Financing the public Safety Center: I feel duped

On June 5, the Northfield City Council decided to use lease/revenue bonds to finance the Safety Center. Councilor Betsey Buckheit has a detailed response in her June 11 blog post titled Financing the Public Safety Center-what and why. An excerpt:

bumpy-roadProcedurally, the meeting was complicated by Patrick Ganey’s absence.  A motion to use GO referendum bonds and the motion to issue CIP bonds both failed on tie votes (Rhonda Pownell, Suzie Nakasian, and Ivan Imm supported both; Mayor Rossing, Erica Zweifel and I voted no).  Erica Zweifel made a motion – not impromptu as the LWV blog called it, but well thought our [sic] and justified – to use EDA/HRA lease revenue bonds; the motion was adopted on a 4-2 vote (Yes – Rossing, Buckheit, Imm, Zweifel; No – Nakasian and Pownell.

It was LWV Observer Jane McWilliams who labeled it ‘impromptu’ in her comments:

The lease revenue bond decision, like others the council has made, while it might make sense in the long run, seemed impromptu. Several councilors seemed unprepared for this outcome. One wonders whether all members of the council had time to seriously consider the merits and shortcomings of this funding mechanism. There definitely was a sense that several of the councilors were not in favor of letting the public decide. That seemed the primary goal and justification for the selected bonding method.

If it was "well thought out and justified" as Betsy wrote, I’m not aware of when and where that discussion was made public.  I was stunned at the move as some others were. I had no idea this form of financing was even a possibility.  My first reaction: this is similar to when the EDA issued the bond for the outdoor swimming pool, a really inappropriate use of its financing authority.

I agree with Betsey that:

… since earlier this year, the Council has made significant progress in defining the scope of the project, cost, location, and creating flexibility to address fire department organization, equipment and facilities issues…

but the deliberate public engagement (this year) on all this has been nearly non-existent, somewhat understandably so.  Now is the time for it but it’s moot now because the Council has removed the citizenry from any direct influence on the outcome, a complete end-run.  It’s a short term solution that increases public cynicism, an opportunity lost for creating a partnership with city hall on a really important capital improvement project.

And Councilor Patrick Ganey owes the public an explanation of why he wasn’t there for this important vote and a detailed explanation of how he would have voted on all the motions.


  1. David Ludescher said:


    We were all duped.

    June 19, 2012
  2. Griff and David,

    I will not attempt to argue either of you out of your perceptions, but only to reiterate the facts. The Council, I hope, will be issuing its collective statement after tonight’s meeting.

    The lease-revenue form of financing was discussed several times along with CIP and referendum bonds (sorry, I’ll have to go back through my notes for dates – the new website will finally let me keyword search minutes). Mark Ruff of Ehlers & Associates – our bond guy – came and outlined the possible choices and gave us some perspective on how other cities finance their public safety projects (lease-revenue bonds are a common choice).

    Yes, this is the form of financing used for the pool. The pool SHOULD have gone to a referendum, in my opinion, as a non-essential facility to let the public decide if they wanted to pay for it. The pool does generate revenue, but the operating revenue does not cover the debt service.

    Patrick Ganey can, of course, speak for himself. However, the practical fact is that travel planned long in advance makes it difficult to coordinate with Council agendas finalized much later.

    I’ll be happy to discuss my position further over on my blog.

    June 19, 2012
  3. David Ludescher said:


    I have yet to hear of a sound financial reason that this type of financing was chosen. It carries a higher interest rate, and requires the involvement of the City’s housing arm – the HOUSING AND REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY. It is fairly obvious that the City Council is trying to avoid the voters.

    June 19, 2012
  4. Kathie Galotti said:

    Yep. That’s what it looks like to me, as well, David. Wow.

    June 19, 2012
  5. Jane McWilliams said:

    No, Rob – the financing wasn’t explicitly discussed at that meeting. It was a more global report on the city’s debt and finances. There was only reference to the increase in debt when the bonds are sold for the safety center. As Betsey says, early on, the council had a presentation from Mr. Ruff about their funding options. My memory is fuzzy, I admit, but I don’t recall any serious consideration at that time of the lease revenue option. Since then, the council has gone back and forth between CIP, GO and CIP bonding, and as we know, most recently seemed to like the CIP option.

    Betsey – I was caught off guard by Erica’s motion re: lease revenue bonds – as the meeting materials only pertained to your hearing on and approval of CIP bonds. Maybe there were discussions with staff prior to the meeting. However, Erica’s motion seemed improptu to me, given the lack of in depth discussion prior to the decision either at previous meetings, or until the meeting in question when the motion was on the floor.

    David – the two failed motions, both of which could permit public education and vote were easily be interpreted to mean the council did not want to seek public support for funding the first phase of the public safety center.

    From the reading I have done about this method, I am confused, in that it doesn’t seem that this is the kind of project that sort of funding is designed for. Maybe we’ll get a clearer picture tonight when during Mr. Madigan’s Administrator’s Update, we hear the revised Public Safety Center Statement which Betsey proposed last week.

    June 19, 2012
  6. Randy Jennings said:

    I don’t particularly like the Council’s solution to the Safety Center situation, but I don’t feel “duped” by their (finally!) making the financing decision they did. The mayor has made this case in public on more than one occasion. Yes, the way the vote was brought up during the council meeting was awkward, but that’s often the way this group works.

    As often as I disagree with Betsey, I think she advanced the correct argument in her blog post on the matter. We elect local government to make EXACTLY this kind of decision. I applaud their doing so. I would much prefer elected officials do the best they can, than to submit to the tyranny of calling referendum votes on such issues. The referendum that matters is the one we hold to elect city council representatives.

    June 19, 2012
  7. Mike Stowe said:

    Why is this still being called a “Safety Center”? There aren’t bays for fire trucks planned at the new facility and the department members will continue to train and work out of the existing Safety center. Save the money, cut the large training room, cut the offices for Fire officials and start calling the new facility what it really is…..a Police Station.

    June 19, 2012
  8. David Ludescher said:


    Under this proposed financing method, the HRA will be the owner of the land and the building with the absolute right to decide the scope, and nature of the building. That power and burden should never be in the hands of unelected officials.

    June 20, 2012
  9. randy jennings said:

    David, aren’t all capital investments made by the EDA and the HRA subject to review and approval by the city council? Whatever entity purchases land and constructs a building will do so to the specifications of the client, in this case the city, through the duly elected city council. I think you’re grasping here. Delegating a task to a statutory body does not seem like a abrogation of duty or unrepresentative government to me.

    June 20, 2012
  10. David Ludescher said:


    The Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) are independent authorities created by statute. None of their (limited) authority is subject to approval of the Council. As I understand the statute, only their makeup and existence is subject to Council control.

    More importantly, this proposed facility is outside the intended use of the EDA and HRA, and, in my opinion, is outside the statutory authority of these authorities. If I were sitting on one of these boards, I would demand an opinion from independent legal counsel, at the City Council’s expense, before I would risk putting myself and my board at risk for personal liability for engaging in an unlawful action.

    Even if counsel were to OK such an action, I would be hesitant to allow the City Council to use my board and my authority to engage in an action that the Council is unwilling to do itself. I would demand to know how the safety center is related to the mission of the HRA (to provide housing).

    June 20, 2012
  11. kiffi summa said:

    David… in your first paragraph, you are correct that the EDA and HRA are authorities created by statute, but the enabling resolution of our NF EDA gives some control over that body to the City Council.
    This was the basis for all the struggle and (supposed) reorganization of the EDA that was handled by Council review and committee, 1-2 years ago.

    I am not familiar with the enabling resolution for the HRA … but certainly agree with the philosophical substance of the rest of your comment.

    Some reaction and questioning was put forward by some HRA board members at their last meeting, where the idea was presented to them; it was not extensive, but may become more so as they find out more about the entire situation.

    June 20, 2012
  12. randy jennings said:

    David, you lost me on the last bit. What is the council unwilling to do itself? It seems to me they are using the tools at their disposal (assuming that the legal review you suggest finds them within their authority) to move a project forward. I believe Kiffi is right about the result of the EDA hoo-ha being that the council has control of the EDA; like her I don’t know about the HRA.

    At the pace this council makes decisions, you could very well be elected and seated before any final commitments are made. You’d then have a chance to reverse and suspend the entire project for another few years.

    June 20, 2012
  13. kiffi summa said:

    I think what is interesting to contemplate …let’s say just in terms of the ‘dramatic arc’ of this multi-year story … is this: What if the HRA does not vote to be the ‘host’ of this project?

    That could happen for several reasons; either they feel it is 1. not appropriate, or 2. do not want to be in the middle of a political struggle, or 3. believe such a project should go a public vote … or maybe some other reason that does not occur to me now.

    I feel somewhat positive that the reasons it went to the HRA instead of the EDA are that the public confidence in the EDA has been deeply eroded/affected by the Council’s eventual actions … after a lot on IN-action … and also that Councilor Zweifel is close to the HRA (she initiated the lease/revenue bond motion) and voted for that; whereas Councilor Pownell, who is on the EDA, voted against this financing method.

    So again: what if the HRA does not vote to be the bond issuer? And does it take just a simple majority vote, or require a super majority?

    June 20, 2012
  14. A couple of notes:

    At the meeting, Erica Zweifel’s motion left open which authority would be asked to issue the bonds. Tim Madigan’s rationale for choosing the HRA, when describing the action to the HRA at their meeting, was that the EDA still does not have full membership (Mayor Rossing has not appointed one Council member and one citizen member) so approval (or not).

    The HRA and EDA have only relative autonomy, David. The Council must approve their tax levies, real property transactions, TIF districts, and a few other things. In practice, the Council and its creations should be working to further the City’s policy goals in a collaborative way, rather than trying to play off each other. There is a dollar limit to the amount of lease revenue bonds, however, so the HRA has asked strategic questions such as: since the HRA also issues debt for entities such as the Northfield Retirement Community for their projects, would the Safety Center project harm their ability to assist with that type of project by absorbing capacity? Preliminary answer: timing is good with no other large demands identified at this time. So, while the HRA can refuse, I believe the Council and HRA can work together on this for the good of the community.

    June 20, 2012
  15. Jane,

    I agree that packet materials could have provided information about the available tools, not just the CIP bonds. The Council has made decisions about this project at wide intervals of time and the CIP bonding decision was made months ago. Certainly we had all heard the reverse referendum rumblings, but had not had the opportunity to discuss what the response should be in terms of selecting alternative financing tools or sticking with CIP bonds. Yes, we should have done a better job with this.

    I don’t know if other Council members were thinking this way, but I have kept the 3 financing methods in mind all along. I walked into the meeting feeling that CIP bonds were the wrong choice because of the brinksmanship and gamble on the reverse referendum. Which left me two alternatives and I tried to describe my choice over on my blog.

    I believe our obligation to inform the public about the project is not mitigated by this choice, but is elevated. Having selected a financing method, I’m confident that planning will proceed more quickly and we will have detailed plans and explanations for the public sooner.

    June 20, 2012
  16. David Ludescher said:


    The HRA has enough autonomy to decide if:
    1) This is within its mission,
    2) This is within its statutory powers,
    3) This is within its enabling documents.

    Even if the HRA found that its mission might involve building safety centers, the HRA would be well-advised to avoid the ethical and legal quagmires surrounding this project.


    Here is my free advice – don’t touch this with a 10 foot pole. Just say, “No, thank you. This is not a housing project.”

    June 20, 2012
  17. kiffi summa said:

    I think it is highly unfortunate that this council decision has led to what will possibly be even more divided opinion groups than before.

    I do not doubt their sincerity in believing this type of bonding to be the best decision; but it cannot help to appear as being a way to avoid voter input.

    When Mr, Madigan is asked, by the Mayor, at the Council meeting what the ‘revenue’ (lease /revenue bonds) will pay off the bonds, and the reply is “property tax levy” , how can the public think otherwise.

    I cannot ‘buy’ (( but seems will be forced to) “the construction will be so much less costly if we get started this season”… we have been hearing that for several years as a rationale for moving ahead with a constantly morphing project … and if I am not mistaken , the bonds for the current road construction projects came in at an extremely low interest rate (1.7239%), having been continuing to fall for three or so years.

    What really bothers me is the dynamic of the whole process, i.e. the Council has been reluctant to move for one reason or another, with various councilors being reluctant on varying issues, and then all of a sudden… and it was ‘all of a sudden’ … they dig their heels in and say this is our choice to make, and we won’t risk a referendum.

    And I truly believe that is the bottom line: WE won’t risk a referendum.

    June 21, 2012
  18. randy jennings said:

    In the three years since the worst of the recession — which is when the first Safety Center project could have been built — construction costs have, in fact, risen as predicted. That financing costs have remained at historically low levels was/is much less predictable. It’s hard to imagine interest rates staying this low indefinitely. In terms of the cost of borrowing, now would be a good time for the city to issue bonds, if we could ever actually commit to a project that would meet the community’s needs.

    I’m curious about your zeal for referendums. What are the limits? Should we have referenda about tax levies? about the LDC? about the rental ordinance? about street projects? about the transit system? about swimming pool hours? I guess I see the community as a package deal, and I don’t think encouraging people to support or deny individual projects through up or down votes will serve us well in either the short or long runs.

    I much prefer the every-four-year referendum on incumbents. I don’t necessarily like all of the decisions the mayor and council make on my behalf, but I respect their commitment to public service, and I want to allow them to do their jobs. On balance, I think they do a better job than governing by referenda.

    June 21, 2012
  19. David Ludescher said:


    The only good news is that these bonds will be HRA or EDA bonds without any City backing. By law, the City cannot be bound beyond one year’s payment. Thus, the City could simply refuse to make the yearly payment and leave the HRA and the bondholders hanging onto a police station.

    June 21, 2012
  20. kiffi summa said:

    I have no” zeal” for referenda, randy… but when a project has gone through such contorted machinations as has this one, then I think the answer is a public referendum. Frankly, your suggestion of “zeal”, and your list offends me.

    There has been , IMO, an excessive push from the beginning, with various levels of contradictory information being issued, and much Councilor recalcitrance at many stages along the way.

    As for the “every-four-year referendum on incumbents”, I will not vote what I think are good councilors out because I disagree with a specific decision, even a large one such as this, but there are many people who will … and I fear we will lose some good councilors to the bad process of the safety center, and I think that would be a shame.

    There is no better arena than a small town government for public input; for truly representative government.

    What is the balance between direct democracy and representative government?

    I believe it is letting those you elect do their job, make decisions, and react when the decision has been marred by a defective process, and is one that has long reaching impacts … especially on the economics of residents and a struggling business community.

    June 21, 2012
  21. randy jennings said:

    I didn’t mean to offend. It was a simple question. All of the things I asked about, with the possible exception of swimming pool hours, have been contentious issues over the past couple of years. Most have financial implications for taxpayers. So, I was curious about why you’d single out one issue over others.

    I completely agree that this council’s approach to the Safety Center has been contorted (actually, I think you’re being generous with that characterization), although we’d probably disagree about why and how. We also share an interest in the relationship between direct democracy and representative government. I like the theory of the former, but resist its practice. I think it is better deployed as a last-gasp constraint on bad governance, rather than as a tool for making decisions or policy. As bad as I think recent decisions about the Safety Center, the LDC, economic development policy, the rental ordinance, et. al. have been, I don’t think things are bad enough to warrant the drastic action of a referendum.

    June 21, 2012
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy, how is it bad for the School Board to have referenda for excess levies and capital projects, state law aside?

    June 21, 2012
  23. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy, I worded that poorly. Let me try again.

    If you believe that having citizens support or deny individual projects via referenda does not serve us well in the long run, what are the negative effects of doing this for public school-related referenda over the years for excess levies and capital projects? It’s required by state law for School Boards, I know, but the negative impacts you posit would seem to be the same for both school boards and city councils.

    I would agree with you that it’s generally a bad idea to use referenda for policies and procedures. But for bonds and levies, I really think it’s generally best for the public to have a say-so because of the long-term ownership/investment.

    June 21, 2012
  24. Griff Wigley said:

    Contact info for members of the HRA:

    Susan Crow —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2016

    Leota Goodney (Chair) —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2012

    Kevin Fink —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2013

    Dayna Norvold —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2014

    Council Rep
    Erica Zweifel —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2012

    Staff Liaison
    Michele Merxbauer —

    June 21, 2012
  25. randy jennings said:

    Griff, since school boards and city councils are so different in the basis and scope of their responsibilities, I’m not sure your analogy holds. But in the spirit of your question, in the 20 years we’ve been in Nfld, the public has been very supportive of the schools through several referenda. A lot of time and money spent on the campaigns, but no dire consequences.

    I think that at the end of the day, the public would be similarly supportive of public investment in the council’s Safety Center plan. I just don’t think those votes are the best way to fund essential public services.

    June 21, 2012
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy, the City Council and the School Board don’t ask the public whether or not to have schools or public safety facilities, both essential services. They just ask to improve them, ie, “We have the essentials now supported by your tax dollars but look at all the benefits that could be gained by a little more support.”

    The big win for education over the years is that, in general, Northfielders are pleased with their public schools and I think they feel a sense of pride and ownership of them. And that’s in part due to their willingness to pass the optional excess levies.

    It seems to me that this should be the Council’s goal for the Safety Center, too, ie, not just that we get new facilities but that we get them in a way that’s likely to create that same sense of pride and ownership among the citizenry.

    June 21, 2012
  27. kiffi summa said:

    This whole recent path of the Council is so unfortunate; I am really apprehensive that we will have good councilors voted out because of this financing decision, and that if it goes through with the HRA providing Lease/Revenue bonds there will be further implications in future months after the fall elections.

    It would seem from reading Attorney Ludescher’s opinion, that there are points further down the road where it would be necessary to hold a referendum … Why not just do it now (November) and have the Council either have the confidence to move ahead, or step back once again?

    It’s not good for an election period, to have that election be a ‘referendum’ on those incumbents who may have not lived up to expectation in this particular process, but are basically very thoughtful and competent.

    ‘Digging their heels in’ now, when they have been so doubtful for 4 years, is not a confidence inspiring move, IMO.

    They could gain a lot of respect by going over this decision thoroughly in a public discussion which was not (what I call ) ‘positioning’ their answers.

    The written statement that came in draft form at the last meeting will not suffice…

    June 22, 2012
  28. Griff Wigley said:

    I don’t get it.

    The HRA doesn’t meet until July 12th so how can the Council be voting on a RFP for the bond already? The HRA hasn’t decided if they’re going to do this, have they? And doesn’t there have to be a public hearing on it?

    I also don’t understand the intercity transfer of funds. Why would there be a transfer of $100,000 out of the Information Technology (IT) budget?

    June 23, 2012
  29. David Ludescher said:

    Here are a number of notable features of this upcoming meeting:

    1. The City Council is thinking about authorizing a “transfer” of $1.0 million from existing accounts to purchase land. In addition, they are going to remove the contingency that would allow the City to get out of the land deal if the financing doesn’t go through. This doesn’t make any sense. Why buy the land now and own a $1.0 million dollar piece of land that the City might never be able to use?

    2. The City Council is making and drafting a resolution for the HRA to bond the project. As far as I am aware, the HRA hasn’t even met to discuss the project, and has not adopted any resolution stating that it will go along with this plan to circumvent the voters.

    3. The City Council resolution makes no mention of the statutory requirement that it has to approve the HRA’s request to “redevelop” this area before the HRA can bond the project.

    4. The resolution proposes that the City would own the building after making lease payments for 20 years. That type of contract is prohibited by statute. By law, the lease payment agreements can only go for one year. Any element in the nature of ownership must go to a bond referendum.

    5. I don’t want to get into the possible ethical violations that may be committed by the City Council members who could be perceived as trying to influence the independence of the HRA decision-making process.

    6. What about the Planning Commission? Has the City or HRA submitted the proper documents to the Planning Commission for review and approval?

    June 23, 2012
  30. kiffi summa said:

    Griff… as the Council tries to put together cash for this project to lessen the bonding amount, $$ from the IT budget have always been considered as a logical component, because of the IT components of the new Safety Center. That is not a new ‘thing’.

    The RFP for the bond sale is in preparation for selling these bonds which go through a slightly different process as explained by K. McBride, somewhat more of a “negotiation” than an outright sale, she said.
    I do not understand the specifics of that: when it is a RFP that initiates the process, it would seem that you identify interested parties and then conduct a negotiated sale, i.e. a ‘bidding war’ … you need to ask McBride for some specific process description.

    June 23, 2012
  31. kiffi summa said:

    Good observations, David…
    If you are correct in the process parts of your comments (and I am not suggesting that you are not correct) then these actions will only go further to convince the public that this course of action is meant to obfuscate public input.

    I think the Council has put themselves into a very uncomfortable place; if there is a point anywhere in the lease/revenue process which statutorily requires a referendum, then I don’t know why just deciding to have one in November was considered to be such an inhibiting factor as to the construction process.

    Councilor Buckheit has removed the dialogue between the two of you on her blog site, after asking for discussion there (#2) … maybe because you are candidates for the same at-large seat?
    That’s too bad, because there is little enough opportunity for public discussion before the primary in August.

    The full Council needs to be answering these questions, loud and clear … no jargon allowed!

    June 23, 2012
  32. Kiffi,
    I removed the comments on my blog precisely because David’s comments and questions are for the full Council and our legal counsel in the context of a public meeting, not a one-on-one exchange on LoGro or my blog.

    June 23, 2012
  33. kiffi summa said:

    I understand your reasoning, but I think any opportunity for dialogue on this issue is more positive than not… because, sadly, I do not foresee any in-depth dialogue happening at the Council level.

    June 23, 2012
  34. David Ludescher said:


    Did I miss something? There isn’t anything on the agenda about a discussion or legal opinion on the issues raised, nor have I been invited. Should I show up?

    June 23, 2012
  35. David, it is a public meeting with the opportunity for public comments and questions so you should certainly come to comment and to hear what information will be provided. And everyone else concerned about this or in favor of the Council’s action should come on down to city hall at 7 pm on Tuesday.

    I don’t have specifics beyond what is in the packet online (which would have been prepared by Thursday morning before your letter), but do know that staff members and legal counsel (both the city attorney and bond counsel) are aware of the discussion taking place and plans to address issues are under construction.

    June 24, 2012
  36. David Ludescher said:


    Has the HRA has been advised by the Council that the city attorney and bond counsel do not and cannot provide advice to the HRA?

    June 24, 2012
  37. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey, City Council, and HRA,

    I will be on 1080 KYMN Radio tomorrow at 7:20 a.m. if you want to listen in.

    June 24, 2012
  38. victor summa said:

    Griff – In # 8 above,you say:

    A legal opinion [regarding Lease Revenue bonding (LRB) via the HRA] by David Ludescher to Joanne Summers, Northfield Citizen’s Safety Task Force, posted here with permission:

    I’m curious, if you care to divulge source[s].

    (1) how were you first made aware of the Ludescher letter, which is in draft form, of a letter to go to the HRA …

    (2) from whom you received permission to print. The addressee? The sender?

    Incidentally, the addressee of the attorney’s opinion letter is Sommers, with an O – not Summers. Summers might be too close to Summa, and that can be very controversial.

    (3) I’m also curious to learn if you can give names to the “Citizen’s Safety Task Force”.

    I ask these questions not out on cynicism, but stemming more from a need for transparency. I am strongly in opposition to virtually all anonymous comment.

    At least when Kiffi and Randy Jennings duke it out here on LG, we all know where she comes from … 812 St Olaf Avenue, and of course we all should remember that Randy often plays a “paid for services” role with the city, creating spin. This makes me wonder if his remarks are his, or perhaps his client’s

    I’d suggest you also look at a two other memos … one in draft and another final form.

    The First, in draft, was passed out, in limited edition, at the last Council meeting. This came from Madigan, word smithing an original draft offered up for Council consideration By Councilor Buckheit. It largely parallels Ms B’s Blog comment on this subject, a “pitch” by the Councilor … as the Council’s position (rationale) for taking the path that bars citizen vote.

    I chose ”VOTE” here, as this effort by staff and Council will not silence the public voice, as is evidenced by the Ludescher letter.

    The final form statement, would be the short memo given to the HRA at their last meeting. Read this with an open eye and let us know how you view this attempt to give the HRA a “heads up” (influence, direct, [you pick the term] their vote).

    Finally. look closely at next Tuesday’s agenda. It reads (to me) as a convoluted process to quickly advance the process, stuck into a special meeting, preceding the work session. This packet, after only cursory review seems to be a fast tracking device to get the LRB process moving, effectively cutting off momentum of the citizen oversight on this council plan.

    Can we really say Plan? “Plan” implies some thinking and scoping – and in in this municipal government case, all that nice stuff, out in the open … to inform the public.

    Seems the only members of the Council that are proceeding with caution on this LRB scheme are two councilors who would be mayor. How’s that gonna work? That is, work … in future Council/Mayor/staff relations.


    June 24, 2012
  39. Griff Wigley said:


    * I should have made it clearer that I got that legal opinion PDF via email from David Ludescher and I asked his permission to post it.

    * I have no idea who is part of the “Citizen’s Safety Task Force” that David mentions in his letter. I didn’t even know there was such a group. Anyone know?

    * Randy can clarify his current role with the City if he wants but as far as I know, he severed his consulting contract with the City last fall.

    You wrote:

    The final form statement, would be the short memo given to the HRA at their last meeting. Read this with an open eye and let us know how you view this attempt to give the HRA a “heads up” (influence, direct, [you pick the term] their vote).

    I don’t see a “final form Statement” in the Packet for the HRA’s June 14 meeting. Where did you see it?

    June 25, 2012
  40. randy jennings said:

    I last worked for the city on Safety Center issues back when Joel Wallinski was the administrator. That’s now more than two years ago, as Victor knows. His repeated casting of aspersions contributes nothing to the debate of this — or any other — issue.

    June 25, 2012
  41. David Ludescher said:


    I appreciate the reference to what could happen in Northfield if this goes forward.

    June 25, 2012
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    I dropped the ball here as moderator.

    Victor, I should not have allowed you to make comments in the 3rd person about Randy, as that’s against my rule. Your ‘spin’ comment was over the line, too.

    Randy, your retort back was ‘about’ Victor rather than to him; again, a violation of the same 3rd person rule. Your comment about contributing nothing to the debate “of this–or any other–issue’ was over the line, too.

    So, my bad.

    But from here on, I’m hoping you guys can either address each other directly on the substance of the issues or avoid each other completely.

    June 25, 2012
  43. David Ludescher said:

    There is a “special” City Council meeting tonight. Part of the agenda is to transfer $1,000,000.00 from city funds to purchase the real estate where the City Council wants the HRA to build a building. I haven’t examined the statute, but this purchase may require a statutory funding mechanism such as general obligation bonds or capital improvement bonds.

    June 26, 2012
  44. kiffi summa said:

    I think that will be the case here also, because when asked by the Mayor (at the council meeting where this form of bonding was voted on) what the source of revenue (Lease/Revenue bonds) would be , the City Administrator answered “property taxes” …

    June 26, 2012
  45. kiffi summa said:

    What is very disturbing in the NYT article are the parts about Moody’s cutting the bond ratings of some cities down to “junk” because of inappropriate issuance of bonds for projects that voters may not have wanted to support…

    NF’s bond rating is always praised; let’s make sure nothing is done to compromise that good rating.

    June 26, 2012
  46. victor summa said:

    Griff – in 15.1 above you asked about what I had referred to as the “final form Statement” in the packet for the june 14 HRA meeting. [sic] Madigan’s written comments to the HRA

    These were not in the HRA’s packet, but passed out in limited edition to the Authority … but was not available to the public at that time. HRA staff did attempt to E mail a copy to me – but that failed with some discrepancy between my Apple and their Microsoft – or so it seems.

    You might be able to get it from Barb Neitzel staff – and I’m sure your computer will be able to open her effort. I might be able to scan and send it to you – but not too sure of that.

    Please note, that the memo in question is not defining – basically meaningless as I recall its contents, and IMHO the usual process when staff tries to lead by jargon and misdirection.

    Another part of the HRA meeting that I found interesting where comments (verbal presentation) made by Madigan and Michele Merxbauer, Staff HRA. These are viewable on KYMN’s archives. I wrote her in search of some clarification and possible answers to questions raised by her comments. The text of that request is attached below.

    Michele:  Can you direct me to the ordinance that established the HRA?  Can you give me statute citations for the HRA process, i.e. its limit’s, powers, basic premise of goals etc?

    At the last HRA meeting you referenced things on which I would appreciate some detail:
    • The past use of Lease Revenue Bonds by the Nfld HRA
    • A remark you made to the effect [sic] HRA has ten million in unused bonding authority – this seemed to stem any concerns the HRA might have about being over extended in bonding… or what was the point you were making?

    My understanding is, LRBs are not part of the Authority’s bonding capacity. Is there any SAFETY CENTER project relevance to your statement, vis a vis LRB, these bonds as opposed to G O Bonds, which I assume are caped at the ten million.

    end of excerpt……..

    Answers to these questions are important – for the public to understand as well as the HRA. (I’d add the Council too)

    I’ve just heard back from her – And I’ll review it for any pertinent information – if there’s any, I’ll pass it along. She’s very busy, very good and caught in a tight place … so I’m patient. Right now I believe our focus is on the 6/26 Special meeting LRB agenda item – there’s three issues and they are all horrifically misrepresented or prepared. Odd that so much of this issue is in need of fire suppression. And where are they? The firemen I mean.

    As to members of the dissident group – for want of a better name, i’ll call US that . Yes I’m one.

    The others are not on record as wanting to be on record, so that will have to wait a blessing of Minnesota Not So Nice.

    June 26, 2012
  47. David Ludescher said:

    In cases folks haven’t heard, the results from last night meeting:

    1. Resolution to have the HRA do the bonding: Passed – voice vote, no opposition,
    2. Resolution to transfer $1,000,000.00 from 3 different funds to a fund to buy the land: Passed – voice vote passed, no opposition,
    3. Resolution to buy the land: Amended to delay closing until after the HRA decides if it will bond: Amended motion passes on voice vote, no opposition.

    Public comments favoring the above actions: 0, 0, and 0 respectively. Public comments opposing the above actions: All, all, and all.

    June 27, 2012
  48. Griff Wigley said:

    Betsey Buckheit has a blog post titled: Financing the Safety Center – taking the next steps

    Northfield’s HRA has been quietly effective for many years; the HRA’s ability to work collaboratively and finish projects is significant. Dayna Norvold, HRA member, spoke at the meeting and said this request would “totally hijack our agenda” but she gave no specifics to explain her fear. In fact, the HRA board function will be to review materials and take action at the appropriate points in the process. The work of drafting documents, preparing materials, etc. will fall to city staff, bond counsel and financial advisors.

    The programs of the HRA will continue unaffected, their budget untapped and their ability to carry out their fine (award-winning!) work on housing issues in Northfield uninterrupted. The Council is asking the HRA to let us tap into their financing authority, as do non-profits in town, but not to take over the project. The burden to the HRA is small.

    June 28, 2012
  49. Griff Wigley said:

    At the end of Betsey’s blog post, she links to the Council’s Funding Strategy for the Northfield Public Safety Center Facility statement (PDF). I also got the PDF emailed to me by City Administrator Tim Madigan. Betsey wrote in her post:

    See also: Council’s statement on the choice of financing method (I’m working to make sure this is the first of a series of statements to the public to clarify decisions and push information to residents, rather than rely only on media coverage).

    June 28, 2012
  50. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: Northfield council forges ahead with Safety Center financing plan

    Attorney David Ludescher, who’s running for City Council, reiterated comments he made in a June 21 letter to the city’s Housing & Redevelopment Authority, saying the proposed agenda items were not only premature, but illegal. “The action you’re taking is meaningless,” Ludescher told the council, adding that he believes the HRA can’t finance projects unrelated to housing.

    June 28, 2012
  51. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I heard you speak twice to the council at open mic on Tuesday. I thought your arguments were well-reasoned and presented.

    But when you disparaged them for not having the courage to bond for the PSC themselves, I thought that was unfair.

    I don’t see how it helps to publicly presume motives in a situation like this and accusing them of lacking courage seemed like you were shaming them. Why do that?

    June 28, 2012
  52. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t see how it is unfair or even uncivil.

    Sending the decision to the HRA shows a lack of courage of their convictions. If the Council had courage, it would do the bonding itself. It passed on the general obligation bonds when it looks like there was public opposition and it passed on the capital improvement bonds when there was a threat of reverse referendum.

    June 29, 2012
  53. David Ludescher said:

    The blog post is disingenuous, at best.

    The HRA is a separate legal entity with independent authority. It has no obligation to even consider the request of the City Council. If it does consider it, it has to determine if the mission of the HRA includes being a landlord for the City of Northfield.

    If the HRA gets this far, then it has a host of legal responsibilities and limitations on its power to act. It also faces the real possibility that a private citizen could sue it for acting outside of its authority.

    The HRA has to consider whether the new Council on January 1, 2013 would want it to build this Safety Center. If the HRA goes forward, and the new Council decides that it isn’t going to rent the building, what is the HRA going to do with a partially completed building?

    The HRA also has the consideration of whether to bind future HRA boards for the next 20 years.

    Lots and lots of problems for the HRA, and no rewards for them or the citizens.

    June 29, 2012
  54. David is correct only in a very narrow and technical sense. In reality, City and HRA work together.

    The Council created the HRA and determines the amount (and existence) of its annual levy. The Council has, in recent years, worked to provide the HRA with the maximum allowable tax levy to support their work because we believe that work is critical and they do it very well. City staff working for the HRA are also City employees. Various transactions by the HRA require City approval and, in this case, a City request needs HRA approval. The HRA is the only board or commission to really use the City policy documents in their planning and budgeting. Legally separate does not entail no commonality of purpose or interests.

    The reward for the citizens is an improved facility. The reward for the HRA is they continue to do their work and, maybe, feel they have assisted the City in an important undertaking. Their hands will not be tied because they will have the ability to issue additional debt for their own projects or to assist non-profits like the Northfield Retirement community. Once approved, this financing arrangement continues in much the same way as all the others except we make an explicit annual appropriation to the HRA rather than to bond holders. We will still levy taxes for this facility; we will still pay the debt.

    The likelihood that the city would not rent the building is effectively zero. The City is building an essential facility to house public safety staff and equipment; this is a facility we have been working on for years and have documented the need to build it. The likelihood that the 2013 Council doesn’t want to build the Safety Center is also very, very low.

    David is imagining obstacles which are highly unlikely. It is important to understand the legal landscape, but it is critical to consider how it works in conjunction with the facts at hand and with the various contractual safeguards in addition to the statutes quoted.

    June 30, 2012
  55. Griff Wigley said:


    Just a reminder to address each other by name in the first person, for example:

    “Betsey, your blog post is disingenuous, at best.”

    “David, you are correct only in a very narrow and technical sense.”

    June 30, 2012
  56. David Ludescher said:


    The HRA was created by statute, not the Council. The Council’s role over the HRA is purely regulatory. These laws are not technicalities.

    The Council’s desire for a police station shares no commonality of purpose with the HRA’s mission and statutory mandates to stay within the confines of housing and redevelopment of blighted areas.

    I think the Council should take seriously the concerns raised by Ms. Norvald at the hearing. It is not the HRA’s job to build the Council a police station.

    There are two known legal avenues. One is the general obligation bonds; the other is the capital improvement bonds. Instead the Council wants the HRA to assume all of the risks of this latest attempt to circumvent the voters, and assume the risk that the Council won’t pay its bill (like it did to Waterford Township), or assume the risk that the Council will try to renegotiate (like it did to the hospital).

    There is no legal, financial, or political risk to the HRA if it tells the Council to take the plan to the voters. There are lots of risks associated with doing the job that the Council won’t do itself.

    June 30, 2012
  57. Griff – thank you for the reminder. David,, we disagree and I believe your characterization of events and statutes is misleading.

    Citizens who want the full story – especially those who believe a referendum to approve issuing bonds (for that is what the referendum question asks) should have been the Council’s action – should look further than Locally Grown for answers and consider both David’s and my statements critically while focusing on what outcome is best for the community.

    There are many issues getting wrapped up here – whether the project is acceptable (too big, too expensive, not for fire and police), whether the process which has gotten us here was okay (I think most agree it has been difficult), whether voter approval is desirable for all, some or no capital projects (and if so, which ones), and only then whether the choice of the HRA makes sense. I would like to know from David whether it is the lack of referendum which is the critical issue or whether the HRA is the problem.

    June 30, 2012
  58. David Ludescher said:


    The immediate issue is whether the HRA wants to entertain the Council’s request to look at this project.

    The second issue is whether the HRA’s mission includes building a police station.

    The third issue is whether it is legal for the HRA to build a police station.

    The fourth issue is whether the land proposed fits within a “redevelopment” area (i.e., that it is blighted property).

    Once these four issues have been resolved, the City Council has the opportunity to provide input.

    Other issues include what kind of building the HRA wants to build, how the HRA is going to make sure the City pays, how it can transfer ownership at a later date, and whether it wants the burdens of being a landlord.

    June 30, 2012
  59. Ray Cox said:

    I feel sad that the safety center issue has been so poorly handled. I’m sure many of us have our own thoughts about why this has happened, but the bottom line is that we have to deal with the ramifications of what the city council is proposing.
    I agree with David L in 20.1.5. The questions listed must be properly addressed. I think it is also very important to remember that just because another community may have used lease revenue bonds for such a purpose does not make it legal. (Side story: when I was in the legislature the Northfield school board was considering building a wind turbine. I was on the Regulated Industries Committee and had recently read some of the authorizing legislation related to wind turbines—-and discovered that school districts were barred from issuing bonds to finance wind turbines. BUT, Wayzata and 3 other schools had already done just that…sold bonds and built wind turbines. It was against state law, but the bonds were sold and construction completed. Moral of the story: just because someone does something does not mean it is leagal.)

    My great disappointment throughout this convoluted process has been two issues.
    1. The eagerness by the CC to ‘throw away’ the existing facility. Their recent proposal to use the building as a temporary truck barn only until they can manage to build the combined facility that they have wanted all along is an injustice to taxpayers. The building is a fine structure that could house the complete fire operations for decades to come, as long as it is cared for properly.
    2. The obvioud fear that the CC has for taking any kind of building bond question to the taxpayers. As I’ve said many times,in my years on the school board we took about $75 million of bonding plans to the voters and most were approved. Taking a bond question to the voters forces the CC to create a sensible plan with sensible financing. Combined with a proper education effort, such a plan will be supported by the voters. There is no need to fear voters.

    July 1, 2012
  60. Ray, thank you for joining the conversation – we need a few more voices.

    I can’t speak for the Council, but I don’t believe the issue of the current facility has been resolved. Yes, some have wanted to build one facility all along, but others have continually stressed the central location of the current building as well as wanting to get the maximum life out of the building we built and not taking additional property off the tax rolls. Because the organization of the fire department is also not resolved, this one has to be considered still under development.

    I also don’t believe the Council acted out of fear of voters, but because we believed that necessary facilities should be decided by the Council. We don’t ask voters to approve other projects or actions which have a tax impact and are necessary like street reconstruction projects (for which we bond annually) or annual tax levies. The other factor is the feedback we have received in less public forums from voters who said – do it now, a referendum is not appropriate.

    I have said before and I’ll say it again – education is required, must be ongoing, and the requirement is not lessened by the financing mechanism.

    July 1, 2012
  61. David Ludescher said:


    There is no financing arrangement whereby the Council gets to make the decision.

    GO bonds go to the voters; CIP bonds are subject to reverse referendum; and lease revenue bonds (if deemed appropriate by the HRA) will be decided by the HRA.

    July 1, 2012
  62. Fair enough, David. I should have been clearer that the policy choice is to plan essential facilities without putting each project on the ballot – representative vs. direct democracy – not that the Council is the sole decision-maker.

    July 1, 2012
  63. David Ludescher said:


    Because the Council turned the project over to the HRA, the citizens have neither direct nor representative democracy. Now, the responsibility of “essential public services” lies in the hands of unelected officials who do not have the authority, desire, nor competence to handle the task.

    Ray has said to quite well. Give the voters a sensible plan with sensible financing and they will approve it. There is no need to fear the voters. When all is said and done, it is the voter’s money.

    July 2, 2012
  64. David, you are continuing to misrepresent the issue. The Council has asked the HRA to be the financing conduit; the project remains the City project. The HRA can make its its bonding authority available to private entities (Northfield Retirement Community was mentioned move recently) or the City, but that step does not entire “turning over the project.”

    July 2, 2012
  65. David Ludescher said:


    The Council wants the HRA (and the citizens?) to believe that it will only be a “financing conduit”, but

    1) If the HRA decides to proceed, the HRA will issue the bonds, vote on the nature of the project, develop the “redevelopment” plan, own the building, and decide on the tenants. It will own the project start to finish.

    2) A new Council could abandon all plans of the old Council and leave the HRA with $7.2 million in bonds and no tenant.

    3) Or, the HRA could be sued for violating state law requiring it to stick to housing projects.

    1), 2), and 3) are much more than a “financing conduit”.

    July 2, 2012
  66. Ray Cox said:

    I agree that the CC does and should handle all sorts of projects and the related financing. Streets are important and they get financed regularly with a sensible plan. I’m sure if the CC decided to “really fix up the streets” and handle 20 miles of streets in a year, they would hear from the taxpayers. They don’t have problems with street financing because there is a policy in place and the CC typically follows it.

    But, a massive building project like the police and fire departments does not come along on a regular basis. In fact it has been about 45 years since the city dealt with these facilities. You and I may have differing views on this, but I believe the proper course is to involve the citizens in the project and obtain approval for the project. Doing so requires many things, such as a comprehensive understanding of needs, a good educstion program probably with a Vote Yes committee, and a vote by residents. Such a plan creates a Win-Win project for everyone. It is what schools must do with any sizeable project–schools are critical to our society but we still require them to go to the voters to creat a building.

    David L raises all sorts of important questions about the HRA financing plan. I sincerely hope the CC obtains and independent legal opinion of the financing plan, including an opinion that deals with actions already taken by the CC and whether the city may be exposed to legal action already.

    Some years ago the CC felt it was important enough to involve the citizens with a vote about whether a Target store should be allowed in Northfield. I think spending millions and millions of dollars is a lot more important than a retail store opening in town. I believe voters should have the chance to vote on this project. And I believe the project will be much better if they do.

    July 2, 2012
  67. David, I believe you are mistaken and if the HRA approves the transaction, it will play out closer to my version than yours based on what I have learned from the folks who have done this kind of financing before. I am bowing out of this conversation, however, because there is nothing you are willing to consider, but only statements you wish to repeat. I believe there are many aspects of the process to discuss and learn about, but do not believe this is possible with you.

    July 2, 2012
  68. David Ludescher said:


    Like Ray, I want a bond referendum on whatever the Council decides. Bond referendums force accountability and transparency.

    Ray started the debate by having the courage to challenge the thought that we had to have a new facility for both fire and police. For the time being, Ray’s willingness to speak has changed the course of the debate. That debate can and should continue right up to a vote.

    As Ray stated above, the school district bonds fairly regularly; most of the bonding requests have been approved.

    Legalities aside, two things are disappointing to me with this recent change in process. First, there wasn’t a single councilor willing to say that this project was the Council’s job. Second, there wasn’t one councilor willing to admit that the Council is going this route because it fears that a referendum will fail.

    July 3, 2012
  69. kiffi summa said:

    As I see it, the dynamics on this entire process have been so mismanaged in the relationship of the Council/staff/ PR brochures, versus the public, and yes, even the Task Forces, that now everyone has got their heels dug in; defensiveness,authoritarianism, anger, outrage, and certainly frustration on both sides have become the major dynamics now.

    That’s wrong.

    This has become far too rancorous.

    There must be a public discussion where the Council seeks an approval process that will have support … they will not ‘lose face’ by doing so … and a process must be developed which the informed public can willingly support.

    July 3, 2012
  70. Raymond Daniels said:

    This is a prime example of what is wrong with the Council and why certain members need to be replaced. The attitude of “If I don’t get my way, I am going to stop listening and pout” has got to go.

    July 3, 2012
  71. kiffi summa said:

    Raymond: I agree that a councilor that won’t listen and “pouts” is not good… BUT … the fact that a person might vote against a councilor who is thought to be wrong on this very mismanaged process, and is showing just as much frustration as are some members of the public, rather than looking at that councilor as a ‘whole’, is also wrong in my opinion.

    I feel that attitude promotes the very back and forth, see-sawing functioning of a council, rather than allowing a general policy perspective to develop. So that means we are always going back and forth,instead of moving in a determined fashion to a set of community goals.

    A vote for an incumbent elected representative cannot help but be a referendum of sorts on that person’s performance, but if that ‘referendum’ vote is on only one aspect of the councilor’s time in office, you may be ‘throwing out the (proverbial) baby with the bathwater’.

    July 3, 2012
  72. David Ludescher said:


    There is a process for these decisions. It is called bonding.

    In reality, the councilors are using their position of authority to try to influence the decision-making process of the HRA. Their financial adviser even suggested that the councilors could remove HRA members if the HRA didn’t approve the Council’s plan!

    It is not the Council’s job to put together a plan that the citizens will support. Their job is to put together a plan that serves the needs of the City. If the taxpayers reject the plan, that is the taxpayer’s right.

    July 3, 2012
  73. Patrick Enders said:


    If the Safety Center is the biggest issue/expenditure that the City Council has tackled in the last four years, then shouldn’t a Councillor’s actions and decisions on this issue be given particularly heavy weight when they choose to run again for elected office?

    I agree with David Ludescher and Ray Cox above, and you below when you said:

    There must be a public discussion where the Council seeks an approval process that will have support … they will not ‘lose face’ by doing so … and a process must be developed which the informed public can willingly support.

    If a Councillor disagrees with this (and it seems obvious to me that the majority of the Council has indeed tried to bypass the public on this bonding issue), then they should be held accountable for the position they have taken.

    July 3, 2012
  74. kiffi summa said:

    Yes, Patrick… they should be held accountable, and that’s why it is necessary to keep talking to them , or at them if they don’t want to answer.

    But take a long POV for a minute… are you ready to vote against some of these councilors who I think are really misguided on this issue, and put in place people with POVs that you know are not as agreeable to you in the long run?

    I’m not ready to ‘throw them away’ for this mistake; we have to find a way to make them understand the enormity of appearing to just be going around the public vote on this expenditure…
    and may I say, it is not just this expenditure for a new police facility with training space for the firemen which they say will not be of any use to them and they will not use, as it is separated from their equipment, but for the later needs of the fire barn and the undetermined permanent solution to that problem.

    July 3, 2012
  75. kiffi summa said:

    David: I most heartily agree this should go to a public vote; I have always felt that should be the case… and especially because these plans kept morphing seemingly by what might get passed.

    I think it is the job of the council to put together a plan that will serve the needs of the city AND one that the citizens can support.

    What has happened is so stupid, if I may say so, because it all began by saying the building couldn’t be used, then the most pressing issue was the space in the fire barn, and the supposed flooding, then through tortuous permutations it comes to a new police facility, with 2M $$ of fire training and admin space, and the firemen say they can’t train there and won’t, and the Mayor says they will if they are told to…. and on and on..

    And now all the problems with the current facility as a fire barn seem to have evaporated (except possibly the structure of the floor, and there are conflicting statements about even that) … well, there’s just too much to even write it all again.

    Maybe the HRA will not ‘go along to get along’, and it will start all over again.

    The Council has no one to blame but themselves for the conflicting statements that have characterized this process… OK, so in some peoples’ minds they ‘messed up’ , but they don’t think they did, or at least won’t admit it, so here we are with a questionable financing method, that excludes the public evaluation.

    I wish the Council would Just bite the bullet and say OK, we’re just human; this got way too convoluted… we’ll have a referendum in Nov … and we are gong to do everything in our power to convince the voters to vote ‘yes’.

    Monumental Mess!

    July 3, 2012
  76. David Ludescher said:


    Actually, there isn’t a mess and there isn’t a hurry. If the HRA kicks this back to the City Council, the only thing lost is time. The fire and police continue to provide excellent service in spite of some cramped quarters.

    We will soon have a new City Council with at least 2 new members, and possibly a majority, who will be able to look at this situation with new and unbiased eyes.

    July 3, 2012
  77. kiffi summa said:

    David: as I’m sure you know, one of the reasons stated by the Council for going to this financing route was the efficiency which saved them time and allowed work to progress this season… so if it does get “kicked back” to the Council, they will have made a wrong choice on that point also (besides saying that it was their choice, and they didn’t believe it should go to a public vote).

    And yes … through all of this, and through the last few years, we continue to get great service from the public safety employees and volunteers.

    July 4, 2012
  78. David Ludescher said:


    I would be concerned about timeliness if there were documented service deficiencies because of the lack of adequate facilities.

    If there is some urgency to the space issue, the City Council could rent space from a private party for the foreseeable future. There is no need to jump through all of the bonding requirements with the HRA just so the Council can rent. Plus, renting from a private party would support the local economy. Let the private party assume the financing risks.

    July 4, 2012
  79. kiffi summa said:

    The HRA meets this afternoon, and will discuss this issue for the first time. Previously they had a ‘heads up’ from Mr. Madigan, but not a discussion of the board members.

    Since the Council issued the RFPs for the bonding (July 5) , under the name of the HRA, but before the HRA had voted to be the fundng authority, what will happen if the HRA is not ‘compliant’ ?

    Has the HRA gotten independent legal advice to help them make a decision?

    The bond counsel quoted in the NFNews article did not do much more than quote the statute, and these statutes have been misused by cities as Jane Mc Williams reports in her LWV Council report.

    At the bottom line , the most important issue here is the fact the the Council did not want either to have a referendum fail, or take the chance of failing through a reverse referendum, so they took a route which cannot be challenged by a public vote.

    That does not speak to confidence in public approval.

    Why are they so willing to risk disapproval? First they say they welcome diverse opinions, and then they verbally put down those opinions when expressed, i.e.: the City Administrator has said (in a public meeting) that he could not work with the administration of the Rural Fire Assn.; the Fire Chief has been continually criticized for having differing professional opinions when asked to express them ( June 27 letter from Mr.Madigan and Police Chief Taylor to Fire chief) as just one example; the Mayor was critical ( on radio morning after) of the HRA member who spoke against the plan at the Council open mic; the citizen group that has been meeting for weeks gets no answers when they ask either by letter, or at the open mic…

    We hear that there is strong/broad quiet public support… how does anyone know what those that don’t speak say?
    But we also hear that there is only small public outrage (I think that’s in reference to the ‘usual suspects’ at the open mic) , and those questions are never answered in dialogue.


    I do not believe in council elections being ‘referendums’, and I will never vote out a really good councilor just because I disagree on one… even one this big … issue.
    But there are people who will, and who are saying they will … I would strongly urge them not to do that.

    We have begun to make some strides in defining policy to guide the structure of the community, and it would be unwise to throw that away to differing development philosophies.

    July 12, 2012
  80. Patrick Enders said:

    My compliments to the members of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, for recognizing that bonding for this proposed safety center does not fall within the mission of the HRA.

    July 12, 2012
  81. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News reporter Suzy Rook posted these tweets to her Twitter account during the HRA meeting:

    Former Councilor and HRA member Kris Vohs tells HRA of request: “I encourage you to do it now, please.”

    “It’a a financing method that’s designed to avoid the voters,” attorney David Ludescher says of lease financing for Safety Center.

    Councilor Patrick Ganey says council members have been subject to intimidation by those who disagree with decision to OK lease financing.

    “Just because they’re loud doesn’t make them right,” said Ganey.

    Only revenues pledged to bond holders are from lease payments for Safety Center. If payments not made, no harm comes to bond issuer, HRA.

    Reminder: David Ludescher, who opposes lease financing plan, is candidate for City Council.

    Northfield’s attorney explains the serious damage to city’s credit rating if it decides not to renew lease.

    HRA talks about whether to approve lease financing. So far, 2 votes no. 2 votes yes. Swing vote appears to be Susan Crow.

    HRA won’t OK lease financing for safety center project. No vote: motion dies for lack of a second.

    July 13, 2012
  82. Griff Wigley said:

    Betsey’s blog post has several helpful links, including:

    Mayor Mary Rossing’s July 6 commentary in the Nfld News: Northfield Mayor explains impact of Lease Revenue Bonds

    Don McGee’s July 9 commentary in the Nfld News, Northfield Citizens Safety Task Force encourages citizens to request referendum on bond

    which has this byline at the bottom:

    This article was written by Don McGee on behalf of the Northfield Citizens Safety Center Task Force – Don McGee, Ken Malecha, Jerry Anderson, Joe Grundhoefer, John Machacek and David Ludescher

    July 13, 2012
  83. David Ludescher said:


    I agree. However, readers should be aware that no motion was passed stating that the project did not fall within the mission of the HRA, and only 2 of the 5 Commissioners, Norvald and Fink, expressed an opinion that it didn’t fall within the mission of the HRA.

    The HRA took no action at all. The only motion made was Councilperson and Commissioner Zweifel’s motion to move forward. It failed for the lack of the second. Commissioner Goodney spoke in favor of the project but did not second the motion because, as chair, she did not think she had the ability to second the motion.

    What was disconcerting was the one-sided presentation of the staff.

    July 13, 2012
  84. kiffi summa said:

    Regardless of any outcome, it is truly unfortunate when citizen members of a board … a board such as the HRA which is continually praised for their ongoing excellent work … is told they are not “stepping up to the plate”, or are not supporting the Safety Center project, or that they will be looked upon as being against the project, if they do not (yet ?) approve financing the bonding.

    The simple fact that the city’s financial advisers, as Mark Ruff of Ehlers &co. stated , decided to hold up sending out the RFPs until after the HRA meeting (the City Council/Staff had said they would be sent out July 5th, before the HRA had ever met to discuss) would appear to say that the Council/Staff were being a tad presumptuous.

    July 13, 2012
  85. David Ludescher said:


    Both on the surface and at a deeper level, what the City Council was/is trying to do is fundamentally wrong, if not illegal. One government body was trying to pressure another government body into exercising a power which that body itself could not exercise, namely, a bond referendum without a vote.

    I think I could have lived with the City Council’s actions if the Council had declared that it didn’t want to take the matter to the voters, and that it wanted to use the HRA to see if the HRA would bypass the voters. At least that would have been honest, and would not have put the HRA in an awkward position.

    July 13, 2012
  86. Patrick Enders said:

    Thanks, David .

    It was hard to tell who was talking at times from the web stream, or whether Susan Crow had taken a position on the proposal.

    July 13, 2012
  87. Jane McWilliams said:

    My impression is that the proposal may have been a victim of the rush to judgement. If I am not mistaken, Susan Crow wasn’t ready to make a decision because of the timing of the flood of information the authority received. It is untortunate for the supporters that they didn’t move to postpone the decision to a special meeting, giving her time to digest and decide. Whatever way it went under that scenario, it would at least have been conclusive.

    July 13, 2012
  88. David Ludescher said:


    It may be best for everyone how this played out. Erica’s motion wasn’t seconded. Now no one on the HRA or the HRA can be blamed by the Council. Goodney did her job by not seconding, and the other 3 weren’t ready to talk about it or didn’t want to approve the motion. If the HRA had decided to talk about the matter, a vote would have undoubtedly divided the HRA. Either way Crow voted she would have been taking heat.

    My initial preference was that the HRA to take a vote on whether this project fit into its mission. However, this might be a better result.

    July 13, 2012
  89. David DeLong said:

    On the city’s web site an item on the consent agenda for the July 17th meeting.


    Unfortunately the usual packet information is not posted. If the HRA had voted in favor of the bonds this would have been needed, but it would seem there was time to remove this from the agenda. Does anyone have any additional information?
    Is this square one?

    July 14, 2012
  90. kiffi summa said:

    A Digression …Griff: you tell others (meaning me) to get off the NFNews’s ‘case’… but you very often complain about their basic journalistic practices, finding them lacking.

    I usually agree with your frustration, and certainly on this matter of changing stories in the original body of text, rather than doing an update at the bottom.
    Why do you think they do this?

    July 14, 2012
  91. David, the packet goes out Thursday afternoon so all materials would have been assembled before the HRA meeting. I don’t know why the packet was not posted on the city website. Tim Madigan sent an email suggesting we amend the agenda to remove that item, but add a discussion item on Safety Center financing to the end of the agenda.

    July 14, 2012
  92. David DeLong said:

    Thank you for the information Betsey.

    I noticed the Mayor in her July 6th letter referred to the Lease Revenue Bonds as “conduit financing”. I appreciate your proper usage of the words “financing conduit”.

    Unless it has changed, I do believe the city has a “conduit financing” program for non-profits. It involves a 2500 dollar application fee. I believe most of this type of transaction has been run thru the EDA. If the”conduit financing” bonds,the EDA issued for the Northfield Retirement Center go south the EDA does not own a piece of the Northfield Retirement Center.

    I also note the city’s bond council, Jenny Bolton, does not refer to “conduit financing”and saw no conflict of interest concerning City Councilperson Erica Zweifel being a member of both the requesting board (City Council) and the HRA. I think her answer of no conflict would not apply when in November 2008 Prairie Creek Community School requested “conduit financing” from the EDA, and someone had been on both the EDA and the board of the requesting non-profit, Prairie Creek.

    “Conduit financing” versus financing conduit I think it’s a big difference.

    July 14, 2012
  93. kiffi summa said:

    David de Long… thanks for explaining this oft misused terminology… what a difference the order of the words makes.

    I also felt, as did others, that attorney Jenny Bolton’s defense of a possible conflict was incorrect, i.e., she used statute 469.003 ( did that # from memory, so I hope it’s correct) to justify the councilor’s actions, and that is for membership on the HRA. No one doubts that a council person may be a member; that is not the issue.

    I believe the statute that must be looked at is 469.009, which deals with ‘conflict of interest’. People often think that conflict of interest only deals with financial gain, but I do not think that’s correct.

    It can also be voting in two places which creates an influence that is inappropriate on the actions of one group, as related to the other.

    July 15, 2012
  94. victor summa said:

    David … Like Kiffi, I too appreciate your weighing in with your long developed, well honed knowledge of Northfield’s processes.

    Clearly staff and some council voices, from time to time, put a different spin on the facts.

    Speaking of which, Kiffi, in your comment you mention the inaccurate spin Ms Bolton (Bond Counsel) put on the Conflict of Interest issue as defined in MN 469. What you, Kiffi, did not comment on is how that misdirected opinion may impact the process … how the paid for experts advice falls far short of the facts.

    In this recent case the HRA heard at least two voices on the issue of 469’s directives on Conflict of Interests, a citizen’s and the legal counsel’s.

    Kiffi, you pointed out how Ms Bolton dodged the issue or misread the statute. Neither is acceptable … in my opinion.

    Results? The official body is fed poor information or In some cases, clearly wrong information.

    Conflict of Interst in Minnesota law I believe carries no penalty … it is merely a defining circumstance, but if avoided declaring, might be a violation [sic] participating officially in an action when you have a conflict. It is in my understanding then merely an ethical issue – oppossed to a violation of law

    But, in 469, the HRA statute, it goes farther. In this case after defining how an offical of the body might have a conflict. and goes on to say: if the official does not deal with it in an appropriate manner, is in this case guility of a Gross Misdemeanor.

    That has a penalty, and potentially carries a fine and/or jail time.

    Put yourself in the HRA position – or in some cases the council’s, where the professional advice is challenged by a mere citizen. Whom do you trust?

    For a variety of reasons the officials might be inclined to disregard the citizen and seek cover under the professonal opinion. Maybe they are hierarchal driven? Who knows? That’s why I asked the official to read the statute themselves.

    Additionally, for a variety of reasons the so called professional opnion may be inaccurate … as might be the citizens.

    I’d suggest such is the case in Ms Bolton’s written remarks on 469’s conflict clause.

    As you point out Kiffi, Bolton speaks only to “membership” being allowable on both boddies … concudes {sic] if your a member you can’t have a conflct, and avoids the clear fact that membership does not trump confict.

    Actually, there’d be no conflict if there was not dual membership. Sort of meaningless opinion as see it.

    This is my overarchng concern then, getting objective and accurate opinion from the experts … and that often includes staff opinions.

    Whether an official has a confict is one issue – if the leagl opinion avoids the defining facts, this is in my opinion far more eggreious.

    Unfortunately staff (consultants too) often deflect addressing the questions of the citizen, and the Councilors often cherrypick which statutes they choose to acknowledge or which they might ignor.

    RESULT: Raising their official voice in attack on the citizen for having an opinion.

    So much for representative government as is often invoked in happy field.

    July 16, 2012
  95. David Ludescher said:


    Whether it is “conduit financing” or “financing conduit” both are, at best, poor government disciplines. At worst, they are illegal. In this case, I believe that it would have been illegal for the Council and the HRA to engage in the transaction as contemplated.

    It would have been harder to prove the Council’s actions as illegal. But, all the talk of “financing conduit” would have made it easier to prove illegal purpose, namely to avoid the statutorily required voter approval process. The Council’s actions in preparing all of the paperwork would have made the job even easier. No one could have seriously argued that the HRA can bypass the voters when the City can’t. The only possible way to do it was the attempt at the “redevelopment” of a “blighted are” sham. C’mon. Seriously? Blighted? Where is that on the Comp Plan?

    Regarding Erica’s conflict of interest, we need to remember that the HRA was going to be the landlord and the City was going to be the tenant. Thus, while any Council person can be on the HRA, because the transaction directly involved Erica’s employer, she was under the duty, upon the penalty of a crime, to report this potential conflict. Moreover, just the potential of a conflict disqualified her from participating in the discussion. It is right there in the HRA statute.

    July 16, 2012
  96. victor summa said:

    This time the David is David Ludescher – yes, it is in black and white in 469. What boggles my mind is where is the bond counsel on this issue? Why, would she not have thoroughly put that question to bed instead of arguing the nonsense she did. Arrogance, all the way around.

    Even if Ms Bolton was right, it seems the only responsible avenue to take is for her to articulately dispel the arguments brought forward by the citizens. She instead spun wool. Why?

    Paradoxically, even the HRA packet proclaimed: Legal and Bond Counsel will be on hand to answer commissioner’s [HRA] questions and those of the public as well. Seems the head didn’t tell the tail.

    As this Council gets more and more mired in its dysfunction, the door is opened for the challenging candidates. As that pool is exceptionally shallow too, the looming historic outcome may be a vast wirte-in campaign for an otherwise unannounced slate. The N News quotes the Charter in the fact that Nakasian may not be through with this yet. Nakasian’s name will be on the Primary ballot , and if by chance she came in first or second, she’d be on the November ballot as well … and still has a chance. The Irony there is she has never won a contested election, and now could be Mayor elect but doesn’t want it. Her maneuvers have put the election in a weird light.

    Meanwhile the nexus of the entire affair is on Tuesday night’s agenda. That being the fog of war put over the town by the Northfield leadership cluttering up discussions with trite arguments over the numbers of representatives on a study panel. Our rural neighbors, who have a solid organizational structure in their fire fighting plan … serving seven different governing units, would like to see a bigger number at the table – merely insuring broader representation for the township and both municipalities. All Northfield has to do is send three councilors to the table instead of two and that would equal the preferred rural representation. So what’s up with that? Why the negative spin? Maybe Ms Rossing will tell us Wednesday morning on KYMN

    July 16, 2012
  97. kiffi summa said:

    In their meeting tonight, the Council voted almost unanimously (Councilor Pownell , Nay) to use Certification of Participation Bonds to finance the Safety Center.
    These differ only slightly from the Lease Revenue bonding they had sought from the HRA because instead of a city entity issuing the bonds for the council’s use, they will be bid out to a financing institution.

    The revenue to pay the debt service will come from an increased property tax levy, and that would , in essence , be true of any dollars captured to pay the bonding debt.
    The increased levy will have to supply, according to Ms. Mc Bride, about 430K annually to service this debt.
    There is currently no levy limit imposed by the legislature, but that is a current situation.

    Most commentators opined that the Council would now have to revert to either GO bonds which require a public vote, or CIP bonds which are subject to a reverse referendum.

    That was not the case.

    The Council, in general, continues to express that they were elected to make hard decisions, that there is broad (but publicly silent, [my notation]) support to move forward without a public vote, and that they feel comfortable making this decision.
    Councilor Pownell has always preferred a public vote, and Concilor Nakasian, although voting in favor , has expressed reservations, but in a previous meeting, stated that she knew the Mayor wished this to be a unanimous vote.

    Done deal…

    July 17, 2012
  98. David Ludescher said:


    Do you have any reference to state statute allowing this financing method? Were there any materials for the public to view? Do you think the councilors understood what this financing method is?

    My brief review of Internet material suggests that this is just a leasing arrangement with a private party.

    It sounds like this is far from a done deal.

    July 17, 2012
  99. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News: New Northfield Safety Center financing plan gets council OK

    The city’s financial advisor, Mark Ruff of Ehlers, said Minnesota school districts commonly use the financing tool. Northfield Public Schools, he said, used certificates of participation in 2009 to finance the 12,500 square foot addition to Sibley Elementary.

    The financing method, which doesn’t require a referendum, will allow the city to adhere to the same schedule as lease financing would have. That means the city will likely go out for bid next spring. By going out for bid early in the construction season, City Administrator Tim Madigan said, Northfield will be better poised to take advantage of competitive pricing.

    July 18, 2012
  100. Griff Wigley said:

    Last Saturday’s Nfld News editorial: Northfield voters deserve a chance to vote on public safety center

    The City Council should consider what happened this week a move back toward the right direction. It should pull together, as it did when it first considered having the HRA bond for the project, all the appropriate financing documentation. It should make the pros and cons of the options publicly available for review, perhaps even holding a public hearing on it.

    Finally, the council should frame a question and vote to put it before the community before the Aug. 24 deadline for referendums. The reasons to do this have not changed with time — it’s arguably one of the most important projects the city has undertaken in recent history, and it is taxpayer money that will pay for it. Any other move at this point will just waste more time in an already too long timeline to approve and move forward on this project.

    July 18, 2012
  101. David Ludescher said:

    Duped again by everyone except Pownell.

    July 18, 2012
  102. David DeLong said:

    My research indicates that MS.465.71 controls. This information wasn’t included in the public information. The City has never used this type of financing before and it was never mentioned in any number of financing options methods recaps that have been trotted out recently.

    July 18, 2012
  103. kiffi summa said:

    David Ludescher: I was not at the meeting, but watched it on KYMN. I have no idea what was given to the public, but believe Councilor Pownell said they only got the green sheet on the financing before the meeting but had gotten an e-mail from staff sometime earlier; I don’t know when….

    So from her comment, the idea for this financng did not originate with the Council.

    July 18, 2012
  104. David DeLong said:

    430 thousand a year for the next 20 years equals 8.6 million dollars.

    Plus one million dollars already committed equals 9.6 million.

    The majority of the Council voted for most expensive funding option.

    That’s an awful lot to pay for a new police station.

    Maybe that’s why they don’t want the public to vote.

    July 18, 2012
  105. David Ludescher said:


    If I understand correctly – the City Council proposes that the police department building will be owned by a private party.

    July 18, 2012
  106. Jane McWilliams said:

    The “documentation” supporting the idea of appropriation bonds (which, as David DeLong says had not been mentioned in any earlier funding discussions, as far as I can recall) came in the Monday, July 16 memo to Tim Madigan from Mark Ruff. Mr. Madigan circulated it to the council by email the same day. Hard copies were on the table at last night’s meeting.

    There was no clue in the approval of the agenda at the beginning of the meeting that the council would consider this option. The resolution to call for a public hearing on the redevelopment plan for the PSC was removed from the consent agenda, and put on the regular one with no reference to what would replace that action.

    It would sure help the public when there are significant documents are added to the council’s agenda as in this case, if the staff would post them along with previously provided materials in the online council packet. What happened tonight with this material is not an isolated incident.

    July 18, 2012
  107. David DeLong said:

    Yes it will be owned by the low bidder.

    I include this from the League of Minnesota Cities Handbook,

    The agreement must give the city the right to terminate the agreement at the end of any fiscal year during its term by a provision called a “non-appropriation clause.” Thus, a city may simply declare at any time that it will not appropriate money in the coming year for the lease payments and the agreement ends.

    The market for such leases fully understands the risk and analyzes it in terms of the likelihood that a city will do such a thing, which is small. On the other hand, some vendors routinely include rather onerous remedies in the event of early termination

    They send out the information nation wide but expect only 2-5 responses

    July 18, 2012
  108. kiffi summa said:

    David de Long… this calculation is awesome… when you consider that previously the Council had sought funding for 10.? mill $$$, for a fully joint facility, and then is creating a debt of 9.6 million for a Police facility with training for fire (which the firemen have adamantly said they cannot use because they must train where their equipment is housed) I think the cost has not declined, as the Council has claimed, but risen, and risen steeply.

    Councilor Nakasian tried again last night to address the issue of $$ for the rehab of the ‘fire barn’, but withdrew her motion after others, including the city administrator and finance director, spoke against it.
    (I do not think the city staff has a role in policy making decisions, except for supporting information.)

    How can the ‘public education’ the Mayor mentioned possibly gloss over these $$ numbers?

    July 18, 2012
  109. kiffi summa said:

    David… meant to also ask you what the end costs would have been on GO bonds issued for 10.4 million? … for comparison.

    Let’s also remember that GO bonds would not have downgraded the city’s bond rating as this method will admittedly do … and the proclaimed ‘sacredness’ of that bond rating up to this point.

    July 18, 2012
  110. kiffi summa said:

    As a long-time council observer for the LWV (recently retired) I can state that you, Jane, are correct in your observation that this funding method has not been previously discussed by the Council.

    You are also correct in your notice of the lack of public information at certain times, and unfortunately , it is usually when there is a serious issue.
    This may just be a matter of staff time, but that does not excuse it, only rationalizes .

    July 18, 2012
  111. victor summa said:

    Jane’s accurate as to the veiled process. But it was clear at the Agenda Approval step that the Mayor knew what she was doing. Item six on the consent read:

    6. Resolution 2012-063 – Call for public hearing on redevelopment plan for the new Public Safety Center

    That specific language was pulled by green sheet … (pulled does not mean moved with a different scope .. or does it?) So, as they were revising the agenda, M Rossing said #6 will be become 11a on the Regular Agenda. Madigan’s note was conveniently already labeled 11a.

    While they may seem to be picking their way in the dark … clearly the leadership had a plan. In any event, at this writing they seem to have avoided the public vote. We’ll see

    Kudos to Nakasian and Pownell – The ward 1 Rep introduced a resolution that would have limited the entire budget for both Police facility and Fire facility to 7,280 million. Pressured by others, unfortunately she withdrew the resolution. Maybe didn’t want to be on the short end of the vote.

    Pownell voiced a lot of logic against the Certificate of Participation method and voted no on the ultimate resolution.

    July 18, 2012
  112. David DeLong said:

    I don’t know. Mark Ruff only provided the 430K number. I do know the last GO bond the city sold was 1.7239% on 965,000. I seem to recall that rates could be a point to a point and a half higher.

    July 18, 2012
  113. David Ludescher said:


    Help me understand the procedure. The City’s only direct involvement would be to pay the lease price requested by the private financier. It is a lease agreement which could be modified by either party. The $420,000.00 per year is merely the expected lease payment.

    In any year, the City could not pay. In fact, in any subsequent year, a new City Council (such as you, I, and 2 other like-minded councilpersons) could default on the lease, and build its own building using general obligation bonds leaving the private investor holding a police station. Or, couldn’t the Council refuse to pay, and thereby force a lower rent payment?

    Is that accurate?

    Wouldn’t it be true that the private financier could also raise the rent and the Council wouldn’t have any choice but to pay or leave?

    Lastly, there aren’t any bonds issued are there? Isn’t that the difference with the HRA situation?

    July 18, 2012
  114. Patrick Enders said:

    Wow. Just wow.

    I think I’d be a lot happier if they’d just stuck to bickering about the EDA.

    July 18, 2012
  115. David DeLong said:

    Excellent questions, information at the meeting was unavailable in advance. Sorry I can’t help. As the City has never used this type of bonding before these would seem like logical questions for a Council to ask.
    The draft timetable, only available at the meeting Tuesday night, does say –
    August 7, 2012 City Council Approves Selection of Bank/Underwriter, and
    August 28, 2012 Pricing of Bonds and City Council Approval of Documents, and
    Close transaction on or about September 15, 2012.
    I would also be curious if since it would be owned privately would they need to pay property taxes?

    July 18, 2012
  116. David Ludescher said:


    The statute seems to read that the City can “lease”, but it doesn’t mention any City involvement in financing. With the “HRA financing”, the City was also leasing, but the HRA was doing the bonding. I can understand how the City Council mistakenly thought that the “City” was doing the financing.

    In this case, the government isn’t financing, so I don’t understand the need for the Council to take any further action.

    I am also confused as to why the project isn’t subject to competitive bidding, especially on the financing. I have to believe, based upon the Council’s confusion on the HRA financing fiasco, that the Council has no better understanding than I do.

    July 18, 2012
  117. Jane McWilliams said:

    David – The council didn’t take explicit action on the Request for Proposal included with the email from Mark Ruff. It appeared to be tailored to the kind of institution which would “provide tax exempt financing” for the safety center. Wouldn’t that be a kind of bidding process as you mentioned in 42.2.2?

    Unfortunately, neither Ruff’s email nor the RFP were included in the online packet (hard copies were distributed at the meeting). A copy could be had at city hall, I suspect.

    July 18, 2012
  118. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t understand the City’s role in the either the building or the financing. Isn’t it just a tenant who is going to be at the mercy of the landlord? And won’t the landlord be at the mercy of a tenant who won’t even pay Waterford what it owes it?

    July 18, 2012
  119. kiffi summa said:

    Lets’ insert a note of ‘dark’ humor at this point :
    Our intrepid local newspaper, yesterday’s edition (7.18.2012) top right of page 5a… the headline says: “Approval: Bond amount not to exceed $ 62.8 million”

    Darn those pesky decimal points!

    July 19, 2012
  120. Griff Wigley said:

    $62.8 million! Wow. I wonder if anyone will notice.


    July 20, 2012
  121. Griff Wigley said:

    Results of the Nfld News online straw poll re: the HRA’s decision:

    July 20, 2012
  122. David Ludescher said:

    I’m not sure what a person can deduce from the results. The HRA didn’t decide not to vote; the matter never came to a vote.

    A more interesting question would have been, “Do you want to vote on whether to spend $7.2 million to build a new police station?”.

    July 20, 2012
  123. kiffi summa said:

    David: It seems to me you have often said that in your opinion the Council just did not want to go to a public vote because they were not confident of the outcome.

    Interestingly, at the end of last Tuesday’s “Law Review” broadcast on KYMN, David Hvistendahl, and his colleague Britt Ackerman, were discussing the Council’s next move. (This was just before that night’s Council meeting)

    David Hvistendahl said that he thought they only had GO or CIP bonds open to them, since the HRA did not approve the lease revenue bonding, and Ms Ackerman said she was sure they would successfully pass a referendum ,if they put together a ‘vote yes’ committee, because NF has a strong history of passing school referendums.

    David differed with his colleague’s opinion, because he said he thought the Council would have a difficult time putting together such a committee, because they had alienated several important groups; he started by saying the Council had severely alienated the firefighters, and I don’t remember all the others he named … but there were several other groups.

    Do you still feel the decision to use these COP bonds was a lack of confidence in passing a referendum ? or do you think it was more “we’re the ‘deciders’ ” ???

    July 20, 2012
  124. David Ludescher said:


    The Council is clearly trying to avoid the voters at all costs. Perhaps they don’t even see that they are doing it, or know why they are doing it.

    I can’t imagine a reason not to give it to the voters if they had confidence that it would have passed. But, there could also be an element of “deciders” mentality, or perhaps the Council is so emotionally invested in their decision that they don’t want to see the effort wasted.

    Look at how they tried to strong-arm the HRA with talk about blight, redevelopment plans, and financial conduits. Why not just give it to the voters? The voters have yet to hear why they shouldn’t vote.

    July 20, 2012
  125. kiffi summa said:

    David: are you kiddin’ the public?

    “Perhaps they don’t even see that they are doing it, or know why they are doing it.” You have to be kidding; these are smart people… not always wise, IMO, but smart.

    They keep talking about being comfortable with being the ‘deciders’, because of all the “broad public support” they have, but as David Hvistendahl said on his radio show last week, they have alienated several groups., the firefighters, the Chamber? …and of course one of them has said that the citizen group is “stupid’ and their ideas are “stupid”, and their comments are “stupid”.
    and re: the citizen group, I fault those who were involved in the whole discussion, particpated in e-mail, but didn’t want their names associated with ‘dissent’, so limited their public presence, signatures, etc. I think if the Council would have had that full ‘slate’ they may have ‘thought twice before voting once!”

    It just really worries me that some productive councilors will get voted against because of this, and we’ll get a whole new council dynamic that is certainly much different, but not guaranteed to be better for being different faces.

    July 20, 2012
  126. Jane Moline said:

    Griff: Look at the article on the Vadnais Heights bonds and the city credit rating–Metro section (B) of todays strib.

    David: the message from the public seems loud and clear. They do not agree that the city council is charged with loading them with a large debt–even if they use a Lease-financing vehicle. The citizens expect the city council to be limited in its’ ability to spend—and should look to the taxpayers for any large investments in infrastructure–especially a safety center. Citizens do not like it when their elected officials tell them that “we know best, and you shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about this big building.”

    July 20, 2012
  127. kiffi summa said:

    Jane: I also saw that article in the Strib; I think it was somewhat different in that the Vadnais heights situation was a sports center that was supposed to be income producing, and that is often where this sort of bonding is used.

    When that is not the case, when the ‘income’ is the property tax levy, increased to cover the bonding debt, that is where the dilemma comes in my mind, because I agree that a project of this magnitude should go to a public vote… and especially when it has had so many ill-defined iterations as this one has had.

    But another dilemma in my mind is the almost unilateral support from councilors who in the past have been very focussed on the people’s participation, but now seem content to force the issue.

    July 21, 2012
  128. David DeLong said:

    This discussion prompted me to think back to the Northfield Community Resource Center and it’s referendum. Believe it or not the search led me right back to Locally Grown. It had hosted a forum, on the NCRC, starting Jan. 7th 1998.

    Northfield’s proposed Community Resource Center is a $4.45-million, 40,000 square-foot building that will house the Community Action Center, Northfield Senior Organization, the school district’s Alternative Learning Center, Three Rivers’ HeadStart, and spaces for use by other community organizations and groups.
    The proposed location of the CRC is on the south side of Northfield at the corner of Jefferson Parkway and Raider Dr. Funds to build the Center will come from private donations, contributions from agencies which will use the space, and a bond issue.
    On Jan. 27, Northfield residents will vote on the bond issue to raise $2.2 million for the Center.

    Some large donations helped bring down the cost from 4.45 million to the 2.2 bond issue. But there was also a $250,000 Capitol lease commitment by the School District. I wonder if this is similar to the lease arrangement the City is now considering?

    Then- $4.45 million bought us a 40,000 square foot building and the land to put it on.

    Today the proposed 26,000 square foot building and land will cost $7.28 million. Did we build the NCRC too cheap or has inflation driven up costs that much?

    Then-there was a group of community citizens and leaders out stumping, explaining and educating. The situation today speaks for itself.

    July 21, 2012
  129. David Ludescher said:


    Today’s situation is an interesting contrast.

    The NCRC raised non-bond donations before the building, was a multi-purpose facility, and was bonded. The City owned the building and leased it out. I recall that the bonding passed 4-1 or better.

    The City might want to consider leasing some of the NCRC for the police staff to use while the bond payments are made. In the meantime, the City could start raising some money from private donations and non-taxpaying entities. Once the NCRC is paid off, more money would be available for bonding, and the City would have a better idea of what additional space is essential.

    July 21, 2012
  130. Jane Moline said:

    Regarding the Vadnais Heights bond story in the Strib–it showed how the “lease-financing” vehicle gets the city into trouble and can cause serious bonding problems including affecting the city’s loan costs via credit rating.

    I really think the current issue is very simple–the city council is searching for ways to go around the citizens–they were elected by citizens who understood that the city council was limited in its ability to spend, and for large amounts would have to go to the public–in one form or another, by either referendum or reverse referendum. However, the city council has decided to do an end-run around this—

    It comes down to: just because you CAN do something (because you are advised it is “legal”) does not mean that you SHOULD do something. I have to really wonder about the basic values of this city council–that they believe they must do what is best for Northfield even if the Northfield people don’t want that. What if they are wrong about what is “BEST” for Northfield?

    Their attitude, which comes off as arrogant, is evident to the public–and it is no surprise that citizens are upset enough to have words with their city council when they find them in a public place.

    The other part is the confusion by the regular council attender-crowd–they did not have advance information about this funding and how it could work–which goes back to the old idea that the city council must be having secret meetings to discuss these things out of of the public eye –it is what has led to continued distrust of the city council and its’ decision making.

    July 21, 2012
  131. kiffi summa said:

    Jane: when the proposal was going to the HRA for the proposed lease/revenue bonding, several private citizens, and some of the citizens task force group, a rather disparate coalition, all advised Councilor Zweifel to get independent counsel on the HRA statute (469.009) that covered potential conflict of interest for a person who was part of one voting group(Council in this case)and then also a voting member of the second decision making group, in this case the HRA.

    When the packet came out and the city’s legal advisor dealt with that, she in fact (IMO) didn’t deal with it at all, because she cited 469.003, which says who may be a member of the HRA… and that was not the issue; no one doubts that Councilor Zweifel is a legitimate member of the HRA.

    Seeing that advice in the packet, people again asked Ms.Zweifel to get her own independent counsel and opinion, contrasting these two sections of statute, but it seems she did not feel that was needed.

    People also contacted Leota Goodney (HRA Chair) asking for her to also get independent advice.
    Ms. Goodney, asked the city’s attorneys, during the meeting interchange, if she could expect an unbiased answer to her questions, and was reassured that she could.
    Inherent in that reply is the fact the law cannot be always letter specific, often relies on interpretation, and of course the city’s counsel is going to interpret in the city’s favor. Everyone understands that.

    ***** So with that background here’s my question to you, Jane: You said the Council’s attitude comes off as “arrogant”, but in this instance is it ‘arrogance’ that makes a councilor be non-protective personally, or is it just a naive belief that the City’s attorneys are protecting them as well as the ‘city’? and that the citizens are ‘arrogantly’ assumed to be uninformed, and always wrong?

    July 22, 2012
  132. Jane Moline said:

    Kiffi: Way beyond my pay-grade.

    I have long criticized both Northfield and Dundas legal counsel for failing to actually COUNSEL the city council! Interesting that Leota asked if she would actually be getting an unbiased opinion—a reflection of citizen cynicism—we have long given up on being told honestly what something actually means and expect to be told what the consultant wants us to hear—

    I do think it is arrogance on the part of the city council—they have decided what they want to do, and they are going to figure out how to jam it down the taxpayer’s throats.

    Anyway, the citizen’s have a right to be “arrogant” and expect the city council to operate within their mandate—it is the citizen’s city, and the council serves—but then the council flips that over and decides to “rule”. I understand it is two different view-points as to what the elected council’s mandate really is—and this is where public service gets tricky—and the conundrum of any elected official–should they believe they are the best -educated “decider” or should they defer to the citizens?

    July 22, 2012
  133. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi and Jane,

    In the case of a large capital project the law clearly prefers that the voters be the “deciders”. Capital improvements are for capital improvements, leases are for short term solutions, not permanent structures. It really is that simple.

    July 22, 2012
  134. kiffi summa said:

    I agree, David, that in the case of large capital projects the law gives processes for voters to make the final determination… but these councilors have made the final determination by choosing this method of financing.

    And one can only believe they are sincere, and comfortable with the decision in their minds when they say that they “don’t believe in governing by referendum” … that the dissenters are “stupid”, and their ideas are “stupid” and “obstructionist”.

    They think they have answered all the questions, but they have not… and the cost of this project, when you look at the reality of it, has grown, not declined.

    A while ago, the plan was for a joint facility at 10+ million$$, now it’s a police station
    ( at 7.28 million with the land costs) with supposedly 2million $$ worth of fire training and administration , and the firemen say they can’t use that training space as they must train where their equipment is housed.

    Why is there no discussion of the plan for the additional development of the current facility for the ongoing use as a fire station? I believe the fire chief has , or has suggested a plan which would improve the safety of that facility both for housing the equipment and facilitating operations. Then the 2 mill of space at the Cowles site that the firemen say won’t do them any good could be taken from that project, and put toward the renovation and upgrading of the current building.

    It’s just too depressing to keep going over … Council won’t be challenged, they won’t answer questions, they won’t even hold to their own original objections … and the public is “stupid” when they ask for the answers to factual questions … and ‘kicking the can down the road’ by refusing to deal with any specificity with the needs of the firemen by blaming it all on the lack of reorganization with the Rural Fire Assn. is ( IMO ) just another way of putting off solving this whole 4-5 year mess in its entirety… AS the Mayor always says, “This is just one piece of it…”

    Darn right, it’s just one ‘piece’ …

    What’s your opinion, David about whether the owners, i.e. the bond holders, will have to pay property taxes ? is there an absolutely definitive answer to that?

    July 22, 2012
  135. David Ludescher said:


    It is a mess. Unless the citizen groups can find some avenue to slow down the project, it looks as if it will be up to the next Council to figure out what happens.

    July 23, 2012
  136. kiffi summa said:

    Well, David… what could the “next council” do given the bonds will already be sold?

    I just don’t see any solution ‘after the fact’ … and you’re also assuming that the council will have a significantly different makeup, and voting pattern.

    July 23, 2012
  137. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t no much about this “financing” method. My understanding is that there aren’t any bonds sold. It is private financing.

    Yes, any council in the next 15-20 years can decide not to pay – like Northfield did to Waterford. If elected, I would probably vote to not pay any payments. Anyone foolish enough to buy these private bonds deserves to not get their money back. Let them own a building.

    There is still a potential for an injunction against the City.

    July 26, 2012
  138. kiffi summa said:

    The Council has a special work session this afternoon, from 4-5pm.

    On their schedule for reviewing the financing process, today, August 2, was noted as the day for reviewing the RFPs that were soliciting the purchase of Certificates of Participation, which would finance the new safety center.

    But one of the Council candidates said he was told this meeting was about the new city website… so who’s reviewing the RFPs? Will the Staff or the Council do that?
    I imagine the staff will do it, and bring a recommendation to the Council for a vote, at next Tuesday’s meeting.

    August 2, 2012
  139. David Ludescher said:


    Any news on the work session and the Mini-Taj?

    August 2, 2012
  140. kiffi summa said:

    I was not there , but it appears that the subject was the new website, and only a very few of the Councilors were there…

    Questions still open about the process for reviewing the RFPs……..

    August 2, 2012
  141. David DeLong said:

    Your answer arrived late Friday afternoon August 24th. A special meeting has been called for 8/28/2012. The Certificate of Participation financing method for the proposed new police building has been all wrapped up in 551 pages of gobbledygook. Never in all my years of doing or observing city business have I seen so much paper work for a transaction.

    The Council took no action in reviewing or choosing the Preferred Bank/Underwriter. Yet one has been selected. The Council requested certain items be included, but apparently during the 3 weeks of negotiating and four different drafts, someone decided they were not needed. No public information or Council action for those 3 weeks yet a final package is presented for approval. Wow. There will be discussion at the Council meeting, but only on a decision that was reached for them, not on a decision reached by them. Is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog?

    Don’t worry be happy, someone has got this all figured out for us. This gets it done. It just happens to be the most complicated, most expensive way to do it. Heck someone even decided the Council shouldn’t take the proposal with the lowest interest rate.

    I realize the desire to do something before the end of the term is a need for some Councilors, but what would happen if some members of the Council finally reached the tipping point and said, Is this really the best way to do this? Is this really in the best interests of the City in the long run?

    Would the world end? No. Would the need go away? No. Would the Project die? No.

    Is there a better way to do this? Yes. Would interest rates be lower with a different financing method? Yes.

    August 25, 2012
  142. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t know how any councilor can know what is contained in the 551 pages. I have a copy of it, and am trying to read it, because it is long, involved, intricate, and confusing. And how can you vote on it if you don’t know what it says? To complicate matters, the interest rate won’t even be known until that afternoon! I don’t know how the rates can be competitive when there is only one, unknown offer.

    To further confuse things, the Attorney General’s Office has determined, in multiple opinions, that this type of financing is subject to a bond referendum. And, I am of the legal opinion that this bonding is subject to a reverse referendum.

    Of course, all of this ignores how poorly conceived the whole project is, or the fact that we are trying to finance a building that doesn’t exist, and we still don’t have a plan for the fire department.

    Just put the thing to a VOTE. Since when did voting become a bad thing?

    August 25, 2012
  143. kiffi summa said:

    David Delong: WOW, is right! You said: “There will be discussion at the Council meeting, but only on a decision that was reached for them, not on a decision reached by them.” (emphasis mine)

    If this is the case, I find it too sad to contemplate the outcome… Don’t these Councilors realize that with the broad unrest in the economic world, and the insecure feeling that creates in everyone, that if they keep defending the status quo as workable,or more importantly reasonable, some of them MAY lose their seats?
    And then we will have , IMO, a reactionary less competent overall presence in the council, and it will take another 2-4 years to react back the other way.
    Reactionary government is not good.

    If it is as you say, I do not understand why those that are elected to govern let others make these big financial decisions for them?
    Haven’t we just heard several of them say “We were elected to make the hard decisions, and we feel comfortable doing that”?

    At one point there was an early August date in the financing timeline for the Council to review the RFPs, but that date came and went without a public review. And now you are saying that the packet says ???, if not the Council, what staff ??? has made those decisions?

    Has the Council abdicated their role in this responsibility, or will they re-assume that role on Tuesday at the special meeting?
    Will they tell the ??? who made the decisions, sorry, these are decisions for the Council to make?

    Why has this process gotten to where it has without their decision making involvement?

    August 25, 2012
  144. […] of documents is quite straightforward, so don’t let the size (or the legalese) overwhelm you (nor the handwaving on Locally Grown).  The documents itemize the parts of the deal and allocate risks.  To repeat – the documents […]

    August 27, 2012
  145. kiffi summa said:

    I hope everyone who is interested in the outcome of the Safety center process will look at Councilor Buckheit’s most recent blog post which is an explanatory outline of the documents the Council will be dealing with tomorrow night at their meeting.

    Just go to the left hand column here on LG, under BB’s blog, and click on Safety Center financing-big update.

    Aside from the left handed swipe at anyone who has expressed concerns about the process here on LG, it is a very helpful piece of work… and it was a lot of work to produce… and I thank her for that.

    I do find it difficult to accept that there is not a single question for Councilor Buckheit to ask, but maybe she just doesn’t want to do it there on her blog.

    Take a look , if you want a “cliff note’ to the process…

    August 27, 2012
  146. David Ludescher said:


    Although the material is helpful for understanding the documents, it is not very helpful for determining whether it is legal or is subject to reverse referendum. There are no references to specific instances of the same “creative financing”, no references to Attorney General opinions which limit a City’s authority, no references to court cases, and only a vague reference to the supposed statutory authority.

    August 27, 2012
  147. kiffi summa said:

    David: Isn’t it a little late to be asking if it is legal considering all the bond counsels and law firms involved?
    I don’t imagine that they think it will enhance their businesses to be engaging in illegal activities; I think you are grasping at straws…

    The only way this will not go forward, IMO, is that if enough councilors have doubts about the wisdom of this process… Considering the statements they have already made, I consider that to be unlikely.

    August 27, 2012
  148. David Ludescher said:



    August 27, 2012
  149. David DeLong said:

    Cliff note yes – details no. It mentions the RFP but I have yet to see or have anyone address why the one with the lowest interest wasn’t chosen. We know the consultant and underwriting fee (upwards of 100,00) but nobody explains why US Bank’s fee is only 2 thousand. They are looking at five years of paper shuffling for two thousnd dollars? What and where are the real fees. The interest rate on this bond is projected to be around 3%. Northfield’s last GO bond was under 1%. Where is the bottom line ? What are the real costs and oh by the way this cost starts coming on top of the budget being considered for next year.

    August 27, 2012
  150. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: the meetings have been on Tuesday for a long time now, so it will be tonight.

    As to the NFNews coverage, haven’t seen anything from Jackie Pavek for several weeks… is she still there?

    LWV observer has been out of town since early in July ;I don’t know about coverage for tonight…

    August 28, 2012
  151. Griff Wigley said:

    Well duh! My bad. Apologies to all media empires. I thought today was Wednesday. Time for a sabbatical, I guess.

    August 28, 2012
  152. kiffi summa said:

    There are so many simple questions that need to be answered for the public; if the Council does not ask questions, they either have legal expertise, as does Councilor Buckheit, or they are just fully trusting the other parties involved.

    For instance: It has been stated that this is the most expensive financing method and I believe the costs start as soon as the certificates are sold and the $$ deposited n the City’s construction fund.
    BUT … the building has not yet been designed, and if actual construction does not begin until next spring (which is a tossup from what the architect said) then there is money being paid on non-use time.

    A way to think about this is : if you get a construction loan to build a house, you would not take the loan until you were ready to start, because you would not want to be paying on your loan while the architect was at his desk.

    It’s now too late for questions if the Council approves this tonight, but the first and foremost question will always remain: ??? Why was the Council absolutely against going to a referendum for an expenditure this large in such an unstable economic time ???

    They have repeatedly said they were elected to make the hard decisions; but they were also elected to represent the people.
    They say their constituents want it done; I have heard constant caution expressed at the open mic… for years … and if there have been open mic comments about just get it done, they have certainly been in the minority .

    And speaking of “minority”, after the much acclaimed citizen Task Force process, Ray Cox and Jerry Anderson wrote a ‘minority report’ which was throughly demeaned and rejected by the Mayor and Council.
    Then the Mayor appoints Ray to the EDA, which is definitely a good thing, but curious given the reaction to the “minority report”.

    This was going to be ‘push-through’, by the Mayor and Council from the beginning; that was obvious.
    But the reasons and rationales have changed so often, that it is now almost impossible to talk about them in a logical pattern.

    My first question was, and last question will always be: Why did this Council refuse to take this to a public vote ???

    August 28, 2012
  153. David Ludescher said:


    Let’s just hope the Council has enough sense to delay the vote for 2 weeks until they have had time to read and digest the material.

    August 28, 2012
  154. David Ludescher said:

    Update – By a 5-1 vote, the Council voted to go forward with bonding to pay for a new USBank building.

    August 29, 2012
  155. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News reporter Kaitlyn Walsh has a lengthy article on last night’s council vote: Northfield City Council approves public safety center bonding

    Calling it “necessary” and “essential” to move forward, the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve $6.28 million in lease-purchase financing for a new public safety center. Councilor Rhonda Pownell was the lone dissenting vote. Councilor Suzie Nakasian was absent.

    KYMN has a blog post of the archived video of the meeting here.

    August 29, 2012
  156. Griff Wigley said:

    For those of you at the Council meeting last night, what’s your reaction to the reporting by Nfld News reporter Kaitlyn Walsh?

    FYI, it may not be her fault that her report of what happened at the meeting got pasted on top of the article previewing the meeting. Note in the middle of the article:

    The Northfield City Council will meet tonight to approve a $6.2 million bond for the new Northfield Public Safety Center. The City Council is looking to replace the current Northfield Safety Center, which includes the police and fire departments, build a new facility for the police and refurbish the current building for the fire department.

    August 29, 2012
  157. David Ludescher said:


    Are you asking if the reporting is accurate? If you are, it might be helpful to cut and paste what is the story.

    August 29, 2012
  158. Jane McWilliams said:

    Kaitlyn’s report is accurate as far as it goes. It was posted soon after the meeting, and no doubt neither she nor Jaci who was also there realized that it got pasted as part of the earlier article.

    To paste in haste makes waste! I know from experience!

    August 29, 2012
  159. Griff Wigley said:

    My bad. Those Nfld News links were broken. Now fixed.

    August 29, 2012
  160. David Ludescher said:


    I don’t think the article did justice to how little discussion and inquiry was made by the councilors on the substance of the matter.

    Pownell did most of the questioning. The councilors voting in favor of the project probably spent more time complaining (whining) about the open mike comments than they did discussing the merits of the 551 pages of documents. The councilors spend a lot of time applauding the consultants, staff, and themselves for putting together this type of financing.

    The article also failed to mention that neither the consultants nor the staff have ever done one of these projects nor were any of them familiar with other cities which have done it.

    The article also implied that this was campaign stumping. There were two other open mike speakers not running.

    Another aspect missing from the article is the how many councilors said disparaging (and bullying?) comments about the candidates who are considering of non-appropriation in the future. Imms’s comments were especially inappropriate given that is he an unelected and lame duck councilor.

    August 29, 2012
  161. David, you are mistaken. Kathleen McBride has not previously done a deal with certificates of participation and the underwriter / private placement process. She has done multiple lease purchase deals including Northfield’s pool EDA lease revenue bonds and others at previous positions. Mark Ruff of Ehlers and Associates and Jenny Boulton of Kennedy & Graven both have extensive experience with this type of financing. What none of them have experience managing is a default by a city for a Council’s failure to appropriate funds to pay lease revenue debt. I would be concerned if they had clients they had advised on lease revenue financings who had defaulted.

    LoGro readers may disagree passionately with the financing vehicle the City selected and hold well-articulated positions on why G.O. bonds requiring an election before issuance would have been a better choice.

    However, that fundamental disagreement about how the system should work is distinct from whether the Council did a good job with the method we did in fact select. Our advisors are excellent, experienced and esteemed in this particular field; Kathleen McBride is also experienced and professional and carried out the Council’s direction flawlessly.

    Debate the Council’s choices, criticize the decisions, pose better alternatives – but get the facts right and blame the right people.

    August 29, 2012
  162. David Ludescher said:


    I wouldn’t have an objection to a lease-purchase agreement so long as the lease is confined to the one year period required by statute. Then, if the City does not pay the lease, there is no default. But, the Council has backed subsequent councils into a very difficult position.

    This Council knew and knows that there is a real chance of default by a subsequent council. Prudence dictated that this council explore what Ehlers/Ruff or other financial advisers would do if this happens. Not only did he not address it, he doesn’t have any experience in how to handle it. Moreover, I did not see anywhere in the 551 pages why a failure to pay lease payments would affect the City’s credit rating. These bonds are not backed by any faith or credit of the City.

    I would agree that the consultants and staff did exactly what the Council told them to do. And, that is the problem. It is unfortunate that the Council did not give its experts latitude to be honest about all aspects of the project, or to at lease address the critics’ concerns.

    August 29, 2012
  163. kiffi summa said:

    1. If the Council has sooooooooo many constituents telling them to proceed, as several stated last night “100s” of constituents, then it is a mystery why they did not have faith in passing a public vote on the new SC, as proposed.
    They have never answered that question, only professed to have confidence in “making the hard decision” on their own…
    What has happened to representative gov’t in NF?

    2. more on representative gov’t : the enabling statute for this type of financing, I believe without looking it up it is 465.71, says and this was quoted in the staff report “no election is required”… meaning council can pass without going to a public vote.
    and although the Council is informed that no election (referendum) is required, the public is not informed of any remedies they may have.
    The Packet, and Ms McBride verbally, stated that Mark Ruff (Ehlers) and Jenny Boulton (Kennedy and Graven, bond counsel) were “present in order to answer Councilor’s and the public’s questions”.
    I have never in recent memory seen a situation where the public was allowed to ask questions of the professionals involved.
    The Mayor did say she hoped the Councilors would pursue any of the public’s questions that also concerned them… didn’t happen.

    3. Councilor Pownell came with several questions (5?) ands those focussed primarily on formerly expressed concerns, as I recall.
    Councilor Zweifel asked 2 questions which seemed to be aimed at reinforcing packet statements; I don’t recall them being concerns of open mic speakers.
    The rest of the Councilors present seemed content with the information presented by their professional advisors( and I am not saying that is necessarily wrong; but Ms Buckheit is most likely the only one of those proficient in the ‘legalese’)…

    But unfortunately Councilor Imm made a very punitive statement criticizing open mic speakers, as if they had no right to disagree strongly or be very disappointed in their elected representatives, and several others of the Council followed suit. I must say this is , I think, the 3rd time this councilor has seen fit to disallow the propriety of open mic disagreement, which may even be vehement disagreement, with some Council policy, and has felt the need to strongly reprove the dissenters.
    So … ironic that those who ‘disapprove’ are disapproved of and publicly rebuked for expressing their opinion. Such is the ‘power’ of having the last word.

    And to reply to Councilor Buckheit’s comment in #65:
    All in all it matters not if the method pursued was pursued well by the staff and consultants; I would expect no less from Ms. McBride and Mr. Ruff….But pursuing a costly path to avoid a public vote on a very large project is not to be commended for how well the ‘incorrect’ path ,IMO, was pursued.

    In the end , this is all about how ‘representative governance’ is enacted in this town, with this Council.

    I must again ask: If there was such strong overwhelming support from their constituents, why did this Council , months ago, not go the simpler , less expensive route of either GO , or CIP bonds, avoiding all the wasted time, higher interest, manipulation and public criticism.
    Why, why, why?

    August 29, 2012
  164. David DeLong said:

    I know a Locally Grown reader will correct my math but I think this is accurate.

    The interest cost on the Northfield bonds sold last night was 2.85 not 2.085 as stated in the article.

    Fergus Falls sold their bonds August 6th 2012. Interest rates have not fluctuated much in that period of time. The actual amount of the bond was 5.8 million but since Northfield’s bond did not include the cost of the site, I subtracted the cost of site acquisition (1.1 million it will be located downtown) to reach the 4.7 million Fergus Falls bond cost figure.

    Over the next 20 years Northfield citizens will pay 6.28 million in principle and 2.12 million in interest.

    If I did my math right the difference in interest rates is approximately 37% . If Northfield would have gone with a GO bond (General Obligation) instead of the lease revenue as it did the City would have saved over 800,000 in interest.

    The Fergus Falls Police station is 23,000 square feet, 4.7 million cost.
    The Northfield Police station is 26,000 square feet, 6.2 million cost.

    That’s a difference 1.5 million.

    Northfield is paying one and a half million dollars more than Fergus Falls for 3,000 extra square feet.

    The outline of a tennis court doubles playing area is 2,800 square feet.


    August 29, 2012
  165. kiffi summa said:

    Well, David, the only reply to that is to once again ask… and hope for an answer… IF the Council was so positive they they were representing their constituents, why did they not vote, months ago, to go the simpler, less expensive route of either GO or CIP bonds ???


    August 29, 2012
  166. David DeLong said:

    I forgot to state the interest rate on Fergus Falls bond 2.08

    August 29, 2012
  167. Tracy Davis said:

    Color me confused.

    I have a lot of questions, and maybe this isn’t the best one to start with, but there are at least two people here (David L, Ray) who may be able to answer it. As I reviewed some of the safety center documentation, I noticed this in the original recommendation of the Task Force in 2009:

    Having reviewed the data presented by City Finance staff and the City’s Bond Council, the Taskforce recommends the City Council consider the following options for financing:

    a. Voter approval through a referendum of the sale of $10.4 million in General Obligation Bonds.

    b. City Council approval of the sale of $10.4 million in Capital Improvement Bonds, subject to a reverse referendum.

    If the original task force had no issue with *not* putting the question before the voters, why is Council action (subject to reverse referendum) not okay now?

    August 29, 2012
  168. David Ludescher said:


    I think you have it backwards. The original recommendation called for a vote – either directly or by a reverse referendum. Both the HRA method and this method (if legal) are immune from a vote.

    The packet prepared for the Council is claiming that these bonds are issued under Minn. Stat. 465.71 (leasing statute). If that were true, (which in my opinion is not true) then this bonding would not be subject to reverse referendum.

    We should remember that the “task force” was appointed by the Mayor, had a majority consisting of City employees or officials, and it had and has no authority over bonding decisions. Bonding decisions are decided by state law and City charter. Under state law, a lease cannot obligate a City for more than one year without having the obligation be subject to a vote.

    August 29, 2012
  169. David Ludescher said:


    I would like to take you up on your challenge to debate.

    How is the “financing method” chosen by the Council better for the City than general obligation bonds?

    August 30, 2012
  170. Tracy Davis said:

    Well, I don’t think that a recommendation to use CIP bonds can be considered “calling for a vote”, but I understand your point. Is your main objection to the police station that

    1) There is no real need
    2) It’s too expensive
    3) It’s being done the “wrong” way
    4) ???

    August 30, 2012
  171. David Ludescher said:


    1. There is a need for more space for police and fire. But, I don’t think we need to double the space. And, as long as we are just renting space, why don’t we rent from some local businesses who have extra space? It would give the police and fire more space, would be cheaper, and would help local businesses.

    2. It is WAY too expensive. The building is too big and the cost per square foot is too high. If Ray Cox’s plan would have been followed, we could have built a fire barn at significantly less cost per square foot, and have remodeled the Safety Center all for less than we are paying for just a police station.

    3. It’s the “wrong” way for two reasons. First, the voters don’t get to vote. In the (Council’s) worst case scenario, the Council puts the vote to the voters and the voters turn it down. So what? Put another (scaled down) version on the ballot the next year. We already have a police station. There is no pressing need to do something. We have been kicking this around for 3 years. It’s not like the Vikings; the police aren’t going to run away.

    4. It’s also the wrong way because we will be RENTING a building at a cost greater than OWNING and at a greater risk to the City. USBank will own the building. Do you trust USBank? Does anyone really understand what these agreements say?

    5. It does nothing to solve the Fire Department’s problems. They don’t have enough space and they have old equipment. They still have both. And the police department, which suffers from no immediate space nor equipment issues gets what they want. Are we going to fight crime with the building?

    6. This City Council is hamstringing subsequent councils, including signing agreements that, if broken, will cause severe credit issues for the City. It is locking the next Council into a $7.2 million dollar commitment before we have anything to show for it. If we are going to lease, the City should not be punished for not leasing beyond the 1 year statutory period.

    7. The City is taking $1.0 million from other funds with no plan to replenish those funds. For example, money is coming out of the technology fund. What if we have technology needs? Are we going to borrow money or go without? And, raiding one fund to pay for something else is bad discipline. Period.

    8. There is no provision for payment on the extra operating and maintenance costs of the new building. It has be heated, cleaned, and depreciation costs. The depreciation costs alone are at least $150,000.00 per year. We have essentially doubled our operating costs.

    Those are my main concerns.

    August 30, 2012
  172. Tracy Davis said:

    Very helpful, Dave, thank you. There are so many layers to this issue, and it’s gone on so long, that parsing it is a real challenge. Pardon the mixed grammatical-onion metaphors.

    August 30, 2012
  173. David Ludescher said:


    You are welcome. The irony is that a citizen vote is a simple yes/no process. The voters would sort out the merits of the issue.

    August 30, 2012
  174. kiffi summa said:

    The irony , as I see it, is that 5 people made a decision that 5000 should have made … because the 5 didn’t have the fortitude to trust the voters who elected them.

    August 31, 2012
  175. Tracy Davis said:

    Dave and Kiffi, how would the voters be informed enough to decide whether a facility was needed, and what it should cost?

    August 31, 2012
  176. David Ludescher said:


    2 answers: 1) It is the voters’ money; they get to decide what is needed 2) You seem to assume that this Council knows what it is doing.

    August 31, 2012
  177. kiffi summa said:

    OMG, Tracy… OMG!
    I am reduced to teenaged texting language, by your query…

    Are you advocating ‘subject specific voting literacy’ ? 🙂

    Well, guess you’ll be asking for a list, so here goes:
    1. the at least 40-50 city council meetings on this subject over the last 4-5 years.
    2. the tons of dead trees converted into reports, analyses, drawings, letters, staff reports, Task Force reports, MINORITY task force reports, open mic comments with statistics and facts.
    3. the numerous and frequently offered tours of the current facility, complete with maps ,drawings and one-on-one conversation with personnel, on site.
    4. the numerous NFNews articles, although often without statistics and facts.
    5. The memos, letters from the Fire Chief to the city, Council, or whoever might listen to the Fire Chief as opposed to the ‘Director of Public Safety’
    6. The several various brochures written by a public relations person hired by the city to explain the facts the City wanted you to pay attention to
    7. any of the volunteer firemen you might happen to know and have met on the street (most of us avoid getting involved with the police unless they ‘get involved with the police’)

    I could keep going on, but I’m sure you get the point: there’s been a ton, or two, of info over the preceding years; let me add just one more:
    8. Any/All of the Councilors who did not find satisfaction with either the process, price, plans, or location until the last few months, when there seems to have been an abundance of ‘kool-ade’ floating around.

    Sorry if I sound flip; can’t bring myself to sound any other way at this time; we’ll have a HUGE new police station, with training space for the firemen which they say they won’t/cannot use, a cost per square foot to satisfy the elevated standards of NF, as the Mayor feels is necessary, and the firemen… who seemed to have the most immediate safety needs … will have : what amount of $$ ?, coming from where ?, to reconfigure the supposedly “unusable” current building, and so on and on and on.

    I’m sure, Tracy, that you were just too immersed with the travails of the LDC the last several years to follow this, if you are asking the questions you’re asking …

    August 31, 2012
  178. Tracy Davis said:

    Kiffi, by now you should be familiar enough with my M.O. to know that I often express opinions that are not my own, and sometimes ask questions not because *I* want to know “the answer”, but because I want to know the opinion of others (and, sometimes, to see how the question gets answered! 🙂

    August 31, 2012
  179. David Ludescher said:


    Let’s turn the question around. How do you know that the Council is well-informed about whether a facility is needed and at what cost? As far as I can tell, none of the 551 pages address the concerns that I (and others) have raised.

    Here is one example – (from Garwood-DeLong) Did you know that the interest rate on this type of financing is almost 1% higher than GO bonds? There was no such comparison in the packet. And, during her presentation, Finance Director McBride compared the proposed interest rate to home loan interest rates. (?!) Did you know that Fergus Falls just built a facility almost the same size for about 2/3 rds the price?

    This is the the kind of information that comes out when there is a public vote, and the kind of information that is hidden/not mentioned when critics are silenced.

    August 31, 2012
  180. victor summa said:

    Tracy – first I have a lot of reaction to you comment in 68 – and I may get around later to fleshing those out in another longer.

    I know … can’t wait.

    For now, it seems to me (RE 69.2) you’re either (as you said) confused ( what’s that color?) or naive.

    Let’s go with naive – (or at least conflict avoidance) as that seems to be a characteristic of your most recent 69.2 comment.

    So, may I pose a little exercise – no physical activity required – merely some thought.

    Lets assume you run for council and are elected. Does that election give you greater insight into decision making or merely a greater responsibility, than if you were defeated by some marred bogus thinking of the voters?

    But if rejected at the ballot box … your opponent prevailing, does that makes his/her decision necessarily better for the community’s greater good, than your’s might have been.  And more to this point, should you be silent on the issue?

    Moot question maybe.  For sure, in the case of sidewalk cracks, snow removal, tree trimming etc, and regardless of principles and all that good stuff, maybe their intuitive position when balanced against 6 other thoughtful public servants, is good enough, and the wheels of government keep on rolling. 

    But, I hope you would agree, issues do not have to be super big or super complex … here in Northfield to get a fight.

    Let’s not go there with this issue. It is a big one, having two principle horns. Those being cost of the project – and the method used by the elected officials and their staff (include consultants) in this decision. 

    For me, number two is preeminent!

    In this current dialogue, follows then this question: is Betsey (read Erica, Patrick, Ivan, Rhonda, Suzie [she still there?] or Mary any better equipped to make these decision than Ludescher – you … or in-fact me … simply because they received a larger vote in the last election than did the opponent? 

     If you feel the answer is yes, then you should never find it necessary to lament or challenge any elected persons decision and I guess that means you supported the war in Iraq.

    Back to the local small pond … I believe, like me (had I voted in the last Second Ward race) most people who did were looking at personality differences — in the two candidates, and they voted for the person they felt would bring the most to the table .. on their behalf.

    Does that supersede the voter’s choice on very big issues?
    Does your election or mine or David’s or in fact Betsey’s really give them greater information to make decision than all the others who are the subjects of their representation?

    My mantra in this “representative government” banner these councilors are constantly invoking, is …  they misunderstand the role of the elected official in our (especially Northfield today) small local environment as opposed to the ideals of the US congress.

    Hard decisions? Silly thought.

    No way is the form or government in Northfield truly a smaller version of the federal process. 

    I think you addressed that question conceptually in your recent Think Twice radio show which you shared with Ross and Griff. There, you cited our Charter and what it really mandates and … maybe what it should, for better government in Northfield. That’s what I heard, at least.  And frankly. that’s what I’m mostly about – except for sporting events.

    May I venture an ANALOGY?   a pebble tossed in the ocean off the coast of Japan would hardly result in the tragic consequences of the earthquake. Here in Northfield comparatively a puddle (muddle?) to all that is Japan … the same tossed pebble causes ripples that serge through the community.

    This matter (the safety center) in spite of all the rhetoric and snide shots by the Council back-and forth at each other … and direct pleas to the council by citizens, has not been well vetted or thought out by those elected. 

    Elected to make the hard decisions?

    NOPE!!! Elected to represent the voters.  

    Representation. How do they mange that? 

    They provide clear information (justification) on how the voters might evaluate or accept their decisions … or in matters of this magnitude, might cast a ballot on a referendum.  This latter being the only honorable path to take.

    I said Information … of which there has been a pathetic plethora!

    Information, which in this four year series of confounding discussions, has never come forward in unbiased form and on which there has never been a sense of movement by the Council … that is until the election appeared on the horizon.

    That’s why the vote needs to be taken and the information campaign needs to be vetted thoroughly and, be sincerely honest, bereft of shallow parental rhetoric.

    August 31, 2012
  181. David DeLong said:

    I made a mistake in my math in post 67.1.

    I admit I was in a hurry but that’s no excuse. My bad. I like to check my work especially when I’m not pressed for time. I have now taken the time and luckily I have the ability to self-correct when I do make a mistake and believe me when I say I’m not perfect. Make a mistake correct it, learn from it and try again.

    I should not have subtracted the 1.1 million for the site acquisition cost from the Fergus Falls bond amount.

    Their 5.9 million bond issue covered everything. Site acquisition, architect and design fees, financing and legal fees, construction bid and contingency fee, all were included. They used CIP bonds. Because of the education efforts put forth there was no reverse referendum.

    The Fergus Falls bond sale was approved by that Council Aug. 6th 2012. Northfield approved the sale of 6.28 million on Aug.28 2012
    Fergus Falls bonds were rated by Moody’s as Aa3 which is equal to Northfields rating of AA- by Standard and Poor’s.

    Similar amounts, similar rating, similar time.
    NF – 2.85%
    FF – 2.08%
    This means the Northfield Council just approved spending 77% more in interest than they needed to.

    I’ve done the math again, a couple different ways and I came up with approximately 500,000 thousand not 800,000. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t need egg on my face and at $1.49 a dozen I could buy 4 million 26 thousand eggs for what the council over paid on interest.

    September 1, 2012
  182. David Ludescher said:


    The interest calculations are deceiving because Northfield is taking $1.0 million from other funds to make a down payment. Thus the additional expenses are $500,000 in interest, $300,000 in additional principal, and $1,000,000 additional money to buy the property making it $1.8 million more expensive than Fergus Falls. If GO bonds were used, the savings would have been even greater.

    September 1, 2012
  183. victor summa said:

    Lets get this back to the essential conflict … accountability. All this arithmetic gives me a headache.

    Tracy – (no pun .. but) tracing numbers of past comments tends to overwhelm me so forgive me if I don’t get them right … but in 68 you opened up an important dialogue … essentially asking writers to weigh in on the question …

    (paraphrased here) if the task force had no issue with not putting the question to the voters – why the concern now?

    You got some responses but otherwise I believe the dialogue has died with no resolve. Seems we’re taking a page out of the Council’s note book.

    Looking at the possibility of resuscitation, I’m at a loss as how you came up with that question when you’re quoting the Taskforces’s recommendation.

    The TF recommends: (item b, your quote –

    b. City Council approval of the sale of $10.4 million in Capital Improvement Bonds, subject to a reverse referendum.

    Subject to a reverse referendum!

    That’s really all we want, our statutory right to petition for a reverse of the council’s decision.

    They call “it” Making the Hard decision” – I see “it” as abrogating their primary role, representation of the public opinion. The hard part seems to be what they are too lazy to pursue. After all they’ve worked for years to get to this point!

    What of the citizen’s voices thus far? One might assume from your remarks in 68, that you’re puzzled over the recent concern voiced at the Open Mic and elsewhere with the Council’s action, which obviously by their admission, are meant to keep the question from the voters.
    Is that true? Is that your issue?

    Had you been watching you would have heard similar concerns voiced for all these years of pointless council dialogue.

    Well that is an issue with most who all along have expressed their concerns.
    Actually in fact, there’s two.

    ONE: Dollars (read that as scope – still undefined but with a 7.28 million dollar budget. Mind you that’s only for one of two facilities.
    TWO: Denying citizen’s their right to vote. And of course, as you point out, voting with information. Whose responsibility is that? To provide the information/background, for the vote?

    But in a reply to Kiffi and David L you ask – how would the voters be informed to cast a vote (again paraphrased)

    Is that reason to deny?

    Like, well they really don’t know … and they really don’t care and … and, well we’re they ones they gave the hard decisions to. So… we’ll make it Not to worry.

    Kiffi it seems found that statement (yours, not mine) incredulous and responded In her 69.2.1 … ? but then went further to explain the litany of reports, investigations and council dialogue that has led to nothing. Nothing, that is, until the election looms and they decide to bypass the voter and ask the HRA for its support.

    This support, had it materialized, would have given a citizen’s group petition rights to seek a reverse. In spite of the improprieties of that part of the process … that was likely a slam dunk – not the out come of the vote, but the signatures necessary to take it to a vote.

    Evidently disturbed by that potential – and hearing (fearing?) the continued attack on their (the council’s) maneuvers, they bolted from the unreasonable to the outrageous. That’s called Certificates of Lease to Purchase (COP) – a process that many feel is not allowed by any statute – any prudent thinking here sees it as only as good as far as they can get get it to go.

    How far is that? Unfortunately, unless challenged they can ride that swaybacked pony all the way to the finish line.

    Is there hope?

    Public knowledge coming from public discourse is one hope to stop that merry-go-round. And that’s were I’m coming from now, because it seems you opened a dialogue that wasn’t getting the kind of traction you wanted, so now you’ve back away. That’s too bad for information flow.
    Is “backed away” too strong? Well correct me if I’m overstating here.

    How do I come to this conclusion? In your response to Kiffi’s 69.2.2 , you kick the can you opened down the road with a few Tracyisms: [sic] I often express opinions not my own – for the sake of stirring the pot – looking for other’s opinions. (Really loosely paraphrased – but you get the drift, right?)

    So now, we’re at my portal in this storm … What of the Council’s action (I find it devious) that seems to shoot the pubic right off the stump of public opinion.

    I believe the collective perspective of all responses to your first comment – including mine in 70 deserves better from you than basically: I was just prodding the sleepy voters. Since all I hear are slumbering noises, I’ll let it go.

    May I suggest you think twice about letting this can of worms drop? 😎

    (how do you do a smily face?)

    September 3, 2012
  184. David Ludescher said:


    I share your frustration with the fact that proponents of the Council’s actions, including Betsey have not come forward for a public debate. The Council was quite critical of its critics. Some council members indicated that “everyone they talked to” were in favor of this proposal.

    September 4, 2012
  185. Griff Wigley said:

    A closed City Council mtg is scheduled prior to next week’s Work Session:

    Motion to close meeting pursuant to MS 13D.05, Subd. 3(b), as permitted by the attorney-client privilege. The council will meet with legal counsel to discuss pending/threatened litigation related to police facility financing and the adoption of Resolution 2012-076.

    David L, is this you they’re talking about?

    September 8, 2012
  186. David Ludescher said:


    I heard about a closed meeting, but haven’t got my invitation yet.

    September 8, 2012
  187. victor summa said:

    Oh David – you’ll not likely get an invite either. And judging on the lack of media coverage of this planned event, most citizens who also are not welcome – well not even know about it!

    Others, beside you who have legal degrees but also have open accounts with the City will likely attend and send along a bill. These be Ehlers’ advisors and reps from Kennedy & Graven. A diagram of this municipal government might look like an upside down pyramid … all spread out on the top with paid voices, narrowing down to a precious few elected – This is truly the September song.

    My understanding is Mr. Hood got wind of a possible legal step to slow this juggernaut. He called the City Admin and they (well the Mayor) called a Special Meeting.

    A real coup would be to serve papers at the meeting. Hmm?

    September 8, 2012
  188. David Ludescher said:


    The lack of media coverage surprises me. You would think that taking away the people’s right to vote would get more coverage.

    September 9, 2012
  189. David Ludescher said:

    Griff and all,

    I don’t think this meeting can be legally closed. I am not aware of any pending litigation. My threatened litigation would address whether the Council exceeded its powers under state law by issuing bonds that are not subject to voter approval or a voter referendum.

    This question is a public matter which was pooh-poohed at the August 28th meeting. Furthermore, I am considering making the city a plaintiff in any lawsuit, because the city (and its people) which will suffer the consequences of any illegal councilor action.

    Maybe one of you media types should check into this further.

    September 11, 2012
  190. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News article posted about 30 minutes ago: Northfield City Council will defend itself in threatened lawsuit

    In a closed session Tuesday night, the Northfield City Council authorized City Attorney Chris Hood to defend the city in any lawsuits regarding the public safety center financing that was approved Aug. 28. It was a direct result from a threat made by David Ludescher, Northfield attorney and city council candidate, to sue the city for approving $6.28 million in lease-purchase financing to build a new police facility and renovate the current safety center for the fire department.

    September 11, 2012
  191. David DeLong said:

    “and renovate the current safety center for the fire deparment”

    When did Council pass that resolution? Is this spin,misquote, or wishful thinking?
    As for the Council authorizing The City Attorney to defend the City, isn’t that his job? They have to tell him to do his job? Did they try to get the League of Minnesota Cities to do it? Did they said no, and Chris Hood is our fall back guy? I don’t understand this Council.

    September 12, 2012
  192. David Ludescher said:

    Just so it is clear to the reading audience: I have not threatened to sue the City of Northfield. My complaint is against the councilors who voted in favor of certain contracts. I am of the opinion that there is no statutory grant of power to the city council such that the councilors can bind the City of Northfield to the contracts of which they have authorized execution.

    Instead of circling the wagons, I would like to suggest an alternative: LET US VOTE!

    September 12, 2012
  193. David Ludescher said:


    There are some new developments from the disenfranchised voters.

    September 13, 2012
  194. Kathie Galotti said:

    Do tell.

    September 13, 2012
  195. David Ludescher said:


    The plan right now is to go through KYMN Radio.

    September 14, 2012
  196. David Ludescher said:


    A press release has been recorded. Listen to KYMN or check their website.

    September 14, 2012
  197. kiffi summa said:

    David: why don’t you print the content of the press release here on LG?

    I subscribe to a daily news update from KYMN, and didn’t get it there, nor could I find it on their website in either the home page news, or the news section.

    September 14, 2012
  198. Matthew Rich said:

    The press release, in audio form, is available on the KYMN site here.

    September 14, 2012
  199. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m at a coffeehouse without headphones and can’t play the audio, David. A transcribed version would definitely be a discussion-friendly thing to have.

    September 15, 2012
  200. David Ludescher said:


    The gist of the release is that we are temporarily suspending the lawsuit so that the councilors can talk freely. After thinking about the lawsuit and discussing it amongst ourselves, we decided that we could always sue later if we had to.

    We have an election coming up. We want the councilors to be able to freely say why they have taken away the rights of the voters.

    We also wanted to warn potential investors and USBank that they are buying and selling these investments at their own risk. If the Council’s decision is reversed for any reason – by this Council, by petition, by a future City Council, or by a judge – we don’t want investors to say that they weren’t warned of the dangers of this creative financing.

    We don’t want the citizens of Northfield to have to foot the bill if a later decision is that this Council did not have the power they think they have.

    September 15, 2012
  201. kiffi summa said:

    OK… after many years of being a LWV Council observer, I must admit the ‘habit’ lingers on, and often creates questions in my mind about the Council process…

    I would agree that the closed meeting seemed a bit reactionary, but there was a lot of ‘saber rattling’ going on, but I am also curious about why the meeting took an hour; it is unusual, in my experience, for closed meetings to run over that much, especially on the subject of a yet un-filed lawsuit.

    I hope there was not additional un-announced discussion of the $25,000 payment to former City Administrator Al Roder, announced on the Consent Agenda ( ! ) for next Tuesday.
    It would be easy to sloppily slip into that discussion, and I find it difficult to believe that everyone is just fine with that payment.
    (I also find it difficult to believe the newspaper has been silent on this payment issue.)

    No matter which side anyone might be on in the “Goodhue Matter”, as it has come to be known, it is not productive to make that payment yet … and for this, or these, reasons: Why was Mr. Roder granted immunity and from what?
    If Mr. Roder needed immunity to testify, it would imply that by his truthful testimony he would be incriminating himself in some manner , if he did not have the immunity.

    Therefor, one cannot assume that there is as yet a free and clear record which would require this payment of an additional $25, 000, to which the former councilors committed the citizens dollars, on top of the ??? of legal fees … the rate being objected to by our current City Attorney, Chris Hood, in a recent Council meeting when the last attorney fees bill for Mr. Roder was presented for payment.

    This issue has not even completed, after four years (!) the preliminary omnibus hearing process, much less come anywhere near to trial … so any definitive move, such as making this ‘all clear’ payment, would seem to be extremely premature.

    I would like to see this moved off the Consent Agenda and discussed, and I think it would be to the benefit of the councilors who are campaigning to do so.

    Sorry for the thread drift; it just seemed a logical progression…

    September 15, 2012
  202. David Ludescher said:

    For those who want to vote on whether the citizens should pay for USBank to build the USBank building (i.e. police station) a petition for calling a vote will again be on Bridge Square on Saturday and Sunday 10-2. I was told that 3 of the current City Council candidates have already signed the petition.

    September 19, 2012
  203. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I signed the petition last Saturday. But it doesn’t have any real clout, does it? It seems similar to the two straw polls that the Northfield News has run on their website in the past couple of months that have shown more opposition to the current financing plan than support.

    September 19, 2012
  204. David Ludescher said:


    It is my legal opinion that this financing method is subject to a reverse referendum. If Mr. Clack and the rest of us can gather the necessary 5% of the signatures, we can present the signatures to the council and, if necessary, to a judge to demand an election.

    The petition should also allow a future council to call for a special election on the financing. If the 5% is gathered and an election is held reversing this council, it should allow the City to get out of the financing without liability for costs.

    September 19, 2012
  205. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Strib South section: Northfield’s public safety building still under debate

    Northfield’s long-debated new public safety building continues to generate controversy as it lumbers through a complex and unusual financing plan toward design approval and construction. City Council candidates are lambasting incumbents who approved unusual lease-purchase financing that circumvents voter approval.

    Candidate David Ludescher, an attorney, has repeatedly threatened a lawsuit to get a referendum, but then put legal action on hold. Another resident is collecting signatures on a petition asking for a public vote on the $7.28 million center. But no voter referendum will happen, said Mayor Mary Rossing. She said bonds have been sold and the council this month voiced agreement on moving forward with design plans so bids can be let by early spring. “The train has left the station,” Rossing said.

    September 26, 2012
  206. kiffi summa said:

    Unfortunately, the Mayor is quoted in this article as saying: “we have done everything the people asked us to do”, and I think that is certainly a questionable statement…

    Over and over, public commenters at Council meetings (even a League of Women Voters Observer, and they don’t usually comment at meetings they are observing), residents of all persuasions, lawyers, constituents of various councilors,ward candidates, etc., etc., etc., have asked the Council to have a public referendum or at least use a form of bonding that would allow a public referendum to occur if enough petition signatures were gathered.

    The Council simply refused to do this, saying they felt confident of their decision. They also said that all they heard from their constituents was “get it done”… well, there are either a lot of disenfranchised constituents, or a lot of cases of selective deafness among the councilors.

    Confidence would have been shown by having a public vote on this process/expenditure and then being able to say to the opponents, OK, we had the vote you asked for, and you lost.

    Instead, the Council chose a way that did not allow for a public vote, and then the Mayor says “Sorry; the train has left the station”… That sort of ‘crowing’ is poor judgment, IMO; I hope that quote was taken out of context, and so became distorted.

    The naming of who is, or is not, the ‘poor sports’ will now fall to the Council’s chairs, because they refused to allow the ‘naysayers’ to be proved wrong, by an affirmative public vote for the new facility… The Council obviously did not feel secure in taking the chance of failure in the voting booth.

    September 26, 2012
  207. David Ludescher said:

    Griff and all,

    The Strib’s article was disappointing. It seems to reflect the new style of reporting, which is to simply quote what people are saying rather than asking any probing questions.

    I also found it interesting that the Council had a closed meeting to discuss the lawsuit that doesn’t yet exist, but the Mayor and staff are willing to talk to a Twin City reporter. Go figure!

    September 26, 2012
  208. kiffi summa said:

    After all these years since the Public Safety Center debacle hit the stage, does anyone remember that it was the extreme need for more space for the Fire Dept that was the primary concern originally ???
    Guided tours through the current facility all emphasizing the safety issues in the crowded fire barn.

    Now we have a Police facility at 7.28 M $$$ in the works and there is no plan, or dollars, at this time for the improvement of the Fire Dept which will stay at the current location … AND for which there are no dollars specified.

    This confirmed by an unsigned memo handed out by Administrator Madigan after last week’s Council work session.

    HOW did this get sooooooooooo botched?

    September 28, 2012
  209. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi – Only (most of) the people think it is botched. The council got what it wanted.

    September 28, 2012
  210. Griff Wigley said:

    Tim Clack has set up an online petition to gain more signatures. Link – Northfield MN City Council: Allow the citizens of Northfield to vote on the Safety Center Financing

    We, the undersigned citizens of Northfield Minnesota, do herby formally request that the City Council reverse their approval of Resolution 2012-076 Authorize the Execution and Delivery of a Lease-Purchase Agreement between the City and US Bank. We formally call for a reverse referendum and or any necessary action to bring this decision to public vote in the November 2012 General Election.

    October 14, 2012

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