Last Night’s Council Meeting: Disturbing, Discouraging

BurningProtestants.jpgAs I said the last time I “covered” the City Council meeting for Locally Grown, I am NOT a Reporter. However, I had to be there last night so I might as well bring some disturbing, discouraging news to the citizens of Northfield.

The disturbing news is the way the Council is handling the “Leftover 8” items from the list of potential issues for investigation by the State Auditor. As you may recall, the Council considered 12 items for investigation. They selected 6 to send on to the State Auditor. The rumors on the street are that the 6 selected by the Council Members are all related to the Mayor’s involvement in the Liquor Store Site Selection Process and that the Leftover 8 are all related to ethically, and perhaps legally, questionable behavior by the Council Members and the City Administrator.

Although the Northfield News, Locally Grown and, last night, Victor Summa have called for the Leftover 8 to be discussed and considered publicly, the Council has stated that they will resolve them out of the view of the public. Last night Former Council Member Dixon Bond urged the Council to address these issues in public, saying if they are not, the Council’s “actions would be suspect”.

The State Auditor Office, which declined to investigate the Select 6 items, recommended that a private investigator be hired to look into these 6 items and determine whether or not any of the Leftover 8 should be considered. It appeared to me that several Council Members vehemently worked to block public investigation of these other issues. Using expressions like “control” and “limit the investigation”, they argued that they could handle the Leftover 8 by themselves.

Personally, I found it to be quite disturbing.

The discouraging news is the way the Council ignored the request that a Building Board of Appeals be created in Northfield. Staff and Board from the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) were joined by several downtown building and business owners to request that as part of the Adoption of the 2007 Minnesota State Building Code, a Board of Appeals, made up of local professionals, be created.

The new Code will result in increased requirements and costs, particularly in the areas of ADA Compliance, Fire Suppression, and Plumbing. In fact, two of the building and business owners present said that they believe that there will be no new or expanded restaurants in downtown under the new code requirements.

For these reasons, the NDDC was asking the Council to provide leadership to the City Staff encouraging clear the building officials provide as flexible in their interpretations and consider whatever alternative systems or materials whenever possible as allowed by law. The NDDC folks suggested that the best way to assure this flexibility and consideration is to create a Board of Appeals, made up of local professionals, to provide the opportunity for Northfield business and building owners to have decisions reviewed. These decisions would be reviewed for the interpretation of the language of the Code and the effectiveness of alternative methods or materials in meeting the requirements of the Code. Such an opportunity for review would seem to be part of business-friendliness.

The Council voted, 4 to 3, to adopt the 2007 Minnesota State Building Code. There was no mention of the creation of a Board of Appeals.

Personally, I found it to be quite discouraging.

I urge every interested citizen of Northfield to go down to the Historic Carnegie Library and check out the video of last night’s Council Meeting. See if your view of the proceedings on these two topics differs from mine.


  1. Unless these questions (the “Leftover 8” as Ross calls them) are about personnel issues, don’t they have to be addressed in an open meeting format?

    I’m curious. I don’t know the answer, but that’s my inexpert understanding of civic meetings.

    What is the Council’s rationale for wanting to conduct these meetings out of the sunlight?

    Do they realize that closed meetings, unless wholly and openly justified, just look bad?

    Seems like the equation they are calculating is the extent of damage done by openly airing those questions versus the damage done by the very act of keeping them from public view.

    September 11, 2007
  2. David Ludescher said:

    Only Pokorney seems to have thougtht this through.

    The State Auditor didn’t take the 6 issues because the issues are about “governance” (i.e. political problems). Eventually, the investigator is going to drop his results back in the lap of the City Council. Then what?

    Only Pokorney wanted to deal with the issues directly. That’s the right way to handle the issues. After all, the City Council members made the allegations, they know all the facts, and they are going to have to decide the consequences, if any.

    The only good news is that some lawyer is going to make money; the bad news is that I am not he.

    September 11, 2007
  3. kiffi summa said:

    Thanks for giving these two subjects the public airing they deserve, Ross. But I think you should split this thread in two, and then add a third………….which is “where is the Police Chief?” Has Gary Smith vanished off the face of the earth?

    I think all three issues are but a few of the symptoms of a rapid descent into malfunction by our local government. It has only been 10 weeks since Chief Smith’s fateful( ? ) heroin press conference, but it seems that events have been accumulating, fast and furiously, since then.

    First, the leftover 8: well, I can’t believe the council thought their list of issues was so serious that the state auditor, or some investigator, should be called in but they did not care to attach their name to their issue. In most governmental bodies, that would mean the issue would go nowhere but into the trash basket. The process had the aura of a playground game of “GOTCHA”. All the more reason to not disappear into the limbo of a staff office, now.

    The Building Code and Board of Appeals issue is very discouraging; I would agree wholeheartedly.
    For years, various city entities and consultants have been urging that downtown property owners develop the backs of their buildings to enhance/take advantage of, the river. Well, it’s not going to happen unless we get some developers in that have even deeper pockets than John Mathern.
    Building anything of substance on the back of our building (which we had plans to do) would trigger the sprinkling of all of the original building, and that’s just not possible, for many reasons.
    So maybe DL is right when he says it’s pointless to direct people to the backs of buildings. (see gateway arches thread).

    Subject #3: You’d think the Police Chief issue would have gotten some press by now….What’s with the investigation he filed, before leaving? If he’s on medical leave, why is there never any news of his health ,or wellbeing, or any reference to him at the council, or in the paper? Maybe his press conference could have been handled better, but ye gods, he worked hard for this town, and tried to be a very modern policeman, and he wasn’t roasting babies in Bridge Square! And maybe he intentionally dealt with the heroin issue in a way that would make the community pay instant attention.

    It all seems very bizarre to me, or maybe to continue your “D” theme, depressing.

    September 11, 2007
  4. Ross Currier said:

    …and who leaked the Council package to the Northfield News?

    September 11, 2007
  5. Jessica Paxton said:

    I don’t mean to misguide the direction of this conversation, but Gary Smith is “alive and well” on his own personal blog:

    Thanks for keeping folks in the loop on this, Griff. I’m sure there are many concerned and involved residents of this community like myself that just aren’t able to attend city council meetings — but we care (and are concerned) about what’s going on.

    September 11, 2007
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    I fixed the URL for Chief Smith’s blog in your post, Jessica. There’s a ‘G’ in the middle:

    His Sept 5 post mentions a hospital stay:

    Thanks to those of you who sent cards and letters the past several weeks. Despite my best efforts to stay low key, several of you amateur detectives found me at the hospital last week.

    September 11, 2007
  7. Ray Cox said:

    Ross, thanks for presenting a voice about the Building Code Board of Appeals. Northfield has needed one for decades, but council after council simply ignores the solid, sound reasoning for one. We have no trouble creating planning commissions, zoning board of appeals, human rights commissions and on and on. Why is it so difficult to create a building board of appeals? Building codes to many people may appear to be ‘black and white’ but in actuality there is some variance built in to them, especially as they apply to existing structures.

    Many people never run into a building code issue. Many other people do run into one…and simply abandon a project or idea, never to be heard from again. Northfield has no idea how much tax base has walked out the door to other more receptive communities. I agree that we most likely will not see small restaurants created in downtown any longer. I think back to my youth when Friggies, The Collegiate, Ideal, Red’s Lunch, and so many other cafe’s were in town. None would open in today’s environment.

    September 12, 2007
  8. Ross Currier said:


    Every year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center publishes an annual survey of the economic state of the nation’s main streets.

    This year they noted that most of the economic growth was in restaurants and office and service businesses located in the upper floors. These are exactly the types of businesses that are going to face additional code challenges and financial burdens in Northfield.

    The creation of a Board of Appeals would not only assure that every possible option of feasibility for business retention, expansion and recruitment be considered, it would be a clear signal that Northfield is truly committed to business-friendliness.

    Please contact your Councilor.


    September 13, 2007
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Also, please contact the members of the EDA. I’m always puzzled by the fact that the EDA seems to have very little focus on the downtown, which is a crucial part of the economic picture of Northfield. Some loans come through the EDA process, but there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about the economics of the DT.

    For instance, I would have thought they would have joined the NDDC in wanting the council to have a clearer picture of the impacts of the new building codes adopted; these codes will make it virtually impossible for the downtown building owners, who are mostly entrepreneurs, not big developers, to enlarge their properties, or even to do major renovations without costs which cannot be supported by the rents paid to those buildings.

    The building code has to be adopted, but the council must set up the required local Board of Appeals, and should also be directing the building official to be flexible , within the code, to allow all equally effective means of controlling safety issues.

    The new code has some stringent requirements which apply to big renovations, as well as expansions; at this point they may knock a lot of plans in progress into the un-doable range.

    What to do, what to do???????? about the economics of our Downtown?

    September 13, 2007
  10. David Ludescher said:

    Norman Butler had some excellent thoughts on this topic in an early blog.

    This topic should be one that the “business leaders” can work on and get back before the Council.

    September 13, 2007
  11. victor summa said:

    David L wrote:

    This topic should be one that the “business leaders” can work on and get back before the Council.

    This is so encouraging to hear coming from the Chamber President. NDDC’s ER committee does wave this banner – But it certainly would be a bigger better wave for the Chamber’ business leaders and the NDDC’s to march side by side.

    Suggestion:: You get your guy to talk to our guy and lets see if we can together get some momentum I know most everyone likes to avoid meetings – but it is only through meetings and the open expression of similar thoughts and areas of disagreement can we truly expect to develop a concept that will be worthy of sending to the Council.

    One on one’s with Brookins are a trap.


    September 13, 2007
  12. Ray, your comment that “Many other people do run into one [a building code issue]…and simply abandon a project or idea, never to be heard from again.” raises an interesting and important point. This sort of behavior (canceling projects based on actual or perceived requirements) is what makes it so hard to compute the total cost of those policies that we set in place. Even worse, how many projects are never taken past the “napkin sketch” stage because of fear or concern that requirements (e.g., sprinkler systems) that make sense in new construction are way beyond cost feasibility in a renovation project? I am acutely aware of this problem, the planning commission is pulled in three directions by these issues. We want to (1) encourage the best practice in new projects, (2) help keep renovation projects affordable, and (3) not be accused of playing favorites if we treat (2) “better” than (1).

    Unfortunately, in our litigious society, the risks are way out of proportion to the returns on investment, so we end up with rows of fast-food ghettos along our roads rather than local mom-and-pop diners in our downtowns.

    September 13, 2007
  13. kiffi summa said:

    Re: post #5……….” and who leaked the packet to the NFNews”
    Well, I don’t know, Ross……will that be investigated by the “Special Investigator”? That leaked packet may have been the basis of a lot of trouble/irritation; sure has been the cause of a lot of speculation!

    Suzanne Rook must know who did it; or did the packet appear, in swaddling clothes, at the doorstep of the NFNews building? The next frame of this comic strip could depict a puzzled citizen with a speech balloon that says “Do you suppose the Special Investigator will question Suzanne Rook?” and then the last frame is the editor, head in hands, at desk. The caption reads: “do reporters go to jail for protecting their sources, or is that reserved for the New York Times?”

    September 13, 2007
  14. victor summa said:

    Protecting sources balderdash! If leaking is illegal… then being leaked on (the recipient of the leak) must be too. Sort of like dealing in fenced goods. This special investigator might find it more profitable to charge by the issue rather than by the hour. Wonder if anyone is going to ask him publicly if he has any ties to any of the players.

    September 13, 2007
  15. kiffi summa said:

    This thread has not generated the interest that I thought it would. Ross raised some interesting points for discussion and little has occurred, although I would say there is a flood going on under the surface currents.

    At last night’s meeting, another “bomb” was dropped, this time re: the city’s finances. I t seems that the city has long been invested in CD’s, for holding cash, and that now the company which manages those holdings would appear to be in some instability according to our very competent city Finance Director, Kathleen McBride. The council was asked to endorse and support her investigation of the matter by approving a resolution (last minute green sheet, which I do not have).

    If you remember, a week or two ago, Ms. Mc Bride discovered that the city had not been disbursing the hospital’s portion of PERA payments to the hospital for some time and that a debt of about 400K had accumulated…city owing hospital!

    Seems that the city should be in a “fiscally conservative” mode for a while; put some of those big dollar projects on the back burner until things are all clear. We need to hold on to our city’s excellent bond rating.

    Good luck to Ms. Mc Bride ………..I get upset when an unentered ATM withdrawal messes up my checkbook!

    September 18, 2007
  16. Ross Currier said:

    Kiffi –

    You were right, I should have broken this post into two separate topics, the Fate of the Leftover 8 and the Board of Appeals. Perhaps sorting the somewhat confusing mix might have generated more comments on both topics.

    This morning I heard a rumor that at last night’s meeting the Council asked the Staff to do something on the Board of Appeals over the next two weeks. Perhaps you have more details about what Staff is supposed to do.

    I strongly object to your implication that Mr. Victor Summa might take a trip through the ATM without making note of the transaction in the official household record. I’m sure he’s just doing his part to keep the economy humming.

    – Ross

    September 18, 2007
  17. Curt Benson said:

    In the News article, Suzanne Rook refers to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the Rate Search, the company managing Northfield’s CDs:

    (BTW, hats off to the News for allowing greater online access to its articles. Also, I think the quality of the writing has been way up lately.)

    Here’s the article:

    September 18, 2007
  18. kiffi summa said:

    Ross: As the day goes on, the News only gets worse…………..

    The truly terrible irony is that your title for the September 10th City Council meeting ( “Last Night’s City Council Meeting; Disturbing , Discouraging”) is also apt for the September 17th meeting, and for some past, and I fear some more to come. What has happened to our city government?

    I think everyone needs to read the City Charter, Take heart, and urge our Mayor to be the strong Mayor that our Charter requires him to be, especially in this needy time. Regardless of any other issue, he will get support from many who follow the city process, and realize the depth of malfunction, and confusion we appear to be in now. Many people will applaud his bringing all the alluded-to issues into a public discussion, requiring the council to discuss their problems in the open, and stop causing so much adversarial contention by veiled, and not-so-veiled allusion.

    Arnie Nelson was right , when in the special CCmeeting about the auditor, he kept saying, “I read the Packet; I just want to know what’s UNDERNEATH IT ALL!”

    So do we, Arnie, so do we…………

    September 18, 2007
  19. Ross Currier said:


    A downtown business owner’s response to the “millions may be lost” story in the Northfield News:

    “If they’ve got $4 million to lose, why are they raising my taxes?”

    September 19, 2007
  20. The biggest obstacle to redevelopment of downtown Northfield always has been and continues to be the building department of the City of Northfield. I am drafting an initiative and referendum petition to create one board of appeals for all issues related to the International Building Code, the International Fire Code, the new Northfield rental ordinance, which by the way, conflicts with the first two codes, and the Historic Preservation Commission.

    We need five named sponsors for the petition. Norman Butler and I will committed to it. We need three others. We then have to collect the names, addresses, and signatures of 500 registered voters. If we get a sufficient number of valid signatures, the city must either enact the initiative or schedule a referendum.

    This is the same process that accomplished the rezoning for Target and Cub to come into town.

    In other news, Gary Smith will be releasing some information to the media about the serious medical issues that he faces. He has gone through one operation with two more serious ones to follow. He deserves our support. He is not reason our municipal government is decaying.

    The current council is following Administrator Al Roder like a flock of ewes wearing blinders. Sooner or later, they are going to have to face the allegations of misconduct that surround their messianic leader. Our municipal government has not reached its nadir; I am hopeful that the independent counsel will expose the wide spread malfeasance in city hall, despite the council’s blatant attempt to limit the inquiry to protect their leader. The worst news is yet to come.

    September 20, 2007
  21. kiffi summa said:

    David: if the worst news is yet to come, in what form will it arrive?

    On first hearing, one would think that the special investigator would have to provide some clarity to all the issues facing the city, and therefore its residents, BUT……..if Mr. Greene, the attny who has been working with Maren Swanson, is connected with/does work for, the League of MN. Cities and the special investigator also is connected with/does work for, the league of MN. Cities then how “independent” is this arrangement? Since it is in the interest of their members that the LMCIT provide professional services, who is being benefited by these services? Why do I feel that it is the “city”, as an entity made up of staff and council; and NOT the “city” as constituted of its citizens.

    I have found it highly improper that no one would attach their name to items on the the list of 14 issues; the anonymity makes it seem more like a gradeschool playground game of “gotcha”.

    How does the community rest assured that the whole mess will not disappear into some city hall office, as did the “prayer ladies”?

    Why is the council not asking any hard questions about this whole mess? Is it because none of them had to attach their names to the issues they brought forward? I think the whole “thing” is unconscionable…….Too much secrecy, too much hiding behind anonymous accusations, too much adversarial behavior,too much choosing of sides………..

    I think the City Council owes the citizens of this community either some explanations of what has been going on the last 12 weeks………or a mammoth apology, and a promise to try to do better.

    September 20, 2007
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    The worst is yet to come, David? Oy!

    Kiffi, related to your point, I still wonder if the attorneys went overboard on some of the redactions that were done on the council packet that was made public. I’d really like to get ahold of the original that was leaked to the Northfield News and compare some of those documents side by side with the redacted versions to try to understand the rationale for all the redactions.

    September 20, 2007
  23. victor summa said:

    Griff: I applaud your ongoing efforts to return once again to the question of the redacted “publicly available packet” and the version “leaked” to the Northfield News which you “assume” to be a more smoking “original” including all the dirty truths spelled out.

    a few thoughts for you:

    Was the material leaked to the News redacted or not? How do you know it was not?

    A point to that question:

    Of the material cited in the News story quoting liberally from SOME packet (???)… I don’t believe there’s a quote there (MAY BE WRONG) that is more condemning than that which the redacted material would allow. My contention is, the article was such a journalistic “splash” that all its readers assume the quotes indicated smoking guns. Unfortunate, and I’d say yellow journalism.

    My read of the REDACTED material is, Lansing took steps to openly clarify his position whenever necessary, as that of a business-person… and to verify with legal advice, what would be appropriate conduct when under the Mayor’s hat… and to make certain he doffed his business hat, and/or recused himself from Council discussions whenever that might be necessary.

    Having taken those steps not to exert Mayoral influence… I’m sure there are still some who would say his relationship with both sites (618 – the hardware store and 600 – Tires Plus) was enough to disqualify both from consideration as prospective location of a new liquor store.

    How and why the Hardware Store location was eliminated – and why Tire Plus was not, is a bigger riddle than any that you might find clarified in the redacted or un-redacted memos.

    Ironically, I believe the Administrative section of the City Code clearly puts both properties in the category of being OFF LIMITS… and had Council, Staff or City Attorney brought this fact into the discussion months ago… there would likely have been no consideration of the Tires Plus site in the closed sessions. A more interesting part of the saga is why… when we’re under the global financial srtress we are… is our “leadership’ spending time and money planning to move the liquor Store with a new building. What are these strange forces?

    While no single member of Council or anyone on the staff is publicly referring to a “split” on the council – or sides being taken Council watchers would tell you it is clear, and Lansing seems to be under fire and outnumbered. Why? And, do mere citizens deserve any answers? Go back less than two years and reconsider the drama in hiring a replacement for Susan Hoyt. Are there memos or perspectives on that process? Was the dude from Mississippi or Alabama “driven off “ or did he smell the wind from the north and knew it’s prarie cold blew no good? How about Mr. Roder. Was he eagerly seeking escape from Denison Iowa so much that he pinched his nose so as to not sense the smell of discontent?

    In less than two years we’ve seemed to go from bad to worse. Are there answers in the un-redacted memos? How about in the “eight deleted” questions? Maybe in Alabama or Denison Iowa.

    The degree to which the questions (all 14) gathered by the staff-attorney team, from Councilors, for possible review by the State Auditor… are related to the packet materials in question is vague.

    Manipulation of the process to limit Lansing’s Mayoral role, which might have given viewers of “Desperate Council-boys” some answers, was clear –

    (short scene)

    MUSIC (Bring in the Clowns) FADES down…. CU: Gavel striking the table!

    CUT TO: Mayor: “I’d like to read the following background for this request?”

    CUT TO: Councilman: “Mayor, you’re out of order!”

    CUT TO: Mayor: “Does any one want to hear background for this request?”

    SILENCE…. etc.

    (fade to black)

    Two weeks later comes the “gutting” of the 14 issues.

    Having gathered concerns from the seven players (it is unclear whether The City Administrator contributed any to this list – Conjecture might lead you to believe if he had concerns, these were pitched into the trough of allegations by a homey on the council acting on his behalf….

    In any event, the 14 issues with no names attached, came back to the Council for authorization to move onto the State Auditor… and the eight obvious deep probes, were excised by a simple vote “no discussion” Up! Or down!

    The excised eight went into a deeper trough – then loosely scheduled for council action on a one-by-one basis, and the first… “Pay Plan Irregularities?” died when no one claimed ownership. So, seeing no smoke, the council easily and eagerly dismissed it, irregularities or not. Seemingly the concerned person bringing it forward, was reluctant to drop the gauntlet in daylight! Unfortunate.

    I say unfortunate, because it seems to me there’s so much distrust and possible malfeasance going on (read between the lines of David Hvistendahl’s comments in Number 24 ) that one wonders how far will our local government go to protect their biases?

    As written, the 14 (well, the six that went forward) were posed in vernacular so vague as be meaningless. Was that by design or simply the usual vernacular employed in sunlight situations such as this? Regardless, we the citizens don’t have a clue – Hvistendahl spinning for his client may allude to facts but, who knows….. and the beat goes on.

    Meanwhile… there’s allegations of some sort, in the Goodhue Affair (Roder v The Police Chief’s investigation) – questions of liquor Store location – questions of spending money on relocation of the Liquor Store – Dangling potential debt (nine Million for the Library) a move to relocate City Hall – the Safety Center … more millions – a missing $400 K of hospital funds – more millions of investments threatened by embezzlers – a ton’r two of angst over gateway arches – Contract struggle between City and City employees, Downtown property owners and landlords in a “cold war” with the Building Official. An undersized staff, overtaxed by workload… and mounting cries from neighborhood activists waving their NIMBY banners, Inappropriate (and in violation of the Charter) secreting of prayers in private city offices, and more…. not to mention planning today for water, waste, and transportation needs for growth or change 50 years out coming long after all of us are gone…. and you wonder if the non-redacted version is significantly more indicting than the redacted version.

    If you sort through all this, maybe you can come up with answers.

    Meanwhile, I’d suggest some un-redacted reading, “Denison Iowa” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Dale Maharidge – soon to be available at local book stores near you. See if you can connect any dots …………

    September 21, 2007
  24. Tracy Davis said:

    Victor, I was wondering if anyone would bring up that book. I haven’t read it yet but I’m looking forward to getting my weekly dose of fear-mongering…

    September 21, 2007
  25. Lisa Guidry said:

    I just want to encourage everyone to just be patient a little longer. In the next 2 weeks alot of your questions will be answered regarding Chief Gary Smith, and the criminal investigation!!

    September 21, 2007
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    Hmm, more intrigue. Lisa, I know you a little as a realtor and we recently chatted at the Cow. What’s your involvement with city hall?

    September 21, 2007
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    About the book that Victor mentioned above re: City Administrator Al Roder:

    Denison, Iowa: Searching for the Soul of America Through the Secrets of a Midwest Town

    Al Roder’s name is included in this excerpt from a reviewer on that Amazon page:

    Of all the people with whom Maharidge and Williamson associated for more than a year, the one of greatest interest to me is Louis Navar. Consider this brief excerpt with which the book concludes. Navar has just landed a job doing a roof for Dick Knowles, a “nemesis” of two other residents, Al Roder and Ken Livingston. “I thought we were friends,” one of them said. Read carefully Navar’s response:

    “I told them it was business, that I do business with everyone, that in Mexico it is much rougher than here. You don’t trust anybody, you are only a friend after you prove it, when it really matters. It is earned. You do business with people, and you shake hands and smile and call each other `friend,’ but you’re not really friends. You don’t trust them. It is just business. So I am doing business with Mr. Knowles [and then extending his hand to the mayor]…and with you, friend.”

    September 21, 2007
  28. Griff Wigley said:

    denison-cover roder1 roder2

    Using Amazon’s ‘Search inside the book’ feature, there are 16 pages with the word ‘roder’ on them. See the screenshots.

    September 22, 2007
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    Since this blog post and message thread contains discussion about building code, in today’s Nfld News: Code blues: Building code updates Oct. 15 have business owner struggling

    Norman Butler has exactly 23 days to get to City Hall – with blueprints in hand – and apply for a building permit. If the blueprints aren’t ready by that deadline, he said, his plans to expand his Division Street pub, The Contented Cow, fall apart.

    Twenty-three days from today the 2007 Minnesota State Building Code, a revision of the 2000 document, goes into effect. The new rules will require Butler to install sprinklers in his entire building at an additional cost of $50,000. “It would kill the project,” he said.

    While Butler sees the new code as a potential hardship, Northfield’s Building Official John Brookins views it in a completely different light. “The purpose of this code,” he said, quoting from the 2007 code book, “is to establish minimum requirements to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare.”

    September 22, 2007
  30. kiffi summa said:

    Since this thread has become the “catch-all” for comments on council process…..Here’s one to consider:
    I understand that 4th ward councilperson Jon Denison attended the Charter Commission meeting last week, and asked for a consideration of changing the role of the mayor being the person who sets the Agenda (with the assistance of the city Administrator) for the City Council meetings.

    Doesn’t he realize that the current wording is part of the “strong mayor” system that NF’s governance is built around?

    Doesn’t he also realize that we had an all city referendum, several years ago, on whether to change to a city manager system (More power than a city administrator, and incompatible with a strong mayor structure) and that the city manager structure was strongly rejected by the vote?

    Therefore it is clear that NF citizenry prefer the strong mayor system of local government.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this action of Mr. Denison, but it would seem to be part of the power struggle going on in City Hall.

    I would think if a council person is suggesting a change to the basic organization of our city gov’t, he would speak to his constituents, hold a ward meeting ……..not just go off on his own, or as a “messenger”.

    With what appears to be an intense internal stuggle, Have we lost all sense of appropriate process?

    September 22, 2007
  31. Ross Currier said:

    Kiffi –

    To have a hired staff person “setting the agenda” for our community instead of an elected official is a disturbing violation of democracy as I know and love it.

    – Ross

    September 23, 2007
  32. Lisa Guidry said:


    I am frustrated with the city like everyone else. I have been researching for facts, since the bomb exploded. I will give more details after I am able to make one more road trip. I can tell you that the Chief was in the midst of a important investigation .

    September 23, 2007
  33. kiffi summa said:

    Tomorrow night’s council meeting is likely to bring up some more “discouraging, disturbing”type adjectives.
    Several problematic items on the agenda, with accompanying problematic staff memos … but the one many people are anxious to hear has no packet materials; they will be handed out at the meeting. Agenda Item #10 : “proposal for investigation/audit of municipal practices”; this being the scope of work for the special investigator, Mr. WM Everett.
    I’m curious to see what form this information will take. Will it all be couched in very neutral,uninformative language? Will it say who the report is to be delivered to? Will the results be reported only in closed session? Will it really come to grips with the issues that were initially identified as being important enough to call in the State Auditor?
    On the other hand, the item is identified on the Agenda as a Motion that requires a vote; it is conceivable that the council will vote to not proceed.
    What then?

    October 14, 2007
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ll be waiting for a midnight report, Kiffi!

    October 15, 2007
  35. kiffi summa said:

    Griff, Don’t wait too long; it’s Wednesday and I don’t even want to think about it.
    Only a slight exaggeration to say there were about a million contentious issues; and don’t look for a PUBLIC report from the special investigator anytime soon, either … schedule for report is Dec. 15, but if there’s anything serious I can’t imagine given the current atmosphere, that it will be open to the public. How could you expect otherwise when things continually get brought up , and then just fade away with no further comment?
    Someone should start keeping track of the issues brought to open mic that are never responded to, even later. Council doesn’t, and doesn’t direct staff to respond.
    It’s too much of a many, many layered mess to begin to cover in a post like this.

    October 17, 2007
  36. Griff Wigley said:

    I watched some of it on NTV. The tensions were obvious, evidently exacerbated by Lansing’s lawsuit that was served to Roder, Cashman, Denison and Pokorney prior to the meeting. Yikes!

    October 17, 2007
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    I was wrong. The lawsuit was served on Tues. afternoon, not Monday afternoon. So the tensions I observed at Monday’s meeting were entirely, um… natural?

    October 17, 2007
  38. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News editorial: Investigator’s entire report must be public

    It was disturbing to learn that some portion of the final report of investigator William Everett may be withheld from public view. We can find no compelling reason to withhold any of it. Before getting into the finer points of the Minnesota Data Practices Act, there is an introductory sentence that says that government should operate under the presumption that data is public unless a statute or rule provides otherwise. That’s pretty black and white, but it’s amazing how often that sentence gets ignored by some local governments.

    October 20, 2007
  39. kiffi summa said:

    Hey ! all you guys that are in favor of the Drug dogs… Maybe the dogs should go over to City Hall! There’s got to be some reason for what’s going on over there…

    October 20, 2007

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