size cities in Minnesota on Target’s impact. As I read their responses, most of the communities have positive responses to the economic impact, and further state that Target has been very willing to address issues of transportation, signage, and other concerns. Any comments?

Perhaps we should also address the issue of “institutional sprawl”. It appears to me that those who oppose “retail sprawl” should also be concerned with the NCRC, new school(s), and new hospital. Even our gov’tal institutions have found it necessary to find land with more space and better transportation systems. If you talk to the hospital administrator or school superintendent, they will tell you that would love to remain downtown, but that they cannot do so and remain viable. Why should retail development be different?

Government.53.50: David Koenig (dkoenig) Sun, 25 Oct 1998 17:34:59 CST
Nancy, I actually grew up in Indiana. Nothing against Illinois, mind you.

It was in the mid ’70s, I believe when the K-Mart mall was developed on the north edge of town. I remember that everyone was quite excited about the arrival, especially of a 6-screen movie theatre. “We’re really becoming a big town, now!” was the mentality.

As for what was in the downtown at that time, I recall Siever’s Drugs, Harvey’s department store, a jeweler, one of those beautiful old movie theaters, restaraunts, office space and a mix of other merchants. It was not too different from Northfield today, although it probably had more clothing choices (like Northfield used to).

As for why people went there instead of downtown, I believe it had to do with the same reasons people will probably go to a Target mall here. It’s easier to buy everything in one place and sometimes its cheaper.

I think that I was too young at that time to have placed any value on the relationships that could be enhanced in a common setting with local merchants and residents. I lived in an area that virtually required car transport to downtown, so I didn’t get the same type of interaction that many of us can get in transit to downtown Northfield. Therefore, I too shopped at the new mall.

Today, Harvey’s is gone, Siever’s is gone, the movie theater is gone (flattened and replaced by a drive-through ATM, no kidding), the jeweler moved to the new mall, etc. About 15 years later, the downtown started to become revitalized with more boutique-type stores. I find this interesting because both the outcome and the timeline are consistent with the research that I have read. Fortunately, our downtown didn’t go through the other cycle which is described by one researcher as the “near wipeout”. This appears to occur with more frequency than I care to imagine.

I don’t doubt that some will have their quality of life enhanced by the same factors that drove me and other residents of my birth town to shop at the new mall. Today, though, I have a much greater appreciation of the value of the interaction that takes place in our downtown and of the value that having this strong central gathering place adds to Northfield as a community. This is my hometown now and I deeply appreciate all that it does have to offer.

I hope that helps to give some insight.

Government.53.51: David Koenig (dkoenig) Sun, 25 Oct 1998 17:53:43 CST
David L, you ask some good questions. I plead guilty to verbosity in this forum, so I’ll try to be brief in response to some of them.

As for the letters from the communities in Minnesota, I look forward to reading those on Monday. A little sunshine would be nice! Do you know the source of the responses? Are they likely to be impartial in their judgements? I am hopeful that they contain some hard data in them as well, rather than just opinions. We have opinions in bundles already!

As for institutional sprawl, I guess that I don’t see that comparing retail shopping with hospitals and schools as being valid. Maybe shopping just isn’t that important to me in relation to health and education.

Based on what I have seen to-date, the Hospital proposal will yield both positive economic and quality of life benefits. I hope that the design of the campus will honor open green space and will also be comibined with a medical technology (software, etc.) business incubator. Having a campus roughly equidistant from Mayo and the U., I would think, would be a big draw. Opportunities like this give us a chance to do something better and more creatively than others. Plus there’s that expected federal financial benefit by moving just into Dakota Co. In present value terms, this makes the cost of building roughly equal to the cost of remodeling the current facility.

New schools have to be taken one at a time, but if they too meet this criteria, then we move forward. In my neighborhood, we are especially concerned about two school-related items. How will we replace the neighborhood “draw” of having a middle school next door and what will happen to the land on which Memorial Field sits, should the football stadium be moved. These are potentially big issues in the First Ward. I would hate to see the loss of open space at Memorial Field and I believe that our property prices would be affected negatively if the Middle School were not replaced with something equally attractive. I hope that the school system, the neighbors and the council will have very open communication on these issues.

Government.53.56: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 10:01:39
David L., yes we should look at institutional growth and development just as closely as commercial development. I believe the positives from a new NCRC, a new hospital and a new rec center are easier to define than that from Target. However, each new proposed development needs to pass the scrutiny of a cost/benefit analysis. My concern about the new projects are twofold: once a big building is built it cannot realistically be unbuilt; second, how do we plan to use the vacated buildings. The case in point is the Northfield Hospital. if we build a new medical campus north of town, we then have a vacated hospital in the middle of the Third Ward, we have a vacant sports medicine clinic and we have a vacant River Valley Clinic. If we go ahead with the new medical campus we need to put a concerted effort into finding uses, public or private, for the vacated buildings. I hate to think that we are on a road to build big buildings on the periphery of town only to leave big holes in the center of town.

Government.53.57: David Ludescher (ludescher) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 17:41:33
Phil, let me suggest a definite positive to most people who favor a Target – they will be to get goods cheaper, or quicker, or have a larger selection. People will shop there to meet individual needs. Those who don’t want to shop there don’t have to shop there.

Public expenditures usually require tax dollars, which must be justified by the public need or good created. Hence, public projects should generally require much greater scrutiny of public good than private projects where the economic risk on the developer.

Practically speaking, without additional private investments in industry and commerce, only the affluent will be able afford the taxes for new schools, hospitals, and rec centers.

Government.53.58: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 18:16:39
David L, it is generally true that without continued growth in industry and commercial development that taxes will go up–I think Lakeville, Eagan etc are examples where residential growth exceeds industrial growth and taxes are high. However, so far the research suggests that counter-intuitively, Target will be a tax burden not a benefit. And again we need to assess the traffic costs when deciding on Target. Does a Target mean that we will need another bridge over the Cannon and does Target really mean increased traffic such that everyday in Northfield will be like what Jessie James weekend is now. If so, we have to weigh the good brought about by convenient shopping with the costs. I am not unmindful that we all like to buy things–me included. I have never said that I do not shop Target. Personally, I would use it as much as anyone. But right now I am not convinced that my shopping at Target will allow us to build the new schools, hopitals and rec centers.

Government.53.59: Nancy Johnson (njohnson) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 20:49:34
Phil and others, I recognize that people are just trying to line up some factual type data regarding the Target issue, but sometimes the “research” begs for analysis (unfortunately – I hate to ask for more). The suggestion that Target will be a tax burden, not a benefit, is hard to believe. Have comparative costs of the downtown retail area been identified? For one, the city cost of maintaining & plowing downtown parking, both on-street and city-owned parking lots. This is just one little example of many factors, some of which are really difficult to quantify or even identify.

Regarding traffic concerns, the traffic going to and from Target in Northfield is probably offset to a certain level by the current traffic from Northfield and the surrounding area going from homes through the town to the highways leading to Apple Valley, Burnsville, Faribault, and Owatonna. For example: when I or my neighbors are going to Target in Apple Valley, we take Hwy 3 north through downtown to Greenvale Ave., then west through the residential area to Cedar Avenue. If there was a Target on Hwy 3 south of the church that is being built, well, we would be reducing traffic congestion through Northfield because we wouldn’t have to drive through town or down Greenvale Avenue.

We will see traffic coming into town with the addition of Target, such as Lonsdale to Northfield, Randolph to Northfield, etc., but this is where we have the potential to bring some benefit to existing Northfield businesses by tapping into the draw of a Target.

Northfield will keep growing. It would be helpful if collector streets would be identified and developed so that existing streets such as Woodley don’t have to keep taking a larger and larger amount of traffic. If there was a through street every 6 to 8 blocks, then none of those streets would have to be major 4-laners. I live in Bridgewater township, so I can’t even vote in the City Council race, but I am certainly affected by the decisions of Northfield City Government, so I am interested!

Government.53.60: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 21:47:05
I’d like to ask the candidates to weigh in on the Livable Communities Initiative that was adopted then unadopted by the city council during the past year.

Among the various priority statements on the LWV web site Victor Summa is the only candidate that mentions it.

What were the pros and cons of the LCI in your humble opinion and what would you do about it if elected/re-elected?

Government.53.61: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 22:02:33
1. Phil, David K and David L, can you guys comment on Sean Allen’s post:47 re: the public transportation problem?

2. Sean, David L and Phil can you comment on David K’s remarks in post:42 re: the Transportation Plan and the Trail Master plan? “The current Transportation Plan looks to me like one that will foster more sprawl-like growth to our South and East. I personally would put the Bike Trail Master Plan ahead of the Transportation Plan because it will foster more community engagement and is less likely to encourage sprawl.” – Dave K

FYI, the transcript of the Transportation forum we had here in June is at and the transcript of the forum we had in July on the Trail Master plan is at

Government.53.62: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 26 Oct 1998 22:13:38
Another non-Target topic: affordable housing. David K and David L had comments about this in last Friday’s Nfld News [BTW, on their web site, they got the name wrong (Barry Cummans) but the picture right (David L). Oops!]

David and David, can you say more about affordable housing and then critique each other’s positions? Sean and Phil, can you guys take a stab at this issue, too?

Government.53.64: David Ludescher (ludescher) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 07:46:44
Griff and others: Affordable housing – Everyone wants it. Who pays for it?

On October 27, the City Council will revisit the issue of affordable housing at their work session. David Garwood-DeLong has proposed removing the current ordinance which provides financial incentives to developers for smaller lot sizes. Hopefully, we will discuss the merits of the ordinance and means to promote affordable housing.

Developers cannot be blamed for the lack of affordable housing. After all, they will build houses that the people want to buy and which still allow them to make a profit. The current financial incentives were insufficient to entice them to create smaller lot sizes (which were suppose to create more affordable homes).

A realistic discussion of affordable housing has to begin with a discussion with those who are creating housing. While that sounds simple-minded, the real question to ask developers is, “Under what circumstances, would you create more housing which is priced below $xx,xxx?” Once we know where the break-even point is for the developer, we can ask ourselves if the City is willing to make up the difference. Perhaps we have codes or other regulations which cost a significant amount of time or money. Perhaps the approval process saps their time.

I am of the firm conviction that any attempt to reduce the home prices for the “average” Northfielder wil be ill-fated. Assuming 3,000 homes at $140,000 each, how could gov’t make any significant impact on $420,000,000 worth of homes? Also, remember that once a person owns a home, he or she has no interest in seeing the house price go down (although he or she would like to see the tax burden reduced).

Consequently, “affordable housing” must be targeted to have any real effect. Realistically, I think the City could have the greatest impact by seriously considering where would be a good location for manufactured homes. There is tremendous pressure on the lower end homes. An ample supply of manufactured homes could go a long way to relieving some pressure. I would imagine that such a development would be met with substantial opposition from any neighborhood located nearby (even those who generally favor affordable housing).

Lastly, we need to consider the possibility that there is no solution to afffordable housing in Northfield. Perhaps the market has dictated home sizes and prices. A look at the surrounding communities suggest that there is affordable housing in other towns. The reason home prices are high in Northfield may be the result of the desirability of Northfield as a community.

Government.53.65: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 08:25:36
Any thoughts from candidates on intercity transportation connecting Northfield to, say, the Twin Cities’ downtowns and the airport?

Any opinions about the recent report in the Northfield News that MnDot has been studying a rail connection between Northfield and the Twin Cities?

Are there any practical ideas for getting decent bus service between Northfield and the Twin Cities and the airport?

Government.53.66: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 09:42:33
Wow, the last day of the forum has arrived and so many great questions are being asked. I will try to answer as many as I can while taking breaks from doing my legal work.

Affordable Housing. Generally, I am in agreement with what David L. states above. However, one area I don’t think that has been looked at closely enough is how can we put some pressure on developers to build more modest homes through zoning and incentives. When we see additional housing being built, it is usually on the fringes of the city, many times the land has not yet been annexed, or the land is annexed right before development. The city does not have to annex land if it does not agree with the development plan. Therefore, if we as a city truly want to see more affordable housing, we have to be willing to fight the battle at the start of each new annexation.

However, I am not sure where we are as a city on this issue. For the past few years, the city council has had affordable housing as a goal–what has been done to build affordable housing in that time? Second, what is affordable housing. To some affordable housing is a $115,000 townhome in an project called Presidential Commons (when my wife and I bought our house–the most we could afford was $80,000). To others affordable housing is 3 or 4 bedroom apartments–not everyone has the money for a downpayment or the credit history for loan approval. Still others cannot even rent an apartment at market rate and need subsidized housing to provide shelter for their children. And yet still others like mobile homes because it provides ownership like a house, yet is cheaper (more affordable) than a house.

As a city we need to provide services for all of our citizens–not just the wealthiest. If we are to encourage new industry or commercial retail to town–those additional workers will need homes. Where will the more modest hosuing go. As David l. states, it is not likely we are going to approve another mobile home park. When the HRA has participated in building subsidized housing units–neighbors arrive at the public meetings to voice concern about their property values declining. If we are committed to growth and see expanding our industrial and commercial space we are going to need affordable housing. Where does it go. If not your backyard or my backyard, then where?

Affordable housing is a tough issue when you get beyond the general–“I’m in favor of it”, because practically speaking, it will be fought every step of the way. Even the HRA’s rehab project of the dillapidated house on Washington Street was opposed by some neighbors.

I don’t advocate putting an apartment building on Mayflower Hill, but at the same time we do not want to congregate all subsidized housing in one spot. I think the livable communities initiative tried to address these concerns. We want our citizens to have a choice, while providing the mixed housing that is needed in our community. I don’t know that the livable communities resolution should be adopted lock, stock and barrel, but I believe that our community is important enough to plan for. I am not comfortable with allowing developers to have the final vote on how Northfield will look 20 years from now. As David L. states, the devlopers are in it for the profit, as is their right. Building for profit does not necessarily mean building the town the best way it can be done. Therefore, I am back to planning for future growth and providing for that growth by zoning and incentives to developers.

Government.53.67: Bruce Morlan (morlan) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 09:52:0
David Ludescher said (in post:57), about the proposed Target mall.

“Those who don’t want to shop there don’t have
to shop there.”

This misses the point that most objections are based on a desire to keep a small-town atmosphere in Northfield, trying to keep from turning Northfield into another ‘burb. The presence of a large traffic-generating sales complex with attendant noise, congestion, and all-night lighting are what I believe most people opposed to the complex are worried about.

Government.53.69: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 13:24:18
Re: Public Transportation: I did not respond to Sean’s post (47) because I basically agree with what he had to say. We should start looking at public transportation. We are all too tied to our own automobiles. I am no excpetion–I usually drive to my office in downtown Northfield. I should be trying to ride my bike more or even walk. As for lite rail connecting Northfield with the cities–I have not read or seen anything about the report Peter refers to, but certainly we have heard rumblings on this issue for quite a while. I believe that it would be a benefit to most Northfielders, especially if linked with the airport.

The bus question is difficult–I imagine that it has something to do with supply and demand. If there was enough demand Jefferson Lines would have found another location other than the Archer House–but it seems that it really wasn’t worth the bother. It was always my impression that the bus lines mainly served the college students. If that is the case, what responsibility does the city have to provide services for the college students. While the students are counted in Northfield’s population and they can vote, they do not pay property taxes (the colleges each give a token gesture each year in lieu of taxes)–so should the remainder of Northfield subsidize a service mainly used by the college students? I would probably say no.

If the students need more transportation options, they should look to their own institutions–not the city. I don’t mean to criticize the colleges or the students in any way (I went to Carleton and my wife currently works there)–but the city cannot be all things to all people and for good or bad the colleges have always separated themselves to a certain extent from the rest of the city.

Government.53.70: David Koenig (dkoenig) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 14:02:5
I agree with Phil, lots of good questions…I’ll work on the outside to try to answer with as much brevity as possible (much laughter). In the meantime, I have published the summary of my Big Box Mall research. Please link below to the site. There is a form for feedback that you can use. This doesn’t have any fancy graphics, but hopefully will be easy enough to navigate.

Government.53.73: David Koenig (dkoenig) Wed, 28 Oct 1998 15:02:29
David L, again, I have enjoyed the opportunity to exchange ideas with you and to discuss our respective philosophies. I also appreciate the questions and interest shown by the others in this forum.

In my adult life, I have spent a great deal of time considering the role that government can/should play in a community. Again, government is you and I and everyone who participates in the election process. It is not some beast looking to ruin us. Elected government is how our community decides what is in the best interest of the community, not just the majority. This is a most important distinction that comes with living in a republic.

I’m sure that you know, it’s not always easy to make decisions that affect people other than yourself. However, this doesn’t imply that it is best to leave every decision to individual preference. To the extent that any decision made by an individual impacts the community, the community may have some say in its appropriateness.

The argument that we should all be free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, would not only imply the support for unseemly businesses in downtown (as Phil Z illustrated in post:36) but would also suggest other undesirable behavior that would need to be tolerated. For example, if someone wanted to drive 90 miles per hour through a school zone it could just be described as a personal decision. Surely you don*t advocate this. I also assume that you don*t advocate removal of the Bar Exam as I alluded to earlier. The list of restrictions on our personal freedom is surprisingly long. Yet, we still feel very free. This is testimony to the effectiveness of taking a deliberative approach to governing our community and to having checks and balances in our system.

On to the questions:

In post:57 you seem to imply that there will be no public costs for the Target mall. Could you please explain including as many downstream tax impacts (roads, services, schools, sprawl, downtown revitalization)as possible?

Is congestion not a public cost? What about pollution (noise, water, light, air)? At present, the cost of transit to Apple Valley is a personal choice. You note that those who don*t want to shop at a Target mall in Northfield wouldn’t have to. Can it be arranged so that they also don’t have to deal with the traffic and pollution or will you admit that these impacts will be felt community-wide? If so, this is a public cost and allowing it just because some people want it, or even if most people want it, doesn’t necessarily make it a good decision. Again, governing bodies like the City Council were created because of the need for some deliberative body to make decisions for the good of the community.

If net tax revenues (fully incorporating all downstream costs) are negative, can it be arranged so that only those who shop at Target will pay for them? Should there be a surcharge on purchases at that store? If not, should the government effectively subsidize shopping at Target?

The lack of affordable housing is a public cost already. We lose because we segregate ourselves from certain economic segments of our population. What dollar price this is worth is difficult, if not discomforting, to decide. Yet, again, this is why deliberative bodies are elected. They are charged with stewardship of the public good. Inclusion of a mix of income groups will help to keep our community strong. I refuse to take the attitude that nothing can be done about this issue.

Is affordable transportation to/from the airport or Twin Cities a public good. Do you want to encourage the people who use these services to go elsewhere? Carleton and St. Olaf students, for example, are a valuable addition to our community, yet they are not the only members of our community who have a need for a service like the Jefferson Lines. Would the loss of any of these members be a “cost” to our community? If hosting the Jefferson Bus is not economically viable in Northfield, then the city needs to decide whether it would be in the public interest to subsidize the hosting of a depot. Of course, the cost/benefit analysis of this would require deliberation.

Griff, I support the intent of the Livable Communities Initiative. I am concerned by some of the detail in the document, but the objective of more compact, more diverse, interconnected neighborhoods is a noble one.

Please don’t think for a minute that I advocate spending money on every program that comes along. Government should, upon determining something to be in the public interest, look for ways to incent the change or behavior, not just to start a program for it. This is where my business, financial and community service background will lend itself most effectively to the deliberative role of a City Council representative. Let’s do things better than anyone before us! Let’s really progress!

Government.53.71: Phil Zrimsek (philz) Tue, 27 Oct 1998 17:45:20
This is it–I’m posting my last message. Thank you Griff for hosting the candidates forum. Thank you David K., David L. and Sean for participating. Thank you to all who have asked questions. Thank you to all who have just read the posts–hopefully, we are all a little better informed. At the very least we know there are significant issues facing the city and that the vote on November 3 is important. Let’s all get out and vote.

Government.53.74: David Ludescher (ludescher) Wed, 28 Oct 1998 16:04:30
Griff and the NCO

Thank you for the opportunity to participate. I hope the sessions were informative to the participants and the candidates.

Government.53.76: David Koenig (dkoenig) Thu, 29 Oct 1998 00:50:04
Thank you Griff! Sean may not post tonight because the Planning Commission meeting ended just before midnight. I’m hoping to unwind soon and to go to bed.

Thanks to all who have taken the time to question, comment or to just “be here”. NCO is another great thing about Northfield.

Government.53.78: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 29 Oct 1998 06:27:28
Audience statistics: there were 42 people following this forum here in the Cafe, and another 25 on the Pub-Discuss list. I don’t yet have the stats on how many were reading the transcript on the web site.

Government.53.79: Sean Allen (seanallen) Thu, 29 Oct 1998 21:30:54
Thank you for waiting for me to post one last time. I enjoyed the medium and hope to take part in future forums. Thank you Griff for being a great host and thank you to everyone for addressing the issues I put forth. I would have liked to have taken a more active role in the debate, but this has been a very busy week for me, as I’m sure it has been for others. Thank you and good luck on Tuesday!

Government.53.80: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 30 Oct 1998 06:12:23
Ok, thaaaaaat’s all, folks.

I’m very pleased that we had both candidates for Ward 1, David L and David K, and two of the five candidates for At-large, Phil and Sean. The direct exchanges among you and with the audience were most satisfying to see.

Thanks to all four of you for taking the time to learn to use this new medium during your campaigns. I hope you see the potential it has to engage citizens and civic leaders with one another in a meaningful way, both during a campaign as well as during the normal course of our daily civic life.