The Convention and Visitors Bureau: a troubling lack of transparency, accountability, and performance

I’ve been trying to grasp the nature of the Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), starting with my blog post in early April which included some of my whining about the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, followed by our podcast a few weeks later with new Chamber Board member Mary Rossing.

Kathleen 'Mac' McBride Kathy Feldbrugge

At last night’s City Council meeting, City of Northfield Finance Director Kathleen ‘Mac’ McBride (left photo) gave a brief overview of the legal and financial structure of the CVB. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Feldbrugge followed with 20-minute speech to the Council.

I spoke at open mic, followed by former City Councilor Dave DeLong.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes, 45 sec. Or drag the slidebar to these minute-markers:

0-1:15 – Kathleen McBride
1:15-21:00 – Kathy Feldbrugge
21:00-26:15 – Q&A with Council (Pokorney, Davis, Vohs, Lansing)
26:15-30:15- Griff Wigley
30:15-30:45 – Dave DeLong

Here are my photos of some relevant CVB documents. Click to enlarge.

CVB-1987-agreement-p1 CVB-1987-agreement-p2 CVB-1987-agreement-p3CVB-policies-procedures-2004
Docs 1-3: The 1987 agreement between the City and the Chamber. Right: the 2004 CVB Policies and Procedures

CVB-Feb-2008-Balance-Sheet CVB-March-2008-Balance-Sheet CVB-budget-comparison-06-08
Left: Feb. 2008 CVB balance sheet
Center: Mar. 2008 CVB balance sheet
Right: 2006-2008 CVB budget comparison

My laundry list of complaints:

  • The Chamber’s web site has virtually no information about the CVB as an entity, nor does the City’s website, other than the municipal code. No minutes, no financials, no year-ends.
  • Kathy offered to verbally explain the financial statements but would not give me paper or PDF versions. I got paper versions from Mac. I understand that the Chamber is a private non-profit and need not share its financials with me. But the CVB exists at the discretion of the City so its financials should be readily available.
  • Why does the CVB have $150-175,000 in unspent money? With a budget of $80-90,000 per year, how have they accumulated that much?
  • Why is there $120-133K of money in a savings account, presumably earning a paltry interest rate?
  • Why are none of the 2008 CVB goals actually measurable goals? They’re all just activity statements, eg, “respond to… coordinate… support… provide” etc.  The U of MN has a tourism center and on this Q&A page are several suggestions about tourism accountability.
  • Kathy said she doesn’t have traffic stats for the CVB’s tourism website, But any web host can give basic traffic stats, so they should have 2.5 years of stats to share. Google Analytics, a sophisticated web traffic analysis tool, is free, and would take the Chamber’s webmaster 30 minutes to install.
  • Other than adding info on new businesses that serve tourists, has not changed since it was created in October of 2005. (See the Internet Wayback Machine’s capture of the site.) Yet there was $800 of web/internet-related expenses in 2007. Web hosting should cost no more than $7/month for a brochure site like that. And Chamber staff should be doing the content updating.
  • Kathy stressed how much the CVB collaborates.  Why not collaborate with By All Means Graphics and embed the monthly Northfield Entertainment Guide into the site? It’s far and away the best tool available for promoting Northfield tourism yet there’s not even a link to it from the links page. Why not collaborate with and put their RSS events feed on the site?
  • It seems a bad idea to have three current/former Chamber board members on the CVB board, plus Kathy. How can feet be held to the fire with that arrangement?
  • There is not one reference to the CVB in the new 2008 Visitors Guide. It’s 100% branded as a Chamber booklet:
  • Kathy’s 20-minute speech to the Council tonight was exactly that, a speech, not a presentation. No charts, no graphs, no visuals, no PowerPoint slides, no video. It was a huge missed opportunity to generate some excitement about CVB activities. Instead, there were lots of droopy eyes.

Former City Councilor David DeLong wanted to know when the agreement between the City and the Chamber for CVB services was up for renewal. I would, too. It seems to me that the City might get a lot more bang for the tourism dollar if the Chamber knew it had to compete with other local non-profits to deliver tourism-related services. I don’t think we’re being well-served by this never-ending, 20-year-long sweetheart deal with the Chamber.


  1. Brilliant analysis and presentation, Griff. Quite a few citizens over the years have asked questions about the Chamber and the CVB and the exclusive and inscrutable link between them – to no avail. Perhaps now with this window on the world and your dogged determination to get some answers…answers may be at last forthcoming.

    May 20, 2008
  2. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: The questions that you raise are all valid; But what I find even more disturbing , in an ongoing process manner, is the lack of questioning of this process by the council. C. Pokorney did have a few questions about the money held in savings; the answers were not satisfactory, but he did not pursue the issue.

    When are issues pursued , and when are they not? The council “trots out” their fiduciary responsibility when it suits their purposes; evidently this did not rise to a level of concern.

    Later in the evening we heard a higher level of concern expressed re: a 4K legal fee occasioned by an action of the mayor, and “how was a budget to be managed with this unpredictability” (sic), but the same concern re: the budgets unpredictability was not raised by the unexpected 70K replacement of the hockey arena’s “boards”.

    Politics … Can we just recognize a “political” statement when we see it?

    May 20, 2008
  3. Ken Wedding said:

    Maybe my banjo has only one string since I brought this up in an earlier discussion of Chamber politics.

    But isn’t this CVB-Chamber issue typical of the kind of insider politics that needs the exposure offered by authentic transparency in government? What public interest is served by hiding the issue from public scrutiny? The documents about the CVB’s budget and governance ought to be public and on the city’s web site.

    My other questions are: Who on the council is going to pursue this? and What other quasi-public bodies are sitting on pots of money while the city needs cash for things like new hockey boards?

    May 20, 2008
  4. David Henson said:

    The “Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau” keeps their funds in a non-Northfield bank (Frandsen Bank -top of Balance Sheet) ?

    May 20, 2008
  5. Britt Ackerman said:

    Great post, Griff. As a publicly funded entity, I would think that the CVB would be empowered through its policies to collaborate with other local community organizations so long as the directive was to increase Northfield’s exposure as an evening or weekend destination. The Northfield Entertainment Guide is hands-down the best resource for a visitor or a local who is looking for something to do/see/buy. They deserve at least a link. I assume that the Guide is funded by its advertisers? If so, let’s give these local businesses additional exposure from the CVB itself.

    I’d like to see some competition for the city’s contract with the CVB, in order to raise the bar on the services that we’ve come to expect. There’s so much that could be done to increase our exposure and bring people in. We could bus in groups for a Third Thursday walking tour of downtown shops, and top it off with a musical event or pub crawl or art show. We could work with the colleges to offer their visiting guests a package of “to do” stuff in Northfield, specifically tailored to their interests and the timing of their visits. There are a TON of visitors to the colleges who are taken out to eat in the cities or the southern suburbs, and their entire exposure to the downtown is a stop at Blue Mondays or Hogan Brothers.

    The 2008 CVB balance sheet is a little troubling. Perhaps 75% of the CVB’s total cash assets are in savings rather than CD’s because they need the available cash flow? First National Bank’s website says that the interest on a 6 month CD right now is 1.99% and a 12 month is at 2.18%. Fransden Bank doesn’t have their current rates on their savings accounts on-line, but they can’t be that high when First National’s is at .50%, can they?

    If CVB put about half of the money from savings ($67,000.00)j into a 12 month CD at First National, they’d earn almost $1,500 in interest. Assuming the interest rate at Fransden on savings is .50%, they’d earn only $336.

    But even assuming that they don’t want to tie these funds up for 3 or 6 or 12 months in CDs, I’m disappointed that there isn’t at least one CD from First National, yet our other local banks are patronized.

    May 20, 2008
  6. Arlen Malecha said:

    I don’t know for sure but I am guessing that Frandsen Bank is a member of the Chamber and that the Chamber / CVB funds are rotated from bank to bank on occasion so that all banks who are Chamber members get to some business.

    May 20, 2008
  7. Given that, according to Chamber member comments submitted on other threads, the Chamber exists to serve the interests of Chamber businesses, how is this public money being claimed by an organization that does not advocate for non-Chamber businesses? Shouldn’t it be for the benefit of all businesses in town?

    I find the secrecy difficult to understand. I see no output from the CVB. What are they producing for all those printing costs? When I see displays of brochures at hotels, etc… I never see one for Northfield. What have they brought to town? These figures and detailed accounting of their activities and minutes must be available. This is public money. We should see tangible, measurable goals and results, and these goals and results should be very public.

    Ms. Feldbrugge talks about the increased arts and cultural events and increased tourism activity since the creation of the CVB (in 1987) as if they wouldn’t have come about with the involvement of the CVB? I didn’t hear a lot of evidence in her speech for that claim.

    Their 1987 agreement specifies “staff and facilities” to carry out the objectives of the agreement, yet they got rid of their staff person in 1992, and now have a $133,000 savings account and claim they can’t hire a dedicated person to handle CVB (not Chamber) business?

    If it is so tangled up with the Chamber, how do they tease out their “5,000 requests” that come in each year between Chamber and CVB requests?

    Ms. Feldbrugge ends her presentation with a plea for help with promoting Northfield. Perhaps more people would help if they knew what was going on. The CVB’s – I’m not talking about the Chamber’s – activities must be visible and clear. I gladly and proudly support Northfield tourism and businesses, but it’s hard to collaborate with an invisible organization.

    I agree that the City Council should be holding the group to a much higher, much more open and public, standard.

    May 20, 2008
  8. David Koenig said:

    Best practice governance principle number 6: Disclosure and Transparency.

    Yes, Griff, you are spot on with this one. When I was on the Council, I was told that the CVB was off-limits and committed to being run by the Chamber. Still, when I asked questions about it, I was told that they bought ads in magazines.

    There are some very talented people in Northfield who could put the money to much better use. Keep pushing this one!

    May 20, 2008
  9. David Koenig said:

    One suggestion: Every 4th of July weekend we have an excellent cycling event in town that draws more than 100 riders and their families (maybe substantially more than 100 riders) to the heart of downtown. Yet, Northfield has never done anything to promote this event as a reason to visit Northfield!

    We’re usually in town that weekend and always go down for the races. The crowds are getting a little bigger each year, but imagine if we invested $20,000 into promoting this event regionally? Or, what if we added $5,000 to the prize money for the pro race and drew some national talent to the event?

    This has always seemed to me a great opportunity missed. Maybe we could open this up for suggestions on how to better put CVB money to bring the “V’s” and “C’s” to town.

    May 20, 2008
  10. Anne Bretts said:

    The race is part of a circuit and every few years it is the state champion race, bringing even more attention. I know they guy who was running for a long time would have been very happy to have help with communications.
    There also are several fun runs, from the Y Halloween race and Rotary Turkey Trot to others that could be run as a ‘grand prix’ or circuit, with combined promotion and special promotions and coupons for those who participate. Many people come from the Cities for the races and have lots of time after them to take advantage of the city.
    In short, there are many opportunities that aren’t being used to the city’s advantage.

    May 20, 2008
  11. David Ludescher said:

    Some commentators are confusing their own ignorance for CVB secrecy.

    The CVB does not have “public” money. It has private money raised through a lodging tax. The money can only be spent on certain items, i.e. convention and visitors bureau information. It is not off-limits. Any one of you could ask to be on the Board. The CVB Board, not the Chamber, runs it. The Chamber provides a number of administrative benefits. It is not secret. If it were, you wouldn’t be able to see the budget.

    Lastly, having money in the bank is usually a sign of being well-managed. Spending the money on hockey rink boards? How about hockey parents spending money on hockey rink boards? The CVB is running a business, not a charity.

    May 20, 2008
  12. John S. Thomas said:

    Refresh my memory… when was the last time we had a convention in town?

    May 20, 2008
  13. David L.,

    It stipulates that Chamber membership is a requirement to be on the board of advisors for the CVB, excepting the 2 mayor / council – appointed members.

    So, 7 out of 9 members of the CVB board must be Chamber members.

    Additionally, there are no staff dedicated to the CVB, although the 1987 agreement calls for it. The only “staff” on the CVB appear to be, also, Chamber employees, leaving one with the distinct impression that it is, indeed, being run by the Chamber.

    Please explain to me how a lodging tax levied by the city, collected by the city and disbursed by the city according to State law is not public money.

    Perhaps the public wouldn’t display such “ignorance,” as you called it, if things were made a whole lot clearer. I think Northfield would be much better served if the workings of this organization were open. I never hear about CVB events or see CVB publications among those from other communities.

    If it is a “business”, what is the product? Can we see some results? I think that’s what people are asking, and that’s what the CVB is not answering. Even if it were a charity, we still should be able to see the benefits.

    Lastly, David L., the defensive tone of your reply speaks loudly about what I and others find troubling with this issue. To draw in from a topic in another thread, it sounds to me as if there’s a touch of elitist entitlement mentality to your reply. Like you’re saying, “You guys don’t know anything. This is our money, not yours. The community has no right to it.” Usually, I like your direct take on things, but this does sound an awful lot like a sweetheart deal that is finally being opened to some real scrutiny. You obviously don’t think so.

    Educate us. Relieve our ignorance.

    May 20, 2008
  14. John S. Thomas said:

    Also, I would love to become more educated and informed about what the CVB does, and would love to see Mr. Ludescher, or a CVB representative educate us further.

    We just want to learn more.

    May 20, 2008
  15. David Koenig said:

    David L,

    Only government has the ability to tax… the CVB a government agency or an agent of the City?

    Who put the lodging tax in place? That was there before I got on the council.

    If it is a tax, then taxpayers should enjoy control and transparency. Do you not agree?

    May 20, 2008
  16. David Koenig said:

    Brendon E, thank you for reminding me of one of my concerns about the CVB being “staffed” by the Chamber. It always appeared to me that the lodging tax allocated to such “staffing” was, in fact, just a subsidy to the Chamber to help pay for its staff.

    David L, can you please give us some specific information on the hours worked by Chamber staff exclusively on CVB business, what they were paid (or what the CVB paid the Chamber for this staffing) and what their specific product or output was?

    How do we know if the tax is being put to effective use?

    Why not put the use of the lodging tax up for competitive bidding?

    May 20, 2008
  17. David L.,

    One more aspect of your comment #11 troubles me. You said:

    The CVB does not have “public” money. It has private money raised through a lodging tax. The money can only be spent on certain items, i.e. convention and visitors bureau information.

    The money may be allocated to only certain items or functions, but it is still raised and sourced publicly. You are calling money that is reserved for limited functions “private”. Either that is an intentional conflation designed to confuse the issue, or you don’t understand the distinction. Either possibility is bothersome to me.

    By all accounts, you appear to be a fiscal conservative. I would guess then that you want accountability for spending of government funds. Do you not want accountability for this money? Has the CVB ever been audited? If so, what were the results? Where are those results kept?

    People aren’t asking to banish the CVB or to take its money, they seem to be saying that the Chamber is running it like a “private” fund with little accountability, transparency or tangible results.

    Maybe another organization would do a better job of handling this public money on all three counts. That’s what I’m hearing. Why shouldn’t another organization be given that chance?

    May 20, 2008
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    Ken, I’ve moderated your comment, as you violated our Guidelines.

    David L is here participating, so you’re required to address him by name/in the first person if you’re disagreeing with him.

    Second, the slam/snide remark about Tom Neuville was way out of line.

    Try again but please respect what we’re trying to accomplish here with our conversations.

    May 20, 2008
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Folks, the financial/legal structure of a CVB in Minnesota is a very weird duck so it’s not whacky for David L. to refer to the lodging tax as ‘private’ money, nor for Kathy to refer to it as a ‘user fee.’

    It’s just not Chamber money by default/in perpetuity.

    The state says that lodging tax collected on hotel room stays has to be collected by the local municipality and then handed over to a local CVB, to be designated by the local municipality.

    It’s my understanding that, if the City Council wanted, it could say to the Nfld Historical Society or NAG or ArtOrg or NDDC or other non-profit,

    “If you form a CVB advisory board, we’ll consider handing over the lodging tax money to you for X years to do the tourism bit for the town.”

    I think it’s fine for David L to argue for keeping the money flowing to the Chamber for CVB activities because that’s where his allegiance is as a former Chamber board president.

    My argument is with A) the CVB advisory board and B) Northfield City Council.

    May 20, 2008
  20. David Ludescher said:

    I only have a limited knowledge of the CVB myself. Jeff Hasse, current Chamber president, has been the CVB board president, and is a hotel owner paying these taxes. I’m sure he could provide much more education. In fact, he did a Chamber interview on KYMN radio on this topic a number of months ago. However, he does not blog, and has no intention of starting.

    Here’s the short education course for those interested:

    1. The vast majority of money is raised from a 3% lodging tax on a small number of private businesses. While the revenue source is private, the expenditures are public money.
    2. The budget information is supplied to the City on a monthly? basis. It is available for public scrutiny and has been for 20 years.
    3. The money is a dedicated fund that can only be used for tourism purposes. So, it is illegal to raid the fund to pay for someone’s private recreational concerns, such as hockey boards.
    4. As Kathy mentioned in her presentation, the costs to the CVB of having separate staffing, together with separate offices is prohibitive. If the CVB were required to pay all of its overhead expenses, it would have substantially less money.
    5. I’m not sure if the Chamber makes money on the deal or not.

    Regarding Brendon’s comment about the defensive tone, I am sorry. I do think it important that someone defend the Chamber against unfair accusations. We have plenty of fair accusations against which we have to defend; we don’t need unfair accusations.

    May 20, 2008
  21. I started a comment and had to do some research and lost it, so apologies if it turns up twice! Griff, and everyone — you can look up non-profits’ “financials” at www., i.e., the Northfield Chamber of Commerce is listed, but only 2005 and 2006 990s are there. The Chamber 990 for 2006 reports $101,627 taken in, and there’s no breakdown how that was spent. Go knock on the Chamber door and have a look-see. You could also do Data Practices Act request to City for whatever they’ve got. The info is there for the asking.

    May 21, 2008
  22. Here’s the link to the Northfield Chamber’s 2006 IRS Form 990 (don’t know if it will work, might need to register)
    One thing that I find odd is that on p. 3, at the bottom, it says “Total of Program Service Expenses – 0.” ZERO. One of the two “programs” is the Visitors and Convention Bureau. So they took in $101,000 for this “program” and had no program expenses?

    May 21, 2008
  23. David L.,

    It’s natural that you should defend the Chamber, much as it’s natural for me to defend myself and others with whom I agree from charges of “ignorance”.

    As I stated before, I usually like and appreciate your direct take on issues presented in this forum. They provide some nice balance to the typically more-leftward or idealistic slant of many comments, and I say this as a fairly liberal guy.

    I also applaud your courage in jumping into the fray and taking flak from all sides. Your service and pride in your organization should be commended, but, as you point out, you might not be the one to best answer these questions. I think it would be in the CVB’s best interest, therefore, to have someone answering them, lest they fester and resurface in the future in a more virulent manner.

    I think many of the questions asked in this thread have been fair, and since this money – although collected from private businesses for a predefined, reserved use – is most definitely public funding for Northfield’s betterment, we should be asking these questions. The City Council should, as our representatives, be asking these questions.

    It may be true that it has been ignored for twenty years, but that doesn’t mean it should continue to be ignored. Regarding your comment #20 when you said:

    5. I’m not sure if the Chamber makes money on the deal or not.

    I would hope not. I can’t imagine that’s the purpose of the tax – to increase the reserves of another organization.


    Regarding your comment that your complaint is more with the CVB Advisory Board and the City Council, I agree. However, as I pointed out, the CVB Advisory Board is set up by its own policies to have 7 of 9 advisors be Chamber members. It is staffed by Chamber staff. As you stated in your comments before the City Council, there is a distinct lack of separation between the two organizations, making it very difficult to look at one without the other.

    As for the City Council, obviously they should be overseeing this matter. Although, as David Koenig pointed out in comment #8, answers to City Council questions about the CVB are not always forthcoming.

    I hope that changes, and we are better served by the CVB in the future as a result – no matter what organization is shepherding it.

    May 21, 2008
  24. Jerry Bilek said:

    David L. said:
    “Jeff Hasse, current Chamber president, has been the CVB board president, and is a hotel owner paying these taxes.”

    Isn’t it the consumer that pays the tax? I thought it was tacked on to the sale like sales tax.

    May 21, 2008
  25. Anne Bretts said:

    I think that after ignoring this for 20 years or so, it behooves everyone to go lightly on the outrage and dismay.
    It is time, however, to bring the system into line with generally accepted policies.
    As usual, Northfield isn’t breaking new ground in this area, so checking out the systems that work in some successful communities should help clear things up rather quickly. Of course, if the point is to continue to beat up on each other, go for it.
    Grand Rapids, MN, has an excellent collaboration, a great website and very progressive attitudes. The chamber has its own website, but I believe it has the contract for the CVB. and
    Duluth is larger, but also has a successful CVB and a successful chamber.
    It would seem that the NDDC,, the Entertainment Guide, the paper, the colleges, the chamber, the NAG and the city should share in at least advisory board status for a CVB. And there should be a bidding process for running the website/promotions.
    I’m sure there are several successful models. Does anyone else have a favorite?

    May 21, 2008
  26. I would like to see the CVB open up its advisory board to membership from other organizations in town. Having a person from each of the organizations that Anne lists in comment #25 would be a great start in opening up the possibilities that new and different perspectives would encourage.

    May 21, 2008
  27. Anne. This subject has by no means been ignored for the last twenty years. However, what has been ignored by the CVB, Chamber and powers-that-be are the many and sundry questioners over these years. And this may continue to be the case if current form in City Hall continues, and is allowed to continue.

    May 21, 2008
  28. David Ludescher said:

    I have read the CVB information posted by Griff. It would appear that only 2 of the positions are Chamber positions. 2 come from the Mayor and 5 are from the CVB Advisory Board. Also, according to the documents, there is to be no discrimination of benefits based upon Chamber membership.

    My experience as Chamber board member and Chamber president is that the CVB Advisory Board is quite autonomous. My guess is that anyone who expresses a sincere interest to be on the CVB Advisory Board could get appointed, either through the mayor or the Board itself.

    In an ideal world perhaps the CVB would run differently. But, we don’t live in an ideal world; we live in the real world. In the real world, a frank analysis of the CVB might just find that it runs amazingly well given its limited resources. We might also find that the Chamber is far and away the best organization to run the CVB.

    Brendon – I appreciate your kind words.

    May 21, 2008
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    David L.,

    Pat Vincent and Jeff Hasse are both Chamber board members and that appears to be a violation of the 2004 Policies and Procedures, Section C. Guidelines, which states in subsection 1 that the “CVB Board of Advisors shall be nine (9) and include:”

    c) one (1) Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board Member appointed by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to serve a one (1) year term;

    Plus, Joe Grundhoefer is a recent Chamber board member so that, together with the fact that Kathy as Executive Director of the Chamber is also on the Advisory Board, gives the appearance of an Advisory Board ‘stacked’ with Chamber board.

    May 21, 2008
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    The original 1987 AGREEMENT between the City and the Chamber in creating the CVB states in Section 2:

    The Convention and Visitors Bureau, a department of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, shall consist of nine (9) member Board of Advisors with the staff and facility to carry out the Objectives of this Agreement. The Board of Advisors shall include two (2) members appointed by the Mayor and City Council; the other members shall be appointed by the Chamber of Commerce.

    The 2004 POLICIES AND PROCEDURES OF THE CVB changed that original agreement to state that the 9 member CVB advisory board include

    C, 1, b) the Northfield Chamber’s Executive Director or other staff person designated by the Executive Director or Chamber Board.

    So it looks like that change places considerably more CVB power in the hands of the Chamber Executive Director.

    Did the City Council approve that? Did the City Council approve the entire POLICIES AND PROCEDURES document?  City Council meeting minutes on the web only go back to Jan. 2005.

    May 21, 2008
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    While it appears that many CVB’s are part of the local chambers, in other cities, they’re separate. For example, the Red Wing Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) is a totally separate organization from the Red Wing Chamber of Commerce.

    The Red Wing Chamber of Commerce staff includes a Member Services Coordinator and an office assistant. 

    According to the May 2007 Red Wing city newsletter, the VCB staff “… currently consists of a full-time Executive Director, Kathy Silverthorn, and a handful of part-time employees and volunteers…”

    On the Red Wing City Council website, there’s this PDF indicating that the By-Laws for the Red Wing VCB were just revamped in April of this year. It’s interesting that the City appoints one member, the VCB board can appoint up to 6, and the “lodging tax collecting members” can appoint 4. The VCB executive director is a non-voting, ex-officio member.

    May 21, 2008
  32. Griff Wigley said:

    From Al Roder’s Friday Memo for the week of January 14 – 18, 2008:

    Staff attended a CVB Board meeting where the bulk of the meeting had to do with an excess of reserve funds and some ways perhaps these can be used. The mention of updating Christmas decorations were brought up. The Director did not feel that was an eligible use of reserved funds.

    May 21, 2008
  33. OK, now you’re hitting close to home with Red Wing comparisons. While you’re digging around Red Wing, and its promotional organizations, check out the “Port Authority” which to the best of my understands functions as an EDA with a budget.

    May 21, 2008
  34. Randy Jennings said:

    Hey Griff,

    Since you have such strong opinions about how city government and affiliated agencies and organizations should operate, why don’t you run for mayor or city council?

    Heck, you already attend a goodly number of the meetings, and it would be great to have you contribute to improving the accountability and transparency of our local institutions from a seat at the proverbial table, instead of lobbing incendiary accusations in the form of whining (your term, above), pejorative questions, and imperatives about how people “should ” do their jobs.

    Of course, if you were to stand for election, you would run the risk of being the victim of vigilante blogging (which I suppose is different than citizen journalism, although exactly how they are different is becoming less and less clear). I imagine that being the target of such blogging would be rather unpleasant and largely unproductive. After all, most public officials do the best they can given the rules of engagement under which they operate. I’m sure you would, too, although your good intentions and best efforts might not be fully acknowledged or appreciated.

    For the record, I missed the election when you ran to be the public ombudsman, but I would certainly vote for you for mayor. (Sorry, Mary Rossing. You’d be a great mayor, but Griff has the bully pulpit, and he’s not afraid to use it.)

    May 21, 2008
  35. John S. Thomas said:

    Can we elect a mayor on a write in campaign? 😎

    May 21, 2008
  36. Jane McWilliams said:

    Today I spoke with the director of the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau ( It is housed in the old depot which it shares with the Red Wing Arts Association. (Nice symbiosis.) Their organization is separate from the chamber – free-standing, in fact. They were formed by something called the Lodging Association in 1994 and have a budget of about $160,000. They anticipate increased proceeds as an additional lodging facility is being built and they benefit from the traffic at Prairie Island, which is also building a hotel, I believe.

    In addition to the Chamber and the CVB, Red Wing has a Downtown Mainstreet Association.

    The bureau is open 7 days a week from June 1-November 1 to accommodate visitors.( I’ve hung around there while waiting for the train and enjoyed thumbing through their vast collection of not only Red Wing info, but visitor info from all over Minnesota. Curiously, several times there have been no visitors guides from Northfield, although today I was told the Chamber’s guide is there.) The director is very active in the regional network of CVBs – and mentioned that although many are associated with Chambers – many are not. She has been president of the state tourism organization.

    As you can see from the web site, Red Wing has garnered national recognition for their amenities. Someone is doing a great job of submitting applications for those honors. (They have already been through the America in Bloom process, for example.)

    I didn’t think to ask who owns the building, so I don’t know how much of their budget is for overhead.

    Maybe Northfield’s tax proceeds are not sufficient to support a similar free-standing set up. And, I’m not sure their more visible and active organization is necessarily a function of a larger city as well as their independence. But, I am impressed.

    May 21, 2008
  37. When comparing anything with Red Wing, keep in mind that the Prairie Island plant pays incredible amounts into city coffers, city, county and school district, in the form of utility personal property taxes. They rate has been cut dramatically from 4.6% to 2 or 2.1%, and they’ve been hit hard by that, and they’re also now trying to administratively change the assessment methodology, but in short, Red Wing has lots of bucks. Less, but still lots, and that’s why there’s been so much investment in the community. If you’re interested in utility tax, here’s a few posts on it, including one with the Prairie Island taxes all laid out in a spread sheet straight from the tax guy in Goodhue County.
    Oh, NEARLY ALL local governments receive utility personal property tax, because it’s tax on generation, transmission and distribution equipment, and most communities don’t have a clue what this means to them, and I think the tax rate cuts are part of why local governments are hurting so much (in addition to the LGA mess). Anyway, Red Wing is a really different animal.
    Oh, and Prairie Island Indian Community IS building a hotel expansion, HUGE, and that will have an impact, as it is, they’re pretty much full all the time, although casinos hurt in a recession/depression as much as any other business.

    May 21, 2008
  38. Jane McWilliams said:


    I understood that the Visitors and Convention Bureau is funded mainly by the lodging tax. You’re right, the power plant provides a huge boost to the property tax, but that wouldn’t be a direct benefit to the VCB, would it?

    May 21, 2008
  39. Not a direct benefit, unless city gives them some $$. I was referring to the “Red Wing has garnered national recognition for their amenities” which cost money that many communities may not have. I checked for a IRS 990 and nothing turns up, and they aren’t listed under the RW Chamber (which DOES show “program expenses” unlike Northfield’s, which takes in $$ and does what?). But yes, they wouldn’t benefit DIRECTLY from utility personal property tax, and could benefit indirectly if given money by the City but I can’t find anything on it.

    May 22, 2008
  40. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy, I’ve authored a new blog post inviting feedback on the larger issue of ‘vigilante blogging’ and my handing of this CVB post, as I’d rather keep this discussion focused on the specifics of the CVB. But either one is fine.

    May 22, 2008
  41. David L.,

    You’re entirely welcome for the nice comments. I always respect intelligence, even if I don’t agree with what is being said.

    I will clarify what I’ve said about the 7 of 9 CVB Advisory Board members being Chamber members. You dispute that claim in your comment #28:

    It would appear that only 2 of the positions are Chamber positions. 2 come from the Mayor and 5 are from the CVB Advisory Board.

    This is true in terms of how they are selected, but in the 2004 policies and procedures document that Griff posted, section C (3) states:

    Membership in the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce shall be an eligibility requirement for participation on the CVB Advisory Board except for those persons appointed by the Mayor and City Council.

    So it would seem that 7 of 9 have to be Chamber members, as I asserted previously. I didn’t say Chamber Board members, just Chamber members. If Griff, for example, wanted to be on the CVB Advisory Board, he would have to be one of the two people appointed by the Mayor and City Council, since I don’t think he’s a Chamber member.

    May 22, 2008
  42. David Ludescher said:

    Brendon: You are correct. 7 of 9 must be Chamber members. Griff: Your interpretation regarding Chamber board members appears incorrect. There is no prohibition against multiple board members. There is just a minimum requirement.

    Entities such as the NDDC, Arts Guild, Historical Society, and others can have representation on the CVB by choosing a someone associated with their organization who is also a Chamber member. For example, Joe Grundhoefer and Mary Rossing have been heavily involved in the NDDC (recent and current presidents).

    As far as the representation, the most fair system would be that whoever pays the lodging taxes should have the most representation, followed by Chamber members, followed by the general public. It would be a bad idea to have those who have “no skin in the game” to be saying how the money should be spent. Remember, no taxation without representation.

    So, if the downtown merchants want to have downtown Christmas lighting, then they should get together and pay for it. If they can’t get organized, then go to the NDDC. And, if the NDDC doesn’t have the money, welcome to the real world.

    May 22, 2008
  43. David Koenig said:

    David L,

    I don’t think we agree on your sense about whose money this is.

    First, we all have “skin in the game” when it comes to how Northfield is marketed. Retailers stand to benefit the most from money spent in Northfield, but our homes, schools, attractiveness of our town, etc are all affected by how we are marketed and how desireable people find Northfield.

    Second, this is public money, not Chamber money. The city government authorizes the tax, paid not by the hotel owners, but by those who lodge there. The hotel owners are among the prime beneficiaries of better marketing of Northfield, but they transfer the tax, they don’t pay it. As a tax established by the City, it is public money.

    Third, the Chamber speaks for a small subset of the community and one that has more of a focus on the retail business prosperity of Northfield than on a broader “quality of life”. The City Council is authorized by the voters to be our representatives on such matters in so much as City government decisions affect our quality of life. The Council should have every right to take away the CVB funding from the Chamber, if it chooses to, and to offer it out to others who will be more creative and more effective with the money, should they feel that such would better serve the community.

    I was uncomfortable with the CVB/Chamber arrangement when I was on the Council, but it was only one of many things that made me uncomfortable about how we operated as a City. It remains a minor issue, but is an exemplar in terms of the results that governance structures that are substandard provide. So, let’s fix its governance and perhaps you’ll see a better result.

    You advocate competition….let the marketers compete for CVB money.

    May 22, 2008
  44. David Ludescher said:

    David K.: Just because someone stands to gain something doesn’t mean that they have skin in the game. The money that is raised by the CVB is not to improve Northfield’s “quality of life”; it is to bring dollars into town from “conventions and visitors”. It is the CVB’s money. It is not even the Chamber’s money. The Chamber is only the fiduciary.

    Second, the Chamber speaks for more than a “small subset” of the community. I am reminded of a recent quote that I saw, “The best social welfare program is a job.” Northfield is anti-business with the Chamber; imagine what it would be like without a Chamber.

    Third, I am not sure why you and Griff think that the performance is “troubling.” What are guys basing this upon, your personal opinion? What are the performance measures that the CVB is failing?

    Lastly, I have never understood the “quality of life” arguments, or as the EDA consultant’s report stated, “the sense of place”. Quality of life and sense of place are nebulous concepts. To suggest that the CVB exists to better the quality of life of the Northfield citizens is not only incorrect, but it is also incapable of definition.

    May 22, 2008
  45. David L –

    “… performance is troubling.” I think that is best demonstrated by the IRS 990 of the Chamber, linked above. There was $101k taken in for 2006, and there were ZERO program expenses for CVB. 1) ZERO program expenses. That’s a problem. What exactly are they doing? 2) If the reality is different than that reported to the IRS on the 990, if they are spending money on CVB and not reporting it, then that’s another problem. 3) The money taken in is for this purpose specifically, yet none was spent on that purpose, so is it being spent on something else? Yet another problem.


    May 22, 2008
  46. Griff Wigley said:

    David L wrote:

    Griff, Your interpretation regarding Chamber board members appears incorrect. There is no prohibition against multiple board members. There is just a minimum requirement.

    I stand corrected, David. I’m glad I wrote “… appears to be in violation…” !

    Do you know whether that 2004 document went before the City Council? 

    May 22, 2008
  47. Griff Wigley said:

    David L, as for performance, I cited problems related to the web site in my post. But beyond that, I can’t point to other negatives.

    But what’s troubling, is that Kathy couldn’t point to specific measurable accomplishments.

    The 2008 Goals aren’t goals at all and I’m assuming that that was the case for previous years.

    So when Lansing asked Kathy about yardsticks/measurement, she had nothing to say and argued that performance couldn’t really be measured and then made a vague reference to an increase in requests for mailings and a higher level of lodging (25:45 minute mark of the audio).

    May 22, 2008
  48. Larry DeBoer said:

    Griff, I would also like to ask what specific results are coming from my taxes, paid to the EDA, which, in turn, gives a portion to the NDDC for use to create business for downtown, which is supposedly going to increase the revenues of the city. What specific results (yardsticks and measurements) does the City Council see from this portion of all of our property tax payments?

    May 22, 2008
  49. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I don’t know if the changes were approved.

    Regarding your list of “complaints”, it may be more fair to call them a list of questions. There were several good complaints which the CVB board should consider, regardless of your lack of standing. You also had some good questions (and most of them were questions), which the CVB board could choose to address, if they so wished.

    But, it really is not a very productive use of the CVB’s nor Kathy’s time to address every individual who doesn’t understand how the CVB works. It’s not her job, nor anyone else’s to “educate” the public. That’s why I suggested that ignorance was probably a greater factor in the mystery of the CVB, than was secrecy.

    The CVB is a weird duck. Having some organization be the fudiciary is not possible under the current documents. However, it would still be a good idea to have some idea of the costs that the CVB pays to the Chamber, and see if the CVB and the Chamber are getting a good deal from the arrangement.

    It may be that the Chamber is losing money on the CVB by dedicating too many resources without receiving adequate compensation. You have to remember that if another organization took over the management that they shouldn’t be asking for public funds to support their efforts. Further, their mission should not conflict with the CVB’s purpose. For example, the NDDC has a mission dedicated to the downtown and not the whole city. The Arts Guild, Historical Society, and others have the same problem.

    May 22, 2008
  50. Anne Bretts said:

    So what is the resolution to all this? Griff, are you going to pull some people together and organize an ad hoc committee to review the situation and make some recommendations? Are you going to look for organizational models and accountability models to use to shape change? Or is this destined to be another case of ‘why doesn’t someone (else) do something?’ to be dragged out periodically and flogged.
    I agree that the current situation is not productive, responsive or representative of the stakeholders. The questions now are how to determine the demand for change and how to shape that change if the demand is there.

    May 22, 2008
  51. Felicity Enders said:

    David L writes in #44:

    Third, I am not sure why you and Griff think that the performance is “troubling.” What are guys basing this upon, your personal opinion? What are the performance measures that the CVB is failing?

    In addition to Carol’s comment (#45), I can cite my own experience. I lived in Rochester for three years before moving to Northfield. I was an East Coaster who was brand new to the area. During those three years, not once did I hear about Northfield in any way.

    When I knew we were moving to Northfield, I researched the city (online, as virtually all research is done now). I found the city website,, this website, and a variety of businesses. I never saw a CVB website promoting the town. I also never saw the entertainment guide website.

    On visiting in person, I ran across the Chamber. It wasn’t open when I popped in on a Saturday, but their foyer did have some info on Northfield. The only item I remember finding interesting was a street map of the town. I later determined that the pdf map on the city’s website was far superior.

    If the CVB is doing its job, shouldn’t this story sound different?

    May 22, 2008
  52. Felicity Enders said:

    David L, in #49 you wrote:

    You have to remember that if another organization took over the management that they shouldn’t be asking for public funds to support their efforts. Further, their mission should not conflict with the CVB’s purpose. For example, the NDDC has a mission dedicated to the downtown and not the whole city. The Arts Guild, Historical Society, and others have the same problem.

    My reading of the comments above is that the suggestion is for the city to put the CVB contract up for competitive bid, not for another organization to take on the same goals without funding or an agreement with the city. Some other issues related to this:

    1. The Chamber has just as much “conflict” as any other entity you listed, since the Chamber does not serve all businesses in the city.

    2. Putting the CVB contract up for competitive bid does not mean it would necessarily be taken from the Chamber. If they retained the contract following a competitive process, there would presumably be measurable goals in place to prevent discussions like these in the future.

    3. I also agree with Larry in #48: the city should have measurable goals which are assessed regularly (annually, with such assessments made public) whenever there is a contract with an external entity.

    May 22, 2008
  53. Randy Jennings said:

    Here’s a question for David Koenig: you have started down a fruitful path with your posts on governance, transparency and accountability. The initial posts were focused on leadership issues. What does good governance look like from the grassroots up?

    If we expect elected officials and appointed leaders to embrace the sorts of principles you have described — which seem both reasonable and effective — what are the corollary obligations on citizens? How much self-discipline must we exert in channeling our energy through our elected representatives, as opposed to going directly to whatever point/person/office we perceive to be the source of an annoyance?

    Using this CVB thing as an example, you mentioned that you were uncomfortable with the arrangement back when you served on the Council. What inhibited your ability to lead a change? Was there no citizen interest to back you up? Why has this question not resurfaced for so many years?

    How does this sort of spontaneous, impassioned public conversation fit in a good governance structure? How do we separate the important public issues from the specific concerns of an individual (or several individual) citizens? Does a series of me-to posts carry the same weight as a vote in an election?

    I remember sitting in a congressperson’s office once, being told by the chief of staff that as few as three letters on a given issue was enough to get their attention and motivate action. That was certainly not true for every issue, but the point was that relatively few loud voices could dominate their attention. How does a governance structure insulate the public business from that sort of lobbying?

    May 23, 2008
  54. kiffi summa said:

    Randy: You are raising some very important questions about how governance works, how citizens should work in the existing system and what is the role of a “blog” like Locally Grown in the community…

    Some of the questions you raise would make great “posts” just in them selves.

    It seems that you are taking this site, essentially a conversation between those who care to participate, way too seriously. It’s not likely to overthrow the government,local or otherwise.

    As for your entreating citizens to work for city goals only directly through their elected representatives, you should talk to Ross Currier about the success rate for that, on several different issues.

    I daresay if our newspaper had a more questioning bent, or provided more than the usual one side to many political stories, this site would not take on some of the characteristics it has.

    Questions and answers, checks and balances, are the essence of democracy. Why question that premise?

    May 23, 2008
  55. David Koenig said:

    Randy J,

    In post #53, you asked “Using this CVB thing as an example, you mentioned that you were uncomfortable with the arrangement back when you served on the Council. What inhibited your ability to lead a change? Was there no citizen interest to back you up? Why has this question not resurfaced for so many years?”

    I must confess that there were so many issues with how the City was being governed at that time, and still now it seems, that this issue was just one among many and not the biggest. Even at my most polite and pursuasive times, though, there was a group of 4 who would vote down any suggestion that I made (like looking to a larger law firm for a new City Attorney). Simple math made it quite difficult to challenge the status quo, even on small items.

    My single vote, though, did force the Charter Commission to send its recommendation to move to a City Manager form of government to the public…which the voters (correctly) rejected. That, and being a hard-liner on growth in city expenses were about the only areas in which I was able to have much impact (other than making some people mad at me).

    Challenging the status quo is not something people take lightly, especially from “an outsider”, which I believe I was perceived to be as I was very new to town.

    May 23, 2008
  56. David Koenig said:

    Randy J,

    Last reply to your post #53 (I think). (Griff, I had posted two before this, but only see one online now.)

    You ask “what are the corollary obligations on citizens? How much self-discipline must we exert in channeling our energy through our elected representatives, as opposed to going directly to whatever point/person/office we perceive to be the source of an annoyance?”

    This kind of change in thinking takes a long time to implement. But, that is not a reason to give up on it. Rather, we should begin with a process of restoring Clear Accountability in City government. I advocate for a truly Strong Mayor form of government. This will require a change in the City Charter. So, one thing we can do is to press our Charter Commission to make a change so that Accountability is clear…no more mini-Mayors.

    Second, I believe that we all have an obligation to serve, if our situation permits. Whether it be on voluntary boards, in elected positions, or otherwise. We also have an obligation to pay attention to what our boards and elected officials are doing. I think that Griff is simply paying attention.

    Consider the concept of the City transferring taxpayer funds to the Chamber to promote business in town, to the NDDC to lead all downtown initiatives, to the CVB to raise awareness of our town generally, etc. Or, even better, consider opening up a competition for funds from the City to address those issues. My guess is that we see greater innovation, better responsiveness and better use of funds. The Council, then, needs to be the overall governing structure to ensure that these networks of governance are properly doing what they say they will do.

    I hope that this makes some sense….we have a very engaged town. Sometime we do talk more than we “do”. But, that’s not a reason to stop talking.

    May 23, 2008
  57. kiffi summa said:

    In response to David K’s post # 55: He is very accurate in what he says here, and to go a step further, although David was always raising a serious, valid question when he asked for procedures like cost benefit analyses, or more competitive bidding on legal services, it was taken as “rocking the boat”. There was often not a substantive, discussion on an issue raised if it was considered to be in some way “bothersome”.

    That is not a good way to run any government, large or small.

    The circumstances under which David left city gov’t, and we, the citizens , lost the benefits of his good structural process thinking, were a shame to this community.

    And yet here we are once again, with criticism being leveled at those who raise questions.

    Is it the nature of any community that the “will of the ‘tribe’ ” must not be challenged in any way?

    Then how do we correct mistakes? How do we even acknowledge that there are “mistakes”?

    May 23, 2008
  58. Griff Wigley said:

    David K, I checked the spam filter and comments RSS feed. I don’t see a stray comment from you. Might have been a WordPress hiccup. Apologies, if so.

    May 23, 2008
  59. David Ludescher said:

    David K: I’m intrigued by your statement that you didn’t do anything about the CVB when you were on the Council because there were more important issues. Isn’t that still true today? What, if anything, do you propose be done? How much of that work are you going to do?

    Randy was much more eloquent that I was in capturing the idea that most commentators, including Griff, seemed to be troubled more by their ignorance, than by actual lack of transparency, accountability, or performance on the CVB’s actions.

    I have to commend Griff (and several others) for at least trying to become educated, and complaining about the difficulty of doing so. But, that is not the Chamber’s, the CVB’s, nor my problem.

    May 23, 2008
  60. David Koenig said:

    Randy J,

    You’ve been doing your governance homework (or have a keen mind for this sort of stuff)!

    Yes, in fact, the concept of distributive governance is gaining a foothold in academic settings and also at many corporations, though not necessarily under that name.

    Under distributive governance, or network governance as it is sometimes described, the power of oversight is pressed down and out to as close at it can be to the source of the risk or revenue generation, with the interaction between different governance centers resulting in a highly adaptive organization. Stakeholders often have involvement. In the case of a business, the stakeholders would include customers, suppliers and the like. This is an overly simplistic description, but the concept is based on the idea that risk management and innovation are best done at the point closest to the customer and that a system like this is far more resilient than a top-down command and control structure.

    This governance concept is founded in an emerging area of science called Complexity. As applied to economics and finance, Complexity Theory is likely to turn much of what we have been taught in Economics for the past thirty years into Economic History. Or, perhaps if that’s a bit strong, it is certainly causing a substantial re-thinking of the standard risk-return framework that eminated from the Chicago school of thought in the ’70s and ’80s. Among the things that Complexity explains is how markets operate, as well as many other natural interactions. One outcome is that the belief that “the market is right” is both supported as a long-run phenomenon and shown to have the potential to be greatly distorted and incorrect for sometimes lengthy periods, with high costs. I’ll refer you to the Santa Fe Institute for a better description than I can provide, or can be provided in a blog post. This is great stuff!

    I’ll also refer you to Dr. Shann Turnbull‘s website. Shann is a very provactive thinker in this area and wrote a paper that was chosen as the top paper this year at the Loyola University’s conference on “Boards of Directors: Managers of Risk, Sources of Risk”. In the Abstract of the paper, he begins “Directors of corporations governed by a single board (i) Have excessive and unethical powers to become “Sources of risk” and (ii) Lack processes to systematically obtain information independently of management on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of either their managers or the business to be “Managers of Risk”. ” Does this sound familiar about our City Government and its relationship to the CVB?

    Since this is already too long of a post, I’ll reply to your other two questions separately….

    May 23, 2008
  61. David Koenig said:

    David L,

    I have already started doing “what I am going to do” which is to talk to the Chair of the Charter Commission about changing the Charter and advocate for establishing more Clear Accountability. That’s where it starts.

    I didn’t say that I didn’t do “anything” about the CVB when I was on the Council. I asked questions and was told it was “locked-up” by the Chamber and that I shouldn’t mess with that. See Post #8 above.

    Still, I asked questions of Kathy and raised the issue…to the usual dead air response from the rest of the Council.

    Good governance structures enable better performance. Bad governance structures inevitably enable lesser performance. I think many here are educated on the governance issue with the CVB…far from being ignorant. We all also seem to sense that there is very little tangible evidence that the CVB activities have been positively impactful. It seems that they don’t even measure it themselves and could not answer the question about whether they have been successful. What business runs that way?

    This discussion about the CVB is about a symptom of a problem. The problem is the governance design of the City and what people will accept in terms of such.

    May 23, 2008
  62. Mary Rossing said:

    I would like to briefly address Larry B’s comments (#46) about accountability for organizations that receive EDA grants. The NDDC has voluntarily kept the EDA updated on all the actions and initiatives throughout the year during each grant cycle as well as been available to answer any questions. This year the EDA decided to ask for quarterly reporting (which is GREAT!) from us and the NEC as well. All this information was just presented to the EDA in their packet on May 22nd and the NDDC would be happy to share our accomplishments with any members of the community or with our partners. I think we all have a very open and congenial relationship as we try to promote business in Northfield. The NDDC is essentially contracted to be the feet of the EDA in downtown. By the way, the EDA grant provides only a portion of the operating budget of the NDDC. The rest is received in gifts from individuals who want to keep the downtown vital, downtown business owners, and other stake holders–it is truly a community effort! If you would like to become a partner you may donate on the website, anytime day or night!

    May 23, 2008
  63. Mary Rossing said:

    Oops I was referring to post #48

    May 23, 2008
  64. David Ludescher said:

    David K: I agree that the CVB is a symptom of a problem. I see a different problem than you.

    You served on the Council and did nothing when you were told it was all locked up? You have been out for 8? years, and haven’t done anything since then? Now you are going to the Charter Commission?

    You have great knowledge, and wonderful experience. Would you be willng to volunteer for the Chamber to put your abilities to a positive use? We (the CVB) could really use someone like you.

    I was Chamber president for one year. I got paid nothing, and have taken a lot of flak.

    Honestly, in the whole year I was president, I never heard one complaint about the CVB.

    So, if you are willing to show the same kind of positive energy you had when you whooped my a** 10 years ago in the election, I think a lot could get accomplished. Good governance structures are necessary, but insufficient, to get the work done. Someone always has to do the heavy lifting.

    As Grandpa said, “Nothing ever got done by talking about it.” That is why I told the Chamber members that we were beginning to sound the same way. I told them in that “controversial” address that they needed to quit complaining and get to work – or as Jacki said, “Get off your dead butts”.

    The idea that something can be done by talking about it has always been a Northfield problem. The CVB discussion is a sympton of that problem. Everyone has an answer to solve a “problem” that they don’t even know if it exists.

    So, David K. consider this a formal invitation to be part of the solution. Are you ready?

    May 23, 2008
  65. David Koenig said:

    David L,

    I’m afraid my energies have been put elsewhere in the past 8’s true. I’ll not bore you or others with the details. But, I’ve not been sitting around.

    Each of us has changing priorities and changing availabilities. Let’s stop with the baiting and attacking people because of their ideas and questions. Your post #64 doesn’t read to me like it meets your usual standard.

    I believe that there is a governance issue in Northfield city government. It’s not unique, but it is addressable. I believe there is a governance issue at the CVB. In the grand scheme of things, the latter is a relatively tiny matter…but one not to be ignored by those who are responsible for its oversight.

    As my situation allows, I’m advocating for the change in the governance of City affairs that I think is the first one needed. Much more can flow from that if others agree. If they don’t, then I hope that some other change is made to make the accountability for city government leadership more clear. I’ll make my case for it, and offer my help as is helpful.

    May 23, 2008
  66. David Schlosser said:

    I have read every one of these posts. Entertaining, informative…but the basic question, after 65 posts, has yet to be answered.
    Where is the tangible evidence of accomplishemnt by the CVB? What has it done? Where is the output? I wouldn’t be as bothered by the link between the Chamber and the CVB if there were some public record of accomplishment. Why is that so hard to get? Where are the measurables? Why is it so hard for David L. and the Chamber to answer these questions? Instead of answers, we get defensive posturing.
    Can someone provide us with measurable output from the CVB?

    May 24, 2008
  67. Given that the Chamber IRS 990 for 2006 (most recent one) lists the CVB as a program, and the column for program expenses is “0” it’s not reasonable to expect visible/measurable results. And where’s the $$$? It would seem binary, given ZERO program expenses — either there’s a lot of $$$ sitting in an account waiting to be spent on CVB program expenses, or that the $$$ collected has been diverted and spent on something else. Is there another explanation? Am I missing something here?

    May 24, 2008
  68. David Ludescher said:

    David S: My attitude is not “defensive posturing”; it’s ignorance. I don’t know the answers to Griff’s questions. As Griff said, the CVB is a weird duck. But, that doesn’t mean that something is rotten in the state of CVB-land.

    I will remind LG readers that if a Chamber member had the same questions, they could go right to Kathy and get some answers. That is why they pay money; to have an organization work for them. I don’t much motivation to spend my time and energy finding answers for people unless I agreed to be their leader (Chamber president), they are paying me $180 per hour (lawyer). or they say, “Please, David L.” (which hasn’t happened).

    David Koenig hit the nail on the head. We are all busy. Things don’t get done or get attention because WE don’t put the time and energy into it, even when “we” are in a position of governance.

    Griff’s concerns about the CVB could be a positive thing – if it directed in the right direction, i. e. towards those who do have the time and energy to do something. But, I doubt that vigilante blogging to LG readers is going to help anything, especially judging from the depth of knowledge most posters have.

    May 24, 2008
  69. David Koenig said:

    David L,

    People being ‘very busy’ with multiple commitments, is one of the reasons that I advocate for a Strong Mayor governance structure in the city government. I’d rather have someone in that position who views the job as their one professional commitment.

    Often, to get things done, it takes that one person who has the passion, vision and dedication/determination to:

    1) attain the resources needed to achieve the corporate objectives
    2) make sure they are pursued within the corporate boundaries of behavior
    3) ensure that those given the responsibility to attain specific objectives are accountable for achieving them

    I like the Strong Mayor over the Manager form of government because the Mayor is directly accountable to us. The professional help that can be given by an Administrator is no different than that which can be given by a Manager, so I don’t see a loss there. Meanwhile, the ambitions of a Manager versus an Administrator, can be quite different.

    Picture a Strong Mayor, with the power to change whether the Chamber managed the CVB in the next year or not, asking for measurable results from the CVB . I think the answers would flow….

    May 24, 2008
  70. John S. Thomas said:

    Please David L.

    May 24, 2008
  71. David Henson said:

    David K – I agree with all of your strong mayor arguments. I think another solid argument for the strong mayor system and stronger local controls across the country is to correct a pendulum swing that has taken the US cities in general and Northfield in particular too far towards professionalism and government by franchise.

    Highly parochial political structures can produce innovative and creative ideas but have a hard time spreading those ideas. Highly franchised political structures, professional city administrators – adoptable city codes – etc can move ideas around efficiently but have a hard time generating innovation. A professional administrator and staff will adopt a tried and tested idea but are going to be more inhibited in stepping out of the box on a new idea (on anything running up against the professional creed) than a locally elected Mayor.

    Northfield has some creative thinkers (and doers) who get frustrated when they want to take positive actions but end up locking horns with disinterested administration.

    I think streets, sewer, grass cutting etc are important needs that a strong mayor candidate should address as to how they will approach and hopefully improve.

    May 25, 2008
  72. Adam Elg said:

    Thank you for your critique of the CVB Griff. I too have been of a similar opinion of the CVB for years. I’ve heard the same vague reports of the activities of the CVB before the City Council with little questioning or request for further facts from council members.

    My fear here is that the issues you raise here will go nowhere beyond this blog.

    I hope some of you will keep the pressure on and demand more transparency and better results.

    May 26, 2008
  73. Mary Rossing said:

    The NDDC and the Chamber are co-hosting a forum on tourism, Tuesday, June 3 at 8am, lower level conference room of the Archer House. Representatives from the CVB, the Historical Society, the DJJD committee and St. Olaf conferences will be on hand to discuss what they are doing to draw people to town. Also the NDDC folks will be able to talk about initiatives to bring those people visiting for other events downtown. Hopefully the discussion will be productive and we can see where the “holes” are that need to be filled in promoting our fabulous town to the rest of the universe!

    May 27, 2008
  74. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the alert on the NDDC forum on tourism next Tues morn, Mary. I’ve heard rumors that the panel will include Kathy Feldbrugge (Chamber/CVB), Hayes Scriven (Northfield Historical Society), and Michelle Weber Egeness, CVB Advisory board chair.

    One problem, tho. Neither Ross nor Hayes have blogged about it, and the Chamber/CVB doesn’t have anything about it on their websites either.

    So it can’t be true. 😉

    May 28, 2008
  75. Griff Wigley said:

    I got spammed by Ross on next Tuesday’s forum:

    NDDC/Chamber Downtown Forum to Focus on Tourism

    Northfield, Minn.—The Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce will present a public forum focusing on supporting and strengthening area tourism on Tuesday, June 3 at 8 a.m. Featuring a panel of experts, including Kathy Feldbrugge of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Hayes Scriven of the Northfield Historical Society, and Michelle Weber Egeness of St. Olaf College and CVB board member. The forum will take place the Riverview Conference Room, lower level of the Archer House, 212 Division Street, in downtown Northfield.

    Feldbrugge will discuss the importance of tourism to the community’s economic health and the CVB’s on-going efforts within the context of her extensive experience and current best practices. Scriven will share details of the Historical Society’s efforts to draw tourists to Northfield, which is vital to the organization’s financial success. Egeness will highlight the benefits of collaboration between city organizations, essential to providing visitors with the best possible experience while visiting Northfield.

    There has been much discussion in recent weeks about Northfield’s efforts in supporting and strengthening tourism and a number of key participants have been invited to attend.  The panelists will start the discussion and then field subsequent questions.

    The NDDC is a non-partisan, non-profit community organization dedicated to the vitality of downtown Northfield. The event is free and open to the public. As always, coffee and cookies will be served.

    May 28, 2008
  76. Griff Wigley said:

    Since both Kathy Feldbrugge (Chamber/CVB) and Michelle Weber Egeness, CVB Advisory board chair will be on the panel at the NDDC forum next Tues morning, feel free to post questions here that you’d like to see asked of them… either because you’re not able to be there or because you’re not comfortable speaking publicly.   Or use the LG Contact Us form or the NDDC Contact Us form.

    I’ll see to it that the questions posted here as comments get forwarded to Ross Currier who usually moderates the forum. It’ll be his call whether or not to use your questions, of course.

    I plan to take audio/video of the forum.


    May 30, 2008
  77. David Ludescher said:

    Anyone care to comment on the NDDC forum?

    June 3, 2008
  78. kiffi summa said:

    uh … no.

    June 3, 2008
  79. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ll have some comments, David… we also talked about it on our podcast recorded earlier this afternoon which I’m working on now.

    June 3, 2008
  80. Griff Wigley said:

    The CVB/Chamber has its big ad spread in the Strib’s South section today. AAARRRGGGHHH!


    It refers people to the CVB’s Nfld tourism web site… and yet there’s still nothing noticeable (other than a buried link) there alerting people to the June issue of the Northfield Entertainment Guide… a 10-minute webmaster task.

    What a waste. All the talk about collaboration from Kathy and Michelle at last week’s NDDC forum rings hollow.

    June 11, 2008
  81. I went to after being alerted to the ad and looked for the buried link to the Northfield Entertainment Guide. Would it be under “About” which lists “Other Community Websites” like the Northfield News, Defeat Days, No. Would it be under “Things to Do/ Culture and Entertainment”? There’s the word Entertainment. Surely that is where the link is. No. How about “Northfield Event Calendar/Community Events.” No. (There is a note that these events are submitted to the Chamber of Commerce, so call the Chamber with updated events. How about an NEG link, rather than only relying on call-ins? And I wonder, as others have, why the Chamber is not closer to the big tourist draw, the NHS museum! The Chamber office is very hard to spot on Hwy. 3.)

    Finally I found a link to the guide under Visit Planning/Helpful Links.

    One more thing: I wonder why the Ideal Cafe sign is used to represent Dining and Lodging? Nostalgia? Good luck finding the Ideal Cafe, tourists!

    But, bottom line, at least it was a big ad, attracting attention to “charming and sophisticated, historic and colorful, artsy and active, secluded and happening” Northfield.

    June 11, 2008
  82. Anne Bretts said:

    It was a big ad, but on a day when people aren’t thinking weekend and in a section that has nothing to do with entertainment/tourism. It would have been better to do a smaller, targeted ad in the Sunday travel section or weekend section.
    Seems that with city budget time approaching, a group should make an alternative proposal for the CVB budget.

    June 11, 2008
  83. David,

    Did you listen to the podcast yet? I would be interested in hearing your comments on it?

    As a panelist I thought it was ok…

    June 12, 2008
  84. David Ludescher said:

    Hayes: If you are referring to me – No, I haven’t listened yet.

    June 13, 2008
  85. Yes, I was. Well, if you get a chance, I would interested in your thoughts.

    June 13, 2008
  86. Griff Wigley said:

    Hooray! The CVB now has a link to the Northfield Entertainment Guide (NEG) on the sidebar of every page of the Visting Northfield site.

    It’s not as helpful as the embed code but it’s a start.

    July 7, 2008
  87. Griff Wigley said:

    Yay! Today’s CVB ad in the Strib South section contains the NEG URL, phone # & logo.


    July 9, 2008

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