Enforcing a ‘community expectations’ policy for downtown

Vandalism At tonight’s work session: “The City Council is being asked to discuss the adoption of a “Community Expectations” policy statement addressing cleanliness, respect, safety, and pedestrian friendliness in the downtown area.” I’ve been whining about graffiti, bikers on sidewalks, and noisy vehicles for a long time. But I’m not sure why public panhandling, swearing, spitting and urinating are included. And if the policy is adopted, what’s implied about enforcement?

Logrono co-host Ross posted to his NDDC blog about this last week. See pages 12-14 of the Council packet for more.

102 Comments

  1. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    Think of it along the lines of “community expectations” for “acceptable behavior”.

    It sounds like you don’t allow graffiti, bicycles on the sidewalks, and loud pipes in your living room. Other people don’t allow swearing, spitting, and urinating in their living rooms.

    Certain behaviors are just downright inappropriate for living rooms, neighborhoods, or communities. Downtown is a neighborhood and the aforementioned behaviors are unacceptable.

    This code of expectations comes from an effort by the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association that I blogged about on the NDDC site about two years ago: http://nddc.org/weblog/post/437/.

    It’s about setting a standard for public behavior in our neighborhoods and community.

    We thank Mayor Rossing for moving forward on this initiative.

    April 27, 2009
    Reply
    • Jake Mulford said:

      Ross-

      To be fair, a good number of people refuse to allow guests to wear shoes in their living rooms. It is rude to wear hats in a person’s house. You really shouldn’t eat anywhere but the dining room, so food shouldn’t be brought into the living room. Or drinks, for that matter.

      So, it is my firm belief that we should not allow pedestrians to wear shoes or hats, eat, or drink on any public property in Northfield. It’s just not polite.
      I’m sure we’d have all of the downtown business’ support with that added to the ordinance.

      May 31, 2009
      Reply
  2. Anthony Pierre said:

    Do we really need more ‘rules’ or laws? There are ones already in place that aren’t enforced.

    Kind of like griff speeding through the small towns. Except he got caught one time.

    April 27, 2009
    Reply
  3. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    It’s past time for a return to vigilantism.

    April 27, 2009
    Reply
  4. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Name-calling, spitting and urinating are all forms of disrespect on the West Side and River Walk. Many thanks to NDDC for initiating this effort and I hope it gets a productive discussion at the Council work session tonight.

    April 27, 2009
    Reply
  5. Anthony Pierre said:

    Maybe it is time to hire private security if the Northfield Police can’t cut it.

    April 28, 2009
    Reply
  6. kiffi summa said:

    You know, when this first came up last summer, maybe it was the NDDC or around the America in Bloom issues with the town’s appearance … I thought it might be an incentive to some better appearances and behavior.

    Maybe it’s just the old 60’s rebellion kicking in, but I’m thinking differently now.
    ( Old dogs can learn new tricks, or is it just remembering old ones?)

    But I don’t like this idea; I think we have all the laws in place to curb bad behaviors IF WE CARE ENOUGH TO DO SO. Will this ‘poster ‘ in people’s shop windows or doors make behavior change, or police do something about the pee-ers on buildings on the west side on Thursday nights?
    I don’t think so…

    And I get a big fat gut reaction to this list of behaviors that’s very akin to the one I had when we ( Girls) couldn’t wear jeans to school in the 50’s… ARRRGH! as Griff would say.

    Too prissy; too offputting, too righteous … I want to shop, and scope out the streets, where its ‘cool’ and inviting … not where every window has a poster telling me not to spit or pee in the streets. I don’t do those things, and am offended that “you” think I might, or want to unnecessarily remind me not to.

    Chalk me up with AP on this one.

    May 1, 2009
    Reply
  7. Andy Alt said:

    Ross said:

    Certain behaviors are just downright inappropriate for living rooms, neighborhoods, or communities. Downtown is a neighborhood and the aforementioned behaviors are unacceptable.

    There are actually many things I do in my living room that I would never do in public. Point taken though.

    I’m definitely not in favor of public urination. Spitting on the other hand is a habit I’ve had for quite some time, and never been cited for. At home when I have to cough up a phlegm ball, there is usually a convenient, nearby place to excrete it.

    When I’m outside, a far ways from my toilet, I sometimes might have to spit because of dust or bugs. Albeit getting a cloud of dust in my mouth is rarely a problem in Northfield. Phlegm can still pose a problem.

    After reading this post, I checked Google to search “Reasons for Spitting” to see if anything would support my need for spitting. Fortunately, I found an answer on how to avoid spitting onto any public surface, and that’s carrying a handkerchief around into which I could spit.

    Do American Laws Against Spitting Do any Good?

    And reading about baseball players spitting made me wonder if the same people who are anti-spitting and support (or wish to legislate a no-spit policy) are also so offended or disgusted that they don’t go to baseball games.

    Why Do Guys Spit?

    May 4, 2009
    Reply
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi and Tony, the Northfield News is siding with you on this issue.

    Suzy Rook hesitated in her column last week: Do we really need a conduct code?

    But evidently she’s now against it. Today’s editorial: Code of conduct isn’t best way to go.

    Interesting that they poked Police Chief Mark Taylor:

    There’s a better solution. A year ago
    as residents were talking to the
    finalists for the chief of police
    position at a reception at the Grand,
    then-candidate Mark Taylor said one
    change he wanted to make was to put
    officers covering downtown on their
    feet instead of in cars. Taylor said
    he thought that would be a great way
    to interact more with the community
    and serve as a deterrent to crime,
    particularly downtown.

    We agree. A better use of the
    council’s time perhaps would be to ask
    the chief when he can put his plan
    into action.

    May 6, 2009
    Reply
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: I’m glad to be in the same arena as Anthony , BUT … If I am on the same “page” as the NFNews; then it’s very possible I am wrong.

    I continue to think that the News does not exemplify the kind of solid analysis process that I would wish to see in a local paper that controls all the news/info scene.

    I find the tweeting of Jaci Smith to be offensive in its presentation of what might be considered ‘agitating’ news, rather than reporting. Have you followed that Twitter line, Griff, and what is your opinion of it… if you can comment in that mode … from a strictly journalism POV?

    May 6, 2009
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  10. Patrick Enders said:

    I agree with both Kiffi and the Nfld News on this one.

    However, Kiffi, I disagree with your assessment of the Nfld News. There’s always room for improvement in any journalistic endeavor, but compared to most papers I’ve come across in my various residences, the News seems to do a pretty bang-up job.

    Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so: they recently received the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s top prize:
    2007 – 2008 Better Newspaper Contest
    Northfield News takes Mills Trophy
    St. Cloud Times wins Vance Trophy
    Congratulations to the Northfield News and the St. Cloud Times for winning the Mills and Vance Trophies, respectively.

    Mills Trophy
    The weekly Northfield News won the Mills Trophy with 15 awards, 36 points, including seven first place awards, weeklies over 5,000, for Advertising Excellence, Best Social Issues Feature Story, Best Sports Feature Story, Best Local News Story, Best
    Investigative Story, Best Sports Feature/Action Photo and New Journalist of the Year.
    http://www.mna.org/mna/1575-MNA/version/default/part/AttachmentData/data/Mills-Vance.pdf

    May 6, 2009
    Reply
    • Patrick Enders said:

      Reformatted:

      I agree with both Kiffi and the Nfld News on this one.

      However, Kiffi, I disagree with your assessment of the Nfld News. There’s always room for improvement in any journalistic endeavor, but compared to most papers I’ve come across in my various residences, the News seems to do a pretty bang-up job.

      Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so: they recently received the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s top prize:

      2007 – 2008 Better Newspaper Contest
      Northfield News takes Mills Trophy
      St. Cloud Times wins Vance Trophy
      Congratulations to the Northfield News and the St. Cloud Times for winning the Mills and Vance Trophies, respectively.

      Mills Trophy
      The weekly Northfield News won the Mills Trophy with 15 awards, 36 points, including seven first place awards, weeklies over 5,000, for Advertising Excellence, Best Social Issues Feature Story, Best Sports Feature Story, Best Local News Story, Best
      Investigative Story, Best Sports Feature/Action Photo and New Journalist of the Year.

      http://www.mna.org/mna/1575-MNA/version/default/part/AttachmentData/data/Mills-Vance.pdf

      May 6, 2009
      Reply
  11. Joshua Hinnenkamp said:

    Wow, I guess I was out of the loop on this one. Last summer, about the time of America in Bloom, the Key was approached (full disclosure – I am the director of the Key) on multiple occasions to see if they (as in the Key) would be willing to sign a document/pact that is very similar to what is being presented to council. One of the stipulations would have been to allow police officers to come onto our property in order to “keep the peace” for any reason at all. Some of these rules listed came about from some secret meetings by downtown business owners and the police (the Key was never formally invited even though I would consider us a major part of the downtown community and at least a major advocate for youth issues). The Key of course refused to sign this pact. We were rightfully concerned about harassment and intimidation by local adults and police, which has always been an issue to the youth in this community.

    And I think we all know what this ordinance is about, whether we can admit it or not. It is about kids. It is about how we need to make rules to keep a barrier from youth behavior and adults. Yes the drunks and disorderly are also on some people’s minds, but it is the youth that would be most affected by this. This ordinance would be a war on youth and is completely unacceptable. Yes, The Northfield Union of Youth and The Key cares about these things, but we don’t believe that a pact or law or rule above and beyond is needed for this.

    May 6, 2009
    Reply
  12. Joshua Hinnenkamp said:

    And if such an ordinance does pass I hope that a number of you out there will joint me on Bridge Square once a week to swear and spit to our heart’s content. All ages allowed.

    May 6, 2009
    Reply
  13. Amy Merritt said:

    I have to agree with both Josh and Kiffi–since graduating from college in Northfield nine years ago, I have worked at several downtown businesses, and have worked at or volunteered at the Key for the past 8 years. Northfield is a lovely community, and I don’t think we need some preachy ordinance to keep it that way. I think the question some of you might ask yourselves is: what kind of community do you want Northfield to be? Safe, beautiful, inviting? How about youth-friendly? I’m not suggesting that young people should spit, grafitti, or urinate in public. But do we need to send them the message that we don’t trust them, that we as adults can’t engage in meaningful conversation about behavior we find offensive? Or should we just send the message that we’re powerful and they’re not? We can hide behind an ordinance or we can assume the best of ALL Northfield citizens and deal with these issues like grown-ups.

    May 6, 2009
    Reply
  14. Joshua Hinnenkamp said:

    Before the joke gets made, I meant join and not joint.

    May 6, 2009
    Reply
  15. Bright Spencer said:

    I am for more dancing in the streets and less judgemental attitudes. Lighten up, relax, have a nice life.

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
  16. Kathie Galotti said:

    I’m with Josh on this one. The ordinance reeks of being anti-kid. We don’t offer our youth very much in this town–there aren’t very many spaces and places to safely hang out–more are closing down (movie theater, Saturday Night Live at NMS) or being put off (skate park) and now we want to harrass kids downtown as well?

    Kudos to you, Josh, for speaking up for kids!

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
  17. Patrick Enders said:

    Joshua (post 11),
    Well said. This ordinance sounds like a terrible idea, mostly directed against adolescents.

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
  18. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Patrick,

    The “community expectations,” as Griff introduced it, is a policy statement, not an ordinance. It’s a good reminder, I think, that we have a right to expect a higher standard of behavior from people of all ages in the downtown area. It gave me the courage to remind a group of teens behind my shop this week that this is private property. I’ve never done that before.

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
  19. Ross Currier said:

    Josh –

    I have heard many dozens of complaints over the years related to bad behavior and I would say that probably every age group is represented in these complaints.

    However, the greatest numbers of and strongest passions in complaints that I have heard over the years seem to involve behavior that is, at least partly, related to the consumption of alcohol.

    I have heard, at a state level, that Northfield’s business owners do an exceptional job of preventing the sale of liquor to minors.

    Therefore, my conclusion is that the majority of serious examples of this issue that have come to my attention relate to individuals who are above the age of 21. It is my understanding that young people older than the age of 21 are not allowed at The Key.

    You, Suzie Rook, Patrick Enders, Kiffi Summa, and Anthony Pierre may all be against this idea, however, based on my understanding of the issue, it should not be because it is targeted toward teenagers.

    I think that it is unfortunate that you and a handful of others have sought to focus attention on the spitting and swearing, trivializing the issue. The approach that I learned from the folks in Minneapolis was based on the belief that spitting, swearing and urinating on sidewalks drives people away and undermines the vitality of your community. Therefore, you don’t wait until you have robberies, prostitution and murders on your sidewalks before you take action.

    Furthermore, there have been a number of studies that have indicated that actively discouraging spitting, swearing and urinating on sidewalks appears to reduce the incidents of robberies, prostitution, and murder. The studies conclude that taking action against the former is good strategy against the latter.

    I am going to assume that Suzie, Kiffi, Patrick, and, ignoring what I’ll assume is your effort at humor, you do not support spitting, swearing, and urinating on sidewalks. Therefore, what is so egregious about Mary, Betsey and Jim saying that they don’t support those behaviors either, concluding that most Northfielders don’t support those behaviors, and then making a public statement about it?

    I also wish to note that the NDDC Board, for whom I am not speaking, had a three-part approach to these issues: 1) increased police surveillance, 2) the code of conduct, and 3) improved lighting in critical areas. I think it was their belief and request that all three actions be taken to address this issue.

    This issue of bad behavior is a very serious one for many members of our community, one that has been discussed, at least as far as I am aware, for many years. I, for one, am glad that the City Council took action.

    If you have a better idea, please share it.

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
    • Patrick Enders said:

      Stephanie’s example, above, suggests that teens – as well as drunks – may in fact be a problem that the Community Expectations have in mind.

      May 7, 2009
      Reply
  20. Patrick Enders said:

    Ross,
    I’m all in favor of police being present in the community, and I’m in favor of improved lighting.* I’m also in favor of enforcing the laws that exist.

    I’m assuming that there are already laws against graffiti and public urination. (There’s probably also a law against public profanity, although I’m not sure I’d approve of that, and I’m not sure that such a law could pass constitutional muster, but then IANAL.)

    Given all that – what is the point of this resolution?

    *: to the limited extent that it avoids dark areas on the streets of downtown in the evening, but not to the extent that it starts lighting up our relatively/gloriously dark Northfield skies.

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
  21. Patrick Enders said:

    Ross,
    Also, if the Community Expectations are not legally enforceable, perhaps you could explain this passage to me:

    We work with and support the efforts of the Northfield Police Department, the Rice County Attorney’s Office and others in the criminal justice system *to enforce and prosecute the law **and our Community Expectations**.*

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
    • Patrick Enders said:

      (Hmmm. Griff’s little bold/italics widget doesn’t seem to work. It just left little stars instead.)

      May 7, 2009
      Reply
  22. Andy Alt said:

    Regarding cigarette butts, after reading the column by Suzy Rook in the paper last weekend, it’s prompted me to finally write about something that’s perplexed me since I’ve moved here.

    I really don’t like to throw my cigarette butts anywhere, and always look for an ashtray first. There don’t seem to be any ashtrays in well-traveled areas of downtown, such as Bridge Square or in front of or in back of the Library.

    I take some solace in the fact that my cigarette butts consist only of tobacco and paper, since I roll my own. But still, I’m sure that my biodegradable butts are better disposed of in an appropriate receptacle than on the sidewalk or street.

    I understand that smokers are in the minority more than ever nowadays. But I still spend time or shop downtown, and if people are going to have a problem about where I put my cigarette butts, and not offer some reasonable options, then I may feel alienated about the whole downtown experience.

    I have sometimes put the butts into a cigarette case, but then I wind up smelling like an ashtray. I’m sure people would likely complain about that, especially in a confined area.

    There are even times when I have spit on them to put them out, and then put them in a trash can. Yes, I realize that sounds gross, and I’m sorry I mention it, but these are the options I’ve been sometimes using, because I am a reasonable person and willing to compromise, and even walk a distance to reach a cigarette butt receptacle.

    What can be done about this? Are people aware that many smokers would use an ashtray downtown if more were available, and that not all smokers are thoughtless about where they extinguish their cigarettes?

    May 7, 2009
    Reply
  23. kiffi summa said:

    I’d like to make it clear that I never said this was aimed at Youth, NEVER.Go back and read my comment. #6.

    As a matter of fact, I think I made it clear that I don’t want to be in any way linked with the NFNews and their opinion (or lack of it).

    Further,I am sure this is aimed generally at the behavior that Stephanie and Dean Kjerland have been putting up with on the west side, and Ross is correct, that has been alcohol associated for the most part.

    However, It is very disappointing to me that there has to be an imposition of another layer of behavioral rules , over those laws which are already in place.

    That just says that the laws in place are not being enforced.

    Who will enforce the ‘rules’ against certain behaviors, if the existing laws against those same behaviors are not enforced now?

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  24. Olivia Frey said:

    “Laws” or “Ordinances” by any other name–call them “expectations” if you will–stink just as bad.

    I have a sneaking feeling this is all about teens. Northfield, the special place, doesn’t want to be disturbed by typical teen behavior, or rowdy behavior of any kind. When, what I yearn for, is more spirited activity and color downtown, not people behaving better, and by whose standards?

    What troubles me the most is that this “Code of Conduct” will give local police the license to harass teens even more than they do. I was down at the Key waiting outside for my teen writers to come, and a couple of teenms walked over to that wall near Highway 3. I know at least one of them. An officer turned the corner,then made a U-turn and came back to these teens, and told them to get off the wall and leave! (Why?) The officer told the teens not to skateboard on the wall(!?), which they weren’t doing in the first place. But it was a sunny day, nice to sit on the wall. Why not? I’d call this profiling.We will have more of this if the code passes. I willjoin Josh at Bridge Square spitting and swearing. Hell,I might even urinate in public!

    What also troubles me is that the Code of Conduct is paternalistic,patronizing and infantilizing. We need a law, or “ordinance” (don’t say “expectations,” which is just a nicey-nice way, indirectly and dishonestly, to say something unpleasant)to force us to behave a certain way?

    If people–whoever they are–are doing things you don’t like,do up to them and tell them.Talk with them face to face. Don’t let an “ordinance” do the work for you. And if you have trouble talking with people in conmflict situations, then come every second Monday night to my house where a group of us work on, practice “Nonviolent Communication.”

    Olivia Frey

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  25. Joshua Hinnenkamp said:

    Ross,

    I promise you I in no way mean to trivialize the issues at hand by focusing on the spitting, swearing etc. BUT these are part of the code of conduct, are they not? I have already seen police harass kids in the downtown area for virtually no reason at all (at least none that I can see). I have seen a police officer threaten to taze a youth after he spit on the grass. I have seen a police officer threaten to taze and swear at a youth for sitting on a public property wall. I have seen police officers and adults go way overboard dealing with skateboarders in an empty parking lot. As a person who works with kids I would hate to see this escalated and I believe that such a policy would in fact do this.

    As far as your ideas that cracking down on the little things will help lessen the bigger things. Well, I would disagree. I thought that had been highly discredited during the days when Rudolph Guliani cracked down in New York. I know of studies that disagree with your statement.

    Under this ordinance, how would panhandling, public performance, and selling art on the street fall? Would they be considered a nuisance or “illegal” as well? That way, would a kid playing guitar with a hat out or breakdancer on bridge square get ticketed?

    I am worried about an angry neighbor or police officer storming The Key or harassing kids. I see this on a weekly basis. Much of it is unfounded and over the top. I would hate to escalate it. Whether or not this is meant mainly for the 21 and up crowd is meaningless. It will still effect the kids of this community and I feel you are being naive if you do not see this. Because of their age they have less rights than us 21 and up crowd. They are already more vulnerable to intimidation and harassment.

    I do think we have a lot of smart people in this community and I think that those supporting this initiative, at least those very much pushing it forward, come from the downtown business community. I think you guys are wonderful and the NDDC is essential in this community. I really really mean that. But I also think they you are looking at it from a very specific viewpoint. And maybe the downtown business community feels like they would most effected by such a policy or promise or whatever. Just like in economic decisions there can be externalities, I think a decision like this would effect people that you would not normally expect. Plus everyone will have a different definition of what is acceptable behavior.

    I don’t have the answers that you call upon, but I think we should have a more open dialogue in the public realm first before coming to this.

    I really hope that I don’t have to protest on Bridge Square on a weekly basis. That will get really expensive with all the tickets I will have to pay.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  26. Lynn Vincent said:

    If America in Bloom prompted citizens and neighborhoods to “clean up their act” and take positive actions towards removal of gum on the sidewalks and graffiti from the walls of their busnesses then I as a member of the AIB steering committee am very gratified. However, please do not presume that AIB is behind and pushing the Code of Conduct. Our focus is on taking pride in your own little corner of the world and respecting the corners of the world occupied by your friends and neighbors.
    As for an ordinance against graffiti, the Clean Team sub-committee of AIB is working with the City to develop such an ordinance and will present it for public input and review if we ever get it to that point.

    I like Northfield. I like the people who serve the community, the kids at the Key who, by the way, have their own garden and helped with AIB last year. I like walking into the grocery store and being greeted by name, and knowing the names of others in the store – the small community feel that is a part of Northfield’s treasure. I like the River Walk and the colleges, the small business owners who take time for a chat with their customers. I like the concern for clean air and environmentally sound actions, and I want others to take pride along with me for what Northfield is and what Northfield can become. I think what bothers me about the Code is that we even think we need it to prompt our respect and civilized behavior.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  27. Ross Currier said:

    Josh, you tell me that, in your opinion, my theory is wrong. Patrick, you cite a study that contradicts one of my studies.

    As far as I can tell, neither one of you has proposed an alternative.

    Perhaps you consider continuing the discussion for another two to three years or coming up with additional learned citations to actually be a solution. Personally, I think that the people who have been the victims of these unacceptable behaviors are calling for something more than talk or citations.

    I don’t think the Code of Conduct is some brilliant masterstroke but most of the victims have seemed to welcome it. The Council took an action; I hope it will help address a wide-range of issues.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  28. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: Victims? C’mon.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  29. Joshua Hinnenkamp said:

    Ross,

    Just because I do not offer a solution does mean that we should approve this solution. Here’s a solution: better cut off points for drunks at the bar, improving relationships between youth and police officers, and more mentoring in our community. Those are some solid solutions. Let’s work on these things. We can get more detailed on these things when we start looking into these solutions.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  30. Patrick Enders said:

    Joshua,
    Thank you for your thoughtful post.

    Here’s a few links discussing Giuliani’s “broken windows” theory of law enforcement:

    A crime-fighting theory that says stopping major crimes begins with stopping small ones has influenced policing strategies in Boston and elsewhere since the 1980s. But scholars are starting to question whether fixing broken windows really fixes much at all.

    http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2006/02/19/the_cracks_in_broken_windows/

    The most rigorous research to date, a 1999 study by Robert Sampson of the University of Chicago and Stephen Raudenbush of the University of Michigan, concludes that “the current fascination in policy circles on cleaning up disorder through law enforcement techniques appears simplistic and largely misplaced, at least in terms of directly fighting crime.”

    http://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/harcourt/broken-window-myth.html

    And Wikipedia’s entry on the book that started the whole idea:

    Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities by George L. Kelling and Catherine

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixing_Broken_Windows

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  31. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    David Ludescher, you question that there are victims (post #28)? Shop owners are victimized daily on the West Side in a variety of ways. Have you not seen the signs at Erberts & Gerberts, setting a limit of two minors unless accompanied by an adult?

    Police are increasing their patrols after the big bust on March 8 and the holdup of March 26. A young person was held up at knifepoint by two other juveniles, ages 18 and 19, in the area behind Jerry’s Barber Shop the evening of Mar. 26, as confirmed by Police Chief Taylor. The robbers got $55. The two were apprehended and are charged with assault and possession of a dangerous weapon.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  32. john george said:

    Seems that the most effective change in behavior is done from the inside out, not the outside in. Having official “regulations” or “laws” only validates the prosecution of those who violate these laws. I’m not convinced that a code of conduct will change any behavior, but I do think it will give precedence for the exposing of that behavior. I only know of one person in Northfield who is actually doing something to change young people from the inside out, and that is David Olson and his “T-Shirt Chapel” program at Immaeus. I don’t know that he even wants to be involved in this melee, but there might be some wisdom in at least taking a look at what he is doing. This type of disrespectful behavior that has been cited here is not a problem in and of itself, but it is a symptom of deeper problems.

    May 8, 2009
    Reply
  33. Patrick Enders said:

    Ross,
    I think Joshua and David L have already made the points I would make.

    Also, Stephanie again demonstrates that this is, in fact, about juveniles and young adults.

    There’s nothing to be gained by misleading and intimidating youth – and much to be lost.

    Enforce the law. Improve awareness. Improve lighting. Listen to Joshua’s suggestions. All of those are better ideas than plasterimng our downtown with threatening manifestos.

    May 9, 2009
    Reply
  34. Anyone seen “Hot Fuzz”?

    Highly satirical, but there’s truth in there.

    Upon the protagonist’s first foray into the idyllic English hamlet to which he has been reassigned, the Kinks’ song “The Village Green Preservation Society” plays. Significant to that movie’s plot, but also significant culturally as Ray Davies’ excellent song is already drenched in irony – and it was 1968 when it was released.

    I fail to see how having a community expectations policy will stop anyone from doing some of the things people have discussed here. Would writing down that we expect proper behavior from people have stopped the two teens from holding up the other at knife point?

    Will the community expectations policy outline everything that we expect people not to do? To what extremes, minor and major? We could write down that we don’t want felonies to occur, but they still would.

    Laws, for the most part, ARE community expectations writ into enforceable code. Therefore, I question the utility.

    I would hope that if someone gets drunk, stumbles out of a bar and pees against a building, and a police officer sees it, they would enforce the existing statutes against such behavior.

    Tapping the urinator on the shoulder and politely reminding him that the community expects that such behavior not take place, seems silly and, in some ways, an abdication of proper enforcement.

    Would such verbiage posted around town truly empower citizens to confront a situation like that?

    Even if such guidelines? policies? norming statements? are adopted, how long before they are completely forgotten? Are they re-adopted (symbolically) every year by each City Council? Are they reposted every year in all downtown businesses? Etched into the sidewalks? Spray-painted on the sides of buildings?

    I’ve seen questionable and rude behavior downtown, and I’ve seen it in other areas of town, and, as a runner, I’ve been yelled at, pestered, etc… from random people in cars and on sidewalks as I trotted past, but what about this idea would change these people who have done this or a myriad other naughty things?

    Again, I don’t question the good intentions of such community statements; I question their utility.

    May 9, 2009
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  35. David Henson said:

    Maybe the issue should be broken down into parts. I have lived downtown now for 3 years and I have yet to see anyone urinating in public. Is this a common problem?

    May 10, 2009
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  36. David Henson,

    I’m sure they threw that in there as a more egregious example of rude and unacceptable behavior, and I’m sure you won’t have many people object to its inclusion. I’m aligned with you in wondering aloud about the frequency of public urination. Undoubtedly it does happen, but in my 16 years in Northfield, I’ve only seen it done in the Arb and by a drunk Carleton student against a tree when I was a hall director.

    Here’s how I see it: to mix behaviors that actually do violate existing statutes (public urination, vandalism) in with murkier behaviors that transgress against more subjective standards (public swearing, spitting) represents the ol’ slippery slope.

    To a certain extent, too, that clarifies some of the problem with codes like this: they blur the line between official / unofficial acts of governance, just as they blur the line between behavior that is explicitly prohibited by existing law and behavior that is disliked but, nonetheless, still legal.

    Sort of passive-aggressive quasi-statutes. Like the scene in “Office Space,” where the waitress, played by Jennifer Aniston, is simultaneously instructed and not-instructed to wear more than the minimum pieces of flair on her uniform.

    If the NDDC wants to make public swearing illegal, for instance, than they could start a campaign to get it made so. It probably wouldn’t get far, and would probably be ruled unconstitutional even if it did.

    The other two facets of the NDDC’s three-part strategy make sense – increased enforcement and public/private investment in anti-graffiti measures and technologies.

    Inclusion of this code, however, sours the whole deal for me, and leaves me with some final questions: Why doesn’t the NDDC simply post this statement in all businesses that want it posted? Why do they need City Council adoption of this part of the strategy at all? I understand “buy-in” and “strategic partnering” and “symbolic support”, but why tangle it up with two other measures that probably would be widely supported by those concerned about the atmosphere downtown? Has anyone thought of signage that expresses and encourages empathy? Perhaps that would be a better route toward this portion of the goal.

    May 10, 2009
    Reply
  37. David Henson said:

    Brendon, how do you feel about the ‘easily offended’? I mean these people can be very annoying. You carry out your daily business in front of 100s of people and then an EO just goes off over some trivial offense. And often the EOs are actually the worst transgressors. Like say you stopped to watch a woman peeing in public, she is very likely to start yelling at you “what are you looking at.” And trying to reason with her, “I mean mam you are peeing in public” just gets you nowhere. I wonder if the code could not be written in a way that encourages the easily offended to relax their radar.

    Also, I hope we are not going to be held accountable for reporting to enforcement because if I do see someone peeing I will probably just look the other way. I mean we can’t be charged with ‘public urination facilitation,’ can we?

    May 10, 2009
    Reply
  38. Patrick Enders said:

    Brendon, you wrote,

    Here’s how I see it: to mix behaviors that actually do violate existing statutes (public urination, vandalism) in with murkier behaviors that transgress against more subjective standards (public swearing, spitting) represents the ol’ slippery slope.

    Your analysis is perfectly encapsulated in the wonderfully vague/slippery passage in the Community Expectations document which declares:

    We work with and support the efforts of the Northfield Police Department, the Rice County Attorney’s Office and others in the criminal justice system to enforce and prosecute the law and our Community Expectations.

    Yes, that’s right, the declaration claims that law enforcement can ‘enforce and prosecute the law and our Community Expectations.’

    David,
    Wouldn’t the best example of ‘public urination facilitation’ be anyone who provides porta-potties for DJJD?

    May 10, 2009
    Reply
  39. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I suggest we all take a rest on this and move over to the new topic Griff started, “Northfield’s gang problem: small, medium or large?”

    May 10, 2009
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  40. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,
    Has this proposal been dropped?

    May 10, 2009
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  41. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Patrick,

    The Council did pass the “community expectations” policy statement, I believe, a couple weeks ago. No further action has been taken that I know of. Since gang activity is adding to problems we are seeing in the downtown, I am suggesting that some of us move to that topic for awhile.

    May 10, 2009
    Reply
  42. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,
    The Council had this on the work session agenda a couple weeks ago – and it wasn’t on the regular meeting agenda this last week. That would seem to mean that this is still a pending proposal. As such, it seems that discussing this now would be far more useful than waiting until it is a done deal.

    Meanwhile, there’s nothing stopping people from discussing two different topics at the same time. Personally, I have no particular knowledge about gang activity in Northfield, so I’m not sure what you’d like me to say on the topic.

    May 10, 2009
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  43. Stephanie,

    With all due respect, because I truly admire the enormous research and conviction you put into community issues, I feel you’re telling us to move over to the gang discussion as a tacit way of saying that we need this community expectations code (or whatever it is) because we have gang graffiti and other activities in town.

    First, as Patrick said, we can discuss two related threads at once. Second, gang-related crimes – small and large – should be dealt with by enforcement of existing law. The article in the paper pointed out that a lot was being done, which is good and as it should be.

    I’m just not sure why this needs to be a City Council action rather than something the NDDC and other organizations couldn’t just have business and property owners post if they so choose. What worries me, and what Patrick referred to as well, is language that makes it seem like they are lumping criminal offenses in with annoying, but legal, behavior and then making it seem that there would be some power “to enforce and prosecute” this policy.

    I’m hoping a police officer or lawyer will weigh in here because I do not understand what methods “to enforce and prosecute” can be employed against behaviors which, while annoying and uncouth, do not violate any existing statute.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for positive redirection of annoying behavior – I was a social worker for five years. But that’s different that prosecution and enforcement of behavior that is not violating a law.

    May 11, 2009
    Reply
  44. kiffi summa said:

    Look, you guys… there is a lot of behavior on the west side, Water street to be exact , that is NOT connected with the Key, and DOES have existing law to control such behavior.
    I had understood from Dean Kjerland that recently the police have been around, as well as the Saint Olaf Security, on Thursday nights, late, which have seemed to be an especially problematic time period.

    When a holdup at knifepoint occurs behind a downtown building, the community should know about it, because that is an unexpected level of violence, here, and especially in such a public place. Stephanie is right to be extremely concerned about leaving her store at night with the proximity of that crime.
    Dean Kjerland has every right to be annoyed as Hell about the behavior of drunks on the sidewalk in front of his building, and the peeing all over his building by people that have been closed out of the bar , and have to relieve themselves before they can even get in their car, or begin to walk home.

    The above two incidents have laws to correct, if the police will prioritize them.

    Those who have called for a public dialogue are correct; as I understand part of the problem… and this straight from Chief Taylor’s mouth … unfortunately bar closing time is also when a lot of domestic abuse, and other serious violent acts are occurring and being phoned in to the police, and they can’t always be on Water street on the right time.

    I think a lot of the bad behavior that is related to alcohol consumption could be controlled by a lot more enforcement by the bar owners as to how many drinks they serve to a person.
    I’d like to know how they (bar owners) perceive their problems with analyzing who they can serve one more drink to; does that mean the “unserved” walks down to another bar who will serve them? ( i.e. = lost business) I think a lot of this could be resolved by an agreement between the competing bar owners.
    And then the drinking scene would move to Dundas…

    May 11, 2009
    Reply
  45. Curt Benson said:

    Good points, Kiffi. I think that if extra policing is needed on a regular basis, the bar owners should be required to pay for it. Why should Northfield taxpayers subsidize the businesses that are prospering from overserving these drunks? Are Northfield Police Officers allowed to work off duty?

    May 11, 2009
    Reply
  46. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    A story comes to mind:

    My brother is a veterinarian in California. He purchased a vet business in a small, coastal town. It was a new building, looked very good. But through the greenery to the back was a 7-11 where people bought beer and snacks and generally hung out. His back door was dripping urine when he opened up in the morning.

    Soon after, he relocated to another part of town. He did have an incident or two there also, where a transient climbed in a basement window and lived among the storage boxes for awhile. My only option seems to be relocation, also. I am giving up expecting better behavior from those who are “hanging out” by my door on the West Side.

    May 11, 2009
    Reply
  47. Patrick Enders said:

    Stephanie,
    Again, there are laws to punish public urination – as well as trespass. Everyone here agrees that they should be enforced. There might even be loitering laws that could be enforced (at least, most communities have them).

    It’s just this vague, threatening ‘Community Expectations’ code that many of us disagree with.

    May 11, 2009
    Reply
  48. Anthony Pierre said:

    If there is going to be a community expectation policy like the one recently passes implemented, there should be one as follows.

    Politicians should act for the well being of the people they represent, not just themselves.

    How about this one? I haven’t heard of much public urination, but I have ( in the news and here) of public corruption at the highest levels all the time. Lets get this done people. Pass an expectation policy for our politicians!

    May 12, 2009
    Reply
  49. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Anthony,

    Sorry to say it, but you lead us off on tangents. I am moving over to the gang topic, since we supposedly have 150 people here signed up. Some of them are middle school and high school age who end up on the Key block after 3 pm.

    By the way, I am told Key hours are 3:30-10 pm weekdays and later on the weekends.

    May 12, 2009
    Reply

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