Mayoral platform: Jon Denison

Here is the second of a series of 10-minute videos during which the Northfield mayoral candidates tell voters a little bit about their campaigns. City Councilor Jon Denison spoke with me on Monday morning and our discussion occured both on and off camera. I asked him before the camera rolled about his current unemployment and the recent disputes he has had with former landlords over unpaid rent. Denison said he believed personal matters such as those do not detract from his ability to work effectively on the City Council, or as mayor.

The video is after the jump.


  1. John Thomas said:

    Do you have a link to the video?

    August 5, 2008
  2. There have been tech problems from Bonnie’s computer with adding videos, but it should now display in the post.

    August 5, 2008
  3. JOlmsted said:

    Great interview. Jon is a good guy and it’s obvious that he’s a committed council member. It’s been fun to watch his evolution since his election. As a public librarian, I liked what he had to say about the current state of things regarding a new building. I also appreciate his honesty regarding the community’s priorities when it comes to getting the new Safety Center in place. Let’s just get this liquor store figured out so a hophead can have a little more choice. In short, I can listen to Jon and be a little less disturbed about some of the other shenanigans going on in my hometown.

    August 5, 2008
  4. Bob Gilbertson said:

    I think it’s fantastic that you’re doing these interviews with the candidates. I watched this Denison interview with great interest, as I have found him to be a curious character in city government. I come away from it with a more positive view of Mr. Denison than I had coming in. He does seem like a good guy who cares about Northfield and has a basic grasp of the issues. And I am always impressed by elected representatives when they can admit that their views have evolved or changed based on what they’ve learned; he talks about that in connection with his view of the relative merits of a library project vs. a public safety center. So all that is good.

    The interview did not, though, assuage my doubts about Mr. Denison as a council member or a prospective Mayor. I have not seen any evidence that he has accomplished anything other than winning elective office on his third try. If he has had a job and done well at it, or if he has made a difference in some other endeavor besides winning a council seat, that information has not reached me. As a general proposition, it strikes me that city government is better off if the people running the show have excelled at something in their lives or at least demonstrated some type of talent or accomplishment. As far as I can tell (and I acknowledge that there may be information I don’t know), Mr. Denison has not.

    Mr. Denison seems like a likable enough person, but not impressive in any relevant way. His long, fumbling, rambling discussion in response to the question about what he believes people should be thinking about when they consider him, or why they ought to vote for him, was really quite painful. At one point he pretty much flat-out said that he’s got nothing to lose by running for Mayor this year (since his seat isn’t up this time), and that if people want him, great, and if they don’t want him, that’s OK too. Good for him to have some humility, but I’d prefer to have a Mayor who has a greater sense of personal motivation and ambition (in the positive sense) for himself and the city. Someone who aspires to greatness is more likely to achieve it than someone who looks around, shrugs his shoulders, and says (figuratively) “well, I’ve got nothing better to do, so maybe I’ll see if they’ll elect me Mayor.”

    One final point. As a bit of constructive feedback, I had a strong negative reaction to the lack of questions about Mr. Denison’s employment status and his record on paying his rent. If such questions were asked off-camera, that’s better than not asking at all, but I’d much rather have seen/heard his answers directly from him. If he really is unemployed (and I have no idea but am just picking up on the post’s introductory comment), that’s certainly relevant to my evaluation of him, and I’d want very much to know what he has to say about why he is unemployed. If he really has failed on multiple occasions to pay his rent, I definitely want to know why. Having a job and paying your rent are pretty basic parts of being a responsible grown-up, and it seems ludicrous to consider entrusting the Mayor’s office to someone who doesn’t do those things. It’s an easy answer, I suppose, to say that his personal business doesn’t affect his decisions in public office, but that really isn’t the point. The question is whether a candidate’s character and mettle are such that she or he ought to be entrusted with a leadership position. If these questions were discussed off-camera because of an editorial judgment that they weren’t important enough to be put on camera, I can respect that but certainly disagree with the judgment. If they were left off-camera out of some sort of worry about embarrassing the candidate, then I suggest that you reevaluate your approach. The man is running for Mayor. Whether he holds a job and pays his rent is obviously fair game.

    Again, thanks for this interview series.

    August 6, 2008
  5. Bonnie Obremski said:

    I’m enjoying reading everyone’s comments. I decided not to include the question on videotape because I’m trying to keep these candidate presentations consistent. The mayor talked for about 10 minutes and Mr. Denison got the same. In that time, the mayor did not go into depth about the legal matters he is engaged in and so I did not pressure Mr. Denison to do so. These interviews are a chance for me to introduce myself to the candidates and learn the video technology as much as the videos are for the public to get to know the candidates a little bit better. If I put together a more investigative article, it will be after more thorough interviews and editing etc. As for asking the public for questions for Mr. Denison, I did so at the end of the mayor’s interview comment thread. In the future, I’ll start a new thread for each candidate so it’s more visible.

    August 6, 2008

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