The skate park should be in a community park, not a neighborhood park. And Old Memorial Park is the best location for it.

I’ve taken a few photos the past week or so of the sites being considered for a skate park. One of them that appears to be a leading contender among PRAB members: the northeast corner of Washington Park at 8th and Union.

Washinton Park, 8th and Union Washington Park - aerial view Park development guidelines Park development guidelines - skate park

But Washington Park is a neighborhood park, not a community park, defined by the City of Northfield’s Park System Master Plan (chapter 3) as serving “a broader purpose than neighborhood parks. Focus is on meeting community-based recreational needs, as well as preserving unique landscapes and open spaces. ”

The Master Plan’s Facility Development Guidelines clearly show that a skatepark is inappropriate for a neighborhood park and instead should be located in a community park or athletic complex. (Northfield has 6 community parks: Ames, Bridge Square, Babcock, Memorial, Oddfellows, and Riverside Lions. And it has 3 athletic complexes: Sechler, Sibley Soccer Fields, and Spring Creek Soccer.) Given the close proximity of that corner of Washington Park to the houses at 8th and Union (see aerial map), it doesn’t seem an appropriate location.  Skateparks can generate a fair amount of noise.

Page 28 of Chapter 3 of the Master Plan’s discusses the location of the skateboard park, and includes a table of the pros and cons:

Skateboarders’ interests were represented by The Northfield Skateboard Coalition during the public process. The group currently has a proposal and design concept for a new skate plaza that would serve their needs. The desired size of the facility is 12,000 to 15,000 s.f. Access to nearby parking, bathrooms, drinking fountain, vending machines, benches, picnic tables, shady areas, and grassy areas for sitting is also desired. A facility of this size would have a capacity of up to 200, although daily use would be less, for this facility to get built, the constructors would have to request kitchen and bath remodeling online, for a faster and easier construction.

A key positive aspect of the skateboard park is that it would serve an age group not always interested in other forms of outdoor recreation. The advocates also point out the importance of the social aspect of the activity, underscoring that location matters for facility success.

The importance of selecting a location for this type of facility that addresses the needs and concerns of the user group, along with those of the larger community, should not be underestimated. To that end, and after much discussion, the PRAB concluded that the facility is best located in a community park, with Ames, Memorial, and Babcock Parks being candidate sites.

The PRAB also concluded that a separate public process was necessary to adequately consider the issues from various perspectives and select the site that best balances the interests of the various stakeholders. To aid that process, the following table identifies the opportunities and limitations of each of the sites currently being considered.
Park Master Plan pros and cons for skate park location

Considering the list of pros and cons for Old Memorial Park, I think it’s a much better choice than Ames or Babcock.  And the constraints listed for Memorial “surrounding residential properties (i.e., noise,
traffic, security concerns, etc.)” and “loss of general open space” are really minor issues.

Look at these photos:

Old Memorial Park Old Memorial Park Old Memorial Park Old Memorial Park
Old Memorial Park is a huge park.  Yes, the open space is one of its assets.

North side of Old Memorial Park North side of Old Memorial Park North side of Old Memorial Park
But there are a number of places where a skate park could be ‘tucked’ into the park without affecting the open space or the neighbors. One spot seems ideal: the north side of the park, just below the sand volleyball court (photos above).

Old Memorial Park aerial viewThere is only one house nearby and it’s not that close. See the aerial view with my arrow pointing to it (right). And the night I took these photos, I met the homeowner who said that that would be a much better location than out in one of the open spaces.

DSC08492 DSC08494 DSC08495 DSC08498
Other smaller spots are possibilities, too.

Old Memorial ParkI don’t have any skin in this game.  But now that the City has the skate park equipment and the Union of Youth has the money to put towards salt lake city ut concrete sealing services, it’s time to get this done.

I’m fine with a temporary location this year at Riverside or Babcock. But I think Old Memorial Park is the best permanent location for the skatepark.

Let the discussion continue here. (I’ve closed comments on the Feb. 25 blog post, Where should the Union of Youth skateboard park be located?)

270 Comments

  1. Daniel Groll said:

    Hi. I’m a little confused. Are they trying to find a site for the temporary skate park? Or for a permanent park? Also, the corner of the park you have pictured is the northEAST corner (there’s a playground on the northwest corner). Is the plan to cut down those trees? There’s a basketball court currently on the southeast corner: is that what they have in mind?

    Thanks.

    April 5, 2012
  2. Kathie Galotti said:

    But now that the City has the skate park equipment and the Union of Youth has the money to put towards an asphalt or concrete pad for it, it’s time to get this done.

    Way past time to get this done, in fact.

    April 5, 2012
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Daniel, yes, northeast corner. I’ve fixed that now.

    The PRAB realizes that to get a permanent location decided and then prepped will likely take several more months. Meanwhile, the City has the equipment in storage NOW and it could be put to use at a temporary location this year.

    As for Washington Park, I thought they were considering the basketball court location but no longer. It’s apparently pretty popular. I don’t know if they’d cut down the trees in the northeast corner.

    April 5, 2012
  4. Griff:
    Why do you feel Old Memorial is a better site than Ames Park?

    April 6, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, one of the PRAB members explained to me that it was important for parents of very young skateboarders to be able to drive up and drop their kids off and pick them up at the skatepark. There’s no convenient place to do this at Ames Park. I saw this happening firsthand at Eagan’s skatepark earlier this week.

    April 7, 2012
  6. kiffi summa said:

    yesterday’s New York Times had a fabulous slide show of the new parks built on the land reclaimed from the old Yankees’ Stadium site: Heritage Park with its three bluegrass ball fields, and the River Avenue park which has a playground area with a huge graffiti wall, and next to the ball fields is their new skateboard park. It’s an all concrete park and it is evident what a beautiful sculptural element a skateboard park can be, elegant and serene… yes, SERENE.

    Why , oh why, does Northfield have to be so backward and conservative in some areas of its collective ‘thinking’ ?

    April 7, 2012
  7. Scott Carpenter said:

    Most of us agree that Northfield could use a skate park. The big question is where it should be located.

    There are issues with the Memorial Park site — which include the industry standards for the location of such a park. I’d invite people to consult the NESNA page on this topic, located at http://northfieldeastside.org/alerts/memorial-park-skate-park-discussion/.

    April 8, 2012
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    As an East Side Neighborhood resident, I look forward to the eventual placement of a skate park at Memorial Park. I hope it might be in place in time for my 2-year-old daughter to make use of it.

    April 8, 2012
  9. rob hardy said:

    I have always thought that Memorial Field was the best location for a skate park. Consultants hired by the city in the past have supported that view, but many of my East Side neighbors disagree with that conclusion. The NESNA page that Scott (comment #6) refers to mentions noise as the primary reason not to locate the skate park at Memorial. Skate parks, the source indicates, produce noise levels of roughly 80 db. I live several blocks further west on 5th St., and I am regularly exposed to similar noise levels from the railroad crossing on Fifth Street, as well as noise from college students coming home late to Rippley-owned properties from drinking establishments downtown. Whatever. We live in a relatively peaceful, if not idyllic, community that caters to people in their upper-middle-class bubbles (I got a pathetically yuppie 21 on Charles Murray’s stupid quiz, so I know whereof I speak). We are generally liberal and tolerant until someone wants to build a wind turbine (which creates imaginary infrasonic noise) or a skate park in our general vicinity. Can we finally stop thinking only about ourselves and build the skate park in Memorial Park where it should be?

    Oh, and here’s Griff’s story on locating the skate park in Ames Park, which appeared on LoGroNo THREE ****ING YEARS AGO. Let’s just do this, okay, and not keep telling Northfield’s youth that we don’t want them in our neighborhood.

    April 9, 2012
  10. john george said:

    Preach it, Rob!!

    April 9, 2012
  11. john george said:

    Kiffi- I think there is a big difference between being “conservative” and being self-serving. One can be conservative in their actions and demeanor without being selfish. Perhaps we have not evolved as much over the last few millennium as we might have hoped.

    April 9, 2012
  12. Kathie Galotti said:

    Like!

    April 10, 2012
  13. Scott Carpenter said:

    Actually, I’m unaware of any city-hired consultants who have recommended placing a skate park at Memorial Park (as Rob notes in #8). NESNA has followed this issue pretty closely and has only heard from city consultants who have recommended against additional facilities at that location. If there have been reports in the other direction, please provide specifics. Additional details here would be welcome.

    Let’s also be clear that no one is telling Northfield youth they are not wanted. However, the city has established guidelines for determining which uses are appropriate for which spaces (in its comprehensive parks plan), and it should follow its own guidelines when possible. Moreover, when the skateboard industry itself recommends certain setbacks from residential areas, that should give us pause.

    My hope is that there will be reasoned and respectful discussion on the topic. Neighbors have legitimate concerns, just as the skateboard group has legitimate desires. Finding an appropriate location requires balancing those two forces.

    April 10, 2012
  14. Kathie Galotti said:

    Delaying the construction of a skate park for years and years and years while we wait for the ideal, problem-free, unanimous-consented-to location to–what? spring up?—that’s a lot like telling the youth that their needs aren’t important enough to take action on. Except it’s not transparent.

    April 10, 2012
  15. kiffi summa said:

    Thanks, Rob… I am really disappointed in my East side friends , who allow NESNA to speak for all of them.

    All the ‘City’ ,and the people who fight against locating a skatepark anywhere… for this or that reason, each location is deemed unfit… all they are telling the kids is that they are not a priority in this community.

    Instead of setting an example of thoughtful development, NF once again comes in disappointingly late. and this time it’s by once again ‘dissing’ its youth.

    April 10, 2012
  16. rob hardy said:

    Scott: According to the 2007 park master plan, the three candidates for a skate park location are Memorial, Ames, and Babcock Parks. In June 2009, the city council voted 5-1 to remove Ames Park from consideration. The council packet for that meeting (available here) included letters from two outside consultants, Bauer & Associates and Gene Allen Design. Bauer & Associates wrote: “Memorial Park is a hard site to pass up given the listed site opportunities and benefits” (including the existing amenities, such as toilet facilities, and the social atmosphere). Gene Allen Design (which helped build a popular skate park in Mound, MN) said that the Memorial Park sites “has the most going for it,” and concludes that the impact of locating the skate park there would be “minimal.” The consultant from Bauer & Associates speaks of recommending the Memorial Park site “at various public meetings.”

    [file]https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Skate-Park-Location-Attachment-1.pdf[/file]
    [file]https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Skate-Park-Location-Attachment-2.pdf[/file]

    April 10, 2012
  17. Scott Carpenter said:

    Rob: the recommendation by Gene Allen Design was actually commissioned by the Skateboard Coalition, and was not, I believe “hired by the City” as you suggest. Regarding Bauer, it’s not clear who hired them. However, note that they acknowledge that Memorial Park may not be appropriate because of the pre-existing master plan.

    In any case, it’s worth nothing that the park you refer to Gene Allen designing in Mound is not in a residential area. That may be in part because of noise. Anyone interested in checking out noises associated with a skate park should check this video of that same Mound skatepark:



    Such noise (perhaps from 7 a.m. to 10:30 pm in the summer) could be problematic if the skate park were located close to residences. But since no one has yet said where the park would be situated in any of the locations, it’s hard to tell. All this to say that the concern about noise can’t be dismissed easily. It deserves consideration — along with all the other issues.

    April 10, 2012
  18. rob hardy said:

    Brauer & Associates (not “Bauer,” as I mistyped earlier) was the consulting firm which prepared the March 2008 parks master plan. For that purpose, they were hired by the City of Northfield, and I believe their letter on the skate park would have been submitted as part of that process.

    Where do you suggest the skate park be located, Scott? The Brauer & Associates letter favors Memorial, though it does acknowledge the existence of a master plan for Memorial that doesn’t include a skate park. Ames, its second choice, was voted down by the council in 2009. Babcock was not recommended. If the City is actually talking about Washington Park as a location, that fits in with no master plan that I am aware of, and the the skate park would be even closer to neighborhood residences than at Memorial.

    In the video you posted, Scott, I also hear loud birds. And I wonder about the microphone placement. Would there be the same level of noise if the microphone were placed at the distance that separates the Memorial Park site from its nearest neighbors?

    April 10, 2012
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott, I’m really pleased that you’ve joined the discussion here. I occasionally moderate the conversations so I think you can expect that things will remain civil.

    You wrote:

    Neighbors have legitimate concerns, just as the skateboard group has legitimate desires. Finding an appropriate location requires balancing those two forces.

    Agreed! And we’re all fellow citizens of Northfield.

    1. I’m assuming you are the author of the NESNA page you linked to. But unlike the NESNA blog posts, there’s no author indicated, so it would help to confirm that.

    2. I know you’re a member of the NESNA board but has the Board taken any official action about this issue? It would help to know if you’re speaking for yourself or for the Board.

    3. I’m assuming that you live near Memorial but can you confirm that?

    April 10, 2012
  20. rob hardy said:

    On Northfield.org, I’ve attempted to compile an unbiased list of links to resources on the issue of a local skatepark. Please let me know if there are other resources that should be included. I’ve also linked back here for those who want to join this discussion.

    April 10, 2012
  21. Scott Carpenter said:

    Griff,

    The NESNA page is a group effort. I compiled it from various documents NESNA has produced over the past few years (and including documentation from the City). The page was then vetted and adjusted by comments from other members of the NESNA board.

    The NESNA board did take action on this topic in 2009, when the topic was last in the news. At that time NESNA polled its membership at the annual meeting, where “skate park” came in dead last in a ranking of eight possible amenities. At that point the NESNA board decided to speak against this location for a skate park before the Park Board and the City Council.

    Assuming you have a Northfield phone directory handy, it’s easy to see that I do live close to Memorial Park. No one else has been asked about their address; however, using the same resource, one concludes that none of the people advocating for the Memorial location in these comments lives in proximity to the Park. I suppose that may explain a few things.

    In any case, I’m happy to speak with individuals by phone or in person, but I’d rather step away from online discussion. If there are new developments, NESNA will try to alert folks to them. It’s great that Rob has started to compile a list of skate park resources. I think the main thing now is for readers to actually look at these resources as they try to decide what is the most appropriate compromise in the competing wishes.

    April 10, 2012
  22. rob hardy said:

    I would appreciate it if someone could provide me with a link to the Master Plan for Memorial Park. It is often cited (as precluding the siting of a skate park at Memorial), but I haven’t been able to find the document itself online. It ought to be available to the public.

    April 11, 2012
  23. kiffi summa said:

    Rob: I went to the city’s website, then to Boards and Commissions, then typed in : Master Park Plan in the search box…
    This is what came up:

    /government/cityplans/parksystemmasterplan

    There’s a whole lot of additional files; I didn’t look through it all, but Happy Hunting!

    April 11, 2012
  24. rob hardy said:

    Kiffi: Thanks, I found that. It’s the master plan for the entire park system from March 2008, which includes a page on Memorial Park (which I’ve posted on Northfield.org), but which doesn’t seem to have the separate master plan for Memorial Park (which, as far as I can tell from the NESNA website, was adopted either in 2006 or 2004, as referenced here). The NESNA site includes a JPG of a rendering of the master plan, but no written document that I can find.

    April 11, 2012
  25. rob hardy said:

    Okay, I’ve updated the Northfield.org story to include the 11/21/05 council packet which includes a discussion of the Memorial Park master plan, along with a higher resolution image of the park layout. I think that’s it.

    April 11, 2012
  26. amy merritt said:

    I want to urge everyone to attend the Parks and Rec Advisory Board meeting this Thursday, April 19th at 7pm in the Library meeting room. I plan to be there to speak in support of the Skateboard coalition. It is extremely important that the PRAB members hear your perspectives and see that Northfield community members support a skatepark.

    April 16, 2012
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Amy.

    I’m told that the PRAB will be making a decision about the temporary location on Thurs. night. I won’t be able to be there (two other community meetings that night) but I hope others here can attend and report back.

    April 16, 2012
  28. Griff Wigley said:

    From the PRAB minutes last month, available in the Packet for the PRAB meeting on Thurs. eve at the Libary.

    Skate Park Update

    Chair Knutson distributed a memo with comments and concerns from City Council. Liability insurance concerned was addressed, as this equipment is Tier I, no additional cost for insurance for the City.

    Short-term versus long-term placement of the equipment was discussed. The equipment purchased is not made to be portable. Site discussion included Babcock Park, Riverside Park and Memorial Park. It was narrowed down to discuss sites that were already paved which include Babcock Park and Riverside Park. Babcock Park issues included DJJD event, the slope of the slab and semi-truck parking and turnarounds. The positive issues include that the slab is available and there are no near housing issues. Riverside Park issues included the proximity to senior living and DJJD events.

    Amy Merritt from the Key spoke on behalf of the group. The funds that have been raised are for equipment and facility use, not used for paying a monitor. Not a good use of their funds. They would be willing to spend $10,000 for the re-pavement of the temporary site.

    A discussion was held to why a monitor was a requirement for the skate park. It was not because of the height of the equipment, but rather for incidents at the Park.

    NESNA (North East Side Neighborhood Association) approached the PRAB to state their concerns about placing a skate park in Old Memorial Park. After listening to their concerns, they were advised that their concerns were premature, as the PRAB was not discussing a permanent site at this time.

    Past Chair Vanasek approached the PRAB and gave a brief history of the skate park discussion and the Park Board involvement.

    Chair Knutson proposed two alternate sites for discussion; behind the Safety Center and the slab by City Hall parking lot. These were discussed and found not feasible at this time.

    After discussion, it was decided that the PRAB would focus their attention on Riverside Park blacktop slab and allow residents to comment on the site at the next PRAB meeting.

    A Motion was made by D. Hvistendahl and seconded by M. Miller that the PRAB has agreed to focus their attention on Riverside Park blacktop area for a temporary skate park. Yes votes by Knutson, Hvistendahl, Miller, Johnson, Gehring, Lutsky. No votes by Clark. Motion carried.

    April 17, 2012
  29. kiffi summa said:

    Griff… given how involved you have been in the skateboard park discussion, I hope you are not putting off attending the PRAB meeting in favor of the League of MN Cities meeting, part two, which was, IMO, devoid of content or productive purpose…

    Again, IMO, there have been far better, more comprehensive and meaningful, “Community Conversations” in the coffee house.

    April 18, 2012
  30. kiffi summa said:

    Why , oh why is the focus still on a “temporary” site?

    Can anyone give a cogent answer? hopefully one that will hold more water than a 3-year old’s swim suit top?
    (if you find that question obscure, refer to the pool rules thread…)

    April 18, 2012
  31. Scott Carpenter said:

    The focus is on a temporary site because the skateboarders want a place to skate this summer, and that site needs to have a paved surface already available. (Even if a permanent site were selected now, the fundraising and construction would take at least a year. The hope is to give them something now while a permanent solution is being worked toward.)

    April 18, 2012
  32. rob hardy said:

    We’ve had temporary skate parks before, and it really should be time for a permanent solution. Even if, as Scott says, fundraising and construction would take at least a year, it’s time to have a location where that construction can take place.

    April 18, 2012
  33. kiffi summa said:

    Absolutely correct, Rob… why should the kids waste 10K on the paving for a temporary site?

    There is no cost benefit to that unless the money is not wasted by being spent on part of what would become a permanent site.

    This has gone on for an inexcusably long time; a whole ‘generation’ of skateboarders has come up from Middle school thru high school and off to college without ever having their dream realized, even though at one point they had raised 30K towards making that dream concrete. (no pun intended)

    Unfortunately there are elements in this community who simply don’t value the idea of a skatepark, or the kids who want it, and will find one excuse after another to stop any progress to that goal.

    In the NYTimes of April 6, and I mentioned this before (comment #5) there was a magnificent skateboard park built in NYC. It is a dreamlike concrete landscape to facilitate speed, and skill, and (almost) flight! It is beautiful, in its own right,as a sculpture.
    We would be so lucky to offer that to the kids and the community, just as a visual delight for the adults, and a realization of a long sought after dream for the youth .

    April 18, 2012
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott,

    I wanted to get back to you on why I’ve not asked anyone else here for their address. It’s a fair question.

    I think you’re the only one participating here who’s opposed to the Memorial Park location and so it helps observers to know if your location is part of the reason you’re opposed. It’s part of a broader expectation of declaring one’s conflict of interests. Hope that makes sense!

    April 19, 2012
  35. Scott Carpenter said:

    I’d advise against making assumptions about my position regarding a skatepark. I am simply representing NESNA’s concern for due process in decision-making. If there are to be significant departures from the master plan that was agreed to before the pool was built, the City’s own comprehensive parks plan calls for an open and public process with neighborhood involvement. However, until the neighbors of any of the concerned locations can weigh in, we’d need to know exactly what is being proposed (how large a skatepark? situated where within the park? made out of what?).

    At NESNA, we did poll the membership during the last round of skatepark discussions, and it was clear how people felt about it. By now, though, attitudes may have changed. However, we can’t really find out until we know what is being proposed. It’s because all these steps need to be followed that the decision-making process can take longer.

    April 19, 2012
  36. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott, yes, I heartily endorse the need to have an “open and public process with neighborhood involvement.” I guess that’s another reason why the PRAB is focused on a temporary location decision at tonight’s meeting.

    April 19, 2012
  37. rob hardy said:

    I’m curious about NESNA’s definition of “due process,” considering the fact that this process has now dragged on for six years. This year’s high school seniors were starting middle school when this process started. An entire generation of skateboarders has come and gone while we adults have resisted change and called it a concern for “due process.”

    April 19, 2012
  38. rob hardy said:

    Speaking of other amazing skateparks, my friend Tom’s factory in Louisville, Kentucky, burned down in 2000, and the site became the location of Louisville’s Extreme Skate Park, which opened in 2002.

    April 19, 2012
  39. Griff Wigley said:

    Rob, I think ‘due process’ on something like this has to be pretty formal, ie, once the PRAB selects a park as its preferred permanent location, then public information and input sessions (F2F and online) are set up. Then the PRAB would make a decision on whether or not to proceed with a recommendation to the Council.

    April 19, 2012
  40. Scott Carpenter said:

    Yes, Griff has put it succinctly. In fact, it’s not a question of NESNA’s definition of due process; it’s the City’s.

    April 19, 2012
  41. rob hardy said:

    Of course you are right, Griff. It’s nonetheless frustrating that six years have passed before “due process” has begun to creak into motion.

    April 19, 2012
  42. amy merritt said:

    The Skateboard Coalition is hoping to use their new equipment this summer, which probably means a choice between Babcock and Riverside Park (both already have asphalt). Each location has its benefits and drawbacks for sure. However, I think the most important part of the decision tonight, is a solid commitment to choose a location for a permanent park by next summer. The coalition currently has $24,500 which they raised for a permanent location. This summer, we hope we can answer some of the unknowns, which will help to inform the permanent decision and address some neighbor concerns. For example, we can learn how loud the equipment realy is, how many square feet are needed, and any unanticipated issues. It is only fair for the park board, and the council, to support a multi-year commitment, rather than a one-summer “see how it goes” plan for a temporary location.

    April 19, 2012
  43. Kiffi, that comment actually made me chuckle this morning. LOL.

    April 21, 2012
  44. Kathie Galotti said:
    April 24, 2012
  45. rob hardy said:

    Kathie: The letter makes no mention of the fact that it’s the temporary skatepark that will be located at Riverside Park. Riverside was chosen because the existing asphalt pad at the location (from the old skatepark) will only need seal-coating to be ready for use. In any other park, there would have been a significant expense to create a pad for the skateboarding equipment. I don’t think Riverside Park is an ideal location for the skatepark, either. I teach a CVEC class at Village on the Cannon, and I appreciate the very real concerns of the residents. This is why I think it’s imperative that a permanent skatepark location be chosen as soon as possible, so that the arrangement at Riverside Park (if it in fact goes through) is truly temporary. The PRAB recommended the use of Riverside Park through October; after that, there should be a permanent location.

    I do think it’s unfortunate that skateboarders are seen as a problem to be avoided, rather than as an opportunity build a stronger community across generations.

    April 24, 2012
  46. Patrick Enders said:

    In the linked letter at southernminn.com, Bruce Roberts wrote:

    “Many of us in our 70s, 80s and 90s contribute actively via leadership, service, music and education throughout the broader Northfield community. But as we age, some of us become “vulnerable.” It’s part of the whole package. At its best, the broader community understands the importance of this segment of the older population and takes care not to intentionally place those older adults in jeopardy.”

    However, he failed to explain the nature of this perceived threat.

    I hope I’m missing something here.

    April 24, 2012
  47. rob hardy said:

    Patrick: It was reported at last Thursday’s PRAB meeting that, in the past, some residents of the Village on the Cannon (VOC) have felt verbally or physically threatened by the skateboarders. Because the driveway outside the main entrance of the VOC is essentially a ramp, it already attracts skateboarders (who ignore a No Skateboarding sign) who sometimes whiz past dangerously close to residents. At the meeting, skateboard advocates argued that a skatepark nearby would draw the skateboarders away from the attractive paved areas directly around the building. They also promised a thorough education effort to make skateboarders aware of their responsibilities, and of the consequences of unacceptable behavior. I think the skateboarders should be given the opportunity to show that they can be good neighbors and responsible citizens.

    April 24, 2012
  48. Kathie Galotti said:

    In my post above I meant NIMBY, not MIMBY. And obviously I still need remedial work on creating links.

    I understand that having a skateboard park adjacent to any property carries noise and perhaps other risks. But I do think that this group of kids has waited patiently, raised funds, etc. etc., and the lesson that’s being taught is that there’s a gold standard in Northfield: Those that have the gold set the standards. I wish there were a group as powerful as the senior citizens’ lobby and/or the East Side Association to speak for the kids.

    April 24, 2012
  49. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: Riverside Park recommended for Northfield skateboard park

    It’s back to Riverside Park. That’s the recommendation a subcommittee of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board plans to give to the full board when it meets on Thursday to discuss a permanent location of a skateboard park in the city. The report, written by Neil Lutsky and David Hvistendahl, recommends locating a permanent park at the west end of Riverside Park, on a smaller footprint than the current, temporary park…

    Lutsky, Hvistendahl and Grace Clark spent six months studied previous reports about skatepark locations, interviewed people and groups who were stakeholders or who had concerns about a skateboard park, toured other parks and possible locations in the city, consulted with city staff and held a public meeting about the park.

    The report indicates that subcommittee member Grace Clark did not agree with the recommendation and would be voicing her own opinion.

    October 18, 2012
  50. Griff Wigley said:

    I was surprised to read that there was a public meeting. I dug around a bit and found Rob Hardy’s Sept. 20 blog post on Patch about the Sept 13 meeting at the Weitz Center:

    The Opportunity of a Skateboard Park

    On September 13, the PRAB subcommittee held a public meeting to hear from potential neighbors of a permanent skateboard park. Nearly all of the fifty or sixty people in attendance were neighbors of either Riverside or Memorial Parks.

    I was out of town quite a bit around that time so I may have missed it but I find nothing online that indicates that the PRAB tried to get the word out to the general population about this public meeting and not just the two neighborhoods.

    Can anyone point to an announcement online that promoted the public meeting?

    October 18, 2012
  51. Griff Wigley said:

    I could be wrong but it’s hard to see how this skatepark issue will unfold in a positive way. The PRAB will likely want to support the work of the subcommittee, despite Grace Clark’s dissenting opinion. So it will likely go to the Council, at which point, lots of second-guessing will likely be heard, both by councilors and the public, especially Village on the Cannon residents and maybe others in the Riverside Park neighborhood. And I’ll be irritated because the skatepark location issue is one for the entire town, not just the neighborhoods, and there wasn’t any concerted effort to engage the wider citizenry.

    If the council decides to not accept the PRAB’s recommendation or to delay a decision, then members of the PRAB and others will likely criticize the Council for being indecisive or undermining the work of the PRAB. And then we’ll likely see criticisms from the general public and the MSM about Northfield’s endless ‘process.’

    Yeah, we might get a permanent skatepark out of this but, like the safety center, it’s hard to see how the whole community will celebrate it.

    October 18, 2012
  52. Griff Wigley said:

    AAARRRGGGHHHH. The packet for tonight’s PRAB meeting doesn’t include the 7-page task force report by Neil Lutsky and David Hvistendahl titled “Recommendations for a Permanent Site for a Northfield Skateboard Park.”

    October 18, 2012
  53. Kathie Galotti said:

    Maybe they’ve taken a page from the School Board’s “How To Ram a New Idea Through” playbook. I think you’re supposed to just accept it. And perhaps, bleat like a sheep.

    October 18, 2012
  54. rob hardy said:

    You’re on a rampage this morning, aren’t you Griff?

    My guess is that the community meeting (really a “listening session”) at the Weitz wasn’t more widely publicized because it was intended to gather information from neighbors who might be most directly effect by the siting of the park. I’m guessing that, because the three-member committee of the PRAB didn’t constitute a quorum of PRAB members, open meeting law notification requirements didn’t need to be followed. But I could be wrong about that.

    Tonight’s meeting is open to the entire community.I agree that this issue is one for the entire community. How do we balance the need to address the concerns of immediate neighbors (concerns about noise from a skateboard park, for example) with the need to provide an amenity that serves the youth of the community as a whole? It’s easy to decry NIMBYism when the thing being objected to isn’t, in fact, in your own back yard. But in the end, Memorial Park doesn’t belong to NESNA, any more than Riverside Park belongs to Village on the Cannon. We need to figure out how to act for the good of the entire community, which sometimes means accepting change in our own back yards.

    October 18, 2012
  55. Griff Wigley said:

    Rob, I’m not concerned about whether open meeting law was adhered to on that Sept. 13 meeting. My issue is that the PRAB needs to help the general public understand the complexities of this, get their input/collective intelligence, and THEN come to their best conclusion.

    After months of work, the 3-person task force couldn’t resolve their differences. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Reasonable and well-informed people can still disagree.

    But regardless, the broader citizenry deserves a chance to learn, contribute ideas, and voice its opinions, too… before everything’s been baked and delivered.

    October 18, 2012
  56. Ross Currier said:

    Griff –

    Your post made me ask myself how long this project has been discussed. Here’s the oldest (NDDC) documentation that I could find: http://nddc.org/weblog/post/646/

    So, that’s five years. (Then-) Skatepark spokesperson Joe McGowan has probably graduated from college by now. Gosh, maybe he should be appointed to the Park Board.

    At a recent NDDC Board meeting, we discussed drawing visitors to Northfield. It has been suggested that our amenities are very attractive to women and couples (the historic downtown, scenic river…and restaurants, retail and services?) but less attractive to men and youth.

    For the men, we discussed raising awareness of bicycling around Northfield (…from your downtown office to the rolling countryside in three-quarters of a mile). For the youth, we suggested,

    “Build the Skatepark”.

    October 18, 2012
  57. Kathie Galotti said:

    Indeed. I read through (quickly) the 2 reports–they’re thoughtful and I think Northfield needs to reach a decision soon. Enough with the info gathering, listening, debating, consulting. There is no perfect solution that is going to make everyone happy. FIVE YEARS is a ridículous amount of time to spend trying to make everyone happy. Enough.

    October 18, 2012
  58. Curt Benson said:

    Ross, as you are well aware, all Locallygrown conversations can be improved with gratuitous World War II references. (heh) What comes to mind is this quote from George “Old Blood and Guts” Patton:

    … “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” …

    –Cheers

    October 18, 2012
  59. Griff Wigley said:

    Kathie, and I think it’s ridiculous to spend 5 years on this and to never have bothered to engage the broader public in a deliberate, concerted way. It’s not about trying to make everyone happy.

    October 18, 2012
  60. Griff Wigley said:

    Great quote, Curt, but not always relevant, not even in war. Would George Patton would have urged Eisenhower to go with May 30 for D-Day instead of June 6? “The hell with this incessant planning. Let’s just do it!”

    October 18, 2012
  61. rob hardy said:

    Griff: I understand that communication is always something that can be improved, but I also think that members of the community need to make their own effort to find information about and become involved in issues that interest and affect them. I am not on the NESNA mailing list, nor am I an immediate neighbor of either of the proposed sites, and I first became interested in the skateboard park issue through following it here on LocallyGrown and in the Northfield News. I made an effort to become involved. I didn’t wait for Google to implant an alert system in my brain; I decided this issue was important to me, and I made an effort to stay on top of it. I think it’s often the case that those who want to be involved and engaged, seek out those opportunities; others sit back and complain about the process.

    October 18, 2012
  62. john george said:

    And besides, I don’t think the skate boarders want to be violently executed, anyway.

    October 18, 2012
  63. Griff Wigley said:

    Rob, I think of local public engagement as a spectrum. On the one end are the citizens who run for public office and serve on the boards and commissions. On the other end are people who only vote.

    I think there’s a significant number who, with the right approach from City Hall, could be brought into the middle someplace… not at the level of engagement that you’re at on this skatepark issue but significant nonetheless.

    And if they come away feeling good about the experience, there’s a likelihood they’ll do it again on another issue and maybe even turn up the engagement a notch.

    October 18, 2012
  64. Curt Benson said:

    John, this is exactly why you will never be known as John “Old Blood and Guts” George.

    October 18, 2012
  65. rob hardy said:

    Don’t ask me about tonight’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting until I’ve calmed down for a few days.

    October 18, 2012
  66. Griff Wigley said:

    Okay, Rob, we’ll wait. In the meantime:

    Nfld News: Park board tables Northfield skate park site recommendation

    The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board postponed until its next meeting a motion that recommends a permanent site for the skateboard park in Northfield.

    Board members, skateboarders, residents of the Village on the Cannon and others spent the majority of the board’s meeting Thursday night discussing the benefits and disadvantages of the potential park sites: Memorial, Riverside and Babcock Parks.

    David Hvistendahl made a motion to present a recommendation to the Northfield City Council, which ranked Riverside Park as the board’s first choice and Memorial Park as the board’s second choice. The motion was later tabled to allow the board to explore a new site at the YMCA, which was an idea presented by members of the public in attendance.

    October 19, 2012
  67. Kathie Galotti said:

    Let’s see if we can drag our feet on this another couple years. Then maybe the kids will move to another community. Then Northfield will once again be “a special place.”

    October 19, 2012
  68. rob hardy said:

    I left the meeting with a splitting headache, and managed to get into the privacy of my own home before I exploded in a fit of rage. The reasonable opinion of the Lutsky/Hvistendahl report was to locate a permanent park closer to the highway in Riverside or in Memorial, arguing (correctly) that Babcock Park is too peripheral and unattractive, too far from downtown and The Key. They were on the verge of voting on recommendation, when the PRAB chair (who is also on the YMCA board) convinced them to table the motion to explore locating the permanent park near the YMCA. Note: the YMCA is currently undeveloped, is not a city park, and is way out behind Target. As far as I can see from my walks out there, it is not ideal land for a skateboard park (not level), and would require extensive site preparation. In any case, it would be an option that would tell the skateboarders that the city wants to pass the buck to the YMCA, that it wants to shunt them aside again, and that it doesn’t want them as an integral part of the community. It was the wrong idea from the beginning, and seems only to have been raised as a delaying tactic. As I said in an email to the mayor and city council after the meeting (to which only the mayor has graciously replied), Northfield’s youth are going to think they have to wait until they themselves are residents of the Village on the Cannon before the city will listen to them.

    October 19, 2012
  69. kiffi summa said:

    I had the same reaction to the meeting as Rob; one more delaying tactic, and a poor one at that.

    The Y is NOT a good site for the skateboard park. It had a terrible time developing the site design for safety issues; back and forth between the Planning Commission and the Council, which actually gave a lot of design directions because the safety issues were not being resolved to their level of concern. (Thank you to Councilor Buckheit for her work on the traffic patterns)

    But the thing that made me the most angry was the general tenor of the Board (who I have always previously fully supported) ; it was listen to the community adults who spoke, and ignore the kids.

    At one point, the Chair asked the skateboarders who were there to give their opinion on the Babcock Park site, and when several did … and rather eloquently … one of the PRAB members, Grace Clark, argued with the testimony that was asked to be given … argued directly with the young man .. rather than respecting the answer he was asked to provide!
    I was appalled; actually too appalled to speak because I was sooooooooo angry.

    What I find most appalling about this whole process is that these kids, 6-8 years ago, were told if they could behave like ‘adults’, work through the process, raise money, prove that THEY could be ‘responsible’, they would eventually succeed.

    *** The adults requested that the children behave like adults, and when they did, and continue to do so, the ‘adults’ continue to treat them like children. ***

    It is just not understandable; it is not reasonable; it is not fair, it is not respectful … and most of all, it has set a poor example … no, a shameful example … to the youth.

    Do you all understand the concept of ‘red-lining’ ? ( for those that are not familiar with the term, it is the deliberate drawing of lines around neighborhoods to exclude those considered to be ‘undesirable residents’)

    The community of Northfield has ‘red-lined’ its own kids and continues to blithely do so…

    October 19, 2012
  70. rob hardy said:

    At one point, the Chair asked the skateboarders who were there to give their opinion on the Babcock Park site, and when several did … and rather eloquently … one of the PRAB members, Grace Clark, argued with the testimony that was asked to be given … argued directly with the young man .. rather than respecting the answer he was asked to provide!

    Kiffi:In my experience, that is how the board member in question has treated everyone throughout this process. At one meeting, she claimed that there were significant soil issues that would preclude locating the park at Memorial. I presented an email from the city engineer contradicting her. She argued with that, basically insinuating that she knew more than the city engineer about the soil profile of the park. This is only one example out of many.

    October 19, 2012
  71. Hah. I don’t think the YMCA site was a suitable location for the YMCA, much less additional youth amenities.

    By the way, Richfield (where I live right now) just completed a skatepark similar to the one proposed for Northfield. They did a little video introducing it. It’s in a community park, across the street from a number of single-family residences, but I don’t think noise has been an issue.

    October 19, 2012
  72. john george said:

    Thank God for small favors!

    October 19, 2012
  73. Jerry Bilek said:

    thanks for posting the video link Sean. I found it interesting that noise is a worry. the two men in the video had a conversation with skaters in the background and noise was not an issue. If noise is really a problem, a sound fence could be built to deflect the sound toward the river.

    October 19, 2012
  74. kiffi summa said:

    I wish everyone would watch the video in Sean’s comment, # 25.2…
    Here’s a new skate park in Richfield, Tier 1, built as a concrete street plaza similar to the Skateboard Coalition’s original design for NF.
    It cost 100K, and is across the street from residences.
    The ‘noise’ occurring just behind the gentlemen speaking is neither loud , nor offensive, and would certainly not be so 150 feet or more away, which has been stated to be intolerable here, at meetings where opposition is strong.

    Griff: as to your comments about lack of opportunity for public involvement , I would suggest that this has been gong on for so long, you have simply forgotten. It was front and center for many months at the Council; there have been many public meetings hosted by Council, Key/Skateboard Coalition, PRAB… and the most recent public “listening session” at the Weitz was attended by 85-95 people.

    I have personally spoken, strongly in favor of the project, at public meetings for at least 5-6 years.
    The same objections always come up, and their is no tolerance for listening to any solutions. One of the big objectors is NESNA. I have a lot of close friends in that group, but I think they are way out of bounds on this one.

    I want to repeat what I said in # 25: This community has ‘red-lined’ their own kids, and blithely continues to do so.

    October 19, 2012
  75. Kathie Galotti said:

    I agree with your perception of the video (just watched it) as well as your perception of the process. Or lack thereof. We ARE redlining these kids. And it really stinks.

    October 19, 2012
  76. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, I didn’t say there was a lack of opportunity for public involvement on this skatepark issue. I said that there’s not been an effort by the Council or the PRAB to “engage the broader public in a deliberate, concerted way.” Big difference.

    And I think that that, in part, has contributed to the long process on this issue rather than any redlining on the part of the Council or PRAB over the years. With the Safety Center being front and center at the same time, it’s somewhat understandable that the City’s leaders haven’t paid much attention to the relatively small numbers pushing for a skatepark nor the small number opposing its various locations.

    October 24, 2012
  77. kiffi summa said:

    I must continue to disagree with your evaluation of the opportunity for, or amount of, public input provided, Griff. As previously said, I have spoken many , many times on this issue …maybe 20 times or more…
    As a matter of fact, the current chair of the PRAB is very lenient with speaking time for citizens, often letting people re-enter the conversation several times.

    This is one issue where the public has had so many opportunities for input; I’m sorry you missed the big listening session at the Weitz Center.

    I do not think it is the Council, and certainly not the PRAB that has “redlined” the kids; it is the people of the community who do not want the skateboard park ‘next’ to them… and “next” is a very relative term.

    October 24, 2012
  78. rob hardy said:

    Tim C[lack?] had a good and reasonable comment on the Northfield News site today (“a good and reasonable comment on the Northfield News site”—an oxymoron?):

    …What I’ve learned is I have to get engaged, attend the Council meetings, take time to share my thoughts. I’ve found that very few citizens show up to Council meetings.

    I encourage people to get engaged, come to the meetings, take the time to read the agendas and packets that are online before every meeting. Make your voice heard directly to Council, email them, call them. Participate with your vote on election day and follow through with regular participation.

    Trust me, the Council won’t come knocking on your door to ask how you feel about something.

    October 24, 2012
  79. kiffi summa said:

    Rob: a slight digression since you brought it up … You said: (“a good and reasonable comment on the Northfield News site”—an oxymoron?):

    Jennifer Sawyer wrote a letter to the editor advocating for Rhonda Pownell, and that letter is easily findable on the NFNews site by copying in the last line of the letter into the search box, hit “go”… and the letter comes right up.
    Eve Webster wrote a letter to the editor (10.17) questioning Ms. Pownell’s vote on the Council statement re: the marriage amendment; If you follow the same copy and search method described above it says “no results are found”.

    Now I know the paper is favoring Ms. Pownell, but to the extent of altering the online record ? a record which lives ‘forever’ as opposed to the print version ?

    October 24, 2012
  80. Griff Wigley said:

    The PRAB met last night and has recommended Riverside Park for the skate park.

    Nfld News: Northfield park board recommends skate park site

    The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board passed a skate park site recommendation, which ranked Riverside Park first and Memorial Park second. The recommendation will be sent to the Northfield City Council for consideration. Board Members David Hvistendahl, Neil Lutsky and Dale Gehring and Board Chair Nathan Knutson voted in favor of the recommendation. Board Member Grace Clark abstained. PRAB Member Mel Miller was absent, but e-mailed his preference for Memorial Park prior to the meeting.

    November 16, 2012
  81. Kathie Galotti said:

    So now what? The lame duck City Council studies it? Their meeting gets visited by various neighborhood groups who don’t want “that” noise (and “those” kids)?

    November 16, 2012
  82. rob hardy said:

    Kathie: It seems to me that, because this process has, indeed, dragged on for a long time, some people have begun to lose their faith and their tempers, and their attitudes have hardened. This has also happened to some of the older youth, who have been disappointed for too long, and who have, unfortunately, become cynical about the process. But what I find remarkable and hopeful is how some of the younger skaters, and youth leaders like Frank Meyer, have stepped forward and advocated for their cause with consistent passion and grace. In the midst of angry words from adults in the room at last night’s meeting, Frank made a calm and respectful statement. Out of respect for the youth, who have really been my role models in this process, I have tried too keep my own frustration and sarcasm and occasional irritation under control. The youth want to work collaboratively, and develop relationships of trust, and to be part of a community that respects them and is itself worthy of respect.

    And despite some heated words during last night’s meeting, and plenty of pressure from irate neighbors, the PRAB went ahead and voted to send their recommendation on to the city council. In my opinion, they acted with courage and principle. I think the city council is capable of doing the same. Both Rhonda Pownell and Erica Zweifel were in the room last night, taking copious notes to prepare themselves for the discussion at the council level. I admire and respect both of them, and think we are fortunate to have two such conscientious people serving Northfield on the city council. At this point, instead of succumbing to cynicism, I’m prepared to trust that the council, “lame duck” or not, has enough integrity and concern for the common good to decide this issue on its merits, for the good of the entire community, and not yield to pressure from a few people whose opposition has hardened against change or compromise.

    Yes, I am being idealistic. But I’ve been spending a lot of time with the youth of Northfield, and their attitude has rubbed off on me. One of the ways I can serve them is to share their spirit of optimism, patience, enthusiasm, trust and good will.

    November 16, 2012
  83. Mary Rossing said:

    Thank you for your positive words, Rob. I believe that the seated Council is capable of making a decision based on the PRAB’s recommendation–whether they go with #1 or #2. Four votes. Keep it simple.

    November 16, 2012
  84. Kathie Galotti said:

    Rob (and Mary): I hope you are right. I truly do. The kids have kept the faith, done the work, been patient, worked within the bounds of a cumbersome process. They more than deserve this matter to be decided, and not kicked down the road again. And the community as a whole needs to recognize that the kids ARE a part of the community.

    November 16, 2012
  85. kiffi summa said:

    I fervently hope that Mayor Rossing is correct, and that the approval of this long awaited skatepark can be kept “simple” ; in the best of all possible worlds it, will be a unanimous, not divided vote, in order to quell ‘neighbors’ resistance.

    Throughout this long process, the PRAB has been very generous with its public comment time, asking only at this last meeting that only those who had not previously spoken, or those who had a new point to bring up, speak.
    The kids respected that request; some adults did not, and indeed, after the vote, stood in the room having a very loud conversation, while the Board waited to finish its agenda.

    NOTE: What is clear from his comment above, is how lucky the community in general, and the kids specifically, are to have ( Dr. ) Rob Hardy on the School Board.

    November 17, 2012
  86. Kathie Galotti said:

    Amen.

    November 17, 2012
  87. Kathie Galotti said:

    Ok, call me clueless, but why isn’t the skatepark on the City Council agenda for tonight?

    November 20, 2012
  88. rob hardy said:

    Kathie, I don’t believe there was time to get in on tonight’s agenda. It will be discussed at a city council work session next week to prepare to take action. Meanwhile, I’ve blogged about it on Patch (and drawn some angry comments, despite my attempt to maintain a reasonable and accommodating tone), and Jane McWilliams (a neighbor of Riverside Park) has also blogged in favor of the skatepark on Patch.

    November 20, 2012
  89. kiffi summa said:

    I just spent half an hour trying to write something here that might bring a reasonable perspective to a possible acceptance of a site.. and then accidentally deleted it!
    maybe that was totally apropos, because it only replicated the frustration of the entire skateboard park process.

    I’ll not try to write it all again; it’s all been said well by others.

    I only hope that the Council can make a decision on a site, and that there will not be lasting ramifications of that decision … threatened lawsuits, etc.

    November 20, 2012
  90. David Henson said:

    I was fortunate enough to be in Santa Barbara CA walking along the city park on the coast and stumbled upon a huge skate park. The amazing thing is the city did not hide the park but put it on possibly the most expensive piece of real estate in the USA! This is in a city with probably the most controlled building standards in the nation. Here is a pic:

    http://www.firsttimecentralcoast.com/images/santa-barbara-skate-park.jpg

    November 20, 2012
  91. kiffi summa said:

    It has been my observation, Rob, that the most long term and vocal opponents, and proponents, of the skatepark have become so entrenched in their views that none are about to budge.
    I willingly admit I will not give up my years of support for this skatepark and this second to third group of kids that are seeking to have it; what I can’t get through my head is the intensity of the objection to it…

    And I also will willingly admit that those who object most strongly accuse the proponents on a personal level, as being found wanting somehow in their process; it’s not kept to the issue of the site, the noise, etc…. so that seems par for the course.

    But in the end, the long term losers have been the many kids who have essentially been told there is no place for them here; we can find a place in city parks for baseball players, soccer enthusiasts, and swimmers, but not skateboarders.

    November 20, 2012
  92. Kathie Galotti said:

    Thanks for the info on the agenda, Rob. I have read your blog and the responses. You pled, in 28.2.1, for adults to control their irritation, sarcasm, and general negativity. So I won’t comment further :).

    November 20, 2012
  93. rob hardy said:

    If you get involved in anything in this town, even with the best intentions, it’s amazing how fast people will come out and call you “divisive,” or worse, or put words in your mouth that you would never actually say. I am trying to keep a positive tone and attitude, but some people are really testing that resolve.

    November 21, 2012
  94. Will Oney said:

    I applaud the youth who have continued to push for a skatepark after years of this BS.

    I think there’s a valuable life lesson in all this:Your government does not care about you.

    Skateboarders do not fit into the image that the movers and shakers in this town want to cultivate. They care about property values, they care about their businesses, and maybe if you were football players or something, they would care about you.

    Until then, there will be another decade of passing the buck, stalling and police harassment to look forward to!

    Who is in charge of the money that has been raised thus far? Why not set up a Non-Profit and get this done without interference from the city government?

    November 21, 2012
  95. john george said:

    Will- A non-profit is a good, simple solution to “…get this done…”, but it is impossible to even put a storage shed behind your house “…without interference from the city government.” That being the case, unless someone has a privately owned lot large enough (of course, deemed by the government) and can procure a conditional use permit that includes the blessing of the neighbors, or even those potential neighbors over the next 50 years, and also has suffucuent funds to cover any insurance issues, it probably isn’t going to happen. I’m not convinced that the issue is so much a problem with the government, but a problem with a general attitude within the population of Northfield toward pre-college/work youth. As the famous line from the old cartoon Pogo states, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”

    November 22, 2012
  96. kiffi summa said:

    John: your Pogo line is a great reminder… Isn’t it sad that the community has been treating its own kids as if they were the enemy?

    I hope the Council can deal with this without starting a whole new round of objections.

    November 23, 2012
  97. rob hardy said:

    One good thing I’ve learned from this process is that Northfield has some amazing young people. I do think that the city government realizes that the skateboarders are a very deserving and currently underserved population. The PRAB has been very supportive over the past year, as have members of the city staff like HCI Making a Difference award winner T.J. Heinricy. I do think the city government cares. I also think the city government cares about the concerns of homeowners, property tax payers, neighbors with a sensitivity to noise, etc. It’s a difficult situation. I think it’s a situation in which some people will have to give something up (for example, a neighborhood free of skateboard sounds) for the common good of our youth. That’s a hard sell, and I’ve been personally attacked for suggesting that potential skatepark neighbors should start focusing on the opportunities for building community instead of the problems that might arise from having skateboarders in the neighborhood.

    The skateboard coalition has raised funds, for which The Key, as a nonprofit, functions as fiscal agent. I think we can find the money to build this thing. Collective good will is much harder to come by.

    November 24, 2012
  98. David Ludescher said:

    Rob,

    As a future councilperson, I would be interested in hearing why you think the skateboarders are “deserving” and “under-served”. I’m impressed by the skateboarders fund-raising efforts, but shouldn’t the skateboarders be the ones striving for goodwill with potential new neighbors rather than the other way around?

    November 26, 2012
  99. Griff Wigley said:

    Community good will is always harder to come by in NIMBY situations like this. But if the public engagement process is not handled properly early on, it’s even tougher. It quickly becomes we vs. they.

    When this is all over, I think the PRAB should produce a document titled something like “What we learned from the skatepark location process.”

    November 26, 2012
  100. kiffi summa said:

    David: The skateboarders are deserving because they are kids of this community who would like to have a park facility for the sport they are interested in, and are only asking for the small space, not huge acreage for soccer and baseball.

    They are further deserving because they have politely persisted for at least eight years, raised at one point 30-40 K $$, without even having a location in the foreseeable future, and they have complied with everything asked of them, by the city.

    They are under-served because there is no park space for them,and there was a very punitive ordinance written against them using any public space DT, and the process has been so frustratingly slow.

    Furthermore, they have been declared by even the opposition neighbors at the Village on the Cannon, to have been polite , friendly, helpful, during their time at the temporary location this past summer, and have shown the utmost restraint when speaking to the Council or PRAB.

    If you do not know of the comments regarding “goodwill”, then you have not been adequately following the conversation.

    November 26, 2012
  101. Kathie Galotti said:

    Agreed.

    November 26, 2012
  102. rob hardy said:

    Kiffi sums things up well.

    November 26, 2012
  103. Will Oney said:

    Good Will is great, but It’s not like the PRAB or the council needs to get permission from Joe Homeowner to make a decision.

    It’s a losing battle to try and please everyone and if someone doesn’t understand that then the last place they should be is in Government.

    This wouldn’t be so frustrating, but the objections to the skate-park that I have heard read like they are coming from some codger on his porch rocking chair.

    If you own real estate by Riverside park, you’re in the flood plain, or you own a Condo that was built at the height of the Bubble. Either way A skate-park isn’t gonna make it any worse.

    As for Old Memorial, I think the White Collar East Siders have already legislated for their own benefit enough with the ridiculous (Possibly illegal) rental ordinance.

    The noise level of a skate-park is no worse than city traffic, and this can be largely mitigated with the right methods.

    November 26, 2012
  104. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi, Kathie, Rob,

    From my new council perspective, I was looking for a way to differentiate between deserving and under-served from undeserving or adequately served.

    Are the skateboarders different from the Y? The Y is “deserving” and they are seeking to help the “under-served”. Would you support the city giving the Y a substantial amount of money?

    November 26, 2012
  105. Chuck Olson said:

    Hi all, first time poster, new to Northfield. I would just like to say as a former skateboarder/rollerblader I’m embarressed every time I go home and pass by the public spaces/private buisnesses I vandalized by marking up curbs with wax (so the board will slide over concrete). If the town I grew up in had a skatepark then, as they do now, many a buisnesses (and to my shame churches) wouldnt be left with this seemingly permanent eyesore. For this reason I think a skatepark should be pretty high priority. And Im also shocked by the skateboarders of this community, the skating community when I was growing up was definately not this organized/patient.

    November 27, 2012
  106. Griff Wigley said:

    Chuck, glad to have you chime in here. And publicly confessing some of the sins of your youth is even better! I should make that a requirement of all the adults here. 😉

    It’s certainly looking to me that next week, the Council is going to approve the Riverside Park location recommended by the PRAB. What they’ll do about kicking in the $30,000 also recommended by the PRAB is probably the bigger unknown.

    Do you like that location? Will Oney, how about you?

    November 27, 2012
  107. Neil Lutsky said:

    I believe this discussion is missing the key issue. The Park Board has partnered with community organizations to address needs in Northfield Parks (e.g., with Friends of Way Park). This is a means of enhancing parks and saving limited public funds. As I understand it, the Park Board has a small fund designated for park development, and it is from this fund that it would like to contribute $30,000 towards the development of the skateboard park. We are fortunate to have a Skateboard Coalition that is seeking to help bring a skateboard park to fruition with the City. Note that the skateboard park would be a public entity in a public place, a city park. We would not be contributing to one organization or another; we are trying to do something to enhance a city park. The contrast to the Y, as deserving an initiative as that is, has nothing to do with enhancing a city park.

    November 28, 2012
  108. Chuck Olson said:

    The current site is a good one for a Semi-permenant skatepark. IE the skate ramps they have now placed on a newly resurfaced asphalt pad for the forseable future. I can imagine a time when that land is worth a whole lot more than a little skatepark so instead of building a huge permanent concrete skatepark at riverside, resurface the asphalt and setup the ramps there during summer. I think that would be the make the most sense. Relatively cheap, and allows us to relocate it if we have a bigger and better idea for the land in the future.

    November 28, 2012
  109. Kiffi summa said:

    David … Of course the skateboarders are different from the Y; the Y is a private organization, and the kids are residents/citizens, as you are.

    Providing some city money(actually PRAB funds) is simply providing for a park facility for residents of the community.

    November 28, 2012
  110. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I thought the criteria was deserving and under-served.

    November 28, 2012
  111. Will Oney said:

    I think Riverside is an ideal location. Since many Northfield skaters are under driving age, It should definitely be downtown-adjacent.

    I’m also pleased to hear that the park is to be concrete construction. Way, way back when the first skatepark was around, it was often closed on hot days to avoid damaging the asphalt as it softened. Also, since Riverside park is prone to flooding, I think there would be some major longevity problems with anything except concrete.

    November 28, 2012
  112. Kathie Galotti said:

    Yay! That might look in print like I’m being sarcastic (moi?) but I’m not. And, it is genuinely
    refreshing to see a unanimous vote and the money. I’m genuinely proud of the City Council.

    December 5, 2012
  113. rob hardy said:

    After last night’s meeting, I’m practically speechless with gratitude and pride in our city government and in our youth, who have really been models for the rest of us throughout this process. An historic milestone was reached last night, but there’s still much work left to be done. We owe it to the residents of the Village on the Cannon, and to other neighbors and users of Riverside Park, and to the skateboarders, to create a park that everyone can be proud of and enjoy. I think the Council’s decision last night, and the positive and thoughtful manner in which they approached the issue, will help the community to come together and work hard to achieve that goal.

    December 5, 2012
  114. David Ludescher said:

    Griff,

    A “to-be-determined source”? Does the council have a source other than the taxpayers?

    December 5, 2012
  115. Griff Wigley said:

    David L, you’re right, taxpayers are it for the $60K.

    I just meant, as I think you know, it’s not been determined which municipal fund will be the source of the additional $30K. The Parks fund is the source of the initial $30K.

    December 5, 2012
  116. kiffi summa said:

    before anyone starts complaining about an additional 30K from the ‘city’ , to add to the PRAB’s 30K, let’s just remember a few things:
    1. about 6-8 years ago, when there was hope of getting a skatepark, although there was no site designated yet, there was so much support from adults for the idea that the kids raised 30K+,which was held by the Key, as their fiscal agent.
    2. Some of that money … don’t know how much… was spent fulfilling requests from the city related to the two temporary skateparks. ( I think they’re down to about 23K)
    For instance, they were asked to pay for the asphalt resurfacing at the last location. I think that was about 3K, although TJHenricy might have found a grant for that, rather than the kids having to pay for it.
    3. Their years-old grant from HCI would have expired at the end of 2012, if plans for the park were not activated by then. I suppose they could have re-applied, but the $$ for next year would have already been designated.

    So … after 16 years, since the DT skateboard ordinance was written, and the then promised park was more than ‘elusive’, shall we say … now there is finally a commitment.

    PLease don’t begin ‘nay-saying’ that long awaited goal /.

    December 6, 2012
  117. Kathie Galotti said:

    Another amen, Kiffi.

    December 6, 2012
  118. Kathie Galotti said:

    Amen again, Kiffi

    December 6, 2012
  119. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    Wasn’t the first $30K gift enough of a commitment? Why add another 30K that wasn’t even requested?

    December 6, 2012
  120. Kathie Galotti said:

    Ummmm….to get this done, finally? To show good faith to the kids who’ve been patient all these years? To give more resources to address the noise concerns of nearby neighbors? I wasn’t at the meeting so don’t know for sure—but any of those, or some combination of them, seem very plausible.

    December 6, 2012
  121. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie,

    If the council doesn’t have a gift policy, it might be time to develop one.

    December 7, 2012
  122. Kathie Galotti said:

    By all means, develop one for the future. Just leave the kids with this one gift–they’ve more than earned it.

    December 7, 2012
  123. Shelley Brady said:

    Another 30K for the kids! YES! These kids have shown us how important this is to them and how much they are willing to do to get this done. It is time, we the tax paying citizens of Northfield showed our appreciation for what they’ve done and how they have handled themselves. I am so proud of them and of the current Council as well as the Park Board for getting this done. Good job!!!!

    December 7, 2012
  124. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie,

    I hate to sound like Scrooge but there are 2 gifts – $30K each – 1 requested, 1 not, and neither “earned”.

    December 7, 2012
  125. Kathie Galotti said:

    On this, we’ll just have to agree to disagree, David. Six years of patience seems to me like they’ve more than earned it.

    December 7, 2012
  126. kiffi summa said:

    In the first place, David, this is not a gift; it is the development of a park facility … and one that was first promised 16 years ago !

    What other park development, discussed, took as long to become a reality ???

    Are you suggesting that the PRAB should not have the discretion to use 30K from their funds? Would you care to raise that question at the next PRAB meeting?

    I strongly disagree with your evaluation of a gift “not earned” … It has been 6 years since just the latest iteration of this discussion, and these kids have done everything that has been asked of them: they have been patient to the max, they have listened respectfully, they have made their case at PRAB meetings and at council quietly and respectfully, they have complied with every requirement for the use of the temporary park last summer, and even the VOC residents verify that compliance.

    No other citizens who have wanted a park facility have been treated this way, and for so long…

    Sorry … but you will definitely have to wear the Scrooge nightcap on this one.

    December 8, 2012
  127. Scott Carpenter said:

    I understand David’s hesitation about what might at first appear to be excessive financial support for the skatepark. However, I don’t see the second $30,000 as a gift to the skateboarders; it is, instead, an important recognition by the city of the needs of neighbors. From what I understand, the second sum has been given to make sure that the skatepark is constructed of appropriate materials (i.e., high-density concrete) and equipped with design or landscaping elements (berms, etc.) that can direct noise away from residences.

    Without these commitments to appropriate construction, we’d be left with a rough cement slab bearing old steel equipment — a setup you’ll be hard-pressed to find in any residential area of any community. The proposed site at Riverside is already highly unusual because of its proximity to residences. The addition funds are crucial in order to protect the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhood. On those grounds, I applaud the dedication of the additional monies.

    December 8, 2012
  128. Patrick Enders said:

    Scott,
    Thanks for the explanation. Was that reported somewhere?

    December 8, 2012
  129. Patrick Enders said:

    (My question was general, not specifically for Scott.)

    December 8, 2012
  130. Scott Carpenter said:

    I don’t actually have the article in front of me (I’m out of town at the moment), but wasn’t that described in the Northfield News article? I took that to be the gist of Erica Zweifel’s comments as she made the motion for the additional funds.

    December 8, 2012
  131. Patrick Enders said:

    Thanks again Scott. Your explanation was much clearer than the one in the article, which I missed in skimming:

    Peterson White said that she would do “everything possible” to address residents’ concerns, including noise, traffic and safety.

    Money from the city will help address those issues, said Council Member Erica Zweifel, who made the second motion to commit funds.

    December 8, 2012
  132. john george said:

    I think this is a great finale to a rather trouble-strewn process. Just a thought about gifts, I wasn’t aware that one had to “earn” a gift? I give gifts to my wife, children, and grandchildren just because I love them. (Although, there are some in the peanut gallery who would say they “earned it” just by putting up with me.) Either way, the commitment to do this project correctly from the start will certainly prove cost effective in the long run if the city does not have to tear something out to redo it correctly.

    December 10, 2012
  133. kiffi summa said:

    Amen … and thank you, John !

    December 10, 2012
  134. David Ludescher said:

    John,

    Unfortunately, gifts like this set a difficult precedent for future councils.

    December 11, 2012
  135. kiffi summa said:

    David: I would like you (1) to state why you think this is a “gift”, not legitimate initial funding for park development…
    and (2) why you find it to be not “deserved” after a sixteen year wait, since the first time a skateboard park was promised during the Rossman Mayoral time ???

    (3) Is there something about skateboarders that you find to be not as “deserving ” as any other group of kids ?

    December 11, 2012
  136. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    (1) It is a gift because they did not provide a good or service to get the money.
    (2) Just because they waited doesn’t mean that they are deserving.
    (3) No. Other groups of kids aren’t getting $60K.

    What did we just teach every other group in town that wants money for their own special cause? It is bad fiscal discipline.

    December 11, 2012
  137. David:
    I don’t understand exactly why you’re using the term “gift.” And your respond in 48.1 provides no clarity on the matter.

    You say, “it is a gift because they did not provide a good or service to get the money.” Are the following City expenditures also “gifts”?

    1. Library services
    2. Street maintenance, and street reconstructions costs beyond homeowner assessments
    3. All other expansion and maintenance of parks — lawn-mowing, equipment construction, etc

    Under your reasoning, virtually everything the City spends money on — except equipment purchases and staff salaries — would be “gifts.” The term would only be appropriate if the money were truly being given to a third party — like, if the Key were to own a future skate park and the money were being transferred to them. A capital expenditure for a city facility, even if it benefits a defined group of people, is simply not a “gift.”

    December 11, 2012
  138. David Ludescher said:

    Sean,

    A rose by any other name is still a rose.

    Once I am on the Council, I would hope the Council will establish a systemic approach to dealing with these discretionary appropriations of taxpayer dollars. There are many needy, worthy, and deserving causes in Northfield. I am not convinced that any money, let alone $60K, to skateboarders is anywhere near the top of the list.

    Granted, I have a much closer perspective. Every increase in spending by the city means that I have to pay once at home and three times at the office.

    December 11, 2012
  139. I may be missing a distinction.

    Can you point to an example of a park or such program the city has done that you would not consider a “gift”?

    So far as I can tell, the city is not taking property they currently have and giving the title to someone else; they’re spending money to develop a city park. The city has had parks the entire time I’ve been here, and has spent money on improving them on some occasions. Were these all gifts? If not, how does this one differ from the others?

    December 11, 2012
  140. I was about to make that very remark, observing that you say “wife” and not “ex-wife”, and that I have heard you with the puns. 🙂

    I do agree with the analysis about costs; doing things well is usually cheaper than doing them poorly. If we are to have a skate park (and I don’t see an obvious problem with that), it seems better to have it cost less and be good than cost more and be mediocre.

    December 11, 2012
  141. Sean Fox said:

    David,

    I’d agree with others that characterizing the skate park as a ‘gift’ seems incorrect. What I see as the most troubling part of this characterization is it misses the point that this is a community good. It has been purchased by one party (the citizens of Northfield) for the benefit of that same party. The skate park is open to all citizens. It is something we’ve decided to buy for our common use. Now as with every other community good it will not get equal use by everyone. There are plenty of streets getting plowed in Northfield that I will never drive on, books being purchased for the library that I have no interest in reading, firetrucks whose services I hope to never need. But they are open to me if I want to take advantage of them. They are things we’ve purchased collectively to improve our collective lives.

    What has been ‘earned’ through persistent effort is not a skate park. It’s the acknowledgement by the community that this group young people is actually part of the community. That their desires and values are part of ‘our’ desires and values. Do they deserve this enfranchisement? Has it been earned? Yes. Is this a gift? I would hope we see it as our recognition of a previously overlooked obligation.

    December 11, 2012
  142. Nicely stated. I’ve been trying to figure out how this is any more gift-like than any other investment in things that members of the community want. I’m unlikely to use a skate park, but it strikes me as a fairly obviously reasonable example of the sort of thing towns and cities do with their budget to try to create a better environment.

    December 11, 2012
  143. Scott Carpenter said:

    “Gift” may not be the right word, but I think I understand where David is coming from. The fact is that the Skateboard Coalition asked for a location, and they did not ask (as far as I know) for a dime of funding. The $60,000 of funds were allocated before any specific design for a skatepark was devised — and thus long before anyone could know how much it would cost to build it. I suspect that it’s highly unusual to allocate funds that have not been requested and for which there is no budget.

    From that point of view, I can see why this might be an awkward precedent. Council could have awarded the location and indicated its willingness to contribute, but withheld any allocations until the design was done. That wouldn’t have changed the outcome (and would not have delayed the project), but it would have avoided setting a precedent for funding projects before they even have demonstrated the level of need.

    December 12, 2012
  144. I think I like “figure out your budget, then design something within it” better than “make up what you want, then find out whether you can afford it”.

    If they start coming up with plans, and then having to argue over whether the plans have acceptable costs, this will drag on forever. If they get a pretty clear budget (and as I understand it, roughly half of it corresponds to money that people raised for the skate park, which the city has sort of borrowed since), they can make plans based on that and move forward.

    December 12, 2012
  145. David Ludescher said:

    Seebs,

    What I am talking about is how much, if any, the City should contribute to a recreational activity, especially for a small subset of the population. The skateboarders want a facility so the city spends $60K for their specialized sport. The bikers want a bike path so we spend $250K to build a bike path. If I don’t draw a line someplace, everybody and anybody will come begging at the door.

    As a city council person, how do I decide if the new special interest lobby group of the day gets government money? What about the CAC which is trying to help people in need? Aren’t they more “deserving” than skateboarders?

    Is there a criteria for defining what is a “deserving” cause? If so, what is it? If not, shouldn’t there be one?

    December 12, 2012
  146. kiffi summa said:

    David: First, I think you need to differentiate between the two 30K amounts which you insist upon defining as “gifts”.
    The 30K from the PRAB is at their discretion, out of their funds; would you deny their right to award $$ from their dedicated fund?

    Second, some years ago a parent of a special needs child started a fund for a playground to be accessible to those children, and there was a city wide support group, AND city dollars dedicated to building that park which I believe is called “Everybody’s Park”. It was absolutely a great project, and it supported a subset of the population, which had every right to be able to use a park facility.

    Any park dedicated to a particular use is dedicated to a subset of the population; the question being what size of that population determines it to be a “subset”?

    And what standard…numerical size of a “subset” … would eliminate that group from the right to have a park facility for their use?

    Sorry … 🙂 … but I think the Scrooge hat still fits; I hope you don’t let it linger on your head after January 1, 2013 ….

    December 12, 2012
  147. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I would be interested to hear your opinion, and opinions from others, on when the Council should allocate money for various request/projects/expenditures.

    As I have repeatedly said on the Streetscape monies, there doesn’t seem to be any standard at all.

    If the skateboaders can get a $60K “investment”, should the city consider “investing” $500,000 in the Y? The Y is going to serve a much larger population than the skateboarders; they have been patiently waiting a long time; they have raised some money on their own.

    We are going to spend $500K to build a bike path under Highway 3. We spent $250K on a short bike path on the east side of the river.

    How and where am I suppose to draw the line on the Council?

    December 13, 2012
  148. kiffi summa said:

    You, as all councilors, will have to draw each “line” as you see fit … after evaluating the worth of the project to the community, or a ‘segment’ of the community.

    The most unfair position, IMO, would be to try to develop a single measure (other than the one stated above) by which to evaluate the worth of ALL projects.

    December 13, 2012
  149. C. Olson said:

    I’m sure their are scholars writing about how you judge the funding of municipal projects and I am definately not one, but here are my two cents… I would say that one metric to look at is existing infrastructure. Bikers have alot of trails, but their are alot of bikers so that makes sense. There is a Y, but they have alot of members so they might need a new building. There are a decent amount of skateboarders but no skatepark, so a park (done right) would be a priority in my opinion. Skateboarders can of course skate where ever bikers can, but go look at the civil war memorial in the central square. The edges are caked with wax and chipped from grinding. How sad, this is a very old memorial. Without infrastructure skating can be pretty destructive (I know this first hand). Without pointing to a dedicated skatepark and telling them to “Go there!” they will keep wrecking stuff like the civil war memorial and I dont really blame them, they have to skate somewhere (hey, thats the mindset of a teenager). When a skatepark is built we can at least send them there, and if they keep wrecking private property I can call the police with a clear conscience.

    December 13, 2012
  150. Shelley Brady said:

    Thank you Kiffi. I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Sometimes it is just nice to see our Council do (IMO) the right thing…the nice thing…whatever you want to call it.

    December 13, 2012
  151. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    You and I disagree on this point. There has to be one measure to judge all projects. Otherwise, how can the Council allocate limited resources?

    December 14, 2012
  152. kiffi summa said:

    OK, David… what would you suggest that “one measure” that could be used to judge all projects be?

    December 14, 2012
  153. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    The measure is an equation. On one side is always the cost. On the other side, is what the city gets for those costs. It is not much different from running a business.

    December 14, 2012
  154. Sean Fox said:

    David,
    An equation isn’t actually a measure. A measure is how you calculate the value associated with one side of that equation or another. If we assume that the left side is measured in direct dollar expenditures by the city then we’re left with wondering how you calculate the right side of the equation. That’s the measure I’m interested in understanding how you’d calculate.

    In the business world (at least for publicly traded companies with a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value) companies take a very simplified view of how to calculate the both sides of these equations. They only consider the immediate and easily extrapolatable monetary value involved. So for example when Google decides to minimize it’s taxes by funneling it’s money through off-shore banks it only considers the actual costs involved (money saved in taxes) and near term financial implications (chances that negative backlash from it’s clients results in lowered revenue). It does not directly consider the moral costs/benefits of this action, nor does it consider the long term (decades?) possible impact of tragedy of the commons type losses (e.g. if all large companies follow this practice will it eventually lead to the weakening of the U.S. economy).

    In contrast individuals and governments are usually in the business of maximizing something other than easily measured ‘annual profits’. Their goals are more abstract. Things like “maximizing my happiness” or “improving the welfare of its citizens”. And they often need to consider how decisions play out over lifetimes and generations (where monetary values become even murkier). While part of these measures often involve counting dollars, the actual monetarily quantifiable part of the measure is only one piece of the equation. Merely one element that plays into the actual metric concerned.

    So if the actual goal of the city government is something like “increasing the welfare of it’s citizens” (where by welfare I mean something broader than just money currently in their pockets) we’re left with a question of how one quantifies that. Or at least how one weighs alternatives in the absence of any direct quantitative measure.

    So the question I would ask is how you do this balancing. For example if you were asked to choose between spending $30000 on the library or $30000 on a skate park (the left side of your equation is the same in both cases so the question is how you measure the right sides relative to each other) how you would come up with an answer? What additional information would you need? What factors would you consider and which would you not?

    December 15, 2012
  155. Kathie Galotti said:

    Economists and others have tried to measure how much satisfaction a person would theoretically derive from any of a number of options when they face a decision. They use the term “utility” for this. The measurement of “utility”, unfortunately, is quite tricky and context-dependent.

    It cannot be done with dollar values. Mostly because one’s view about any amount of money varies with one’s own level of wealth. I value $5 differently than both my 19-year-old and my 11-year-old. And, likely, differently from someone who makes half or double my salary.

    You can ask individuals to give some sort of numerical rating to the overall goodness of different options, but it turns out that people aren’t very good at this–their answers vary a lot over short periods of time, and change if the same question is asked in slightly different ways.

    NOW, add to this the problem that city councilors have to balance the utilities of different constituents. So, skateboarders likely have a very high utility to have a park built–(some) neighbors near the proposed sites have very high negative utilities. Some people don’t care. Some have slight utilities for the project. How does one take everyone’s views into account? How do different constituencies’ views get weighted?

    I totally agree with David, it would be great to have a simple or even a complex equation that would do this–but I very much doubt one exists.

    December 15, 2012
  156. john george said:

    Kathie- I think you summed this up pretty well. We are talking about subjective things here, but trying to analyze them through objective formulas. I’m no mathmatician, but I’m not sure that is possible. Perhaps Paul Zorn could give us some insight on that.

    December 15, 2012
  157. David Ludescher said:

    Sean, Kathie, John,

    I am looking for some ideas on how to determine how the subjective factors should be weighed. How should the council go about evaluating whether it should spend $60K on a skateboard park or $250K on a short bike path?

    December 16, 2012
  158. David:
    I still think you should more formally retract your comment about this being a “gift”; even the most wasteful of spending is not a gift if it is being used for a City-owned facility. That said, I think your current question is very good. It seems like there are several points under which almost any capital expenditure should be considered:

    1. Does it provide a clear, provable economic return to the City? This is probably the item that matters most to you. The skate park probably does not. A completed Mill Towns’ Trail might, but I’m no expert on the matter. This one item is probably the most frequently cited to justify infrastructure giveaways to business parks and residential sprawl.

    2. Is it compatible with City plans, especially the Comprehensive Plan?

    3. Does funding (or not) of this item have a health or safety impact on the community? If there were an intersection of two city streets that was in need of a traffic signal and had experienced many crashes, there might be a meaningful safety issue in refusing to fund the signal upgrade. Likewise, if a facility will improve the wellbeing or health of residents, that should be considered. I believe the Skate Park does improve the health of participating residents, and alleviates safety concerns downtown by providing an alternate place to skate.

    4. Does it enhance the community image, values, or aesthetics? I believe the Skate Park could do this, by enhancing a fairly dead area of Riverside Park. Likewise, the Mill Town Trail connector improvements have certainly enhanced that area of the riverfront.

    5. Are outside funding sources available to mitigate the cost? For streets, the MSA fund and homeowner assessments are options that mitigate the City’s responsibility. For things like the Greenvale Ave TIGER underpass, the fact that $1 million is from the federal government makes that project significantly more viable. The City should consider the amount of external funding available.

    5a. Will the maintenance costs to the City negate the value of the outside funding?

    5b. If homeowner assessments are used, will the cost be unreasonably burdensome to the citizens?

    These items should be thought of in a balance. Funding water, sewer, and new city streets to pave over a cornfield does not improve health or safety, nor enhance community image, values or aesthetics. But if it’s compatible with City plans and has a clear, provable return on investment, it may be worthy of consideration.

    The TIGER grant (which if I recall correctly you opposed the City getting/using) would probably not hold up under this rubric if not for #5 — external funding. Considering the City’s obligation to be only $500k, its compatibility with City plans and enhancement of health and safety make it worthwhile.

    The Skate Park does not have a clear ROI, but it does very well on other points: it is compatible with city plans and long-identified parks needs, it has a health/safety impact on the community, and it enhances community aesthetics.

    December 16, 2012
  159. john george said:

    Sean- These are good questions to ask about any direction the city government takes, but some seem hard to answer objectively. For instance-
    1. Does it provide a clear, provable economic return to the City?
    How does anyone measure every expenditure to see if it will do this? Some esthetic investments, such as the flower pots hung downtown during the summer, the expense of care of them, are important to me, but what dollar amount of return to the city can be directly attributed to the petunias? This would evidently fall under your question #4-
    4. Does it enhance the community image, values, or aesthetics?
    Now, in reference to the skate park, I think a monetary value could be placed upon savings of maintainence and damage to existing infrastructure by providing a specific facility for this activity.
    I guess I am glad I just get to be an armchair councilperson and not have to give direct accountability for my decisions. Perhaps the concept of trying to please every citizen of this city in every decision made is what appears to be inneficiency on the part of the council.

    December 16, 2012
  160. John:
    No, many perfectly justifiable expenditures do not satisfy #1. I do not mean to say that all expenditures should meet all points. Rather, they should meet as many as possible, to the greatest extent possible. If they satisfy only one or two, they should do so exceptionally well and provably. As I said, my first impression would be that the Skate Park does not offer a clear, financial RO — but perhaps you’re right, that it may save wear and tear elsewhere. Even without the ROI, I think it’s worthy because of the several other points it does satisfy.

    All points are, of course, subjective. Still, separating the good an expenditure does or does not do helps us understand why we support or oppose it a bit more precisely than our initial instinct. In any case, the purpose of our elected officials is to be somewhat subjective; that’s why we elect one over the other.

    December 16, 2012
  161. john george said:

    Sean- Yes, I agree. I think that our concept of plurality of representation in our government is still the best pattern. It may be a little messy at times, but I think we need the perspective of different people to provide a more accurate representation of the populace. Hopefully, those different perspectives do not increase polarisation in our city. And, I am behind the skate park all the way.

    December 16, 2012
  162. Kathie Galotti said:

    I like Sean’s HO’s list. And the procedure it entails: Articulating a set of non-mutually exclusive principles, no single ones of which are mandatory. The more a proposal addresses of these principles, the higher funding priority it should receive. This procedure articulates the idea that there’s no one cut-and-dried way to assess priority, but also makes clear that there will be better and worse options.

    December 16, 2012
  163. David Ludescher said:

    Sean, Kathie, John,

    Assuming that you think the skateboard park is a good use of taxpayer money (which you have all said), at what level would it have become a bad use of money – $90K, $120K, $180K?

    December 17, 2012
  164. William Siemers said:

    The city should prioritize around the traditional role of city government:

    Safety (Police and Fire)
    Insuring the availability of temporary economic relief to citizens in crisis.
    Streets
    Zoning
    Parks and Recreation

    I don’t think ‘economic development’ as presently defined (departments, agencies, boards, etc.), should be the role of city government, except with regard to tax policy and zoning.

    I guess housing has become a function of city government because ‘the money is there’, but I think this function could be more effectively handled by a county or regional agency.

    Return on investment is a calculation best left to the private sector. The proper role of city government is to protect taxpayers by providing efficient service, not investment returns.

    Building a skateboard facility, at a modest cost within an existing park, would seem to be a proper use of city funds. But, as mentioned, it needs to be prioritized within the parks and recreation budget.

    December 17, 2012
  165. Kathie Galotti said:

    David,

    Again, I don’t think there’s an objective algorithm to use here, where 60 K is ok but 60K = 2 isn’t.

    I think given the history of the issue, given that the kids got jerked around for so long by adult “gentry” in our community, that the money was well spent.

    A different amount, for a different purpose, without the users raising some funds on their own, etc etc would be different, and would elicit a different judgment. But in the end, no equations or algorithms can be given–it will always come down to human judgment.

    December 17, 2012
  166. Kathie Galotti said:

    Typo in my last post. First sentencie should read:

    Again, I don’t think there’s an objective algorithm to use here, where 60 K is ok but 60K + or – 2 isn’t.

    December 17, 2012
  167. David Ludescher said:

    I don’t see a consensus on a principled approach.

    December 17, 2012
  168. kiffi summa said:

    Well then, I think you are just not seeing the black/white answer that you seek , David…

    I would say everyone who has commented in reply to you has offered their version of how an adult who has the responsibility may make a rational decision; I read the consensus as being there is no one, or hard cut, or clear formula answer for a decision on a park facility, which is providing for a system less quantifiable than a sewer connection.

    December 17, 2012
  169. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    Given that there is no clear consensus on an answer, can I reasonably conclude that $0 is also an acceptable amount?

    December 17, 2012
  170. john george said:

    David- I looked back over some posts, and I can’t find any opinions that state that we need to justify the $60K expenditure. There seemed to only be a question of where the city is going to get the $30K that they offered. I don’t think this is a money issue. This facility is being proposed to meet the needs/desires of a sub-set of our population, just as the bike path. If the users are raising some of their own funds, there is no threat to the welfare of the community, and the rest of the population is not coming out dead-set against it, then why not provide a skate park? It is not as if this is a transient group that will “grow up” and move on, thus eliminating the need. It seems clear, at least to me, that skateboarding is something adolescents contunue to grow into.

    December 17, 2012
  171. David Ludescher said:

    John,

    I am sympathetic to skateboarders wanting a place to skateboard. But, I am concerned about the precedence of giving the skateboarders use of public land and money to pursue their recreational activity.

    December 18, 2012
  172. William Siemers said:

    David.
    Establishing parks, and putting facilities for recreation in them, is a proper function of city government. Parks serve all sorts of subsets of the population, from swing sets, to softball fields, to horseshoe pits, to benches. The popularity of the various park activities is constantly evolving, so additions (or deletions) of activities must be something that the council considers. I confess to not knowing what the current proposal specifically entails, but a skateboard facility in an existing park seems like a reasonable use of city funds, particularly since some of the funding is private.

    December 18, 2012
  173. kiffi summa said:

    As I said, David, I did see a consensus … look for instance at the two comments after this: John George and Wm. Siemers.
    I don’t think anyone would find them to be wildly irrational or ‘spendthrifty’; they pretty much sum up a consensus…

    Your suggestion of 0$ is a painful insult to the skateboarders; I continue to insist that you answer why you would treat this group of kids differently than others, with different sports interests.

    Can you answer that?

    December 18, 2012
  174. Griff Wigley said:

    David, as a relative newcomer to mountain biking, I’m seeing a pattern repeated throughout the state that’s quite similar to the skateboard process here.

    In the early days, mountain bikers often used trails that were intended for hikers and of course, problems ensued, usually a) collisions; and b) erosion.

    The managers of the public lands have been figuring out that mountain bike trails can be created in a way to make them a) fun; b) erosion resistant; c) safe, ie, separate from hikers, birders, etc.

    The land managers’ decisions to create the trails most often depends on the willingness of a local club/group to partner with who’s willing to A) contribute labor to help build, maintain, and police them; B) contribute/raise money to offset the costs.

    When done right, the trails serve a public good, ie, public property/natural environment are protected while a healthful and popular recreational activity is supported that can’t easily be provided by private means. And best of all, there’s civic engagement and cost-effectiveness because a subgroup of users is expected to help maintain the asset in perpetuity.

    So while I think it’s fine to challenge the appropriateness of the amount of money that the PRAB and Council is putting towards the skatepark, I think the principles involved are sound.

    December 18, 2012
  175. Sean Fox said:

    David,
    I’ll add my voice in as someone who is completely baffled by your statement that this is a precedent of any sort. Supporting citizens in their “use of public land and money to pursue their recreational activity” is exactly the sort of things cities have supported for centuries. What about the skate boarding is different in kind from all the other recreational activities support by the city through dedicated facilities on public land outlined in the posts above?

    December 18, 2012
  176. Neil Lutsky said:

    Yes, we’re helping skateboarders pursue their recreational activities, just as the City has helped folks play basketball games at courts in parks, swim at a City pool, and swing on playground equipment. Moreover, we’re doing more. I spent significant time observing use of the temporary skateboard park this summer, and what that provided was a place for families to sit and watch their kids try out skateboards and for others to enjoy the skills skateboarders demonstrated. It was a community facility.

    Oddly, this discussion treats the matter of funding backwards. The City is not giving money to skateboarders; it is dedicating funding to developing a skateboard park for the citizens of Northfield. Skateboarders are giving money to the City. The Skateboard Coalition is raising and will be giving money to help the City develop that resource, and the Coalition’s work has, over the years, proven to be unselfish, benefiting future generations of youth in the community. We should be applauding and nurturing what has actually been happening.

    December 18, 2012
  177. Ross Currier said:

    Right on, Neil.

    December 19, 2012
  178. David Ludescher said:

    Here is my Scrooge response to your many comments.

    I’m still not convinced. If I were on the council, I would not have approved of the spending. It is the taxpayers’ money; and the skateboarders didn’t meet the burden of showing that they need it more than other worthy causes – like the CAC.

    I don’t think we should be raising the taxes for senior citizens on fixed incomes or taxing downtown business owners more so that a small subset of our population can enjoy their recreational activity.

    The skateboarders raised $23,000.00 for their own skateboard park. Let them use that. They are going to appreciate it more, and take better care of it if it is their own money. And, they are going to feel better about themselves and learn that responsible citizenship means not being a burden for someone else. Saying no is a win-win.

    We have to start drawing the line someplace or people are going to keep coming to the city to have them fund something that they can’t or won’t pay for themselves. Grant-giving is out of control at the federal level (witness the TIGER grant). I don’t want the city to go down that path.

    December 19, 2012
  179. Sean Fox said:

    David,
    Are you opposed to playgrounds in general? If not why is this any different in your mind?

    One could imagine we could rely on girl scout cookie sales and the like to privately fund playgrounds.

    December 19, 2012
  180. David Ludescher said:

    Sean,

    I’m not opposed to parks, trails, playgrounds, or any other kind of recreational activity. But, if the city has $60K burning a hole in its collective pocket, I would much prefer than the money go to the United Way, and let the United Way decide who is needy and deserving.

    December 19, 2012
  181. Sean Fox said:

    David,
    In forming my previous question I wasn’t really trying to understand whether you liked parks in the abstract. So I’ll try to restate it in a way that gets more directly at what I’d like to know:

    Do you think the city should spend tax dollars on public parks?

    I’m thinking this is a pretty straight forward yes/no question. I can’t honestly tell from the previous discussion what your answer would be to this question. I look forward to hearing an answer. I think that will add clarity to the discussion.

    December 19, 2012
  182. David Ludescher said:

    Sean,

    Yes. Tax dollars should go to public parks and other community space. But, it has to be in measured amounts for measured purposes.

    From all appearances, the City (council) does not have a method to evaluate either the amount of money being spent nor the quality of the project for which the money is being spent. For some constituencies, the city has become the charity of first resort.

    This gift to the skateboarders has pointed out the desperate need to develop a city policy regarding which constituencies should have access to the taxing power of the city, and in what amount. Consider this – if there are 60 dedicated skateboarders in this town, and we gave an equal amount of money to every citizen for their favorite recreational activity, the total bill for the city would be $20,000,000.00. That is unsustainable.

    December 20, 2012
  183. Jeff Ondich said:

    David, I applaud your intention to form clearer policy on city expenditures. When you get around to that discussion on the Council, however, I hope you will do more careful financial analysis than you did in 61.2. The lifetime of the skate park is likely to be many years. An appropriate analysis would take into account that lifetime, the initial expenditures, the maintenance costs along the way. It will serve far more than 60 people.

    December 20, 2012
  184. Sean Fox said:

    David,
    I’m glad you’re in favor of public funding of parks. Following up on what Jeff said let’s actually look a little closer at the numbers. The back of my envelope says the city is actually talking about spending $3k0 of tax money (half the cost was raised privately right?) and I’ll guesstimate that the lifetime of a skate park is about 10 years (anyone got better hard numbers?). So we’re talking about $3k/year for the benefit of 100 skateboarders (I’m going to round your 60 up since we’re both just pulling numbers out of hat). That’s $30/year per benefiting citizen (if we assume the only benefits to community are those that acrue directly to the individual skateboards which I don’t actually believe).

    For comparison the city spends $130k/year on athletic fields (not parks or ice rinks or pools; just the athletic fields). If we imagine that 4000 Northfielders use those parks annually (anyone got a better number?) then we’re spending $32/year per benefiting citizen for athletic fields right now.

    My numbers are clearly not exact and I applaud efforts to include analysis like this (with real numbers) as an element of the city decision making process. I think this is something you have been pushing for and I’m behind you on that (if not on other issues).

    But I think it’s pretty clear that your implication that the skateboard park costs are wildly out of line with the per-citizen recreational spending we’re already doing is simply wrong.

    December 20, 2012
  185. kiffi summa said:

    David: you are constantly searching for what you term a “rubric” to measure the value of an expenditure…
    If the example you give in 61.2 is an example of how you would frame that “rubric” … or, construct a rationale … for decision making, the new council will be in a bad way as far as decision making processes.

    IMO, your refusal to directly answer, and , IMO, stubbornness in holding on to a POV which seems to have no logic but is just an expression of denial, does not bode well for any clear cut process, except that based on a personal bias toward general denial.

    I believe you have coached kids in chess skills for a number of years, and I assume this is at one of the schools? What if a principal had said to you we can’t keep the lights on for you to carry on this coaching process because I don’t think chess skills are anything but a “subset” of interest?

    December 20, 2012
  186. David Henson said:

    David and Kiffi – maybe you could agree on a chess park!

    A 2002 report found that there were 18.5 million skateboarders in the world

    As of 2005, it is estimated that between 600 – 700 million people play chess in the world

    December 20, 2012
  187. David Ludescher said:

    Folks,

    I appreciate all of your comments. While my opinion seems to be different than the rest of yours, does everyone agree that we should have some kind of policy on these kinds of expenditures?

    December 20, 2012
  188. Kathie Galotti said:

    Yes, I agree.

    It’s the specifics of what the policy should be where I suspect we would disagree (aka, “the devil’s in the details”).

    Policies inevitably derive from individual values, and I don’t expect those would ever be exactly the same for most any two people.

    That’s why, while I disagree strenuously with you on the overall worth of the skatepark, I agree there should be some framework for considering projects more systematically. So long as you understand that “more systematically” does not equate to “absolutely objectively” or “producing consensus.”

    December 20, 2012
  189. john george said:

    If we are going to branch off into a chess park, we need to consider what transpired at the National Chess Society’s meeting in Phoenix. As the attendees all began to gather in the Raddison’s lobby, there arose much bragging about their vasrious chess conquests. It was getting a little loud, so the manager came out and asked them to please go into the meeting room they had reserved. He said, “I just can’t have chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!”

    December 20, 2012
  190. Paul Zorn said:

    David L,

    Yup, we should, by policy, do what we can to evaluate the quality of any proposed city (warning … here comes the I-word) investment. A good policy for such purposes should have some reasonable attributes:

    1. It should acknowledge that different investments a city might make can return value (ROI, if you like) in different “currencies”: money, quality of life, environmental protection, equity, aesthetics, safety, etc.

    2. It should acknowledge that comparing ROI in various currencies is an art (a political art, to some extent), not a numerical science. Some uncertainty is unavoidable.

    3. It should include numerical data and measures when — but only when — they’re available, reliable, and pertinent to the question. In many cases some or all of these bars will be too high to clear. Bogus or misleading calculations (like those in 61.2, which may have been proposed facetiously) are much worse than useless.

    What sort of policy would you, David L, propose? What sort of a (say) park project would pass your proposed policy?

    December 20, 2012
  191. David Ludescher said:

    Paul,

    I like your ideas. Here is my initial thoughts:

    1. The cost is on one side of the equation.
    2. The relevant variables are on the other side of the equation.
    3. The relevant variables can be compared to each other.
    4. In the cases where the subjective variables are too difficult to determine, we assign values with a range.
    5. We assume some limits on the costs.

    Essentially, we have a large multi-variable matrix.

    As an example, we can compare spending $60K on the skateboard park against $60K for the CAC and see how they compare with each other.

    Essentially, we remove the “art” of spending by evaluating projects against each other to determine what we value the most and why.

    December 20, 2012
  192. William Siemers said:

    David.
    I think the ‘large multi-variable matrix’ might cause decision making to be very difficult if we are comparing proposed CAC expenditures to the proposed skateboard park expenditure. Why not compare the skateboard expenditure to another proposed expenditure within the parks and recreation budget? Start with the departmental budget and assume no increase. Can grass be cut less often in the parks? Reduced hours at the swimming pool? Cut staff and hire more temps, or organize more volunteers? And so on. Look to see if the money can be moved within the department budget before trying to compare expenditures for emergency human services with parks expenditures. It seems to me that your proposal, which is essentially an examination and critique of the very role of city government, has merit in the grand scheme. But on the practical, day to day level, it may just result in gridlock and diminished services.

    December 21, 2012
  193. David Ludescher said:

    William,

    That makes sense.

    But, I think departments need to be compared against each other on a grand scale. For example, if the park board has $60K to give to the skateboarders, and the CAC is $60K short perhaps the park board has too much money, and the CAC has too little.

    I know that people worry about “gridlock” and “diminished services”. But, gridlock and diminished services are always going to happen. It is just a matter of figuring out where the line is drawn. And, I can’t see that the council has a line – $60K to the skateboarders, $500K to the trail under the bridge, $250K for a bike path you can’t even ride your bike upon, $500K for a parking lot remodel. We could have saved a lot of money if we had a little “gridlock” and “diminished service”.

    To make matters worse, the taxes that pay for these services are regressive. The taxes hit our poorest citizens the hardest. And, it is really hard on our (taxpaying) businesses which pay taxes at a much higher rate than homeowners.

    December 21, 2012
  194. kiffi summa said:

    David: you said: “For example, if the park board has $60K to give to the skateboarders, and the CAC is $60K short perhaps the park board has too much money, and the CAC has too little.”

    You have always spoken about the necessity for city gov’t/depts to ‘live within their means’

    Each dept submits a budget to the Council and the Council approves that budget. Are you saying that the budget is NOT a guideline for performance within each city department? i.e., if someone comes up short just take it from somewhere else?
    How does that fulfill the basic goal of a budget process?

    December 21, 2012
  195. Randy Jennings said:

    David,
    Quit with the red herrings already… Comparing spending on parks (an established city function) to spending on the CAC (a worthy nonprofit, but not a city responsibility) is an unnecessary distraction from what could otherwise be a useful conversation about what we expect from and value about local government.

    It is certainly relevant to employ a rigorous process to allocate city funding across the various city functions, and you’ll probably find quite a bit of support for developing a clear(er) rubric for doing so. (It might not be as limited and literal as your rubric, but then you were elected to represent, not to dictate.) If you stick to the confines of your and the city’s responsibilities without speculating about what local nonprofits might or might not do with more money, you’ll have enough to do.

    As one of your new constituents, I hope once you have taken your seat, you’ll spend at least this much time and energy communicating directly with the citizens in your ward.

    December 21, 2012
  196. Joe Stapf said:

    That reminds me of the story about the retired members of the United Mineworkers Local out of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who all signed up for a bus tour to the Florida Everglades where there had been discovered in an isolated area a population of some apparent prehistoric dolphins. On the appointed day, they boarded their tour bus, and headed south. Shortly after leaving Pennsylvania, and crossing into Maryland, they were pulled over by a Maryland State Police Officer, who upon investigation cited the tour operator for transporting miners across state lines for immortal porpoises!!

    December 21, 2012
  197. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    Building a skateboard park for a group of ad hoc skateboarders can hardly be considered a city responsibility, even if it is couched in terms of “park development” or “investment”. I would much prefer to see the city supporting a group of needy Northfield citizens who have made their needs known through the CAC (or other groups like the Sertoma or Lions) then see us deal with ad hoc groups on an individual basis.

    December 21, 2012
  198. john george said:

    Joe- I like the variant of that story that incorporates sedate lions, but we’d better not push our luck, here. Griff may run out of the Holiday spirit! (Or he might possibly run into more of it!)

    December 21, 2012
  199. David Henson said:

    Northfield citizens elected a city council and those council members voted to fund a skateboard park … that is the system. Now you will serve and can vote on issues as you see fit using whatever rubric you choose. But that rubric won’t limit other council people accept as a basis for argument. And it will have no lasting impact on future councils accepting as an example if your decisions appear particularly effective. Personally as far as the evils of aggressive government go, I think building a useful local amenity such as a skateboard park is the least of our worries.

    December 22, 2012
  200. kiffi summa said:

    first they are ‘undeserving’; now they are “ad hoc” … Can you think of any other declaratives to disenfranchise this particular group of kids, David?

    Really, you attitude gets more Scrooge-y, as Christmas approaches… must be the season…

    December 22, 2012
  201. Randy Jennings said:

    David,
    It’s not about your preferences. It’s about how this community has worked to develop its parks for years and years. We (collectively, through a tiny portion of our taxes) supported the Spring Creek soccer complex, the Veterans Memorial, the Sechlar baseball complex, and the Way Park redevelopment. Each of these had an “ad hoc” group that did the heavy lifting, raised some of the money, and worked within the system. The skateboard coalition has played by these same rules, used an established organization (The Key) as a sponsor, worked with the appropriate city functions, and raised some of the money. Step-by-step they have done what we’ve required of other ad hoc groups. I’d support your effort to establish a clearer process for prioritizing future city investments in facilities to serve citizens, but I am baffled by why you’ve singled out this group and this project.

    Separately, your belief that the city can somehow become the funder of any of the many worthwhile nonprofits in town seems uncharacteristically muddled thinking. That’s not what local government does, as you know, unless you are planning to give up your obsession with taxes and entertain the idea of expanding city funding into the areas now served by our many excellent local service organizations. Are you now a big-government crusader?

    December 22, 2012
  202. Kathie Galotti said:

    Excellent post, Randy (63.1.3 in particular)

    December 22, 2012
  203. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    It’s not my intent to single out the skateboaders. They are simply the group de jour who are receiving taxpayer dollars. Unless we establish some rubric for grants of money to the various (worthy) groups, we are going to see more and more groups bypassing private donations and charitable organizations and coming to the government as the charity of first resort.

    December 23, 2012
  204. Randy Jennings said:

    But David…
    you continue to mischaracterize this process. This is normal, citizen-led park development, not a charitable request. You are the only one who describes the city’s investment in developing a skatepark as a “gift.” There is no “grant” to the skatepark group. No one is “receiving taxpayer dollars.” For you to keep saying so is just flat out wrong.

    The others involved in the process — from the constituent group who has worked within the system, to the PRAB members who have contributed their time and talents to shaping Northfield’s excellent parks, to citizens who have made financial contributions to show their support, to the current city council who validated all of that citizen involvement by authorizing the development of the skatepark — sees this as an example of how we all work together to enhance our community. Not everyone uses every amenity, but we all benefit from having a range of ways people can enjoy our parks. It’s one of the things we expect of our local government. Why is that so difficult for you to see?

    December 23, 2012
  205. kiffi summa said:

    But David, in 63.1.4, you say “It’s not my intent to single out the skateboaders. ”
    But you have done so repeatedly throughout this conversation, and have never said why you have ‘isolated’ them except by characterizing them as an “undeserving” ” subset” of the community of park (hopefully) users.

    You have been so specific with that characterization, that you need to explain … not with generalities … but why you find this group to be “undeserving” even though they (through several ‘generations’ of kids) have for 16 years been complying with all the city has asked of them, and actually caused way LESS ruckus than the adults who opposed them having a park at every site that was suggested.

    You keep referring to them as receiving “taxpayer’s dollars”; virtually all the services we all receive through the city government is our receiving “taxpayer’s (ours) dollars” back.

    I can’t see a logical core to your argument.

    December 23, 2012
  206. Do you have similar objections to other parks, or just this one?

    Here’s the thing. A lot of people do object specifically to skateboarders. And while you say that you are not singling them out, you have put a lot of time into saying things that make no sense unless we assume that you object to them getting $60k. And you’ve used a lot of very loaded language, like calling a city investment in a park facility a “gift”. (And you’ve kept saying $60k, even though several people have asserted that half of that money was in fact raised by citizens specifically to fund this project.)

    Now, you have a legal background, and when with someone with a legal background uses a lot of emotionally-laden terms, it’s usually a pretty safe bet that it’s intentional, and that it’s intended to affect how people think or feel.

    At which point, it’s not unreasonable for people to think that there’s some sort of underlying hostility to the skateboarders as such, because that’s a common motive, and there’s no other obvious explanation for why someone would characterize a single specific parks and recreation expenditure as a “gift”, even though no one is being given anything; the city retains ownership of its land and facilities.

    Basically, there’s a conspicuous absence here in your writing, which is shaped just about like the connection from motivation to action, and there’s a motivation which a whole lot of people have, and which people might feel reluctant to express because the conversation started out with several respected participants expressing some level of condemnation for that motive.

    And if you’d expressed some other motive and tied it together with other things, no one would notice that, but when there’s nothing on offer, and no real reconciliation between your writing on this issue and how you’ve approached other issues, people are likely to draw that inference.

    I think the problem here is: We think too much of your writing skills to imagine that you’ve somehow just happened to ineptly fail to state your case even though you have one.

    December 25, 2012
  207. Tell you what. Let’s just use our imaginations a bit, and run through two scenarios.

    In one of them, we spend $60k on a skateboard park, which 60 people use to skateboard, while 600 people skateboard in their own homes.

    In the other, we spend $60k on a chessboard park, which 600 people use to play chess, while 60 people skateboard in their own homes.

    I put it to you that, thinking this through, you may find ways in which the former scenario plays out better than the latter. Specifically, it is perhaps relevant that it is extremely impractical for most people to maintain a skateboard ramp in their house or apartment, while chessboards are small enough that I sincerely doubt I’ve ever known anyone who didn’t have at least one.

    I would also point out that the number of “dedicated” skateboarders is not necessarily a good measure, as many people will pursue an activity depending on convenience, and a very large number of people live in places where there are no good facilities for skateboarding.

    Finally, one last relevant observation: Having observed teenagers and skateboard parks in the past, I can assure you that a skateboard park which attracts even a small number of healthy skateboarders will provide entertainment all summer for a very large number of teenagers. Skateboarders tend to be very active in summer, meaning they tend to not wear a lot of excess clothes, and I assure you our town contains a significant number of teens who will happily spend hours watching other teens be athletic and in some cases shirtless.

    December 25, 2012
  208. Could you point to some of the other recent park things (Way Park upgrades, baseball fields, etcetera) the City has done, and tell us which of them you think were or were not good precedents, and why? If any of them don’t strike you as raising the same problems as the skateboard park, could you identify the ways in which they differ?

    December 25, 2012
  209. David Ludescher said:

    Randy, Kiffi, Seebs

    The simple fact remains that $60K of the money being spent are taxpayer dollars. Whether or not these taxpayer dollars are well-spent depends upon the value assigned to the skateboard park development.

    Even if I were to agree that a skateboard park adds value to our city parks, I don’t have a good sense from you of what that value would be. Is it $60K? Is it $90K? Is it $120K?

    Nor do I have a good sense from you who is deserving of the council’s attention for requests of taxpayer dollars.

    December 26, 2012
  210. Randy Jennings said:

    David, ditto Seebs’ comments in 58.2.6. Knowing you to be a thoughtful and articulate person, I remain surprised at the effort to which you are going to try to make the skatepark a defining precedent of some sort. (See below if you want a more robust and costly issue to gnaw on…)

    How about we just stick to the facts of the skatepark project and avoid hypotheticals? The Park and Recreation Advisory Board made a recommendation to the city council that a space in Riverside Park be assigned as the location of a new skatepark, and that $30K of the PRAB budget for park development be allocated to the development of said park. The council took action on this recommendation, approving both the space and the fund allocation, and committed an additional $30K of city funding to accelerate the development of the amenity. That’s what you as a city counselor could have acted upon. There was no hypothetical about what the maximum city investment of the skatepark might be. If you were sitting on the council, you could have voted “no” to the allocation of space, “no” to the allocation of PRAB funds, and, certainly “no” to the allocation of additional city resources. You could not have voted on a specious question of who or what would be more “deserving.”

    I don’t think a city council member’s job is to sit in judgment about the worth of individuals or groups (for lack of a better word, let’s just call them “citizens”) who seek and receive city services. You can certainly weigh categorical imperatives, like should X be a public service? But when you find yourself using words like “deserving,” I think you’ve wandered out of bounds. I think the role is simply to facilitate the governance of the city, which involves lots of citizen input and participation you and other counselors might not always appreciate, and are able, if the past is any guide, to selectively ignore.

    Let’s have a show of hands of everyone who uses Northfield’s parks: youth sports, the DJJD rodeo, dog-walkers, families with children, neighborhood picnics, and so on. Can we stipulate that parks are one of the core city services, maybe behind public safety (sans building), street maintenance and sewer and water, but certainly a high priority? Therefore, as a council member, one of your jobs is to use the city’s financial resources (“taxpayer dollars”) to provide the services citizens expect and value. That includes parks.

    If you insist upon weighing the “deservingness” of people and projects, maybe you can spend a little time and attention on the $750,000 downtown parking lot boondoggle. Shouldn’t the “free” market build its own parking lot, if there is such a pressing need? As a downtown business owner, how do you feel about that as a use of taxpayer dollars? (Griff, how about a new thread for that conversation…?)

    December 26, 2012
  211. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    You are correct in stating that if I were a city council member that I could have voted on the location of the Riverside skateboard park, the $30K of funding, and the additional $30K of funding without articulating a standard.

    But, whether I voted for or against any proposal I think I would be doing my constituents and the city a disservice if I had no clear principles guiding the process of using taxpayer dollars. Part of those principles has to be defining who receives or does not receive taxpayer dollars, in what amount, and explaining why or why not.

    I am hard pressed to discern any guiding principles from the skateboard decision. It appears that the task will be incumbent upon the new council to come up with some standards to judge projects such as the proposed parking lot to which you refer (which I understand will be significantly cheaper given the proposed or completed land swap).

    December 26, 2012
  212. Wait, I am confused. I thought $30k of it was money raised by people specifically for this project in the past. The city may be paying more out in immediate cash flow, but only because they borrowed it previously, no?

    December 27, 2012
  213. Kathie Galotti said:

    Parks are, and should be, one of the city-supported services. The process used to site the skateboard was (overly) thorough, transparent, offered opportunities for al those affected to come forward and express their concerns. The money spent was proportional to the size of the project, and was not a gift, not a bribe, not a hand out.

    David, it seems you want a process that ends up promoting your individual values, but somehow looks to everyone else to be objective. If you’re not seeing any principles articulated in this thread, then you are just not reading or too close-minded to accept viewpoints other than your own. Just my opinion.

    December 27, 2012
  214. kiffi summa said:

    David: I am really tired of banging my head against your ‘wall’ on this one; you have until the 8th of January, when you’re sworn in, to develop your own core policy about approving $$ to be spent.

    You haven’t responded to anything that’s been said here with any philosophy of your own, except for the declaration that this particular group of kids is in your term”undeserving” and a “subset” too small to be considered for a park facility to be developed for their use.

    So … I hope you’ll be working hard the next few days to collect your personal thoughts into a coherent decision making process which you can apply to all requests; that seems to be your goal.
    While you’re at that task, maybe you can find a rationale by which you rate all requests with equality, which also seems to be a stated goal.

    Good Luck!

    December 27, 2012
  215. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I have my own thoughts about what the policy should be. But, as Randy has said, it is not about what I want; it is about what is a workable model for the community.

    Here are a number of thoughts off the top of my head:

    1. How much does it cost initially? This is always the most important principle unless it deals with a fundamental human or constitutional right.
    2. What is the ongoing costs?
    3. How important is the objective for the citizens of Northfield? Core services like water, sewage, fire, police are the most important. Recreational services like bike paths and skateboard parks have the lowest priority.
    4. Can the need/want be met by private individuals or groups? Why or why not? (In other words, if people won’t voluntarily give you money for your request, why should the government involuntarily take the money from those same people?)
    5. Does the money serve those who are the most needy?
    6. Can the same goal be accomplished for less?
    7. Does it have any economic return?
    8. If people had to pay for the service, how much would they pay?
    9. Can we charge a fee for the service to recover the cost?
    10. If we don’t do it, what are the consequences?

    I find a strange irony in the fact that our most basic service, water, is charged at market price, and yet the city heavily subsides recreational services like biking and skateboarding.

    December 27, 2012
  216. kiffi summa said:

    I must say I am appalled by your list…
    It seems to me that you believe that everything can be measured in worth by a monetary value: I could not disagree more with that concept.

    Money is simply a means to an end, and sometimes it costs a lot to get to a goal (health insurance, for instance); other things/goals are free … one doesn’t pay anything for them … but they last forever and the value is not measurable in dollars.

    December 27, 2012
  217. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    I am of the firm conviction that government officials have the fiduciary duty to value every expenditure. To ignore the responsibility to balance the cost and the value received for that cost is to ignore the duty.

    A skateboard park at $0K is a good value; a park at $600K is not. Somewhere in between the government is not getting good value for the money, and the money would be better spent on something else or returned to the taxpayer.

    December 28, 2012
  218. kiffi summa said:

    David: no one , meaning me in this case, is saying you do not have a “fiduciary duty”. My non-acceptance of your process is that it relies only on $$$ as a value.

    None of our parks return $$$ to the city; they fulfill another kind of necessity which is not quantifiable in $$$.

    you said: “To ignore the responsibility to balance the cost and the value received for that cost is to ignore the duty.”

    IF the only value you see is measurable only in terms of $$$, then I fear for any ‘quality of life’ , ‘common good’, recreational, etc., issues presented to the new Council… because you are not moved off your POV by any discussion, and the meetings will be long and arduous, IMO, if you aren’t getting your way.

    December 28, 2012
  219. Paul Zorn said:

    David L,

    Thanks for your list of possible questions for vetting community projects.

    I’m fine with anyone asking any or all of the ten questions you propose in 65.1. For each of these questions I can imagine a proposed expenditure that might properly raise that question. It’s harder to imagine a proposal that would usefully raise all of them.

    And yes, elected officials should “value” every proposed expenditure of public money. Could anyone not share your “firm conviction” in this matter?

    My live-est question is about what “value” means to you as an elected official. As we keep saying ad nauseam, one can’t sensibly “value” different goods, like city water and park acquisition, on a common scale. It doesn’t follow, of course, that citizens or officials should be indifferent to costs or to observe due economy in any expenditure. It does follow that officials will always have to deal, like it or not, with difficult and not fully “value”-able choices among competing goods. So it goes.

    I’d understand your 10-question catechism better if you’d apply it to a concrete (if perhaps fictitious) *positive* example of, say, a parks or recreation example. I get that you don’t like skateboard parks and pricey bike trails. Fair enough, but can you imagine (or, better, cite) any park/rec-related expenditure of public money you did or could or might support?

    December 28, 2012
  220. David Ludescher said:

    Paul,

    Some fair questions and good observations.

    As you note, officials have to “value” the various goods and services that the city provides.

    I disagree with the assertion that an official cannot value services like city and water on a common scale with services like park and recreation expenditures. The simple fact is that these services have to be and are valued on a common scale – the amount of money that the city has to pay (or more correctly, the amount the taxpayers have to pay). By preferring some services over others, we have established a common scale, even though establishing that scale may not be intended. The hard part is determining value on intangible attributes, like “quality of life”, “complete transportation system”, or other things which we value, but we aren’t sure how important they are.

    Services can also be valued by comparing one service to another. We do it all the time as consumers. We have a limited amount of cash that we can spend. We might choose a vacation over an IRA because a vacation has significant present value. There is no reason why governments cannot do the same thing. Which do we prefer – a skateboard park for $60K or a reduction in the rent for the CAC in the amount of $60K? I find no reason why this type of valuing should be objectionable. (Sorry Randy, I don’t get it.)

    (As an aside: MasterCard has a clever advertising slogan telling us not to worry about cost. It has commercials end with the tagline, “Priceless”. The implication – put everything on the charge card; it doesn’t matter the cost; whatever the cost, it is worth it. That is hardly a sustainable personal nor governmental approach.)

    Another valuing method is to look at what the private market would charge for the service if it were to build it. For example, if the private market were to have built the bike path along the river how much would it have spent if the money were coming out of its own pocket and not the taxpayers?

    If it is true that it is just too difficult to value the intangibles in expenditures like the skateboard park (or the TIGER trail), then the most logical way for a councilor to proceed is to say, “No.”. If valuation is that difficult, then prudence dictates caution.

    As far as a concrete example, I would have supported this skateboard park for no city money with the skateboarders providing their $23K and the city providing park space, maintenance costs, and personnel for oversight. I probably would have voted in favor of the $30K, but not because I thought that it was a good idea, but because councilors shouldn’t be micro-managing the park board’s decisions; it should manage the park board through its budget. I would not have supported an un-budgeted and unrequested grant of an additional $30K.

    Regarding the bike path, I would have supported a bike lane on Water Street down to 7th and then over. Nothing more.

    December 28, 2012
  221. Paul Zorn said:

    David,

    Thanks for the concrete stuff. I agree, in particular, that councilors shouldn’t try to micromanage things like park budgets that have already been set. Extra-budgetary expenses, especially large ones, are fair game. As are budgets themselves — if you see parks and rec as simply wasteful government spending, then say so at budget time. (Is this in fact your view? I don’t think so, but how does any spending on parks square with your catechism?)

    All that said, I stand by the view that different goods can’t always be valued on a common scale. Yes, one can always compare a $20K price tag for one project to a $30K price tag for another, but the payback (aka, value) on various investments can’t always be compared directly. How would you, David, calculate the payback, for instance, on a $60K reduction in rent to the CAC?

    As an aside: Your MasterCard reference is amusing, but something of a straw man in these discussions, no? Has anyone here argued that, whatever the cost it’s worth it?

    Again, thanks for the concrete particulars. Philosophy is fine, but as a constituent I’d like to know specifics.

    December 28, 2012
  222. Randy Jennings said:

    David, as a more detailed and specific description of how you are thinking about city spending is slowly being revealed, it is both reassuring and more frightening.

    On the one hand, it’s great that you understand how important it is that the council not micromanage the various boards and commissions that provide advice and recommendations to the council. That’s a key way to broaden citizen engagement with local government, and the work of those bodies has not been consistently respected over the past few years. As Paul points out, you have your best shot at shaping Norhtfield’s city services when budgets are first established, then letting others work within those parameters.

    On the other hand, the way you describe “payback” suggests you are too much like an Oscar Wilde character who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The examples you provide are almost all comparative pricing mechanisms. As you apply your rubric to city spending, you can know with certainty the cost, but nothing you’ve said above suggests you have yet given much thought or weight to the question of value. Except, of course, for your clear preference for less spending. Is that as deep as it goes?

    I do appreciate, though, that you have finally framed your comparison of the skatepark and the CAC is a reasonable way:

    Which do we prefer — a skateboard park for $60K or a reduction in the rent for the CAC in the amount of $60K? I find no reason why this type of valuing should be objectionable. (Sorry Randy, I don’t get it.)

    No need to apologize (at least not to me). While it says nothing about how you might “value” the result of either expenditure, this construction properly compares two steps the city might make, rather than a more abstract comparison of which thing (one a city park amenity and the other a nonprofit organization) is more “deserving.” The city could lower the rent. Whether it would generate more “payback” for the community brings you back to that vexing question of value, which you haven’t even remotely addressed.

    As you continue to talk about these issues from the dias, I hope you’ll try to be more accurate in the language you choose. Even at the end of your post 65.1.5 you can’t help but describe the additional $30K the city council chose to allocate as a “grant.” No, it wasn’t a grant. It was (or will be) a shift in funds from one city account to another, to be spent developing a city park amenity. Yes, it’s all taxpayer dollars, but none of it is being granted to anyone.

    December 29, 2012
  223. David Ludescher said:

    Paul,

    In my opinion, a modified MasterCard approach is an all too common approach to plead for taxpayer dollars. That approach was used for the bike trail, and we are using it right now on the TIGER grant to go under Highway 3.

    The bike trail along the river is a worthy goal, as is the underpass. But, there is some point along the continuum from $0.00 to “priceless” when it no longer becomes a worthy goal. From my perspective, I don’t see that this council has developed any specifics, let alone a philosophy.

    I agree that constituents deserve to have specifics. But, first, I think the new council will have to develop a philosophy.

    December 29, 2012
  224. David Ludescher said:

    Randy,

    I am not presently advocating for less spending. I am advocating for a more deliberate and systematic approach to spending, especially as it involves non-essential services.

    I am also trying to be conscious of the fact that local tax dollars tend to be regressive, and to keep in mind that some taxpaying entities, namely most businesses, pay taxes at a much higher rate, and use substantially fewer services. I am concerned about both fairness in the delivery of services and the taxing for those services.

    December 29, 2012
  225. Paul Zorn said:

    David,

    You say (in relation to spending on city projects):

    I agree that constituents deserve to have specifics. But, first, I think the new council will have to develop a philosophy.

    My reaction is … mixed.

    On the good side, it’s responsible, duly diligent, and reassuring to tax-paying constituents to know that spending decisions are made thoughtfully and with a big picture in mind. Who could disagree?

    On the worrying side, if by “develop a philosophy” you mean the new Council won’t get to specifics until some consensus is reached on big political questions (Blue? Red? Libertarian? Anarcho-syndicalist?), I fear that the new Council will produce little but airy persiflage. Projects, good or bad, will languish in limbo.

    Any thoughts on how to avoid philosophical gridlock?

    December 30, 2012
  226. David Ludescher said:

    Paul,

    I think the big task will be convincing this council that we should develop a philosophy regarding spending. Given the enthusiasm for projects like the skateboard project and the TIGER grant, I think new councilors may have a difficult time convincing the old councilors that a policy is needed.

    December 30, 2012
  227. john george said:

    David L. and Paul Z.- I think the greatest problem in developing a “policy” or “procedure” to make objective spending decisions is that many of the decisions are subjective in nature. The ideal would be to have a procedure that would be timeless from one council to the next. This is probably unattainable, so my suggestion would be for the councilors to try to work together rather than against each other as proposals arise. It is hard to move forward as a group when the group can not come to an understanding with each other. Each new council has different dynamics depending upon the mix of personalities involved. Being able to recognize this is, I think, the first step to take. But, then, my opinion and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee at McDonalds.

    December 30, 2012
  228. kiffi summa said:

    Actually that is a good opinion, John, and worth more than a McDonald’s cup of coffee, or a dollar!

    For many years I did Council observing for the League of Women Voters, and so feel perfectly comfortable in having this opinion: The problem with every council I have watched in the last 14 or so years, is that egos get in the way of substantive discussion.
    That should’t be a surprise; it’s a universal condition.
    But I would think in this small town situation, there would be more effort to not be so dismissive of an opposing opinion… but an effort made not to just ignore , but to make a structured, well argued case for the position you favor.

    I’ll just go ahead and say something that will probably get peoples backs up: the times when the discussion at the council is personal opposition, rather than well founded policy, or intellectual differences that can be argued on a substantive, rather than preferential basis, is amazing.

    There is more time spent in outright bare opposition than it would take to have an argument based on fact, or basic policy difference.

    There may be ‘light at the end of the tunnel’… new Councilor , Jessica Peterson-White, seems to have the sort of cool analytical mind that goes right to the base of a question, and she then asks the defining question to establish a basis for discussion.

    I expect this will be a very interesting Council to watch …

    December 31, 2012
  229. David Ludescher said:

    John,

    It might be a lot of effort, but I think the time spent developing a policy identifying essential and non-essential services and how much and where the money is spent will pay dividends for this council and future councils. The United Way takes its money and divides it among worthy causes using a methodology of some kind. Government needs to be held to even a higher standard (because the money it has was taken involuntarily).

    December 31, 2012
  230. john george said:

    Well, David, that might work, but I agree that it would be a lot of time and effort. How many different elections (ie. councils) do you think it would take to actually enact a policy like that?

    December 31, 2012
  231. kiffi summa said:

    And … there is absolutely no way for one council to hold another successive one to the previously developed ‘policy’ … so it will always come down to having a discussion based on the needs and preferences of the sitting council.

    I would think you would understand that, David, given your desire to ‘correct’ the financing of the Safety Center.

    January 1, 2013
  232. David Henson said:

    I am sure seeing kids do this in Northfield will warm David L’s heart 🙂 Video Link

    January 7, 2013
  233. kiffi summa said:

    Warmed mine!

    January 7, 2013
  234. john george said:

    After watching that video, I can only be jealous of not having those reflexes and that sense of balance anymore. I am content to enjoy skateboarding as a spectator sport. Is there anything in the new park plans for bleachers, or must we bring our own portable seating?

    January 7, 2013
  235. Jane McWilliams said:

    John – the planning for the design of the skateboard park is under way along with a parallel consideration of the redevelopment of the small area between the Village on the Cannon and the highway. One concept provides for a berm on the east side of the pad which will not only mitigate sound, but will provide an informal place for people to sit and watch theboarders.
    These are in very initial stages, of course, but I’m encouraged that people who formerly were very unhappy with the summer skateboarding scene are now working to help the new installation be good for everyone. The skateboard coalition is meeting this week to talk seriously about the design of their facility – a first step in the process. The city will need this before soil preparation, determining the cost and other steps can be taken.

    January 8, 2013
  236. Shelley Brady said:

    This is all so exciting for the youth of Northfield. I’m happy for them and happy that we are working together as a community to provide them with a place for this skateboard park. Young kids who have worked so hard to make this happen “deserve” our support (IMO). We as a community need to encourage young people with these kinds of endeavors and show we value them. Thank you Jane for the update.

    January 8, 2013
  237. john george said:

    Jane- Thanks for reminding me of the berm. I remember, now, reading about that previously, and that would certainly give a good vantage point for spectators.

    January 8, 2013
  238. Rob Hardy said:

    Here we go again. After the Council voted unanimously on December 4 to match $30,000 in Park Board funds with $30,000 in City funds, the new Council is now considering a new motion to allocate “$30,000 from the Park Fund for the Skate Park project along with an additional $15,000 from the General Fund on a matching funds basis with private contributions toward the project.” Instead of the promised $30,000, this new motion offers less money and more conditions. Will this be another broken promise to the skateboarders, who have worked at this for years, who have already met a matching grant totaling $20,000, and who are currently working hard to prepare a design for the skateboard park? There is no question that more fund raising will be needed, and we are ready and eager to start. But I hope the Council, at its meeting on Tuesday, will reaffirm its original decision and keep faith with the skateboarders, who have surely experienced enough reversals in this long process.

    February 1, 2013
  239. Jane McWilliams said:

    Rob, you’re right, the staff suggested a motion like the one you describe. There is another suggested motion, as well. Here they both are:

    The Northfield City Council allocates $30,000 from the Park Fund for the Skate Park project along with an additional $30,000 from the General Fund;
    OR
    The Northfield City Council allocates $30,000 from the Park Fund for the Skate Park project along with an additional $15,000 from the General Fund on a matching funds basis with private contributions toward the project.

    Fortunately, both options are before the council. I hope advocates will urge the council to approve the first motion which was the original intent, I believe, when they asked staff to recommend what fund could be tapped. Several councilors didn’t want to take the money from the park fund which had already been used for the PRAB contribution. Finance Director Kathleen McBride said the general fund was the logical source for funding the skate park because the park fund was reduced several years ago and the funds shifted to the general fund.

    February 1, 2013
  240. kiffi summa said:

    Last Tuesday the Council held its 4 hour retreat in which a facilitator led them through a personality type exercise for the first 2 and 3/4 hours…. I guess they needed it!

    But maybe they should have just paid the facilitator’s fee to the skateboard coalition, who have patiently waited for 16 years, have worked together consistently through 3-4 ‘generations’ of kids, regardless of disparate personalities, have always made their case with calm and rational statements, have respected each others POVs, have raised over 30 K $$ without a site for the park(tat $$ now down to about 23K because of costs along the way…. and I could go on enumerating their interactive people skills … and they are kids!

    This decline in matching the PRAB funds came from Mayor Graham at the last Council meeting; and we have to remember that any council can undo the work of the previous… Maybe they can also find the missing 2 Million dollars in the Police Facility costs that have changed by that amount
    since a previous accounting!

    Speak up people, call your councilors… these are your kids!

    February 2, 2013
  241. Kathie Galotti said:

    Agree with you Kiffi. And Rob. This is a rotten thing to do to the kids. And again jerks them around.

    We have a huge heroin problem among our young adults in Northfield. I can recall at least 10 deaths, arrests, busts, whatever. People wonder why. I think it’s because we treat our youth so poorly–at least some of them. Yes, the theater/orchestra/ATHLETES get tons of resources and attention directed toward them—but other kids get diddly squat–either from the city (eg the skateboarders) and they get treated like dirt by some staff at NHS as well (If we’re gonna launch a campaign against bullying–how bout we start with certain teachers….).

    I just hate seeing us have this problem and continuing to turn a blind eye, to keep jerking around kids the way we have with this skateboard issue. I’m not equating boarders with heroin users fyi–I’m just saying that the way we treat the non-star kids in this town sucks.

    February 2, 2013
  242. David Ludescher said:

    Rob,

    Remember, the Park Board (on behalf of the skateboarders) didn’t request the additional $30,000.00; the council gave it to them sua sponte.

    The most responsible action is give the decision back to the Park Board; if the Park Board wants to fund the additional $30,000.00 out of its budget, and it has the money, then it has the council’s permission. If the Park Board decides that it has higher priorities, then so be it.

    As an aside, when the Finance Director presented options to the council to deal with this request, I was astonished to see that the council had about 10 choices of where to get money. That shouldn’t happen. Prudent fiscal discipline dictates that the council not cross-mingle various funds. If it is a park board activity, then the money should come out of park board funds.

    Both the federal and state governments have got themselves into trouble by failing to honor elementary budgetary practice. The state “owes” the schools over $1.0 BILLION because it raided the school budget for other activities. The city is starting to do the same thing. For example, it raided 3 separate funds, including the technology fund to get $1.0 MILLION in cash to build the safety center. That is bad fiscal practice, which can very shortly lead to bad fiscal discipline.

    February 3, 2013
  243. kiffi summa said:

    David : I would agree, in principle, that it is very bad fiscal policy to be moving money around from fund to fund.
    But if I’m not mistaken, the General Fund has in it some leeway for funding decisions that may not have been anticipated, such as this one.

    I believe the PRAB DID request that the Council fund an additional 30 K, and that in my opinion is reasonable since a couple of years ago the Council DE-funded the Parks system , in order to balance LGA cuts.

    Northfield residents, according to the city wide survey, value the park/trail system very highly, and that would indicate to me that the PRAB should once again have an annual budget indicated as a line item in the City’s budget.

    What really bothers me is what I call the ‘talking past” each other mode that the previous council had gotten into, and if not careful, will continue with the current council unless the new members prevail , and insist that the basic pros and cons of an issue be discussed/deliberated, rather than just a lot of personal opinions being expressed.

    So, when you say: “The most responsible action is give the decision back to the Park Board; if the Park Board wants to fund the additional $30,000.00 out of its budget, and it has the money, then it has the council’s permission. If the Park Board decides that it has higher priorities, then so be it.” … that says to me that the Council is not considering the past defunding of the PRAB, and is not respecting the request for the additional dollars, and is not considering the many years this issue has been on the table.

    February 3, 2013
  244. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    My understanding is that the PRAB was “defunded” because we didn’t have the money. We don’t have the money now either, especially with the huge amounts going to the new USBank building (aka police station).

    February 4, 2013
  245. kiffi summa said:

    David : It is of course possible that my memory is wrong, but what I remember is that some amount of money was transferred from the PRAB fund to the General Fund; I’m sure you can check that out…

    Does your feeling that this matching 30K cannot be funded from the General Fund because of the cost of the Police Station mean that you will approve NO requests from the General Fund for the rest of the year?

    Maybe you should approve this 30 K, and cut 3O K from the Police facility?

    16 years ago, when the skateboard ordinance was written, the Mayor promised the kids of this community a skateboard facility, and it still hasn’t happened.
    Now we finally have the possibility of achieving this goal, and you are going to shoot it down?

    February 4, 2013
  246. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    My understanding is that the PRAB asked for $30K from the PRAB budget to fund the skateboard park. The Council gave permission for the $30K and then gave the PRAB another $30K without any idea where this unrequested $30K is coming from. The solution – give the PRAB permission to do $60K from their budget.

    I don’t want to set a precedent that budgets are set, and then one department raids another department or the general fund on an ad hoc basis.

    Furthermore, my understanding is that the skateboarders had a plan to raise the additional $30K that the council gave them. Let them work for it. The more they have invested in the park, the better they will care for it and police it.

    February 4, 2013
  247. Shelley Brady said:

    Please as Kiffi suggested above … write to the Council. These kids deserve our support!!!

    February 4, 2013
  248. kiffi summa said:

    David : I am so frustrated with your answers which do not ever speak to the specificity of a question asked , but instead go over your previous point …

    And your response which I quote : “Furthermore, my understanding is that the skateboarders had a plan to raise the additional $30K that the council gave them. Let them work for it. The more they have invested in the park, the better they will care for it and police it.”
    shows a lack of comprehension, IMO, of evaluating this whole long process, as well as a lack of understanding of what monies had already been raised by the Skateboard coalition, and then somewhat diminished by complying with city requests of them, and the purchase of the temporary equipment.

    From your answer above, 71.1.4, I take it then that you will not vote to approve any undesignated expenditure from the General Fund over the next year, if it has not been specified in this year’s budget. We’ll see what happens with that….

    I will readily admit to being really angry about this issue; I see it as a lack of support for youth in the community, and a re-enforcement of the kind of failure to support that makes kids cynical about how adults value youth.

    I surely hope a majority of the Council will not agree with your position.

    Just reading back over what I wrote, I am again infuriated by your statement : “Let them work for it”.
    What do you think they have been doing all these years? How could they have ‘worked’ in any more responsible manner?

    February 4, 2013
  249. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi,

    You and I have a different view of local government. I think $30K is a generous contribution for a non-essential service in a tight economy. Giving them $30K that they didn’t ask for sets a bad precedent.

    February 4, 2013
  250. Kathie Galotti said:

    David

    Your position on how local government should allocate funds is one thing–I might not agree with it, but I can respect it.

    Your statement of “let them work for it”, on the other hand, I cannot respect–it shows a really crappy attitude toward a group of kids who HAVE CLEARLY been “working for it” for 16 years. It’s the dismissiveness of your tone that is infuriating.

    February 4, 2013
  251. Shelley Brady said:

    I couldn’t agree with Kathie more. Not in any of these comments made by you David, nor the comments you and I have shared via e-mail has shown any kind of respect for these kids or any positive attitude towards their efforts. It is very disappointing.

    February 4, 2013
  252. Rob Hardy said:

    The Skateboard Coalition already, six years ago, met a matching grant from HCI that raised a total of $20,000. The Skateboard Coalition is prepared to conduct additional fund raising and to apply for grants. Because of Northfield’s relatively low overall poverty rate, we are not eligible for a Tony Hawk Foundation grant for $25,000. While we’re looking at other options, the promised level of funding from the City Council is crucial for moving this process forward in a timely manner.

    After a process that was very difficult for some residents of the Village on the Cannon (VOC), I know that there are residents there who would like to see adequate funds provided to ensure construction of a skateboard park made of the best and quietest materials as soon as possible. This is something that brings together both skateboarders and neighbors of the skateboard park.

    On January 9, I attended a meeting at The Key that included current members of the Skateboard Coalition, a former (founding) member of the Coalition from 2006, a VOC resident, a staffer and adult board member from The Key, and T.J. Heinricy from the City engineering department. As a result of that meeting, the VOC resident, the Key adult board member and I have formed an advisory group to support and assist the Skateboard Coalition in working with the City and with neighbors of the skateboard park, and with potential donors and grant providers.

    More importantly, the former Coalition member (now in his twenties) has been meeting regularly with the current Coalition members to help them create a preliminary skateboard park design. This week, the design will be brought to the engineering department for review. Since the site was secured and funding promised in December, the Coalition has continued to work diligently to make the skateboard park a reality in 2013.

    T.J. and Joe Stapf believe construction of a permanent skateboard park in 2013 is a realistic goal, but it becomes less realistic in the absence of this promised funding from the City Council.

    February 4, 2013
  253. David Ludescher said:

    Kathie and Shelley,

    I applaud and respect the efforts that these kids have put into getting a skateboard park. I also applaud and respect the effort the Y has put into getting a new building.

    February 4, 2013
  254. David Henson said:

    I would think if Northfield is going to build a skateboard park that having it high quality would be preferred and less costly in the long run. I have no proof but I would estimate the user base would increase exponentially with increases in quality above a very basic park.

    February 4, 2013
  255. Rob Hardy said:

    The skateboard park process continues to move forward even while the ground is covered with snow. We’ve set up a Northfield Skateboard Park blog to provide updates and other cool extras. It currently includes reports on various meetings (like last night’s PRAB meeting), photographs (like a photo of McGhie and Betts taking the soil borings in Riverside Park), and my long historical archive of skateboard park material from Northfield.org. We hope to include designs, videos, and more photos soon.

    February 22, 2013
  256. Griff Wigley said:

    Great to see the new blog, Rob. Can you say more about who the ‘we’ is besides you? The blog has no names of people or organizations involved.

    February 25, 2013
  257. Rob Hardy said:

    Right now, it’s me and Jane McWilliams, but others have been invited to join.

    February 25, 2013
  258. Jane McWilliams said:

    Although I have followed the skateboard story for years, as I new resident at Village on the Cannon
    last June, I had the opportunity to watch (and admire) the action from my little deck. Since then, residents here have formed a group they call Friends of Riverside Park to help guide the landscaping around the skate plaza. My role is a sort of link between the Friends and the Coalition.

    Thanks to Rob for creating the blog – we hope it will be a meeting place for people interested in seeing the construction of a permanent facility happen this summer!

    February 25, 2013