Northfield’s 4th Ward is For Wimps

Italian gesture to youLast night’s election results in the Fourth Ward, on the City’s west side, were shameful. Jon Denison, a candidate who didn’t campaign, didn’t show up at public meetings, didn’t speak, write, or communicate positions on any issues, received a winning percentage over candidate Victor Summa, who has repeatedly demonstrated deep and sincere (albeit sometimes loud and annoying) concern for our community, and amply shown a willingness to work hard at making it better.

I mean no disrespect to the winning candidate (although representing the fourth ward now strikes me as a very dubious honor). However, it appears that Denison’s biggest strength is being almost completely unknown. To my knowledge he’s not attended council or commission meetings; he does not participate in the LWV, the NDDC, the Chamber, or other civic groups; he was a no-show at the well-publicized League of Women Voters candidates’ forum; the Northfield News reported: “Despite extensive efforts, candidate Jon Denison could not be reached for comment.” I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but these facts do not appear to indicate much commitment.

There’s really no other way I can account for so many votes for Denison, other than as votes against Summa. And that’s really pathetic.

I understand that Summa’s outspoken style is not for everyone. He can get on people’s nerves; he’s both opinionated and stubborn. If Summa were passive-aggressive, we thin-skinned Scandinavian types could probably handle it—at least it would be familiar—but a volatile, direct approach which believes that argument and debate are (gasp!) a fair and reasonable means to hash out issues? Heaven forfend.

Yes, Dixon Bond was probably right on last week’s Locally Grown audio show when he remarked, “If Victor is elected, Council meetings will last at least an hour longer.” But Summa is not a gadfly simply for the sake of being one. Even when I disagree with him, which is often, I have to concede that his opinions are usually based on substantive reasons with real thought behind them.

I’ve often said the Victor and Kiffi Summa probably have the best comprehensive view of the issues facing our community than anyone else I know. Between the two of them, they attend almost every civic and community meeting in this town. It’s unfortunate that the citizens of the fourth ward couldn’t get beyond personality issues, and willfully chose ignorance. I’d like to think that we’re a community which values substance over style, but now I’m not so sure.


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    What she said.

    Jon Denison might wake up from whatever state of hibernation he’s in, and once he finds out he’s won, who knows… it could light a fire under him. So I’ll give him a the benefit of the doubt.

    But as soon as he indicates he’s not serious about his City Councillor role, I’ll be eager to start an “Impeach Jon Denison” movement… complete with a blog.

    November 8, 2006
  2. Ross Currier said:

    I hear you, Tracy. Due to my position as the part-time Executive Director of the NDDC, I will say no more on the vote.

    However, I will beseech (how’s that for a word, although I’m not sure of the spelling) Victor not to withdraw from public service because of an electoral setback. In my going-on-four-years at the NDDC, Victor is one of the handful of people who puts his muscles where his mouth is and shows up for work week after week, month after month, year after year. And not just showing up at a meeting and sharing his brilliant ideas but putting his brawn to the heavy lifting that actually gets things done.

    You’re right, Tracy, nobody is better at counting the cards at the big poker game than the Summas. Northfield needs them.

    November 8, 2006
  3. Chip Cuccio said:

    Excellent article Tracy. The title is hilarious.

    However, can it be he (Vic) was a victim of his own demise?

    I will never deny Vic’s passion or pride for Northfield, but his style and method of delivery can be a bit rough around the edges.
    Then again, I’m the same way – so there are cultural differences that I’ve found Northfielders take exception to. [being a hot-headed Italian/American conservative from the east coast doesn’t sit well with folks ’round these parts]

    I wasn’t aware that the new Councilman for the 4th ward was a no-show for pretty much everything. Unaccesptable.

    Again, great article.
    – Chip

    November 9, 2006
  4. sara anderson said:

    ive noticed the man at meetings for ur information maybe u should actually finish ur research if ur going to talk about people and who cares if the man is a little different than the ordinary councilman northfield needs change and maybe he can be the one. we should all be open minded and not judge people on their appearence

    November 12, 2006
  5. Tracy Davis said:

    Interesting comments. The MySpace page really doesn’t add any information; there’s no substance there.

    Sara, it would help if you could elaborate on the details of meetings that you’ve attended with Jon Denison. What makes you conclude that Denison is “different”? What sort of change do you think Northfield needs, and why do you believe Denison can provide it? Did you vote for him, and if so, why?

    I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this. I’ve never met the man and have no idea what his beliefs or positions on issues might be.

    November 12, 2006
  6. Tracy Davis said:

    Ross Currier told me that Jon Denison attended last night’s Planning Commission meeting. Unfortunately, I was absent due to illness, so I didn’t have a chance to meet him. But the fact that he was there is definitely a good sign.

    November 15, 2006
  7. Kurt Wolf said:


    I find it a little unsettling that you would not give someone a chance to prove themselves before assuming that they are not going to perform in a suitable manner. I happen to know Jon personally, and while we have not spoken for a few years, I have no doubt whatsoever that he will act in Northfield’s best interest. The words, “I mean no disrespect” are almost always followed by less than flattering remarks as you have proven yet again. Let’s give Mr. Denison a chance before we write him off as someone who should not be a councilmember.

    January 9, 2007
  8. Tracy Davis said:

    Kurt, the point of my post was simply that I find it irresponsible to vote for someone it was almost impossible to learn anything about, but hey, it’s a free country. Apparently a slight majority of 4th Warders thought that anybody would be preferable to Victor Summa.

    I’m more than happy to give Jon Denison the opportunity he won in the election. As any employer can tell you, past behavior is generally the most reliable indicator of future performance. This probably applies to both Jon Denison and Victor Summa.

    January 9, 2007
  9. Ross Currier said:

    Well, perhaps Jon Denison is leading us to the future. Much was made about his FaceBook or MySpace page or site (my ignorance is probably revealed in my spellings). In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (January 8th) there was an article titled “Employers Are Putting a New Face on Web Recruiting” about the “growing number of employers” using “social-networking sites” to “attract tech-savvy young people”. Perhaps having a Council Member that is familiar with these tools will help Northfield be more successful in recruiting members of this under-represented group to our workforce.

    January 9, 2007

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