I hardly recognize Northfield these days. For winter and summer breaks I return home from college, always hoping the town will be “the same”. While I recognize that everything must change, it has shocked and saddened me to see Northfield change so much. It’s the holiday season, and Northfield’s Christmas spirit is missing. The town is torn asunder, and it’s not the first time.
Over the summer, I witnessed the anger and division caused by the heroin outbreak. Northfield made front-page Star Tribune news then, and now it has again-for Mayor Lee Lansing. A shame that a town with so much to offer has of recent only come into the spotlight for such sad matters. But what saddens me more than the issues at hand has been Northfield’s reaction to them. With both the heroin news this summer, and now the situation with Lansing, I have watched Northfield react with bitterness, anger, and hurled accusations. We have become paranoid, fearful, and utterly divisive, to the point where it doesn’t matter what we’re dealing with; the main concern is not finding solutions, but dispensing blame.
The situation at hand is that of Lansing and a liquor store, and whether Lansing overstepped mayoral bounds when he tried to have the liquor store moved to land owned by his son. Were his acts criminal? I don’t know. What I’m really concerned with is how eager the town seemed to strike. The reaction suggested Lansing had done something unspeakably evil and secretive. This was no secret; those who know Lansing could testify that he’d wanted the liquor store there for years, well before he became mayor, and that he made no secret of it. The truth is, it would be a good spot for a liquor store. Lansing’s mistake was to step in where a mayor should not, but that doesn’t necessarily make him evil, or mean that he intends to trick and cheat us all. Why the witch hunt?
We are consumed with the idea of secret agendas. Did Lee have an agenda? Did former Police Chief Gary Smith? Did City Administrator Al Roder? It would be quite easy to say that I have an agenda in regard to Northfield politics: my dad works for the NDDC and writes for Locally Grown. He defended Lansing in a recent local podcast. My mom does woodworking; she knows Lansing through his hardware store. So yes, I have a personal investment in the issue. But when did “personal investment” become “hidden agenda”? When did our thinking become so paranoid? In a town where everyone knows everyone, it’s impossible not to have a personal investment in most matters. That’s a good thing about Northfield, and it’s why many people choose to live in small towns.
This isn’t a plea for Lansing. It is a plea for Northfield. Northfield of cows, colleges, and contentment. If what Lansing did was wrong, by all means punish him for it-but taking away his key days before Christmas? That goes beyond punishment; it is simply cruel. In Northfield, it shouldn’t have to be like that. This isn’t about selling watered-down drugs to third world countries. Politics is a dirty business, but Northfield is small enough-and personal enough-that it doesn’t have to be this mean.
My daughter wrote this piece. She had intended it as a letter to editor for the Northfield News. When I told her that letters were limited to 250 words, she rewrote quickly and effectively but I thought that it had lost some of its beauty. I then told her that she could try to submit it as a guest column but that it would probably be two weeks before it was published. She thought that the delay would undermine its effectiveness. Then I told her that there was a 10 day delay on letters to the editor. She seemed discouraged, so I suggested that I could post it on Locally Grown today.
I did not check this post with my cohorts at Locally Grown, the board of the NDDC, or my bandmates in the Blue Moon String Band. I take sole and personal responsibility for posting the views of my eldest daughter, Athena Borden Currier.