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.

225 Comments

  1. David Ludescher said:

    Griff:

    We were all duped.

    June 19, 2012
    Reply
  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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Betsey,

      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
      Reply
      • Kathie Galotti said:

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

        June 19, 2012
  3. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
  4. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Randy,

      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
      Reply
    • 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
      Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Randy,

      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
      Reply
      • 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
      • 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
      • 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
      • 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
      • David Ludescher said:

        Betsey,

        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.

        HRA,

        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
  5. 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
    Reply
  6. 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
    Reply
    • randy jennings said:

      Kiffi,
      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
      Reply
      • 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
      • randy jennings said:

        Kiffi,
        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
      • 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
      • 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
      • 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
      • 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
    • David Ludescher said:

      Kiffi,

      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
      Reply
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    Contact info for members of the HRA:

    Susan Crow —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2016
    507-663-0090
    susan.crow@yahoo.com

    Leota Goodney (Chair) —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2012
    507-663-0861
    lgoodney@leotagoodneycpa.com

    Kevin Fink —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2013
    612-804-7937
    kpfink@charter.net

    Dayna Norvold —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2014
    507-323-5167
    hfhricecounty@gmail.com

    Council Rep
    Erica Zweifel —
    Term Expires: 12/31/2012
    Erica.Zweifel@ci.northfield.mn.us

    Staff Liaison
    Michele Merxbauer —
    507-645-3047
    Michele.Merxbauer@ci.northfield.mn.us

    June 21, 2012
    Reply
  8. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
      • 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
    • 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
      Reply
      • 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
  9. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Betsey,

      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
      Reply
  10. 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
    Reply
  11. David Ludescher said:

    Betsey,

    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
    Reply
  12. 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
    Reply
  13. 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.

    FUBAR!

    June 24, 2012
    Reply
    • Griff Wigley said:

      Victor,

      * 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
      Reply
      • randy jennings said:

        Griff,
        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
      • 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
    • David Ludescher said:

      Rob,

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

      June 25, 2012
      Reply
      • 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
    • 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
      Reply
  14. 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
    Reply
  15. 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
    Reply
  16. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Griff,

      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
      Reply
  17. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
      • 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
      • Griff Wigley said:

        David/Betsey,

        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
      • David Ludescher said:

        Betsey,

        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
      • 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
      • David Ludescher said:

        Betsey,

        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
  18. 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
    Reply
  19. 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
    Reply
  20. 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
    Reply
  21. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Betsey,

      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
      Reply
  22. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Betsey,

      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
      Reply
  23. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Betsey,

      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
      Reply
  24. Ray Cox said:

    Betsey,
    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
    Reply
  25. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Betsey,

      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
      Reply
    • 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
      Reply
      • 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
      • Patrick Enders said:

        Kiffi,

        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
      • 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
  26. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Kiffi,

      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
      Reply
      • 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
      • David Ludescher said:

        Kiffi,

        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
  27. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Kiffi,

      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
      Reply
  28. 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
    Reply
  29. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Patrick,

      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
      Reply
      • 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
  30. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Kiffi,

      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
      Reply
  31. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Jane,

      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
      Reply
    • David DeLong said:

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

      Resolution 2012-063 CALL FOR A PUBLIC HEARING ON REDEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE NEW PUBLIC SAFETY CENTER.

      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
      Reply
    • 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
      Reply
  32. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
      • 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
      • David Ludescher said:

        David,

        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
  33. 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
    Reply
  34. 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
    Reply
  35. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Kiffi,

      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
      Reply
      • David DeLong said:

        David,
        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
      • 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
      • David Ludescher said:

        David,

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

        July 18, 2012
      • David DeLong said:

        David,
        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
    • 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
      Reply
      • David Ludescher said:

        Duped again by everyone except Pownell.

        July 18, 2012
  36. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
      • 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
      • 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
      • David Ludescher said:

        David,

        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
    • David DeLong said:

      Kiffi,
      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
      Reply
      • David DeLong said:

        David
        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
      • David Ludescher said:

        David,

        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
  37. 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
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
  38. 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
    Reply
  39. 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
    Reply
  40. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Jane,

      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
      Reply
  41. 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
    Reply
    • Griff Wigley said:

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

      [img]https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/NfldNewsbondheadline.jpg[/img]

      July 20, 2012
      Reply
  42. Griff Wigley said:

    Results of the Nfld News online straw poll re: the HRA’s decision:
    [img]https://locallygrownnorthfield.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/NfldNewspollHRAdecision.jpg[/img]

    July 20, 2012
    Reply
    • 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
      Reply
  43. 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
    Reply
    • David Ludescher said:

      Kiffi,

      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
      Reply
      • 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
  44. 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
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    • 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
      Reply

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