Late last week I heard that with the latest “add”, the cost of renovating the City Hall is now over a million dollars. Already at $800,000, there’s now a quarter million dollar addition from Johnson Controls.
This has been one of the strangest on-going stories, at least to me, in a year full of strange stories.
When Al Roder first arrived in town, he floated the idea of swapping the library for the city hall. Not only did I think that cutting up the grand second floor space into little offices would be an aesthetic crime, I couldn’t really visualize the library space working for city hall. Al’s next idea was putting the city hall in the old College City Beverage building. Not only did I question the location for our city hall, it seemed to me that a town short of industrial space shouldn’t be converting one of its finest sites into a public use.
Fortunately, after probably too much time and too many resources, both of those ideas were dropped. In its place was proposed the substantial renovation of the city hall with the help of foundation repair Fort Worth. When Al was advocating for the library and then the CCB sites, he suggested that renovating the existing building would be cost prohibitive; a figure of two million dollars was bandied about in the informal discussions. As that concept rose to the top of the heap, the cost miraculously dropped to five or six hundred thousand. Now it’s back over a million.
Accordiing to Mr. Roder, the city hall project was all about increasing customer service.
I don’t know of a single citizen who thinks that spending a million dollars on the city hall is a good use of taxpayer money. Will a few more “adds” drive the price back to $2 million? Are the alleged gains in customer service worth $1 million or $2 million? Is it a better investment than a hockey rink, a performing arts center, or a new business park? With Al now in Norfolk, who is the champion for this project, pushing it steadily forward, and keeping it on the top of our list of priorities?
Somebody suggested that the thirty-day clock for a reverse referendum on this project is already ticking.
Ross wins the door prize for accurate reporting. Actually, for reporting in any fashion … on this issue.
The Northfield News has been “crushingly” silent!
Following two Pubic Hearings on the issue of the “first step” toward bonding for the $880 K City Hall deal, the council voted it up on Aug 4 at the second hearing. This indeed started a 30 day clock for the public’s final weigh-in with a possible petition for a reversed referendum. Staff is pushing the deal .. and Finance Director (Kathleen Mac Bride) was pretty offended by the meager public “outcry” at the first of the two hearings back in July, looking I think for Public approval. Mac felt (am I paraphrasing Mac?) that, while the Public’s view was meager … it was inaccurate … that the action asked by Staff was merely to allow the process to move to the “next” legal step, so eventually, if bonds are to be levied, the ducks would be in their rows … emphasizing, that, no funds were yet dedicated, or indeed was the project even set … and, without this early action, the city would find themselves in a bind over timely bonding.
Much of “Mac’s view seemed to be directed to defend the CIP process that Lansing had initiated and Mac has shepherded for well over a year ago, and is responsible for a better (MUCH BETTER) fiscal policy. Opinions voiced against the $880 K were not directed at that process .. but as you’ve pointed out so eloquently, Ross, Roder’s long sought plan to spend money on the City Hall.
No one came back to speak at the second (continued) hearing … save yours truly .. and I pointed out that at the very least, the packet information presented by staff seemed to contradict itself and staff’s position. That the action requested, was associated with a SPECIFIC project .. and that staff, NOW armed with the PROVISIONAL okay .. would then proceed to have plans drawn, specifications completed and bids solicited. All this is bureaucratic lingo for “spending money” .
Then, sometime in the future, staff would come back with the next step and the loaded the phrase: “AS directed” by the Council, we have been churning butter … $880,000 worth, etc. So, I further asked that the Council have the open public discussion of the City Hall makeover first … before they take even this non-binding step, as too often I’ve seen staff suggested action that was short of commitment … eventually become reality .. and then, when the public weighs back in, then … there’s the hue and cry of “too late” for this public view to be heard.
The reality is, once a project gets in the cue, it is hard to remove it! The question is … today, do we want a bigger fancier City Hall … or, are there other places to spend a little money that would serve the community in a broader manner?
So, did staff present this at this time of year so there are fewer persons around to mount a reverse referendum? Why does staff want this re-do? More importantly, why has the Northfield News failed to mention the Public Hearings and the vote … and MUCH more importantly, why has the Northfield Newsfailed to mention the 30 day clock for thet citizen action?
Last week I wrote and presented a draft piece for the News regarding this issue. The News called, saying it was too long, and, would I shorten to fit the Letter to the Editor .. or the Guest Column – this latter set for Aug 20.
I was assured at that time, the News was reporting on the issue in Saturday’s Aug 9 edition… but, there was nothing in Saturday’s News. In today’s News (Aug 13), there’s still no story. Now nine days of the 30 day referendum petition process has passed us by. Whether by design or defect, the News has pushed a knife toward the heart of any Citizen’s petition and is complicit in the council’s untimely action.
NOTE: Lee Lansing and Arnie Nelson both vote NO on this.
Ross you’ve opened the issue here with the first true public airing of this situation. There is, I believe, one slight error in your initial post.
You wrote …
The Johnson Controls expenditure was first in line, and, as I recall, that’s set at 250 to 260K. The bonding is in the amount of $880 K. Incidentally, some on the council who vote for the 880K voted against the Johnson Controls deal. Go figure …
So, as Ross said, we are, well over a million dollars in potential spending on this resume builder for Al Roder, and he’s already eating Dairy Queens in Norfolk NE.
Just so you’ll understand, I’m not opposed to spending money, only to spending money unwisely. This deal was for Roder’s ego … not for Northfield’s greater need. Some greater need deals might be: parking lots, Skateboard parks , City Parks, River Front development, RR Crossing gates, stop lights on Hwy 3 at Third street. Bike Trail development, etc.
Followup to my previous comment on Ross’ $880K for the Hall.
I see that a closer preusal of the N’Fld News reveals it has written on the issue that Ross broached here on LG. I was wrong. Would that they (the News) had used their usual provcative headline style … perhaps I would have read it more closely to begin with.
I would have liked to have seen a headline something along this line”
In any event, the News did tell the story. It is more or less accurate … simply missing the drama of the Public’s voice.
Thx Victor. I never saw the Nfld News article on their web site either but a search found it: Council takes step toward funding major projects.
Wow, only 21 days left for citizens to file a reverse referendum petition?
I guess I’d better compile the CIP straw poll. If anyone hasn’t yet taken the poll, now’s the time!
Have you thought about organizing a referendum petition?
I’d probably sign one.
30 days? I’m out of town . . . how soon should I be back to sign a petition? Thanks, Ross, for highlighting this issue!
I must admit I have not been following this issue particularly closely. What specifically would the money be spent on? Expansion of Council Chambers? That makes some sense. What else? Would the Johnson Controls money result in cost savings in the long run (e.g. energy efficiency)?
The City Hall is one of our least impressive buildings in town. My impression is it is not an inspiring place to work for staff. The windows certainly need some work.
What would be the best things we could do with this building and help us retain staff and improve their work space? What dollar amount would be required? Let’s not let any dissatisfaction with Mr. Roder get in the way of making some reasonable improvements in city hall.
Reverse referendum? How would you word it? The City Council of the City of Northfield shall not be authorized to borrow up to $880,00 dollars for city hall improvements until a final has been adopted and competitive bids have been received and awarded. I guess we would also have to look at the Charter and the recall language as to form and function. The controlling State Statute is 475.521. Wait a minute I just found the statute language I don’t know how to link but I can cut and paste
c) A municipality may issue the bonds only after obtaining the approval of a majority of
the voters voting on the question of issuing the obligations, if a petition requesting a vote on the issuance is signed by voters equal to five percent of the votes cast in the municipality in the last general election and is filed with the clerk within 30 days after the public hearing. The commissioner of revenue shall prepare a suggested form of the question to be presented at the election.
It doesn’t give a suggested form like our charter does it sounds like all that needs to be said is the votes would like to vote on this.
Ross, you might want to add some of the following costs to your well over a million dollar city hall renovation numbers – help me out if this isn’t how to link?
The following numbers are from the June 2nd City Council meeting concerning the city hall improvements, marked up with all kinds of preliminary estimate only, discussion only, and not for construction language it does come up with a figure of $705,377 but that doesn’t include a whole list of things and assumes the ground floor is unoccupied during construction.
Where should the council go?
Is that included in the 880,000?
How about asbestos abatement by owner, no structural work. and no site work? Is that included in the 880,000.
The Johnson Controls improvements to city hall as approved at the January 7th 2008 city council meeting were $299,691.
How about the bond costs themselves?
Finally this whole thing was kicked off by a contract approved by the council on June 18th 2007 with Hay Dobbs at a cost of $49,855 with an additional 2,500 for expenses. As of 4/18/08 the city has paid Hay Dobbs $77,598.86.
Where can I sign the petition?
Tell me, why is it the mere citizens who move here, come because Northfield’s so “idyllic”? Do the city’s employees not see the same horizon you see? There’s more to life than fancy ball rooms. Some of my most intriguing tasks have been mounted in warehouse lofts, converted into art studios, theaters and places of innovative expression … no A/C … and the bathrooms were on another floor … w/pull chain flushers! Dancers dance on splintery floors … because they want’a dance!
So-what if it’s 30 years old as a City Hall and was originally thought to be only temporary housing of our local government. 30 years ago I was headed for the coasts .. the big time, stardom, etc. What happened. Roder didn’t have me on his resume? Gimme a break!
This consultant/ staff runaway style of government has been rampant for 15 years or more. Finally, the global economy has tipped and now the reality of out of control self serving interests sets in our town too.
Opps, lost my big open!
In my excited response (last comment) I had first responded to Patrick Enders and David Delong, saying the Petition is Coming. Look for it at the coffee houses, the Cow and all places were thinkers gather.
There was more … but this is enough.
Victor, the move of City Hall to the present location was in no means supposed to be temporary. I was involved in the fiasco when the land and school building was going to be sold to HUD for high density housing.
Years ago, when the city received Washington school for a song, the deal was that the land and building was to stay in the public domain. The school took a loss in selling it to the city for their “permanent location”. If I remember it right the land was originally donated to the school district and also had the stipulation that it stay in the public domain. The sale to HUD was foiled because of this agreement. It is buried in records that would be hard to find because this took place about 20 years ago and it was a job to find them even at that time.
When the city wanted to sell the school land and building, the bridge across the river from the Cow to Water Street was suppose to go to the new, envisioned City Hall. It was all pretty covert and took a lot of digging to find the references.
Robbie: thanx for the correction.
I have been here since 1995 … and what i’ve always been told (overheard) is the temporary status. It is so inbred in concept now, people like me repeat it without a second thought. I’m also confident that the “covert” characteristic of what you describe, is still part of the agenda of those who are empowered … yesterday or today. This is one reason I work as hard as I do for clarity.
As for background information such as that which you have just disseminated … We’re all the better for knowing it. Thanx …
Here are even more reason then for holding the ground on the site … abandoning the Roder style of project creep/resume building … and when we’ve the dollars available to turn it into a proper city hall … then we take it on … on our time frame.
Victor has a commentary in today’s Nfld News: Council moves forward on ill-advised City Hall plan.
It concludes with:
We’re having newly appointed interim At-Large Councilor Dixon Bond on our show today to discuss the renovation plans.
Anyone know where to sign the petition for a reversal referendum by 9/3?
[…] topic: the plans to renovate City Hall. See Ross’ blog post City Hall Renovation Tops a Million Dollars to continue the discussion on that […]
Editorial in today’s Nfld News: Bonding proposal should go to voters.
Nfld News managing editor Jaci Smith: Petition circulating at the Cow.
[…] Comments on this blog post are closed. Just the discussion in progress on Ross’ blog post titled City Hall Renovation Tops a Million Dollars. […]
I signed the petition
Victor convinced me to sign the petition. Now I want to learn more about the proposed work in City Hall so that I can decide how to vote if it is on the ballot. I hope Locally Grown will help us to learn more.
A petition form is also available at ArtOnWater Gallery…I am one of the many supporting members of that ‘a small, but vocal group of council meeting regulars’… Dean Kjerland
Petition is also at Cocoa Bean.
The petition is at:
The Eagles Club
The Contented Cow
Nortfield Golf Club
Ole Store Cafe
Art On Water
3 Links Residential
3 Links Assisted Living
So much for ‘a vocal minority’.
Plus, I’ve tabled outside Just Foods on Saturday and the Ole Cafe on Sunday … and will be seen at G’by Blue Monday on Monday! Of course, I realize I’m the brashest of voices of that vocal minority. Final petition forms are due, signed and notarized, in City Hall by 4:45 PM on the Third of September.
Getting this going has been more complicated than I’d have thought … what with staff verifying the TEXT, etc., nonetheless, with the help of the Mayor (he voted no) and all those responsible for operating the establishments listed by Norman, I can tell you I do not believe I encountered anyone opposed to the Petition’s goals … a citizen vote … and only a very small handful of those who seemed to not want to be imposed on by being asked if they wanted their voices counted at the ballot box. Go figure on that one?? If you’ve a favorite business or retailer who doesn’t have a petition, it is only because I haven’t had the foot power to make all the calls.
Everyone I spoke to, gave me the “go ahead’!
Regardless of the numbers of signatures that are found sufficient (by Staff) … don’t be surprised to realize a slow down in conformatrion that could keep this off the Nov 4 ballot and cause a special election, so the empowered can point figures, saying the city was forced to spend money on another election.
That kind of “gamesmanship” may have move to Nebraska … but nothing surprises me when it comes to the empowered responding to a legitimate challenge.
One other thing I question, is the assumption (by staff) that there is in fact a “deadline” for the petition to be presented. Chapter 6.6 of OUR charter reads to me a different possibility.
The problem here may be in getting an objective interpretation (read) of our charter or ordinances … even the state’s stauets, when it comes to challenging staff or the council’s preferred position. In this case, since we have two votes on the side of fiscal responsibility and principle ,,, (Lansing and Nelson), the vote need to reverse, is only 2 more.
Final plea: Registered voter’s who are residents of Northfield, seek out a petition and sign it. See Norman’s list for locations. Talk to your neighbors! Urge them to sign.
Do you really want a failed administrator’s resume dream, drive your tax burden?
If the Council wants this, let them personally lobby the voters. If the candidates have an opinion, let them get informed and campaign on this issue.
I am surprised that some of the business are allowing a table to be set up outside their establishment to beseech their customers to sign a petition. I was going to go t brunch at the Ole Store, saw Victor out front at a card board table and changed my mind.
I want to be clear about my position on the bonding issue, I have no position because I have not reached a decision.
Nonetheless, I think businesses run the risk of alienating their customer base particularly if it involves a pro-active person pushing the petition for signature.
And the coffee shops are not the only places where the “thinks” gather to discuss the governance issues of our city.
if the concern is for the business, (ole in your example) you may consider asking them or perhaps letting them know your feelings. I think by bringing this up in this audience, it may not reach or help the intended parties. I would think perhaps a better approach could be made. Perhaps drop a note or make a call to the business and explain you felt intimidated by this and decided to go somewhere else. (if that is what you are saying?)
I think no matter what the business is, or who may be in front of the business, if your saying this could be a mistake or hurt the business, then perhaps someone needs to make that point and not direct it at specific people or places or personal feelings.
My comment here is just one to say thank you for bringing up a concern that could perhaps hurt a fairly new business in Northfield. Two, address it in a way that perhaps could assist or help this new business, or any other business (for that matter) that may also have a card table in front of it, and least of all not to assume or make it sound like Victor has taken an aggressive role in obtaining signatures at the cost of prospective clients.
I hope this makes sense.
Charlene makes a good point, if you are truly concerned about the business, bring it up with the owner.
You say you have no position because you have not made a decision, however, as Bill Ostrem noted in his comment, unless you sign the petition, you won’t have an opportunity to make a decision.
Finally, how long are you going to let your feelings about Victor shape your behavior? Although you might it might not be your first choice to start your morning by seeing his face, the food at the Ole Cafe is delicious.
Victor has certainly ruffled more than his share of feathers in this community, including mine on an almost weekly schedule, his ideas range from bone-headed to brilliant and always merit a listen.
On tabling for petition signatures.
This has been a whirl wind experience … even for me. Time has made this effort a struggle … but a rewarding one!
Using the Pubic Right of Way for soliciting signatures is a right … So I’m surprised Martha, that you’d suggest any moral violation. Beyond that, It has been an eye opening experience. Of course this is only my testimony to the reactions my efforts have received, but I sincerely tell you the affirmative response has been significant.
At the Ole Cafe alone, it was really interesting, as a good one third of the citizens I encountered were from out of town, journeying to Northfield on a Sunday morning outing. ALL of these were complimentary to me for my civic engagement … and as they understood the issue, felt it was a “no brainer”. Sorry that You didn’t stop by, Martha, as perhaps we might have mended our splintered relationship, especially as your brother as opted out of the day to day rigors of governance.
Clearly Martha, as I know you … you are not opposed to my use of the public right of way for the exercising my rights of free expression … especially in this very unassuming manner.
The other “no brainer” is the request embedded in the petition … that being, to allow a public vote on this controversial decision that a small majority vote of the council has taken form the public, showing no recognition of the public’s voice at the Public Hearing.
As to your remark Ross … re: “bone headed ” ideas … Can you cite some of those?
As to “brilliant” … perhaps a better term there might have been logical innovative or forward thinking. If I had a Smily Face to paste here I would .. although, I’m VERY serious.
Just an update on the count. My efforts illustrate to me an overwhelming interest in these monies NOT being spent today, as the council has thus far allowed. OVERWHELMING.
Will I get enough signatures in the short time frame allowed? Probably not… but It certainly will be a significant number… all things considered .. and as a statistical sample, a clear message!
Charlene and Ross,
Thank you for the excellent point about approaching the businesses directly. I will send a note expressing my concern. The Ole store food is delicious, indeed! Being a pretty thoughtful person, I am not sure why I did not think of this myself!
Regarding the Summa’s, Ross, you are correct it should not play out on LG. I will be more circumspect with my comments.
An explanation offered and then the END: They used to be very close personal friends. Over the past year some of their remarks/positions just seriously troubled me and I feel compelled to comment because I know others fear retribution.
Again, thank you for the reminder!
Please leave my brother out of your comments. Anything you have to say should be directed to me and me only. I do applaud your civic engagement and never stated any “moral violation”! I do appreciate your insights on Northfield’s Sunday visitors!
Bone-headed or brilliant, convoluted or poetic…but never boring and always outside the (big) box.
But if a clear message falls in the wilderness, will the Council hear it?
Can you give a rough count of how many signatures you have, how many are needed, and when is the deadline? It might motivate some readers to sign it.
Gathering signed and notarized petitions … sort of running …
Just bounced back to the ol Mac and seeing Jerold’s message, thought i’d comment briefly.
Realistically there’s not much hope of finding a breathing petition site any longer at this moment other than a possible at Tiny’s or the Cow
DEADLINE is 4 PM this afternoon (9/3/08)
I’m estimating at 383 at 12:50, just past noon.
Unofficially, I was told I needed 430.
Being a CUB fan, I’m energized by these numbers. As Ernie Banks said: “Let’s play two!”
Thanx for all the support we got from those who signed and special thanx to those who never questioned being involved, as Martha Cashman postulated there might be.
Al…so, one should give a nod to the media. The N News helped put this on the RADAR and LGN focused attention to the issue.
Media … gotta wonder.
Jerold: Victor is off to City hall with the petition pages, as today was the last day. There will almost certainly not be the required number, but there should be over three hundred, I would guess … and that should be enough to make the Council “do the right thing” of their own volition.
Thanks to everyone who helped, and to those who signed, for the sake of having a voice in the decision.
So Here are the unofficial results. Last minute flurries of activity … picking up notarized sheets dodging bulldozers on Division Street, at 3:40 PM I rolled into City Hall and deposited an unofficial count of 405 signatures with City Clerk, Deb Little.
On my way to a 4 PM meeting, I got a cell phone call from David Hvistendahl … who had his bunch from Froggy Bottoms. I asked him if he could take them to Ms. Little as I was on a tight schedule. He said he would and that he thought he had about 60 signatures. 465!
Some of these will not pass the sufficiency test, i’m sure … but we did make an impact … and on a short time basis as well.
My unoffical understanding is we needed 5% of the vote from the last regular election. My records (Kiffi’s) show that count to be 8582.
429 would be 5%!
It’s gonna be close .. and in my humble … we win on the principle of the question. I’m confident given another week we could have topped 800 with no more volunteers … just a few more days.
The people have spoken … will the council listen?
I guess I don’t understand the logic…The bare minimum for the petition is 430 in a town of nearly 20,000 people. The petitioners failed to get even that and still it shows the council should do what the minority demands.
It seems the people haven’t spoken. This is like saying we lost the Superbowl by only a few points, so we should be declared the winners.
If the opponents of the mayor had gathered 400 signatures, would the mayor have resigned?
Victor: I still don’t understand what the petition, even if adequate, requires of the Council. Does it require them to act at all?
Anne: The petition doesn’t “win” anything. It allows the citizens of Northfield to vote on whether or not he city should spend over $1 million on renovating city hall.
The rules for a reverse referandum are in place and allow the citizens to put it to a ballot if they can get enough signatures–measured based on the number of voters, not residents. And since this is always a difficult proposition and more difficult than voting, the number is only a fraction of those that vote –to get citizens to sign a petition that requires the sponsors to educate the electorate–which means contacting enough of them.
It was speculated earlier in this blog that the city purposely forced the vote on this issue early in August to end-run any citizen objection since it is such a difficult time due to vacations, kids getting back in school, and no one is paying enough attention to governmental functions.
Anne, if you think the citizens should not have a say-so and should just follow the wisdom (or folly) of their elected officials and pay with their taxes until they can elect new representatives, that is also a position. However, if the petition is successful, you may have to vote on it.
Some citizens felt that this was too much money to let it go without the citizens voicing their concerns.
I believe there is a similar rule if the citizen’s had wanted to recall the mayor and there was a threshold for signatures–I don’t remember if the number is the same 5% of prior voter turnout–but no one was interested enough to start and complete such a petition–or not as interested and motivated as the pretitioners described herein.
David L, I agree with the premise of your question–the city council does not have to act except to delay any action on the project until after the referandum IF the petition is successful.
However, it would seem that a city councilor who is now made aware of citizen concerns over high spending might want to rethink their support of the project, and invest in getting more citizen input and communicating more clearly their reasoning for supporting such a large expenditure.
There seems to be a general disregard for citizen input–by city councils everywhere, not just Northfield–if the same people raise concerns every meeting.
Unfortunately city council meetings (everywhere) are generally poorly attended–thus we get citizens claiming
“WHAT!?! They are spending money (or changing something or starting a project of changing a park)–they can’t do that–they need to tell me about these things.”
…while the city council claims that anyone could have come to the meeting and commented and had their input.
(Of course, the citizen is ignored if he/she has spoken frequently to the city council, AND the input is before the discussion of the topic and before the citizens can hear what the council thinks, so they cannot directly comment on the discussion until the next council meeting.)
The petition asks the Council to put the City Hall project to a vote. Issuance of CIP bonds doesn’t require a referendum – but has a “reverse referendum” component to it. This means that the community can launch a petition drive that would force a vote on the issuance of the CIP bonds for the project. This is what Victor has done.
If a valid petition is received, then Council would have to 1) hold a referendum before proceeding with the issuance of the CIP bonds. As for the project itself, the Council could also consider alternate financing or drop the project altogether (do nothing) or delay the project until some future date.
Anne Bretts in #38 wrote ..
There you go again, Victor, twisting my words and distorting my statement and, seemingly trying to pick a fight with or discredit me.
Ross and Griff, perhaps you could reprimand Victor, as well.
I NEVER questioned you or others regarding your civic involvement on this issue. As stated in my post #32 I applauded your involvement and passion.
In my post #27 I simply stated that I was surprised that a business that relies on the support of all Northfielders would choose or, seemingly endorse, a particular position given the divisive nature of the political scene.
And, by the way I love the Ole Store, Tiny’s Dogs (been scarfing those down since the ’70’s), have been a frequent diner at Chapati’s (ask Nashir), the Cow, Froggy Bottoms and the Reubenstein. I joined the Just Food Co-op within five days of moving to Northfield
I DID NOT ATTACK YOU PERSONALLY nor DID I QUESTION YOUR RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION in post #27.
Post #27 simply implied that I did not want to risk a run-in with you like I had back in December at City Hall where, by the way, I too was expressing my right to freedom of expression and civic participation. I did not want to run the risk of you ‘getting up in my face’ (I have quite a few witnesses who asked you to take your issues with me outside).
Victor: I understand Ms. McBride’s post to state that an election only has to be held (assuming sufficient signatures) if the City wants to proceed with the project as is with CIP bonds. The Council has other options as well.
Thanks Victor and Jane, I do understand the law and I’m not opposed to a citizen vote, if citizens feel they need one. Clearly, if you get 430 votes, you win a referendum.
If you don’t it means not enough citizens felt it was necessary. What I question is the logic that says that if a small group of people don’t meet the minimum threshold for a referendum that the city should have to go to the expense of holding one anyway.
And we elect officials for a reason, to make the decisions. The reverse referendum, like the recall, is designed to give the public a chance to address a serious problem between elections.
My reference to the mayor was that if a group had fallen short of the 430 signatures, I’m quite sure that the mayor wouldn’t have supported a recall election and Victor would have been quite vocal about how the petition fell short and the rules are the rules, and so on.
Fact is that many people who wanted a recall felt that it wasn’t worth the expense or effort so close to a regular election. And it was cold and people were in Arizona for the winter, and some were on vacation…
So, the rules are the rules. There’s never a good time to have to go out for signatures. Mounting a recall or reverse referendum isn’t easy. That’s the point. The public had a chance to voice its opposition and didn’t.
BTW, I would have preferred that the city finish the CIP and put the whole thing out there for public review. And I might support a referendum on that if I felt the plan didn’t get a fair hearing or was outrageous. But I find it odd that people didn’t push for a referendum when the city was twisting the rules to get a poorly planned $3 million swimming pool, but are opposed to basic improvements to City Hall.
This just seems to be another City Hall bashing drama and not a real effort to solve problems.
I’m late to the discussion, but I fail to see what all the fuss is about. The City isn’t asking for a palace here — they’re asking for some minor improvements to a building that’s barely been touched since it was an elementary school. It still has those coat hooks in the hallways!
I am not a property owner in the city of Northfield, but if I were, I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be too offended by such a minor sum for an important purpose. At least we’re no longer talking about building a new city hall.
Thank you for stating what I consider the obvious. Perhaps if the “staff” has a decent/safe office environment perhaps they will be friendlier to the many demands from the citizens of NF.
Posted to the Nfld News at 6pm: Petition for bonding referendum being verified.
Out of the mouths of babes…
Thanks indeed, Sean, for showing the wisdom lacking in many far older than you.
Yes, Sean and Anne, $880,000 plus all the other work that will make it top over ONE MILLION DOLLARS for “minor” improvements to a building that has been renovated about 20 times since they moved in is really just chump change. Who are the chumps? Of course, young Sean is not a taxpayer.
A million dollars is a minor amount? Sean, you should consider running for public office, you will fit right in.
I disagree. The city is facing a budget shortfall. The state is facing a budget shortfall and aid to cities could be cut yet again. the economy is weak, property taxes continue to increase. I think this is the wrong time to spend close to a million bucks on city hall renovations. The council needs to exercise some fiscal responsibility right now. We know the safety center needs updating.
Imagine if your employer asked you to take a pay cut. Do you go out and buy a new car you cannot afford. I think most people tighten their belts and make the old car run a little longer until things improve.
I got hit with a 30% property tax increase this year. I cannot afford another one. It really could sink my business. That is a fact.
The petition is just asking to put this decision to the voters.
Jerry, I appreciate your point. My point was where was the public concern when the $3 million pool project was being done? I’d love to see a CIP plan that covers all projects and has a complete spending plan for the next 10 years. I just said that forcing a referendum on the smallest project on that list seems more like City Hall bashing than a positive movement demanding fiscal responsibility.
Reverse referendums are vitally important for when the government *appears* to ignore the citizens. I think 5% of voters is reasonable considering the various reasons already stated, and because 5% does not change anything but to allow >50% of voters to change something.
I respect what Jane wrote in #40, especially that city councils everywhere tend to disregard citizen input if the same [few] people raise concerns every meeting.
If some people have problem with the 5% threshold for a reverse referendum, I understand why any city’s council would pay less attention to a much smaller number of citizens who *appear* to be the only concerned citizens.
I think that the obligation goes both ways. Government is obligated to inquire about the needs of the governed. The governed are obligated to communicate their needs to government.
As a citizen, I understand how frustrating it is when government does foolish things despite all the citizens telling them to stop. As I am running for Ward 2, I understand that if 1% of my constituents tell me at every meeting that they want something, I can’t allow 1% to speak for the other 99%. The way for the 1% to increase their percentage is public outreach, to get more citizens involved. The way for city councils to recognize that the 1% may represent 51% is to be very accessible to constituents.
If elected, among my plans is to start a Ward 2 web page for me to be more accessible to my constituents. On the page, I intend to write opinions on controversial matters before and after voting. It would also include an easy way for you to write to me on specific current events. This will make it easier for me to understand when the few people at Council meetings actually represent a much larger number.
See this idea and more at:
Jerold: You haven’t been in Northfield long enough to know that Northfield has a history of a small percentage of the population using “undemocratic” processes to get their way.
For example, when the Comp Plan planning process was underway, a town meeting was held. Although less than 2% of the population showed up, the Planning Commission acted as if the people there were representative of the population. As Chamber president, I represented more businesses than people who were actually present. Hence, the Chamber’s vote should have counted for more than all of those people. But, it didn’t.
The Chamber was told that we needed to write our own principles if we wanted to have input. That is what we had to do to get a voice.
In reality, those who showed up at the town meeting were primarily interested in their own interests, not in the interests of the greater community. Further, It tends to be the same 5% of the people who demand more than their fair share of the time of City Council and the staff. Recently, this 5% has even shown a willingness to engage in personal attacks on staff or Council to get their way, as witnessed by Ross’s question, “With Al in Norfolk, who is the champion for this project …?”.
Jerry’s argument is the best – In these tough times, maybe the Council should rethink spending this much money. But, we shouldn’t change just because 5% of the people didn’t get their way. The City has been doing that too long, to the detriment of the other 95%. I’m glad that the City Council has finally begun to tell citizens that open mike is not a place to attack them or staff.
I’m with Jerry on this one. I love beneficial civic projects, but given our current property tax/budget situation, the small benefits of this city hall project don’t seem to warrant its price tag.
There are a number of things on the agenda for Monday that I can’t identify without reading the addenda in detail, which would take far more time than I have right now. Can someone tell me whether this renovation is on Monday’s agenda, and if so what agenda number it is?
Sorry to be so dense, but if it’s on the agenda I want to be sure to attend.
David L: As I stated several months ago, when you tried to make this same specious argument –
The input and feedback from people who show up counts more than the input/feedback (specifically: lack of same) from people who don’t. It’s a logical impossibility to prove a negative. Please stop trying.
Tracy: I disagree. Probably the biggest governance issue in Northfield relates to the governed who are unwilling to accept the representative form of democracy. That 2% or even 5% of the voters want to be heard doesn’t mean that the City Council should act. The Council has to be concerned about the other 98%.
In this case, the law requires that a vote be held if 5% disagree, and the City still wants to proceed.
David L: Can you clarify? In #52 you assert that the vocal minority tries an “undemocratic” way to get what they want. In #56, you seem to be more precise, that the vocal minority are “unwilling to accept the representative form of democracy.”
We use representative and pure democracy. Did you mean in #52 that the vocal minority’s use of pure democracy is “undemocratic”?
Even if I don’t like what the vocal minority is saying, I don’t mind if they side-step representative democracy and pursue pure democracy, such as the effort to get a reverse referendum.
If I misunderstand your statements, my apologies in advance.
Jerold, what David is too polite to say is that there are about a dozen people who consider themselves self-appointed associate city councilors. They come to most meetings, study documents and draw conclusions that they present as though they represent the public instead of just themselves. It is impossible to make them believe that the council must act on behalf of everyone, not just the people who show up at meetings. Councilors use phone calls, e-mails and personal conversations as well as their own judgment.
This same phenomenon is common in school districts when hundreds of people show up at a meeting to oppose a school closing that’s needed to maintain the health of the entire school district. If you listen only to the people who show up at meetings, you aren’t doing your jobs as community representatives.
Jerold: I don’t consider the current referendum “pure” democracy. It is a kind of representative democracy which allows issues to be put before the voters if there is a disagreement with the elected officials.
That of which I was speaking was the arrogant assumption that if 5% of the people disagree, that the City Council should act to protect the interest of the 5%. Or, in the other example I cited, that 2% of the people at a town meeting should dictate the Comprehensive Plan for the future. That’s not democracy in any form.
In my opinion, far too many times Northfield citizens confuse the right to speak with the right to be heard.
Is not the “the right to speak with the right to be heard” the same thing? If we have a right to speak to our City elected representatives, than there is an expectation that we have the right to be heard. Otherwise what is the point of giving folks the right to speak? If then, the process falls to a reverse referendum process because some feel the issue is bigger than themselves; this too is a right under our democratic model.
In my mind, representative democracy is based on all forms of expression; voting, speaking, dis-agreeing or agreeing. So the current referendum is really a form of “pure” democracy; a safe guard in our local government decision process. What people conclude as to the reason for why others undertake a referendum is their own decision, no matter the spin. If some people think this action is abusing government decision making or obstructing local decisions or affecting a majority decision, than perhaps they should take a civics class in local democracy.
this is probably not quite the right place, but could we have a discussion about the two points raised by Jim Finholt in his 9/3 letter to the NOrthfield news, about
1) growth being good, and 2) greater industrial presence leading to lower taxes? The great minds on this site could really work through those two points, and I think Jim’s right that they’re central to future decisions about northfield.
You make a good point to bring up the city staff. It is they, after all, who will benefit most from these improvements — not the city leaders whom so many hold such resentment for.
I’m concerned about a broader trend of “taking it out” on the city staff. The Northfield News has run at least a couple online polls asking people what the city should do to resolve its budget issues. The suggestion of the people is consistently to cut (the already over-extended) city staff.
As I made clear in my initial comment and as Jane reiterated, I’m not paying anything toward these or other improvements (though would be more than happy to pay a local sales tax, were one ever created). However, I’d observe that Northfield isn’t doing anything unfair in raising taxes and bonding — the state cuts LGA, and the city needs to make up the difference.
Jerry, you wrote:
Isn’t that exactly what the City is doing? I’d hardly consider Washington Elementary a shiny new car, with a million bucks of improvements or not.
While Sean is not a Northfield property owner, he is a Northfield resident now that he is a freshman at St. Olaf. And I would guess he files a state tax return too, since he is a skilled web developer. His words carry as much weight for me as anyone else’s in this community. I appreciate his eloquence.
People tend to forget that 5,000 of Northfield’s 19,000 residents are college students. Whether you like it or not, Northfield is “special” in that respect, or perhaps you might prefer to say “unusual”; not many other towns are like it.
But I digress from the main topic at hand. I note that we still lack in this thread a good description of the work to be done at City Hall.
Jane: Sean is a citizen, a resident, he’s taking an interest, and he’s probably a voter. He also contributes to the community by making this here blog thing go. He’s also paying taxes through income tax, through rent, or (because I don’t know his personal situation) through the taxes paid by his family. Don’t dismiss him because he doesn’t own a home. I don’t own a home either – so I’m not a local taxpayer, by your point of view.
Don’t suggest that his opinion is somehow less valuable than yours, or that it would be different if he was paying taxes on a property. I used to hear that kind of malarkey when I was younger, and guess what: I’ve now owned a home (not in this town, but previously), I pay income taxes, and my opinions have not been markedly changed by the process.
Felicity: #56, You asked whether the city hall renovation was a subject on the agenda of the council meeting this Monday (9.8)… It was not when I picked up the LWV packet last week, but it would make sense that there would be something related to it added at the meeting, since the petition has been turned in and is in the process of being verified. This could be just a report on the verification process by Mr. Walinski, at the end of the meeting; it could also be a more full blown discussion based on his report.
I would sincerely doubt there would be any action item, related to the renovation, at this time… unless the council, through discussion, decides to put the project on hold for the time being or until a new council has been seated.
At the meeting where the 880,000 bond sales were approved ( Aug 5, I believe) after the approving vote, a full timeline of the process for the renovation was laid out by Mr. Walinski, with the bids/contracting process coming forward at the end of November. (I’m doing this from memory, so please forgive any slight mistake as to dates). Because there was a whole timeline expressed for the project, the council may wish to put that on hold, so as to not waste $$$ with the development process until the relevancy of the petition is clarified, either by its sufficiency, or their considered action.
Hope this helps , Felicity …
FYI – one of the city councilors called me at home to say this is not on Monday’s agenda.
A few quick responses.
Felicity: While the $880K issue is NOT on the agenda, I’d expect it to come up. An appearance at the Open Mic, might move that discussion to an earlier spot in the meeting’s flow.
Anne and David L. While I might rail at any given process which I’m not in-tune with … that does not mean I’d vehemently try to disregard the process … other than to shout, CHANGE IT!
David L — wasn’t the same process (Referendum) used successfully and with your approval in effect, to move forward with the Target development. Incidentally, that resulted in a vote with about 5000 votes cast, resulting a 49 vote margin in favor! That small number resulted in TARGET!
David L. You use numbers with loose abandon. RE: your comment regarding the voice and the attendance at the Comp Plan Open House at the Armory 18 months, or so, in the past … you allow some 250 were in attendance. You further seem to feel only those pro the opposite of your ideals were there .. expressing a voice of less than 1% of the population … thus an insignificant voice.
You were there, evidently to represent and even smaller number … of persons or business interests that evidently didn’t bother to come out, and you say you spoke for that entire group. What’s wrong with that logic?
You’ve illustrated your bias!
Additionally, your stated 250 being 1% of the total is WAY off the mark … of registered and involved voters. That number is more like 8500 … not 20,000!
Finally, I agree with Sean’s right to speak. I also feel that he is one of the more informed and principled voices. That, is amazing considering his peer group. Still if the can bare arms for America, he may speak for America (Northfield). I also am NOT denigrating his peer group .. merely pointing out, different inherent interests.
I disagree with his logic .. more on a principle basis than any other … with fiscal concerns running a close second.
The Staff question is a complex one .. and my observation is each of us, upon occasion, lines up on a variety of sides of that question depending on our NIMBY relationship with the issues.
I agree a million bucks is not a lot to spend on City Hall. My larger point agrees with Anne. The lack of comprehensive planning. It’s a million bucks today. Then we have the safety center, public library, liquor store, skate park, ice arena, anything else? At some point we cannot pay for all of these projects without raising taxes too much. I would like to see a 10 year CIP plan ranking the projects in order of importance. Why city Hall before a Safety Center? Are improved council chambers more important than fire trucks?
Has the council planned for a potential cut in aid to cities from the state?
I think forcing a referendum is bashing the council’s lack of planning more than bashing city staff.
David-I agree 5% should not force the council to change their position, it should put the issue on the Nov ballot and let the voters decide. If the council wants to remodel City Hall, let them make their case and explain why they have done no long term planning. or if they have, they can explain it because I have not seen it.
Peter: In #62, the right to speak and to be heard are different. Our right to free speech means that we can express ourselves on a public sidewalk (and other places), but no one is obligated to listen. In this sense, we don’t have a right to be heard. Regarding government, we have a right to petition the government which implies a right to speak to government and to be heard by government. I hope that clarifies our right to be heard.
Anne: Regarding the “self-appointed associate city councilors” (hereafter “SAACCs”), most every city has them. I think it’s government’s responsibility to weigh the SAACCs opinions as equals to other citizens. SAACCs are exercising their civil rights and shouldn’t be faulted for doing so. City Council should be faulted for giving SAACC opinions disproportionate weight. This is why I think that local government should reach out to constituents who don’t normally voice their opinions. This way, if Council meetings are only attended by the SAACCs, then the Council will know if the SAACCs do or don’t represent the opinions of others.
Jerold, you really are new in town.:-)
I disagree on your point of argument. You are speaking on very personal level, a right by all individuals. And as individuals, no one has an obligation to listen to anybody However, where is the context in your point. In this thread and this discussion I am talking about local government decision making in light of the reverse referendum. The issue gets to local government accountability for decision making.
Do you really believe that elected official are not obligated to listen the public? Or is your argument general in nature and hard to apply in this specific context?
Who are the elected officials listening to when they make decisions? When technical issues arise who they turn to for advice? Are they not obligated by the very nature of being publicly elected to listen to the people, to staff?
If I get up at the Council meeting and make my case and then ask the question “did you listen“ and the officials say, “no we didn’t, we are not obligated to listen to you”, what a mockery of local democracy? Does this story seem familiar. How many times have will intentioned residents lifted themselves up at City meetings, stuck their necks out and asked that question. But I suppose whether you make your case publicly or privately as some folks do who are afraid to place their name out in public, the same holds true……If people are given the time and tools at local government to make their case, then, there is an expectation that they will be heard. If an individual decides after hearing they disagree, than so be it.
So lets no confuse the individual rights of free speech given to all with local government democratic process and decision making. Free speech is a right. Whereas local democracy is an gem, it can either stay uncut and dull, or it can be cut and polished for all the world to see.
Peter: Your original question was, “Is not the ‘the right to speak with the right to be heard’ the same thing?” That’s what I answered first. They are not.
I added for context that the right to petition government, which is also in our First Amendment, implies the right to be heard by government. This fits in nicely to your hypothetical.
Further, I want to add an important nuance. The Bill of Rights does not give us the right to free speech, to petition the government, etc. It prevents the government from punishing us for doing so. Not long ago, protesters, publishers, and all sorts of dissidents could (and were) imprisoned for expressing themselves. They had the right to speak freely then, but the government punished them. Our Bill of Rights simply forbids our being punished for expressing ourselves (with a few exceptions, such as defamation).
The annotated First Amendment is a great resource for its history,
Anne: New in town and faithful to the Bill of Rights. Even if SAACCs and others are wrong, the cure for wrongful free speech is more free speech to say what is right.
That’s why I went to the RNC to help the National Lawyers Guild protect the protesters by monitoring police conduct. That’s one reason why I am running for City Council, because as a strong advocate of free speech, I have always wanted elected officials who are strong advocates as well.
I don’t mind plugging my web site again, where I explain among other things my focus on civil rights, the environment, and infrastructure:
All I am doing is placing the conversation into perspective for the ordinary folks with regards to why and how the $800,000 (and a lot more from my experience) is spent. The referendum speaks to the heart of it being either a community decision or elected officials.
As you rightly stated post # 53 “Reverse referendums are vitally important for when the government *appears* to ignore the citizens.” I would also like to add that it is a safety net for the community. It ensures that adequate ACCOUNTABILITY takes place an BEFORE a decision.
The reverse referendum puts the Council on notice. Therefore, the right to speak (a referendum) makes the Council hear (listen) about the question of spending tax payer’s dollars and requires an answer to that question…to bond or not to bond. Therefore in the context of this discussion, the right to speak (with a referendum) demands a response (the right to be heard).
I appreciate you previous statement on this discussion, that if elected you intent to be more accessible to folks. Whether through a blog or simply a phone call, I think this is very good thing. Perhaps, if you are elected, you can demonstrate the reason why you make decisions so the ordinary folks understand why and how their tax dollars are being spent. In affect, your efforts to have open communications will allow you some insight across the community.
Peter: I have spoken to city councils on a few occasions and I remember good and bad times doing so. In 2006, when I was helping the South Central Farmers to keep their community farm, I recall a Los Angeles council meeting when a council person (Dennis Zine) rotated his chair 180° to turn his back on the farmer speaking at the mic. Later, he said that he was stretching his legs, not ignoring the speaker.
In 2001, there was a May Day protest in Long Beach, Calif. Police shot rubber bullets at the backs of protesters. I saw a photo of a journalist who was shot in the back of her thigh. She was arrested with about 100 others for rioting, routing, unlawful assembly and conspiracy. I became a legal assistant on her case. She was found not guilty because the case against her was weak and her lawyer was sharp. During the trial, I learned through a personal, outside source that the Long Beach police wanted “to teach those kids a lesson.” The rule against hearsay kept the statement out of court, and I understand the rationale why, but I absolutely trust the source of the statement.
All this to say that I want our government to be accountable.
Apart from the gloomy side of government, there are great things that Northfield can do. Police Chief Taylor told me that Northfield’s drug use is about average for a city our size. I’d like to see a meaningful drug intervention/diversion program for drug sellers and users before the criminal justice system takes them. I’d like to see us ban plastic bags from grocery stores like some other cities have done. With conscientious citizen input and a progressive city council, we can accomplish a lot of good in four years even with a tight budget.
Something that has not been discussed at all here is the actual proffered design for this current renovation plan. It maximizes, not minimizes, the costs for what (at another fiscal time) might be a much needed enhancement of the staff’s work environment. By reversing the uses of the current council chambers space, and the “black hole” (former gym by the Washington Ave. door) it reorganizes the entire first floor. The same improved communal work space for staff could more economically be achieved by using the “black hole” for that interactive staff space, and leaving the council chambers where it is.
Dare I say, less controversy would lessen the need for a larger council chambers? The council chambers is an adequate space except for meetings which draw larger audiences, and they are not often actually on controversy, but more often on swearing in of new police officers. Large audiences based on controversy were due to the Woodley street construction and the new rental code ordinance. There is video in the hall, and a better overflow space could be easily developed for the occasional large crowd.
Remember also, that within the last year or so, approximately 90-100,00 was spent on upgrading the audio-visual capability of the current council chamber ( with somewhat questionable results), but still, $$$ recently spent.
There was a plan drawn (5 years ago ?) by a Northfield Architect, Donald Starr (R.I.P.) that utilized the “black hole” space for the kind of large open
interactive office that has been explained would facilitate the staff’s working together, but left the council chambers where it is. As I recall, that plan was about 345,000; obviously there would be some increases in construction costs.
This is yet another example of lack of use of plans already developed, in favor of a supposedly “new” vision. The Hay-Dobbs city facilities study went on and on, with its scope ever expanding. This is not the fault of Hay-Dobbs, the consultant.
I’d like to hear what the mid-level staff at City hall have to say about their work environment; it’s that whole group of mid-level employees … I’m thinking of the women who have held the place together and always been helpful to the citizens … that I’d like to hear speak to the issue of the workability of the current facility.
OK, Jerold, I love your stories, but I’m thinking we aren’t going to see the cops shooting rubber bullets here any time soon. (And you really need to Google the whole local drug use issue because you have opened up a real can of worms there and we don’t have time for that on this thread.) The councilors are extraordinarily willing to talk on the phone or by e-mail or in person, listening to opinions and answering questions and explaining their views.
I think the debate over the right to speak versus the right to be heard is missing the point a bit. This is Minnesota and the SAACCs are impossible to ignore. That means they’re gonna speak and they’re gonna be heard, what with them being so persistent and the councilors being so darned Minnesota nice and all. The real issue is, after they make their demands and everyone listens politely, whether they are going to get their way. And that’s where we who believe in free speech and representative government and basic meeting etiquette have gotten really frustrated. When you don’t have the votes you can’t demand that you get your way because you came to a meeting. You can’t turn in a petition that fails to meet the bare minimum requirement of signatures and demand that it count. (If there are enough signatures, then you win and that’s cool.) You can ask, but you can’t demand.
It is not a violation of free speech to tell people who talk beyond the set time limit to sit down and be quiet. It’s not a violation of free speech for the council to listen to their demands and vote in the best interests of the entire community. In fact, putting a lid on the domination of the SAACCs would be a huge first step in reaching out to those who don’t feel comfortable speaking or even attending meetings.
Once again, some of the comments being made here reflect personal animosity, and have nothing substantial to do with the renovation of city hall.
Anne: I agree with your post (#79) in principle, especially your concluding sentence, “In fact, putting a lid on the domination of the SAACCs would be a huge first step in reaching out to those who don’t feel comfortable speaking or even attending meetings.”
If I prematurely put my ‘government’ hat on, I need to go out of my way not to deny any person’s access to government. If the SAACCs are as uppity as they’re described, they will be eager to sue the city if there is an opportunity. They may try to create an opportunity. So you understand why I am cautious about this topic.
At one of the Cow’s mayoral fora, I heard that a citizen was arrested at the City Council meeting when she stood in silent protest of the council. She was told to sit down but refused. That’s what prompted her arrest and the lawsuit, and she won a settlement from the City.
Unless a SAACC is clearly acting outside their rights, I wouldn’t dream of taking any official action directly against them. But I will be keen in my efforts to inspire a broad range of Northfielders to participate. I’d rather lead by inspiring new participation than try to limit or contain old participants.
Jerold, I’ve covered government for more than 20 years as a reporter. I would never consider denying anyone his rights. I’m not talking about people being arrested for standing in silent protest.
We actually agree, but we’re running in circles here. Happily, the crises of the last couple of years are over, and none of us will have to see the behavior we’ve witnessed again. Let’s pull this back to the original thread.
And Kiffi, I agree that the idea of making the larger unfinished space into offices and leaving the council chambers alone makes sense. Perhaps the new office area could include a small meeting space with overflow TV viewing capacity for large crowds. Right now, the second floor meeting room is woefully inadequate when there are two meetings in one night.
Jerold: The citizen was arrested because she wanted to talk during a meeting when no public input was allowed. The only reason for settling the lawsuit was that it made economic sense, not that she was in the right. Marv Grundhoefer was mayor at the time.
Jerold — and David L.
I believe the citizen was arrested because she stood next to the Citizen’s Mic after she was denied any (or perhaps more) time to speak.
It was a struggle of wills and she lost but only for a brief time. Were you here David? I wasn’t. Is your comment regarding settling for convenience accurate or urban myth? I ask, as I feel you (David L) invoke mucho myth in much of what you write, here.
Additionally, I’d speculate that Mayors in the past few administrations (since the Target uproar) have shown more leniency with citizens (in number s of speakers and in time allowed) than might have been the custom in the past.
Victor: Let’s not waste folks’ time; call 645-4451.
I’m tired of chaos at Council meetings. Whether he’s elected Mayor or not, Eduardo Wolle’s call to “restore process to the City Council meetings through use of Robert’s Rules of Order” is an essential step in getting our city government back on track.
(quote taken from his campaign materials)
All- please remember that when a new person in town wants to get involved, that’s a good thing. Yes, this town has a lot of history which is important for understanding political nuances. But please stop disparaging Jerold just because he doesn’t know every bit of that history (yet). What about the other viewpoint: someone new may be able to see things more clearly and provide an unbiased viewpoint?
If new people are always told they shouldn’t do anything because they don’t know anything, we’ll lose a huge opportunity to move forward. Please choose your words with greater care.
Felicity, I didn’t see anybody disparaging Jerold. I’m delighted that he is here and interested in City Hall. I think we all agree in principle, but got bogged down in how the principles applied to specific situations here. Now that the primary is over, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about those specifics again. That should make it a lot easier to stay focused on the issue, which is how to prioritize and fund building projects.
Sorry, everyone, but I have been busy and could not keep up for a few days. There have been several admonishments of my comment that “young Sean” doesn’t own property, which I indicated had bearing on his opinion that a million bucks was a modest cost, with a few lessons explaining to me how his voice is just as important as a property owners.
His opinion may be just as important, but not owning property gives one a different perspective on deciding whether the city should spend money on one thing or another. The city’s taxing authority is limited (currently) to its ability to tax property–so property owners get to pay. Renters maybe get to pay, too, when their rent is increased to cover additional property taxes-but even that is indirect.
One of the inequities of local government is the “taxation without representation” when building owners do not live (and thus, vote) in the community where they are being taxed. As governor, Ventura attempted to rectify that to some extent by revising the business property tax rates and make them more homogenous with residential rates. However, the fallout has been a reduction in school funding and local government aid–so municipalities have raised their tax in order to make up for some of the shortfall (and school districts have attempted to pass referandum.)
So, I do think it is important to note that someone is NOT paying the taxes locally but advocating for the spending. It is significant, Patrick, that you are not a property owner. I believe your opinion should be weighed with that in mind.
Ask any of the local downtown building owners. Northfield loses a few million with Rate Search, pays a few consultants here and there tens of thousands of dollars, and then wants to spend money on improving city hall. Some taxpayers are worried that there are just not enough millions to get all the “wants” done and maybe Northfield should stick to the “needs.”
Felicity: Please don’t include me in your address to “All” … I have said nothing to discourage or “un-welcome” Jerold. I very much agree with what you are saying in # 87 … If you look back to my #80, you’ll see my recognition of an ongoing tone that I find negative and non-productive to any introduction of a relevant , or new, idea.
As a matter of fact, I am very anxious to see, Jerold, your on-line communication with citizens; I hope it speaks to all of the community, not just your ward, should you win a seat.
Maybe with your interest , you should start a political commentary, whether you prevail in your race or not. What about it?
First, I have plenty of experience with paying property taxes, and voting on referenda which will affect my out of pocket expenses. Don’t presume that you know how my financial situation will affect my opinion on public works.
Second, I’m saddened that you see self-interest as a major motivating factor in voting. I am egotistical enough to think that I try to rise above my self interest, and consider what I perceive to be best for the well-being of the community in forming my opinions/choosing how to vote. I also like to presume that others do the same – even when they disagree with me, as Sean does.
My opinion, apparently like yours, is based upon the impact taxes may have on the well-being of our town. As you said,
I agree completely, for much of the same reasons and arguments you state. And that opinion is in spite of my non-property-taxpayer status.
Respect Sean’s opinions (or at the very least his right to them), and he’s more likely to listen to your arguments. Dismiss him as an uniformed child, and you’ll never get him to listen to you.
Kiffi: My apologies. I didn’t want to get into naming names.
Jane: On #89 – Bingo!
Patrick: I did not dismiss Sean’s opinion (or yours.) I simply said that your opinion should be weighted with your perspective in mind.
You claim that you are above self-interest in your decision making on political issues. That may be good, but it could also be bad if you will not be affected by a decision of the city council–in essence, you might advocate raising taxes for others because you believe you have the overall good of the community at heart. I wish all voters were so kind-minded–but I do not believe they are.
Now I am taking time to do a little civics lesson that some of you may already understand and others may not have had an opportunity to noodle over.
Our country was designed with the idea that the people should have a voice in governing the country. Part of the success of the republic (with representative governance) is that the voters will care about their self-interest, and the elected officials will act for the greater good.
That leads to two different schools of thought–that elected officials should either vote for what the people want, always or, alternatively, that the elected official will have a better understanding of the overall picture and vote for the greater good even if it is against the desires of the people. In practice, it seems that there is some middle ground–where the elected uses good judgement and has the charm to explain this to the people when they have a result they did not lobby for.
This is a long way of saying that it can be VERY GOOD for a city to have city council members (and a mayor) that has a lot of self-interest. See, self interest does not have to mean SELFISH interest–just that they have something to lose in the mix of things. Sometimes the best decisions have come from councils that have been riddled with conflicts-of-interest. Because they care about how it comes out, and tend to fully discuss and compromise on decisions. (Of course bad decisions can come too, like the rental ordinance even though there were affected city council members.)
At the same time, it is insulting to say that very interested, active citizens are trying to be unelected council members. They are active, interested citizens. The city council and the mayor should expect to explain their votes and reasoning, and when they don’t do it very well at the city council meetings, those same citizens demand an explanation, and they deserve one.
So, Patrick, I stick to my opinion. You are probably of a character beyond reproach with the greater good in mind. When you advocate for raising taxes which you will not have to pay, I will discount your opinion, and Sean’s and anyone else in that same boat. You will have to make your case with me, because you are for getting someone else to pay. That does not mean your opinion does not have merit–just that you will have to make a stronger case.
Sean made the suggesting that $880,000 was a modest sum. Patrick, you certainly can see the logic that Sean’s opinion of the sum being modest is affected by the fact that he will not have to pay for it.
Municipalities have many challenges due to failing economy, reduced state aid, and rising demands for services. The formula for the last couple of decades needs to end–city hall needs to enlist the help of all interested citizens and quit paying consultants to cover their butts. They need to make their governance transparent–if they don’t have anything to hide, quit hiding it. City staff has to quit looking at citizens as the enemy and embrace them as their ally. (I know it may sound disgusting but I think it is worth a try.)
My comment on Sean being young was simply from another blogger. I love that young voters are involved and interested–but they have the same responsibility of any citizen to learn and come to an understanding of the issues and consequences of their positions. They are our future.
Anyway, Patrick, I was not attempting to insult you or Sean. I was trying to explain that different citizens in a community have different motives-and they are what they are, neither good nor bad–but it is a good thing to have an understanding of those motives.
Also, I did not intend to claim to understand your inner decision making process–only that my view of your opinion is affected by whether you will or won’t be subject to the consequences of the position for which you advocate.
I have been keen to reach out to newcomers in any forum. When I was a member of Toastmasters, I would frequently see new members feel excluded from the regulars, so I would do what I could to help them feel included. Hence, I deeply appreciate Felicity’s observation and comment.
Yet, as a candidate for public office, I expect to be scrutinized. I don’t take the scrutiny as disparaging. Actually, I welcome it because I want to earn your votes, and because I recognize that as a newcomer, you don’t have two decades of my history in town to rely upon. I volunteer my stories here because it’s important to me to share my background, ideas and qualifications.
So long as we communicate on Locally Grown for mutual discovery, not chest beating, I say, “Bring it on!”
Kiffi: Regarding your post #90, as I understand the ward system, I would represent Ward 2 at the council meetings and vote for the best interest of all of Northfield, like U.S. senators represent one state but vote for the nation’s interests.
Because I represent one Ward, I would focus my official writings to and about its residents. Depending on the subject, I’ll definitely include how other wards were part of my deliberation. If city council approves a drive-in theater to build in Ward 2, I’d explain why I voted for or against it, and if I voted for it, I’d explain why I thought Ward 2 was best.
About starting a place for my own political musings, win or lose at city council, I like the idea but I would rather add to Locally Grown’s content, or the Northfield News, etc., rather than re-create the wheel. But I can’t dismiss your idea entirely. After the election, you just might convince me.
Jane: In your post #94,
I agree that on general matters, the elected official should vote according to the clear majority of their constituents, unless the issue has dire consequences.
As a dramatic example, if my ward has 51-100% male chauvinists and the issue relates to feminism, I would not vote according to their majority because of the dire consequences. On other issues, if there is a clear majority, their will would greatly influence my vote. If 70% of my constituents don’t want a drive-in theater in Ward 2, I’d vote against it even if I miss having them around.
This topic speaks of fiduciary responsibility, that is, putting my constituents’ interests ahead of my own.
It’s an unscientific calculation, how dire is the issue, how many of my constituents want me to vote a certain way and how important is it to each of them? How does the issue relate to societal issues and local concerns? I expect my elected officials to work out some sort of calculation like that and vote accordingly, as I will if elected.
Democracy, in all of its forms, have flaws, but as “they” say it’s the best governing doctrine we have.
As I recall from my years of renting in Minnesota, the property tax structure is weighted so that renters actually carry a greater property tax burden than homeowners. And I am paying for school taxes when I have no kids or grandkids in the schools and aid to downtown and trails and lots of things that have no direct benefit to me but do have a direct or indirect cost. I would much rather spend money to fix city hall than to build a pool or an ice arena or a new parking lot downtown. Yet I understand the people whose priorities are different from mine.
I think we all have an interest in the city and we all pay the costs, in one way or the other. I can’t imagine the chaos if tried to have a system that ‘weights’ our views, so that some count more than others. I’m glad we have elected leaders who listen to all our voices and then balance all the views in making the best decision they can. One man/woman, one voice works pretty well.
Jane, you wrote,
Thank you for the civics lesson. However, you seem to keep missing the very small point that I am not in favor of the proposed City Hall renovations.
Griff: Could we please get back to the City Hall Renovations on this thread?
There have been various plans in the past, the most recent before the current Hay Dobbs Space Needs Study was the Don Starr plan that I mentioned back a way…#78.
One of the major flaws in this renovation plan was that it grew out of a city facility space needs study, through several layers of “scope creep”, and as a matter of fact , is still growing. On page 9 of the disbursements list in the 9.8 city council packet is a line item for “capital projects/City facilities/ Hay Dobbs/ C.H. Renov. / $2353.75. Obviously if a project has been approved by the council, a timeline must be developed and adhered to. The council say they have not approved this project, and there are several points at which it could be stopped, if they so choose. However the renovation project continues to rack up costs when the whole project may not be approved in the end.
Is this a wise way to spend money when internal cuts to staff are being made, in order to satisfy what was an 800,000 deficit in the general Fund,
before Kathleen Mac Bride made those internal cuts ?
If you listen to Ms. McBride on the “budget woes”, it would seem that an underlying philosophical change in the council’s attitude toward spending is needed.
I am sorry, Patrick, because I know you are against the city hall renovation and I was not trying to group you with either position.
I was just trying to explain my view–that it is important to me to know something about the person giving the opinion–not to insinuate that you were supporting the changes–only that I take into consideration the circumstances of each opinion-giver–and in Sean’s case it was more important to me that he was not a property tax payer than that he is young or a student. (Although IMHO it is very nice that he is both.)
I was certain you did not need a civics lesson, although I am pretty sure that there is not a good understanding of the tax systems in place from others’ comments on this thread, and I wanted to explain my prespective fully.
Right on, Jerrold (post #97). That is why it is difficult to serve the public–and why it is so appreciated by the rest of us who only get to comment (and vote.)
Anne, you are correct in the disparity of property taxes on renters, although the Ventura reforms made it a bit less so. And I agree–the municipality has a responsibility to provide services that not everyone uses but that is our burden as taxpayers. However, I think that it is important for municipalities especially to be attuned to the burden they place on non-represented tax payers. I believe these tax payers should have their opinions considered when deciding to raise their taxes, and that it is inherently unfair to expect them to bear the burden of paying for something that they have NO VOTE in.
One of the driving forces behind the Ventura business property tax reforms was exactly that–local governments could raise taxes without any hue and cry from their residential (voting) tax payers because the burden fell disproportionately on the non-voting corporations and non-residential business owners.
Unfortunately the tax shift was exceptionally painful due to the lack of the other part of the Ventura tax reform–an increase in sales tax that failed. So Minnesotans have vainly tried to make up for a huge cut in property tax revenues by….raising local property taxes. So no real tax relief for individuals (who often blame businesses for getting a much-deserved tax cut–even though they are not the ones receiving the (majority of) services from the municipality–or blame schools as fiscally irresponsible when they had their budgets slashed due to decreased state funding.)
I believe it is important for the citizens to continually monitor their governors–like the city council, school board, county commissioners, state and national legislators–and let them know how they feel continually–not just periodically when an election comes up. These involved citizens should be encouraged and commended–not villified for making the effort to be involved.
Which brings us back to this thread–where a group of citizens attempted to be heard by their city. Will their city turn its back? Will the city council claim that it is only an annoying minority who do not deserve any attention if they couldn’t get enough votes for a reverse referendum, so let’s just push that expenditure through? Or will they discuss the issue with the knowledge that nearly 5 % of the voters, in about a 2 week time period, made a huge effort to make their voices heard on this matter.
It is a little like Horton and the Whos. (Which is not a rock band but should be.)
Posted to the Nfld News site yesterday afternoon: Bonding petition fails. (Thx to two readers for the alert.)
Also from the article:
“Little and Swanson contend in their memo that at least one of the pages, which listed Victor Summa’s name in the verification section, had no signatures on it, but had already been notarized.”
Victor, why would you have a page with no signatures notarized? Who was the notary?
Regarding the memo from Swanson and Little concerning the denial of the petition:
I have not seen this memo.
Jaci Smith conducted a phone interview with me.
Having not seen the memo, I asked her to read to me the itemized rationale for the findings. We spoke for maybe 45 minutes. Ms. Smith read to me (summarized in some cases) the basics of each rationale. As she read I took brief notes on “her” comments. I responded and we had a joint discussion wherein we compared mutual confusion in some of the Swanson/Little memo.
My responses were to the best of my knowledge open and accurate. Our discussion (Smith/Summa) included much more than was understandably quoted in the News’ report … any part of which as to my comments, I’m sure I will stand behind as to motive and action … or correct if there is a need.
In today’s web report, Smith writes and Benson ask me about:
THIS IS NOT TRUE. This is either an error or a misunderstanding … if it is as stated in the Swanson/Little memo … and/or in the Smith web report.
SPECIAL NOTE: I do not believe Smith read a quote of that nature to me from the S/L memo. Had she, I would have refuted it. In any event, it is inaccurate if it appears anywhere!
Smith and I exchanged agreement on the seeming sloppyness of the City Staff’s process and their obvious lack of procedural knowledge in this kind of petition … making my effort all the more difficult. This is referenced in the S/L memo … and reported in the Smith article
As to C Benson’s question:
The conclusion reported in the News Web Article is inaccurate. It may be the News’ error or it may be an error in the S/L memo (remember, I’ve not seen the memo)
I withdrew five pages that were improperly handled in the signatory line AND by the notary. NONE of these involved my signature … and to the best of my knowledge, my signature appeared only on properly notarized pages. NOTE: I signed all of my pages in front of Deb Little.
Clearly I had no desire to deliver any pages that might fail. My goal was: good signatures, sufficient in number. Thank you, Curt, for the question allowing the damning error to be responded to.
Will you now ask the News and City Staff to explain … each, from their POV?
Shortly after submitting the packets, I received a phone call from Ms. Little.
Obviously Ms. Little had made a quick review of the pages and discovered a page with citizen signatures … but missing the required notarized signature affirming the authenticity of the page.
Every page required this step.
Her call was to alert me to the flaw on this single page, providing me the opportunity to attempt to validate that page. The page in question was in a packet that had been collected and properly notarized by another citizen. Validation would have required my withdrawing the page, securing the proper signature and notary and returning the page by closing time.
WHAT HAPPENED: Pages 2 through 5 of that packet were TOTALLY blank. Before turning in any of the packets, I used a pristine page 2 of this packet and obtained 6 more signatures. As this was more or less buried behind the properly notarized first page, it was overlooked when Ms. Little notarized my other needed signatures,. Hence the call from Little allowing this error to be corrected.
Evidently at that point, it was okay with City Staff to allow an adjustment to the pages … or was it?
This raises and supports the question: what is staff procedural accumen in handling these matters … and, secondly, should they assist the citizen in its effort?
One might think these services fall under the phrase: “Striving for excellence, committed to service”, used by the City in every communication and displayed boldly in the City Council chambers.
Other than this explanation and not having read the S/L memo, this is my only possible understanding of the reference in the News story alluding to the “blank notarized page”.
Finally, I want to address a phrase in the S/L memo, that I “DEMANDED” to see the pages.
In fact … I asked to REVIEW them. Ms. Little provided them. I explained that I needed to withdraw a packet. She did not want me to do so, but then relented, requiring me to write a note stating that I had withdrawn that packet, and then allowed me to have the packet in question.
Her schedule was tight, she was not too willing to accommodate me, I persisted and she provided the means for me to withdraw the packet in question.
In closing, at this juncture it is not my intention to be drawn into an extrapolated LG dialogue with well meaning citizens … and some not-so- well-meaning, asking more convoluted questions. I’ve seen where these threads go. I am not ducking anyone … I merely must use my time efficiently. I would be happy to discuss this in an open session with “live” give and take … perhaps on the radio show.
I would like the readers to consider these two e-mails to Victor, from city staff, in evaluating the city’s explanatory memo, as reported by the NFNews :
1. from Kathleen McBride, Aug.14, subject: petition …”Deb’s working with the attorneys (Maren and our bond counsel) to get the reverse referendum petition form format clarified. Mac” (signature) (this is the entire text)
2. from Deb Little, AUG. 18, subject: Victor, … (this e-mail has various answers to questions) the second to last paragraph states: ” I asked about the Commissioner suggesting language for the question. The Commissioner of Revenue would revue the question. Although these election questions on the issuance of bonds are pretty straight forward.”
These are examples of two of a series of e-mails and conversations about the structure, and governing rules, re: this petition. They do not indicate to me that Ms. Little or Ms.Swanson did not strive to ascertain what was needed. Ms. McBride even said that the “bond counsel” had been consulted.
Who is being asked to “fall on their sword” here?(in the city memo)
The contention in the city memo that says (as reported in the NFNews) that Victor turned in a notarized, but empty page, is to my knowledge a bold- faced lie.
The implication, by that statement in the memo, that Victor removed that packet to save HIS “error”, is outright defamation.
The packet which Victor was allowed to withdraw, in exchange for the “note” Deb Little requested, was from a site at which Victor did NOT gather signatures, and the Notarized blank page in that packet was either a stupid mistake by the notary, or some other kind of error by the notary. Victor returned the faulty packet to the person who collected it, and had nothing further to do with it.
Victor said REPEATEDLY, that he would rather the entire petition failed, than have one possibly innocent mistake by a notary cost that notary his job, or license. So … crucify the man (Victor) for being TOO honest!
Anyone who thinks the effects of this last 15 months, and the Council/Administrator/ Mayor conflicts can be cured by Robert’s Rules of Order, reading the NFNews reports, or putting everyone in “plays well together” report card T-shirts … hasn’t got a clue!
Goodness, so much confusion over something so simple. Once again this city seems to be reinventing the wheel instead of just heading to the tire store.
Since the renovations have been discussed for months and it was clear someone would seek a referendum, it seems the orderly thing to do would have been to have the acceptable wording for a petition ready, along with instructions, when the work was approved. That would have given the public the full 30 days to do their work without the fear that a petition would be rejected. The alternative would have been for those who knew for months that they wanted a referendum to go to the Taxpayers League or the League of Cities or the state and get the wording and instructions to be ready to go.
Nothing can be done with the current situation, but it seems imperative that the the council and staff make it a policy that the referendum paperwork is available at the meeting when a project is approved.
So…it seems that city staff delayed the beginning of the petition gathering for the reverse referandum by continually requesting that Victor Summa revise the wording of the petition.
That went on until another citizen told Summa he should stop falling for the city’s delaying tactics and get going on signatures–the wording was good enough.
From Summa’s statements, he thought the city was trying to help him get it right. From an outside perspective, it looks like city staff was trying to delay the petition to prevent its’ success.
Then, when Summa saw that a petition gatherer–NOT Summa–had made a mistake on his packet, Summa was concerned for the employment of the notary, and thought he should get the signatures re-notorized.
City staff claimed that Summa “demanded” the petition packet back, while Summa claims he was given the packet as long as he signed a statement that he was voluntarily withdrawing that packet.
Now certainly Summa was acting on his own judgement, and all of the petioner signers would not necessarily have agreed that he should withdrawn a packet that may have made the difference in the passage of the petition–but Summa was more concerned for the one notary.
And, if it was illegal for Summa to take the packet, the city employee should not have given it to him, or suggested that he sign a statement and then he could take it.
So now the city is after Summa and accusing him of all kinds of wrong doing.
So, if a citizen in Northfield wants their opinion heard and speaks during the open mic part of the meeting on a regular basis, disagreeing with decisions of the city council, AND trys to follow the onerous rules for a reverse referandum petition while being “helped” by city staff that by their own admission do not know the rules, and then trys to do what he thinks is the right thing for an unnamed notary public who obviously does not deserve that designation, he will be hounded by the city, who will use this to distract from the fact that many citizens obviously disagree with their “plan” to remodel city hall at a cost estimated to exceed $1 MILLION.
Anne: Why should the City have paperwork available to undo the decision they just made?
David, it just seems that if the city is responsible for how elections are run and what is on the ballot, then the city should have available the wording to meet the election requirements. It doesn’t mean the council wants a reverse referendum, it is just acknowledging the legal recourse of the citizens. For crying out loud, it’s just not that big a deal. Once again, Northfield is squandering time and money reinventing the wheel instead of just running down to the tire store.
Sorry, I liked that last line so much I repeated it. And I guess that’s the point…this city just seems to repeat the same pointless confrontations and confusion on matters that really don’t matter. What a waste.
Cities aren’t responsible to help with the substance of citizen petitions, particularly its wording, and because of the narrow responsibilities of government, it would be inappropriate for them to do so. It would be fine for the city staff to direct a citizen to a resource, but the city is not a resource itself. I haven’t checked, but I’d hope that our library has such a resource.
Apart from substance, city staff should be helpful with the process of citizen petitions.
Citizens should employ (including pro bono) a lawyer for legal questions. They should not ask city staff about legal questions, and if asked, city staff should never answer. Some of the “Northfield News” article seemed to me that city staff was asked questions of a legal nature.
Finally, I tend to agree with David, that if a citizen wants a petition contrary to the city’s decision, it seems peculiar to me for the city to spend its time helping, and it seems even more peculiar for the citizen to seek that help. Already in this thread there’s an accusation that city staff intentionally interfered with the petition by starting the clock but delaying Victor’s beginning. What if city staff actually helped with the petition and the help was in good faith but wrong? Then what sorts of accusations would fly?
Jerold and David, you make good points. I didn’t think this kind of thing would be a big deal, and still don’t, but you raise some reasonable concerns. Perhaps the city should just have a sheet (available on the website) outlining the petition process, the applicable state and local regulations and any available resources for more information.
Jaci Smith has a posted a link to the bonding petition memos with her story on the Northfield News site:
Jerold: The city is not required to help. But then their response should be to direct the citizen to where they could obtain help.
IMHO the city should help the citizen, because if they can obtain the requisite signatures, the citizens have spoken and should be allowed to be heard, and the city is stonger from obtaining citizen involvement. (The result of a reverse referendum could go to support the bonding for the city hall renovations–the citizens might say they want to spend more than $1,000,000 on improving city hall.)
I agree that, in fact, in appears that the help given by city staff to Summa may have been in good faith, but that the city staff by their own admission did not have all of the necessary information.
I don’t think that citizens should have to go to the library to get the information they need to challenge a city decision. It appears to encourage the city council to limit their discussions and the “transparency” of government, and rush decisions in order to circumvent the citizen participation allowed by statute.
So, are you advocating that the city should refuse to assist citizens in order to “cover their own butts” or do you think city staff should find out the law and assist citizens in a city council decision challenge? I would thnk refusing to assist citizens would cause the city staff to be put in a position of taking sides appear antagonistic towards citizens. Maybe that is the right answer in order to lower the cost of citizen requests. In the past, the city administrator has served as a source of information when citizens have wanted to understand their rights and what procedures were necessary for exercising them.
(Note that from Summa’s statements, he believes that the city staff was helping him in drafting the petition and through the petition process.)
I think it gets back to doing what is required or doing what is right. You can miinmize the work of the city staff, but you are unfairly antagonizing the citizens at the expense of the citizens’ relationship with city staff and city council.
In this particular situation, citizens tried to be heard at city council meetings, and felt that the city council was dismissive of their concerns. When those citizens attempted to complete a citizen challenge in the form of a reverse referandum they were delayed by the assistance of the city staff–which staff probably did not intend that their assistance would cause such difficulty, but taken with everything that has happened–appears suspect.
The city council decision occurred at an odd time when many people were gone and on vacation–making it seem that the city council purposely did it to prevent citizen input or involvement.
The petition was delayed by staff requesting repeated rewordings. Making it seem that city staff may have played a role in delaying getting a petition going.
Still, the citizens were able to obtain almost all of the required signatures within a 2 week period that included Labor Day. Which would make it appear that there were enough petitioners IF the city had received more public comment on this project and if they had made their decision at a time when fewer citizens were on vacation.
So then the city and city staff claim that the main petitioner, Summa was engaged in some kind of nefarious activity and attack his character.
I would say the whole thing is a mess, and makes the Northfield city council and staff look like they are trying to minimize citizen involvement through harassment. They will not have their decisions questioned–or else.
It is not what we are required to do that defines our character. It is what we decide to do in difficult circumstances.
Deb Little is a good person. I recall being very happy with the work that she did when I served on the Council.
Since “staff” have a real conflict of interest in terms of the benefit they will receive from new office space, I think they would have been well-served to go beyond what is expected of them in terms of helping a citizen.
There is a lot of he-said / she-said in the posts above. And the rest of us can only speculate as to the actual exchanges (outside of emails and memos). But, if the city staff had pursued a higher standard and worked with Victor to ensure that his petition was properly worded and properly submitted, even if that is not their job, it would have eliminated ANY speculation about conflicts and might even have built good will towards the proposed expenditure.
In any work, there is the job that is required and the job that should be done. Going the extra mile in this case would not have harmed anyone…
David, did you read the memo on the Northfield News site?
Regarding “he said, she said”, the memo indicates that five pages of notarized documents were removed “against the will” of the City Clerk, and returned. The space where Victor’s name was previously written, was blacked out and someone else’s name was added. This should be easy to verify–and goes beyond “he said, she said”.
Bonnie O, how about posting the memo and Victor’s letter here, and posting the allegedly tampered documents?
Hey Victor, I just heard a scurrilous rumor that now the county attorney’s office is thinking about filing charges against you.
Given the county attorney’s office’s less than stellar record of competence, I predict that they will indeed press charges, but I also predict that you will represent yourself in the proceedings, and the charges will be dismissed.
I love this town.
Tracy, the tone of post #113 above seems like something that would better be in a private email to Victor. There is now, though, an updated story on the NNews site with a similar theme.
Curt, I haven’t read the memo yet, but my reference to he-said / she-said is mainly regarding Victor’s assertion that “he asked to REVIEW them” (his words in post 104) while the NNews said that Victor removed the documents against Deb Little’s will.
I would like to ask this question: How would anyone remove documents against the clerk’s will, unless the documents were present in the “scene”?
Do you think the “remover” would leap the counter, run to the clerk’s cubicle, rummage around ’til he/she found the docs, and then run out past everyone, down the street, etc.etc.?
Or maybe the 76 year old “remover” would leap the counter, wrestle the clerk to the floor, step on her arm and wrench the papers out of her hands?
If they were not to be removed , why were the papers “present”, in her hands?
And why was there the EXCHANGE of a “receipt” for the removed pages, if the clerk did not want to allow them to leave the premises, under any circumstances.
I would have said, “no ‘remover’ is going to take these papers, cause I don’t think they should, so I’m putting them back in my office … and if the ‘remover’ doesn’t leave , I will tell him I am going to call the gendarmes!”
I certainly would NOT have let him take them in EXCHANGE for HIS hand written receipt. IF I wanted to EXCHANGE them for a receipt, I would have written a statement of my objection to the papers being removed, and my fear of bodily harm if I didn’t comply, and asked the “remover” to sign it.
This is a personal, political ploy , folks. It is meant to keep an honest person from running for office… a person SO honest that he didn’t want a notary to lose is job, or seal, for what might have been an innocent mistake. A person so honest that he would rather have the whole petition go down than have a person who made a mistake, innocent or otherwise, possibly lose their job.
Whoever filed this complaint … SHAME on you.
Updated Nfld News story includes:
My comment may have been ill-advised; I know I can be flippant. I just can’t believe how stupid this is.
The simplest reason for city staff not to be involved in a petition’s wording is because working with the substance of a citizen petition can be a very involved task. As a taxpayer, I’d want the city staff to work on city and taxpayer business, not citizen petitions. While this petition happens to be directed at saving taxpayers about $1 million, I don’t think that we can say that’s what petitions generally do. If city staff is expected to help with petitions, then they can’t be selective about it, and it will be taxpayer money spent on sometimes frivolous or doomed-to-fail petitions.
To re-state what I said in other posts, I think that city staff should be sharp on the process. Asking the city clerk, “How do I file a petition?” should be answered, either by her own knowledge or by directing the citizen to resources, including specific material in the library. (I wouldn’t want the clerk to say, “Go to the library,” but “Look for this, and this, and this in our library.”)
I agree that our city staff should have an attitude of customer service.
Next is where things get dangerous. The wording of a petition has legal ramifications, and if it’s poorly worded, the petition can fail outright. A petition to prevent people with wheelchairs from being seated at sidewalk tables is doomed for legal reasons. It cannot be the responsibility of city staff to give legal advice.
In the dramatic example above, what if a petition was drafted to prevent all disabled people from using sidewalk tables, and city staff gave advice to make it only wheelchairs? The citizen adopted the changes. The petition passes in an ant-disabled town. Then the Wheelchair Alliance sues the city for giving advice on making such a law. Unfortunately we live in a litigious nation, and laws prohibit non-lawyers from giving legal advice.
Ideally, a citizen will have a pro bono lawyer help with wording, and it might be possible to get the city attorney to participate. If I was an attorney, I would not get the city attorney involved, for conflict-of-interest reasons. But I can imagine some instances where the city attorney should be involved.
Ultimately, yes the city staff should be overflowing with information on the process, and the city staff should be excellent in customer service skills, but the city staff should never advise on the wording of a petition.
Two other items:
1. I meant “anti-disabled”, not “ant-disabled”.
2. More importantly than #1, what if a citizen’s petition is well written, and city staff innocently (or intentionally!) advises poor wording… then the petition fails for lack of signatures or unlawful terms? Litigation comes to mind. As I continue to think of this, I continue to find reasons why city staff should stay clear of the substance of citizen petitions.
Tracy, I agree that this appears ridiculous. I guess we just don’t know what actually happened, what words were said or how it was interpreted by Deb and others in the officer versus how it was intended by Victor.
I hope that this “episode” is not just an opportunity being taken to lash out at Victor who has probably rubbed enough staff the wrong way, enough times.
Victor, I’ve known you since just about the day we arrived in Northfield, when you were campaigning in the street by the Christmas tree farm. You’ve got a good heart and I hope that all of this can be settled with apologies for any misunderstandings and forgiveness, if needed, by all parties.
Again, Tracy, I agree with you. With everything that has happened in town this past year-plus, a “felony” charge seems over the top. I look forward to hearing all of the facts and all perspectives. In the meantime, I hope that this goes away.
This is a citizen petition allowed for in the charter. I don’t see how the the police chief or county attorney would have legal standing to investigate a petition. Neither the chief or CA are mentioned in the charter process. Paid staff only have the option under the charter to deem the petition sufficient or insufficient. If they are deeming the petition a failure because Victor gave the city the document and then took pages back then returning them – assuming thoise are valid grounds then that’s the end of it – it’s a failure. The chief and the CA should stop immediately and apologize to Victor for stepping into the charter process as this amounts to intimidation of the citizen’s right to petition.
I would think the chief and CA are creating a potential liability from a citizen lawsuit, as even dipping their toes into these waters seems extraordinary and damaging to Victor’s and all citizens rights to petition.
David, I don’t think this is damaging the citizen’s right to petition. I thinking it’s damaging the right of citizens to bully staffers, take the city’s documents without permission and return notarized documents after altering them.
Does the right to bully staffers, take documents without permission and to alter notarized documents apply to all citizens, or just your favored cronies?
Did any of you read the memo on the Northfield News website?
Curt – In writing “city documents” or “public documents” you (and the News) belie a prejudice by not just calling them what they are ‘part of a citizen petition filed by Victor.’ I can’t speak to Victor’s behavior but the News does not cite his “bullying” behavior as a legal issue only his taking the petition documents he filed (I think he signed a release). The remedy for this is simple reject the documents. That keeps everything within the charter defined process. Involving the Police and CA clearly will have a chilling effect of future individuals with Victor’s level of commitment in pursuing petitions.
BTW: My response would be the exact same if you or anyone else were in the same situation. If Victor doesn’t object you can call him my Crony – but I hardly think that’s a fair description.
Curt: Do you read anything BUT the NFNews website?
Read this, please:
Victor did not remove anything that he was not allowed to remove.
The removed papers were returned to the person who gathered those signatures and were never again handled by Victor.
Victor did not alter any papers that were returned to City Hall.
Victor did not return any papers to City Hall.
Victor did not do anything except try to see that an improperly notarized packet did not cause the notary to lose his job/notary seal.
David H: From what I’ve read, the investigation relates to Victor allegedly taking city property. If I’m right, then there’s no liability for the city to investigate a theft, and there’s no discouragement for citizens to petition.
Back to the issue of who pays the taxes:
Clearly renters pay property taxes indirectly, in that those taxes are part of the costs for the property owner; the property owner pays the costs of the property out of the income stream from the renters. Renters thus have an interest in keeping taxes as low as possible, and their voices should also be heard and considered by city govt. (as of course they are when they vote).
The responsibilities of property owners are of course different in that they have to pay the taxes whether there are renters in their properties or not. They also bear the risk of potentially losing renters when the rent is raised or when economic conditions change.
I say this as a Northfield property owner and as someone who was a renter for most of his life.
Right Jerold I guess in fact it was not just “property” but in fact this was “6 future historical artifacts.” However that “property” is in fact a “citizen petition.” I don’t think any court but a “Monkey” court would see this as anything but “Monkeying” around with the democratic process – honestly if the issue is not backed off I’ll bet the ACLU will get involved. What the issue is not – is good publicity for Northfield or Rice County.
Kiffi wrote:” Curt: Do you read anything BUT the NFNews website?”
Yes, Kiffi, I read things other than the NFNews website. For example, I recently read a memo to the City Councilors from City Clerk Deb Little and City Attorney Maren Swanson. Among other things that contradict your stories, it says “Victor held onto the section made of pages 18 through 23 and would not return them to Deb in spite of her repeatedly telling him he could not remove a public document from her office.”
Oh, and in case I haven’t mentioned it, the updated story in the News with a link to the memos, and many interesting comments from readers (nice job, Anne) can be found here:
David H: I certainly wasn’t a witness, and I have no way of knowing who was the rightful owner of the documents from what I’ve read. I have read that the investigation is centered on an unlawful taking of city property. If you are correct about who owns what, I hope that the investigation agrees with you and this controversy disintegrates.
The allegations are serious. Ignoring who is involved, everyone should be alarmed if a private person takes city property, particularly public documents. I won’t lose any sleep if petty things are taken, but public documents are not petty.
As a legal assistant, I have read some pretty outrageous and self-contradictory police reports. I don’t assume that someone under investigation is guilty. Nor do I give much weight to speculation passed off as truths. Until more facts come to the surface, I remain decidedly neutral.
If the facts come out in Victor’s favor, the ACLU or the NLG might take interest. The ACLU does not have a monopoly on civil rights.
Jerold – Maybe Britt or someone can address “Criminal Intent.” But stopping by and picking up 6 pages of a citizen petition papers dropped off the day before in order to correct and return them clearly does not involve criminal intent.
The Police Chief and County Attorney knowing this issue involves a citizen petition should not have touched it with a ten foot pole. In fact given that the petition involves city hall renovations they should not have touched it with a 20 foot pole.
David H., a contractor who submits a bid can’t take it back and ‘correct it’ after the envelopes are open. A candidate who arrives a minute after the deadline doesn’t get on the ballot. This is not personal, it’s just the only way to do business. Why have a deadline when people can take paperwork in and out of the building at will?
Once the petition packet was dropped off, it no longer belonged to Mr. Summa. It belonged to the city and Mr. Summa had no more right to take the original document home than I would.
David Henson, I agree. Hounding Victor Summa looks like sour grapes on the part of the city. It does get down to he said/she said though–did Victor take the documents and did Ms. Little tell him that it was a criminal act to remove papers? Or did Victor ask for the documents and tell her he wanted to withdraw them, and she told him she wouldn’t let them go unless he signed a statement saying he was taking them?
Regardless, Summa’s intent was not to harm the city or to take away public documents, but to protect some notary public who obviously does not deserve to be protected–it was the notary’s bad.
The city’s, first ruling that the petition failed and then filing charges against Victor appears to be the worst of politics–make sure we all learn a lesson for taking a position that is not in lockstep with the city council.
Curt, I think you are too harsh when you take a memo as the only source of information though it is contradicted by one of the people present. Kiffi makes a good point–saying it was taken against Deb Little’s will seems to be wording intent on shoring up the legal charges.
Now Maren jumps in and gives some advice–to charge Summa–when she should think about what this looks like to the citizens–that the city is punitive and seeking revenge against a citizen that dares to involve himself in the local city procedings.
The whole mess is disgusting.
Jerrold (122)–I agree with what you are saying about city staff, and said so in my post 114–that there may need to be a policy that the staff cannot be spending a lot of time away from their regular work to assist in a citizen petition–but I also think then the administrator should be making the decisions and assisting citizens with where to find information.
You answered regarding all petitions, and I stick to my guns on this particular petition.
It appears that the city council decided to vote on the bonding when it would be least likely for public opinion or for a reverse referandum petition to get off the ground. Staff confusion over the required wording delayed the petition almost 2 weeks, and though there were almost enough signatures, the petition failed–and now the city is going after the petition organizer. Yuch.
Bill Ostrem (131) right on about renters. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get renters involved with taxation concerns–they only pay the property tax indirectly–you might be able to get more attention from renters if you sent them an itemization of what portion of their rent relates to taxes–and that when the tax goes up, so will their rent.
Maybe write the lease agreement for whatever period of time for the set rental amount subject to adjustment when taxes go up–then renters perk up just like the businesses who are paying triple net.
***1. I’d just like to say, for maybe the tenth time, after Victor picked up the papers that he was allowed to remove in exchange for his receipt:
He had nothing further to do with that set of papers.
He gave them back to the original gatherer.
He did not alter them in any way.
He did not “correct” them.
He did not return them to city hall.
and ***2. if you look back at my comment #105, you’ll see that the “city” chose to bear some responsibility as to the structure of the petition. Now they say they were not aware of the parameters.
Getting back to the point… I was one of those who would have signed this petition had there been more time. Are there any others in this boat? I’m thinking of attending the next council meeting (Monday, Oct 6, 7pm, City Hall) to voice my opinion about the renovations at open mic, since the issue has not come back onto the agenda. It would be great if others with opinions of either type also showed up to talk then. Or if you can’t come, send a letter to the city staff (email@example.com) to be read by the clerk.
My goal is simply to cut way back on the renovations; if that can be done even without the referendum, then I think the spirit of those signatures would be met. Of course, if the petition is valid, it should go to a vote regardless.
PS. Jerold – want to have coffee sometime? firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane: Selectively helping some petitions and not others invites trouble.
Otherwise, we agree that this series of events is a mess. What’s that expression, “Truth is stranger than fiction”?
I think that this whole persecution of Victor is more than a little ridiculous. That being said…Victor, you and Kiffi should probably stop speaking publicly about this issue as you risk incriminating Victor further. (Although frankly, looks like the cat’s out of the bag.)
David H., in #135, you’re asking me about criminal intent, the concept of mens rea. It’s a complicated issue…sometimes there is a legal requirement that a person intends to act in a criminal manner, and sometimes the legal requirement is only that a person intends to act, period. I don’t necessarily agree with Carol O’s analysis found in the comments to the NNews article. I hope that the powers that be let this go. Sheesh, if Victor gets charged criminally the charges themselves will turn him into a martyr and we’ll get even more negative attention. What a waste of time.
In case anybody making a charging decision actually reads this blog, I would ask you to kindly review Minnesota Statute 609.01 subd. 1. If you keep in mind the underlying purpose for our criminal code you’ll see that Victor’s alleged actions do not merit a criminal prosecution.
Thanks to those who see this as ridiculous, possibly ridiculously political…
Where the hell is Diogenes ,with his lamp, when you need him?
Victor has been advised to say no more publicly; I’m not sure if that applies to me, does it Britt?
However, nothing has been said that was not publicly said in the statement Victor wrote after receiving the packet from Deb; a statement in which he documented what happened, and gave copies of to Deb Little, Joel Walinski, and the Mayor. He explained a second time at the open mic at the 9.8 council meeting, after Mr. Cashman spoke at open mic, giving his comments about the event, and “candidate” Summa’s part in it, from his perspective.
(I’ve wondered about that, since he was not there at the time.)
I sense that comment #144 is actually Kiffi, not Victor, despite the attribution. You two need to work out your computer sharing protocol.
Rob: you are so correct … it was me, kiffi.
Griff had long ago asked us to split our shared account; I did so but it hasn’t been long enough that everyone has my separate address … so then I’m reading something for me on our old account, which is now just victor’s…and then I forget to change over to me if I want to comment on LG!
AND … it HAS been a very stressful week!
Every once in awhile I log onto Locally Grown to see what’s happening in a community I have always loved and one that I have been a part of for many of my 50 years of life.
I look to the website for news from my former community…hoping for good news but, instead I find fighting and backstabbing from individuals with whom I have grown to love and respect…people who are (literally) neighbors who have shared both joy and loss, good times and bad.
Why must you dwell on the negative and pick, pick, pick on people who are trying to do good things for the community??
Victor and Kiffi Summa would no sooner break the law than rob a bank.
In fact, they have held people (both city officials and community members)accountable for the past 13? (guessing) years.
Might I suggest this…focus on something positive for the community.
I just spent the weekend in Lanesboro, MN and attended a wonderful performance at the Commonweal Theatre, a place that would be an amazintg asset to Northfield, a community that already has a strong community theater program thanks to the Northfield Arts Guild and the devotion of so many of you.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to raise some money on the 50th Anniversary of the Guild and improve/renovate the current theatre to be an incredible space and one that draws people(and revenue) to the community?
I can’t wait to log on to Locally Grown to find people caring about each other and about the community, not challenging them, not inflicting harm, not destroying progress.
Really, create something positive and stop picking.
As I work in a variety of circles in the Twin Cities and mention Northfield, the response is “why all the trouble in such a lovely community?”
I think we better start the save Victor defense fund.
I’ll add to Britt’s comment about mens rea, that you need to look at each law to determine the “intent” requirement. Most crimes require a specific intent, meaning the person specifically intended to do the crime. Whatever Victor is being investigated for is probably a specific intent crime. Very few crimes are classified as strict liability, meaning your intentions are irrelevant. The easy example of a strict liability crime is statutory rape, where there may be no intention to rape but intentions don’t mean anything. A few crimes are in between.
There is a policy against people taking the law into their own hands, even when they have angelic intentions. Stealing food to feed one’s family is still a crime. It’s usually in the interest of justice to give a warning or a wrist slap to well-meaning people who break laws. If that’s what happened in this case, I hope the prosecutor considers the circumstances and does not file charges, or perhaps offers a plea bargain for community service.
There’s a revised version of the Nfld New story titled Petition for bond referendum fails in today’s paper.
Yes, Griff … and that story fails to mention what was the most significant NEW fact that has brought into this (horror) story.
It only mentions the comments at the open mic, but NOT the significant comment re: the withdrawn packet, who handled it, who returned it. And that person shouldn’t be pursued either! But the most important NEW fact, about this story, was left out of the report by the NF News.
The need for a fact based NEWS paper, in this community, is as dire as the city’s budget.
What about it, Jerold? a big, brightly colored broadsheet, produced on a copying machine, picked up in the coffee houses and grocery stores, and SEEN “walking” down the streets …
A referendum isn’t needed, really. Now that the council has received a recommended capital improvement plan, it would make sense to hold public meetings now through the election to let the public and candidates weigh in on all the options, continuing after the election to reach out to the entire community. The council can do all the preparation and delay a final vote until January, when the people will be in place to carry out the plan.
Despite all the horror stories about the City Hall ‘improvements,’ there are some good reasons for making changes in the layout of the building. Right now the entire building is open to the public, which means someone can come in during a meeting, slip up the stairs and hide, then assault someone who ends up alone in the building or wreak havoc when everyone leaves and locks up. There’s no alarm system, no adequate security for employees or the public. Breaking in requires only quietly cutting out a bit of glass and walking in. One case of vandalism, with destroyed computers and data, could cost more than all the repairs in the current plan. Just damaging the plumbing could cause tens of thousands in damages.
Creating a public area and a secure area just makes sense. Adding a decent-sized second meeting room also would be a plus. An alarm system is essential. I haven’t read the plans, but it makes sense to at least review them before tossing them in shredder.
Thanks Britt – I would think many doubts would exist about making this interaction into something more than an innocent. What makes documents public ? Had the “public” ever seen them ? Were they marked or stamped into inventory ? Is every document handled by city staff public ? Why did the clerk hand Victor the originals (is this common practice) ? Given these documents were under Victors control the day before and were a petition he gathered I would think even proving city ownership would be difficult.
David H: Once you hand anything to the clerk, it is public-even if it is your shopping list. Summa made a mistake in handing in the documents without reviewing everyone else’s packets (different people were in charge of different packets.) He should have reviewed them and held back whatever was suspect–but he didn’t know to do that as he is inexperienced in fighting city hall.
The city claims that Summa’s signature verifying the petitioners signature was on a page that was removed–but the person in charge of that packet already told the council that that was not true.
So, the city council has proved that they can shove any of their decisions down the throat of the citizenry–and go after the citizen to boot. I would say that there is a big waste of power going on.
Would it not be better if the county attorney was trying to bring charges against some of our local heroin dealers rather than going after a citizen because a former member of the city council has a vendetta against him?
This reminds me of Rodney King going on television during the LA riots and asking “Can’t we all just get along?”
Jane, the issue with Victor being charged or investigated is not a city council issue. We had nothing to do with it. It is simply an issue of a citizen allegedly removing original documents from the city when they were ask and told not to.
Whether it was Victor or one of the nice church ladies, when someone removes originals of any city documents from city hall against the request of city staff, I fully support staffs actions in protecting the city documents.
I can’t imagine that the citizens of Northfield would expect staff to do anything differently.
Kiffi: That’s a wonderful idea but until the investigation is complete, I’m decidedly neutral.
As a candidate for public office, I act as though I have been elected. I think that it would be irresponsible or shameful for me to organize for Victor’s defense without knowing what happened. All I know comes from the Northfield News and from this forum, and because of the extreme controversy and vested interests, I treat all of it as biased information. So I don’t know what really happened.
If the (city or) county takes legal action against Victor and there is good evidence for his innocence, I’ll help with his defense.
At this time, Victor needs to follow the advice of a competent criminal defense attorney. Britt implied that you’re part of the story, and if that’s the case, you should as well. In the meantime, you and Victor should hope for the best and plan for the worst. Planning for the worst does not mean “wait and see”, but it may include doing your own legal research to be better informed about the law, organizing people who believe in Victor’s innocence to be ready to leaflet, and any number of other things. People love justice. If Victor will be prosecuted and justice demands otherwise, get people involved.
Jerold: Until a jury holds otherwise, the “neutral” position is that Victor is innocent.
Jerold: I didn’t mean you should do it now, for the sake of this farce; I just think some journalistic quality is needed for a town that “is a special place”!
It continues to amaze me that people don’t get that one cannot take what is not available to take.
What was the point of the “receipt”; why didn’t the clerk JUST SAY NO, and then call the police if the old guy threw her to the floor and grabbed the papers and ran?
Personal and political …look at the way the comments line up; on the other hand don’t look at the news’s anonymous comments… someone there suggested I should have a sense of humor,that this was no worse than a parking (speeding ?) ticket… Really! if you get a parking ticket you pay it; I’ve never had one. If you get a speeding ticket, and don’t want it on your record, you pay the police dept $90 and go to a class full of 15
I’ll admit I get neither the humor or the equation: $90.00 doesnt =$3000.00 and a year in prison doesn’t equal a few hours of a class with a community service officer, even if the movies were REALLY bad!
Probably the next petition should be to create an orderly online system for presenting petitions and gathering required signatures. If Victor is not locked up then maybe someone will make the effort.
David L: If I was on his jury, I’d agree with you. Victor’s fate for whatever crime he’s accused of would be 1/12th my responsibility, and I’d be legally and morally obligated to presume innocence.
I’m not on his jury, and his fate under criminal law is not at all my responsibility. Outside of the legal paradigm, which is where we are at the moment, neutrality means passing no judgment. I don’t presume that Victor is guilty nor innocent. I don’t presume that Deb Little lied or otherwise misrepresented the facts. To presume Victor’s innocence is to presume that city staff lied, and that hardly seems like a neutral position. I presume nothing.
Jerold – I’m thinking this is the first use of a petition (or one of very few) in Northfield so there is probably room for error all around where nobody is lying or guilty of a crime.
kiffi, in post #151 you say that the most significant new fact was left out by the Northfield News. Since the NN left it out could you edify those of us who were not there to see it?
Barb: in answer to your question…(without using a name because that has always been an apparent no-no in Northfield…)
One of the speakers at the open mic gave the information of what happened to the packet after being exchanged. There for I feel the News was less than informative in not including that information, as it is a NEW fact.
After the problem packet was exchanged for the receipt, it was immediately returned to the person who had collected those names. Victor had nothing further to do with it…i.e. he did not alter it, he did not return it to city hall. He has been accused of both those actions: alteration is implied in the city memo, although it notes the return by another party; allegations of alteration and return have been all over both the news and this website; and most bizarrely, a direct accusation/statement of supposed fact appeared attached as a comment to the League of Women Voter’s observer report, on the LWV website, of the 9.8 city council meeting.
By the way, Griff has been linking to the LWV reports, and it’s a good way for citizens to get additional info on the actions of public entities.
Kiffi, actually the information you say is missing from the NFN story is in paragraph four of their article, in both the print and online version:
My grandfather used to say that a horse thinks his own manure smells good. I remember last year, with the exposure of the prayer ladies meeting in Roder’s office, that there was such an outcry about them being moved before a meeting to rectify a situation of poor judgement. Now, we have a petition filed by a citizen that was admittedly removed from the Clerk’s office, admittedly altered, and then refiled. It appears to me that this is a situation of poor judgement, also, and does deserve some outcry. As far as criminally chargable, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea if it is or not. I trust the authorities to determine this. It does appear to me that it has a certain impropriety. I don’t think it matters so much what intents were in the scenario as the apparent actions. But for those involved to say this is just an innocent oversight by the petitioner and he should be excused is really no different than those who defended Roder’s handling of the prayer ladies and their actions. I guess it maybe does matter who it is that does something.
John, I agree that it does matter who it is that does something.
And to continue with your animal theme, remember the line from Orwell’s “Animal Farm”? “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Anne Bretts good comments. The city can take some time to make the best plan with the best use of funds–and ask for public input so that they are not snubbing the citizens in the process.
Unfortunately city councils think that, since they discuss issues at their meetings-everyone in the city follows and knows that it was “fully” discussed. In reality, city council meetings are poorly attended, the citizens who are wiling to attend boring meeting after boring meeting (sorry, but they are quite dull with the most excitement being if they should be making a motion or not)-those citizens are ignored or dismissed because they are always at the meeting and always speaking out against the council–well it is no wonder that the citizens think they are ignored while the council thinks that it is doing a great job.
Both sides have to work at it –for example, the city council should get better an ennumerating why they are for something when they vote for it rather than thinking we were all following their last 3 meetings. And more citizens do need to follow the business of the city council.
Scott, you may say that the city council has nothing to do with going after Summa–but it sure looks bad–and that is one problem the city council has had to deal with this whole horrible year–and that has put the councilors on the defensive, which has made dialogue very difficult.
The Maren Swanson/Deb Little memos were obviously put in terms to make the strongest case against Summa (note that the strongest wording they could come up with for his “taking” is that it was against Little’s “will”.) The real question, for me, is whether Little explained that it was against the law for Summa to take the documents–if she did not explain this, then how was Summa to know? (Although he knows now.) And that comes down to if she says she did say it and he says she didn’t. The alterations were done by someone who has already admitted to altering the documents, and it was not Summa–and it was to properly verify the signatures for the petition.
I think the quicker everyone moves on from this–meaning get the attorneys to back off–get Summa to say he is sorry and now knows the law and won’t do it again–and get back to doing the business of the city.
I really feel badly for Deb Little AND Victor Summa, who both were trying to do the right thing. Making them into enemies does not help anyone.
I’m not sure that Summa’s actions were against the law. In fact the very opposite may prove true that Little should have honored the petitioners request to return the document. The laws against authorities, under color of law, intruding into the election arena are very very severe (years in jail and even death penalty are mentioned):
This is not an area of the law that is taken lightly. Sending armed investigators to the Summa residence may not have been wise. The petition area is less clear than the voting area but the penalties facing “authorities” if deemed acting improperly are much stiffer than against an individual.
If authorities in Northfield and Rice County are at all unsure of their positions then they may want to consider bending over backwards to help Summa get his petition on the ballet this coming election. Just like a tie in baseball goes to the runner … the law is likely to favor the activist citizen out collecting signatures.
Actually Curt, that is only a partial and incomplete explanation of what happened to the packet in question; a complete explanation was given at the open mic. My question was why was that first-hand statement,at the open mic, by the person who had the first-hand knowledge, not included in the NFNews report, since it was a statement of a NEW fact, which then develops the story?
Incomplete reporting? Bad reporting? Selective reporting? I don’t know, but I do know it was not good, objective, or complete reporting, if the development of a news story is the goal.
And this has been my objection to much of the coverage of the events of the last year, by the NFNews; I feel the incompleteness of their reporting has caused much mis-understanding and trauma.
Thanks, Kiffi. I understand your point, the information was there, but wasn’t complete in your opinion and did not have information specifically from the open mic remarks–information that you think is favorable to Victor.
I’d like to hear the remarks from the mysterious unnamed stranger who spoke at the open mic. (If only someone could podcast them.)
John G: There’s a Mongolian proverb, that a man’s own smell is unknown to him. Once I heard this proverb, I started using it liberally (and I paid closer attention to my own smell).
Jane: 1. Based on your post, I presume that the Swanson/Little memos were written with legal terms in mind. The terms you quote, “taking”, and “will”, are used in the crime of larceny; a “taking” is necessary and a lack of legal right is necessary, such as being against the “will” of Little. They could have used synonyms, but I assume that the legal terms were used for simplicity.
2. You know what they say about ignorance of the law … it’s no excuse. Further, if Deb actually told Victor what she purportedly told Victor, he was informed at that moment.
3. A lot of the problems with local government that you cite are common in a lot of cities. Most people don’t pay attention to government, which in one sense is a success of U.S. democracy (if on average, gov’t is good enough to have citizens pursue other priorities), and in another sense it’s a failure. In either case, so long as the Northfield City Council fulfills its legal obligations, I don’t think it can be faulted for not being more entertaining or engaging to its citizens. If elected, I will devote some time to public outreach for greater community involvement, but that’s normally the citizens’ responsibility. Special interest groups are formed around this theory, and they can be very influential.
I still await as full an exposé of the present controversy as we can hope for.
David H: Your reference to the death penalty is inflammatory. If you want to woo allies, this is not the way to do it. There is a vast difference between a City alleging that public documents were taken and a city clerk preventing a citizen from petitioning. You imply that a citizen has free reign to act so long as he is acting under petitioning rights. It is not a petitioning right to take public documents. In the same sense, U.S. citizens enjoy vast protection of free speech, but not if we use free speech to commit a crime (such as inciting a riot).
Speaking of bullshit, our podcast yesterday was all about this… and is now posted.
Jerold – I was just shocked that the “death penalty” language was actually in an election law. I don’t believe anyone thought I was suggesting it effected this case. That law may not even apply but it does mark the seriousness of authorities being on the right side of the law regarding election activities.
The tone of Marin Swanson’s email (if accurate from the NNews comments) might even be seen as a City Attorney hostile or discouraging toward a citizen exercising their election right to petition. Even if the city cannot “help” with petitions (which makes no sense since they help with building permits and all types of procedural activities) they should start out saying something to the effect “we applaud and encourage your petition activities and here are some helpful resources, etc.”
David H: I see a difference between helping with a building permit, which is generally a matter of city law (and state law), and helping with a petition, which can easily be a matter of state and federal law. Perhaps the more clear distinction is that a building permit is Administrative and a petition is Constitutional.
There are some instances when a non-lawyer can give legal advice with Administrative law. A licensed real estate agent can work with their client on filling out real estate contracts. The agent will, as part of being licensed, be practicing law in an extremely small and tightly controlled way. The agent cannot draft a contract, but can give limited advice on the available standard contracts.
I can think of no instance when a non-lawyer can give legal advice on Constitutional law.
I understand that this distinction is not intuitive. A lot of law is not intuitive. Keeping laws complex is normal for complex societies, and if nothing else, it’s job security for lawyers.
In answer to this question over on their boards, Nfld News Editor Jaci Smith has posted the following explanation for omitting Joe’s statement from their report:
David H.- Armed investigators?? Hmmmmm. This conjurs up visions of the posse riding in with guns blazing. It is interesting how some terms in the English language can have different connotations. It is a little like the word “take” in the NN article. It would seem that some grounds for accusation could have been eliminated with the proper communication at the time of the event, but this evidently wasn’t done. Now, we have the task of cleaning up the mess. I think Jane M. has an excellent observation in her comment, “…I really feel badly for Deb Little AND Victor Summa, who both were trying to do the right thing. Making them into enemies does not help anyone…”. I would hope that we could carry on municipal business in Northfield without this type of emotional upheaval, but, according to some news articles I have read about other communities, it appears we are not unique to these types of events. It makes me wonder what kind of national epidemic we are experiencing.
Also, this whole scene may be evidence of why there is just a small contingent of the population that actually shows up at meetings. When I vote for a representative for a government position, I am presuming to release and authorize that individual to carry on the business of that government position without my micro-managing involvement. If they don’t live up to my expectations, I have a right to vote for someone else in the next election. I have wondered if the continual involvement in city affairs of a small unelected segment of the population is wise. We then have great influence of this non-elected group on how things are conducted. This is just my opinion. I have also wondered if the old axiom, familiarity breeds contempt, is applicable here. There are some official acts that just should not be handled casually.
Griff- It is apparent that you do not have an agriculture background, seeing there is a differnce between equine and bovine ecrement. (Ha! Ha!)
In the best interest of all, It would of made sense for copies to have been made of the said “taken” orginal documents, thus not allowing Victor to “take” anything, (orginal) and then he could of used the copies as a way to get them corrected in the proper manner, and then once fixed, if within the allotted time frame, returned the corrected version, and then no one would be at fault. A simple oversight due to to many hand in the cookie jar if you will.
Surely, as the orginal holder of these documents, (Victor) and later finding this error which could have been corrected, shows the intent was simply to fix the error. The laws behind the theft or taking of public property was not to create a malicous crime. Victor was simply trying to fix an error to be sure all the work done was not in vain and to help address the real issue.
Either way this is all a mute point as the intent and action of the paperwork has already failed. So why are we beating a dead horse here?
John – When two people walk in to your home question you about your petition activities with side arms strapped on (no matter what misunderstandings lead to this interaction) it is very serious and ABSOLUTELY will discourage future petition activities. The petition laws exist to elevate the citizens as ultimate owners of the governmental process and I see clear signs in Northfield and Rice County that authorities fall somewhere between irritated and hostile to this activity.
Blogs like LG and the web itself are a new part of politics and throw a lens on everything going on in the community. I think initially people used to operating under a different form of scrutiny and new players will be at odds with each other but as changing roles are accepted and new efficiencies embraced the net result will end up being happier people. I think Northfield is a head of the curve in working through a new “information” world and should be proud of itself.
For example, I (me personally) think unless Victor was holed up in the attic on St Olaf Ave with a shot gun yelling “coming and get me you election gerrymandering screwballs” that a simple phone call by police would have been more appropriate. I also understand that Victor may have been brusque with Ms Little and the police and others were offended by what they felt was an affront to authority. But I can voice my opinion to an audience in a way not possible 10 years ago (about an incident where all the information – “memos” and such would not have been available) and others can voice their opinions. This may create the appearance of lots of conflict initially but as use of these new tools unfold the net result will be happier more involved citizens.
Charlene, so if a contractor comes in the day after the bids are opened to correct a mistake on his bid, he could take the bid and his friend could bring it back with corrected numbers that make his price lower than his competitors?
Where do we draw the line?
The petition failed so it wouldn’t be a big deal, except that maintaining correct original public documents is the very reason we have a city clerk’s office. That’s why she has that handy stamp to mark the date and time a document is received. Once a document is filed it no longer belongs to the person filing it and it just can’t be removed, much less altered.
The city clerk told Victor not to remove the documents. She shouldn’t have had to explain the law to him or argue with him. He should have left and contacted his councilor to go to bat for him or filed a letter with the clerk asking to have the changes made. Citizens have a right to be heard, not a right to be obeyed.
Once the filing deadline passed, the document belonged to the public, not to him. Why is this even a question?
John George–I think that those “unelected” citizens who regularly attend council meetings and regularly report and regularly comment should be encouraged and given medals. It is fortunate that you are content to vote every so often if you want to change elected officials. I am not so trusting of the governing process. Partly because I have attended a great many meetings.
If indeed, Victor was told he could NOT take the pages with him and he did anyway, why weren’t the police called then? If the pages were, without question, not to be removed from the clerk’s office why was a receipt written? It appears to me that several people are involved, many have, perhaps, made mistakes in this and only one person, Victor, is being blamed and persecuted. Politically motivated? Absolutely!
Does anyone else feel that in the past 18+ months some people in this community are out for blood?
While I enjoy LG, some that comment are really nasty. I can understand why some don’t want to comment because of “fear of retribution”.
Wouldn’t we get much farther by addressing issues, reading and commenting with respect for others opinions, as we would want the same? We can learn much from each other, but not with all the angst and attacking that goes on.
David H.- It seems that police officers in their normal uniform do have an implied authority and visible means to exercise it. Whether this presence is intimidating or not is open to individual interpretation. If I have not broken any laws, to my knowlege, I don’t think the officers’ uniforms would be a threat to me personally, but, depending on past experiences, this is a possible response. Unfortunately, a minority individual or a person who has had past infractions with the authorities will have an entirely different reaction than I. I have no way of knowing about Victor’s response, since he has not made any indication of this in any of his posts that I have read. Your comment seems to make an assumption of the situation upon which I certainly do not have any perspective. I just thought the comment did more to fuel the fires than quench them.
Your perspective of civic envolvement relative to the various blogs going on right now is spot on. There is a more focused lens on procedures now than in the past and, IMHO, rightfully so. This being the case, I think it is prudent to conduct this type of business with thorough knowlege and transparency at all times. There is a verse that says a person’s sins will be shouted from the rooftops, and if that isn’t what is going on right now, then I don’t know what is.
Jane M.- As far as people being envolved in local government issues, I would ask what would be happening if we had 5000 residents show up at every council meeting and demand this level of envolvement that this minority are demanding? There seems to be a lot of concern that city business has not been able to proceed in this last year. I would suggest that if the 5000 people showed up, there would NEVER be anything accomplished. There is a reason we have a representative form of government. IMHO, it is for expediency. If my representatives can’t or won’t carry on the government business properly, then I do have recourse with them. My problem with a minority contingent that is vigorous in their influence is that they are influencing the government without my specific permission or approval, and I have no recourse with them, aside from attending the meetings and shouting them down. I just don’t want to do that.
Anne, your example of a sealed bid is simply not the same situation as it is related to an action that occurs after the bid is awarded. You are comparing apples to oranges. Taking knowledge from a bid process, thus lowering the bid to get the job, is just simply not the same ( and in IMHO illigal and unethical) . Victor brought in documents that were compiled by several people, for the people, and not a personal document in which he would benefit. If a document of value, or one that could provide value to the “taker” as in the case of your example, could change the outcome, then perhaps there could be an ethical issue there. In this case, I do not see it. The only point I was trying to make here was a simple one. The document taken or not, became null and void anyway. Thus all the effort on behalf of the document does not become an issue for the City or the people. The petition failed. Not enough signatures. Not enough time. Sorry, the window or door has closed.
That’s all. as for the other comments concerning who was right or who was wrong…. or who is out for blood… lets just hope the last 18 months is NOT any indication of the future of Northfield. I sincerely think people have just gotten hurt for no reason and people have gotten defensive and hurtful for no reason. I am sure we can all agree that the bottom line still boils down to the following. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. If any lessons come out of this…lets hope they are for the better of the community.
If someone wants to beat me up for defending Victor…. I am sure they will no matter what is said. I was trying to take away the personalities and the poeple and just look at the bottom line. Fighting over documents that have no value as the intent of the document was to force some changes… again all a mute point. That was my only reason for posting.
I just listened to the podcast, and have a few comments;
1. Griff, you seemed to feel that the city hall renovation plans are NOT moving ahead. That is inaccurate. As soon as the council voted approval of the $880,000 worth of bonds that were supposedly “just in case” the council approved moving ahead, the schedule for the ongoing plans was given, culminating in bids late this year. Ross gave some more specific amount just disbursed for further plans, I believe.
2. I have no idea who instigated this “process” against Victor, but Joel Walinski told me before the 9.15. council meeting that he requested the investigation. Chief Mark Taylor told me that a complaint had not been filed, at this point it was an investigation with reference to a section of the criminal code. As of Tuesday afternoon the investigative materials have gone to Rice County for evaluation. I believe it is correct to say that the Rice County attorney who does criminal (as opposed to civil) work will do that evaluation and decide whether or not to bring a charge.
3. What was not mentioned at all on the podcast was the reason Victor gave for wanting to withdraw that portion of the petition. Having realized that there was a problem with the notarization, and not wanting to have the person who gathered those names have a problem, and not wanting the notary …who may have made a very innocent mistake … to lose his job, or his notary license, Victor asked to withdraw that portion and was allowed to, in return for the receipt.
4. You might be angry, as you said, Griff, if you had signed the petition and wanted it to pass , however … what if an innocent mistake cost a person their job?
What would you have done? say “to H*** with the notary and his job?”
5. The petition was doomed to fail regardless of the number of names , because no one, not Victor, Not Ms Swanson nor Ms Little (according to the city’s memo) was aware of the proper administrative rules. Many mistakes were made.
The number of signatures gained, in such a short time, and over the Labor Day Weekend send a strong message, as Dixon Bond said to Ross.
Another strong personal, political message has been sent: don’t challenge authority. Who sent it?
Wouldn’t a notary verifying a blank petition sheet be the kind of thing that a notary _should_ lose their license over? The whole point of a notary is that they should be scrupulously accurate and reliable.
John G, can you explain more what you meant when you wrote “There is a verse that says a person’s sins will be shouted from the rooftops, and if that isn’t what is going on right now, then I don’t know what is”?
Whose ‘sins’ and whose doing the shouting in this current situation?
Kiffi, ‘culminating in bids late this year’ is probably right, tho it wouldn’t surprise me if the Council delays any decisions until the ‘new’ Council takes over in Jan.
I just meant that Council hasn’t authorized the project yet, nor have they authorized the actual sale of bonds. The invoices recently paid were for architectural fees.
Patrick: That’s one of the issues I look forward to learning from the investigation, assuming a public statement is made at its conclusion.
Griff- The scripture I am refering to is in Matt. 10:27. Num. 32:23 is also applicable. In this current situation, it is Ms. Little’s and Mr. Summa’s sins that are being bandied about, from the NN to here on LGN. I think there is another old saying that fits the situation: No good deed goes unpunished. I don’t mean to sound so cynical in this, but it seems that almost anything concerning the city government that has been done over the last several months has offended someone. Perhaps I am too pragmatic, but it seems that actions by certain people within the city cause an extreme reaction in others, and I don’t think that is necessary. For heavens sake, isn’t there any way to get along? It is almost like the Jihadists- if anyone disagrees with you, then eliminate him. I like Jesus’ direction when He was dealing with the woman caught in adultery- you without sin should cast the first stone. If Deb & Victor acted unlawfully, then let those with authority to do so correct the situation and move on. How we choose to live with one another is just that, we have to choose. I think it is fine to have an opinion and have the freedom to express it. When our exercise of that freedom infringes upon our neighbors’ right to pursue life, liberty and happpiness, then we need to take a close look at ourselves.
John and Griff: It is Mr. Summa, and he alone, who is accused of misdeeds. I would venture a guess that if Mr. Summa had not been so hypercritical of and hypertechnical with the Office of the Administrator in the past, that the Office, acting through Ms. Little, would have not been so technical with him.
Well, David L, are you saying that it serves him right? I guess I would expect much more from the city than petty vindictiveness over perceived insults.
I am really shocked at how mean and vindictivie the city council is to the citizens, the citizens are to the staff, and the staff –ususally through their supervisors– are to the citizens. Does anyone think what an awkward postion the staff are in with the city council on one “side” and the citizens on the other?
I really think everybody here should take a step back and look and listen and see what I see–that all of these people –city council, city staff and citizens are trying to go in the same direction and work for the same things–it is time to call a truce, apologize for offending each other and pledge to work together and listen to each others’ concerns.
Everybody is on the defensive. Maybe we could start a petition asking the city council and the citizens to be nice and treat each other with respect. We need to take better care of each other.
David L: Would you venture to guess that, in the future, Mr. Summa should be less hypercritical and hypertechnical with the Office, vice versa, or both?
If Victor has been hypercritical and hypertechnical with city staff, is he pleased now that they are being hypercritical and hypertechnical with him? Irony, that.
Jane and David L – you are both probably right. But the petition was signed by some 400 people (I was not one of them) and is an election document. I would think the City Attorney, the Chief and the County Attorney could get on a 3 way call and say this is an important process and our actions give the appearance that we are disrupting a Democratic process. Then announce that the issue is dropped and maybe even give Victor time to correct petition flaws. The City Council can always put this issue on the ballet. This would make Northfield/Rice County look like a mature, even-handed and level headed place. Make people happy !
Jane: I take your comments to heart. We should focus on remedy, not guilt.
Do you think the straightest path to remedy is to call city staff petty and vindictive? In your post, you accuse city staff of wrongdoing but you overlook what Victor is accused of doing. Purportedly, a notary public violated his/her professional oath for unknown reasons and motivations, and to cover it up, Victor stole public documents. I am not saying that is the true course of events, but that’s what the several stories align to say.
If you are sincere that we should focus on remedy, it would be consistent to lay equal criticism on all parties, including equally criticizing no one.
I continue to find it difficult to believe that the city staff would be so vindictive, that allegations of a gross misdemeanor or felony would somehow be trumped up or based on specious evidence. I know of city staff (in other cities) refusing paperwork because of the wrong color ink. That is petty and perhaps vindictive. That is hypercritical and hypertechnical. What some people are alleging the city staff did is beyond being vindictive. I am not concluding that Victor is guilty, but claiming that city staff is trying to ruin Victor’s life — because Victor is not always polite — is unbelievable.
If we are all to take a step back and focus on remedy, as you suggest, I recommend that allegations of bad behavior against all parties be skipped. It doesn’t help to defend one party by turning the other into a punching bag.
Jane: Personally, I think the Council has been too responsive to citizen complaints – such as the rental ordinance. They have shown a lot of patience with citizens who were trying to make every issue about Roder/Lansing or their own NIMPU agenda. These citizens, who think that every time they stand at open mike the Council should react, are impeding the democratic process.
Jerold: It remains to be seen if the small band of merry SAACC’s (self-appointed associate city councilors) will switch their tactics from vinegar to sugar.
David H: I would love to see the Roder/Lansing investigation together with the Summa investigation be dropped so we can get on with the real work of governance. It is long past time for the civil authorities to assert their independence from and authority over the criminal authorities. The Goodhue County Attorney doesn’t run this town, we do – through our elected representatives.
David, I agree. I do think there is plenty of blame to go around–but isn’t that always the case? I really think that every person involved–each ctiy councilor, each city staff member, and most of all, each citizen, should approach each other with an ASSUMPTION of good will–that both parties are trying to do what is best. I think right now the city council appears to be looking at each citizen approaching the mic as an impediment to city business.
I do think all the cranks should get to turn–there is a limit to open mic–if you let everyone have their say, they all feel better about the process even if they do not agree with the decision.
I think it is an excellent idea that everybody drop all their charges against everybody else. This has been a terrific waste of time, money and caused too much heart ache. Al Roder is gone, there will be a new mayor and most of the council soon.
Peace and love.
Today’s Nfld News: Summa charges could come next week.
Wow Griff, I’m really surprised that this matter is being pursued.
Ross- Why the surprise? The activity has a questionable appearance, no matter how innocent the intent, so why not investigate it and prove it one way or the other? In my opinion, there are too many investigations going on out there for too long. I also believe too many things are tried by public opinion in the media rather than in an official setting. It would be really nice to resolve something and move on for a change.
Ross: Silly – yes, surprising – no. What is surprising is that you haven’t been calling for Mr. Summa to suspend his activities while he is under investigation, like you did or have for Mr. Roder and the City Council.
Even if what Mr. Summa did is a crime, I would hope that the County Attorney exercises some discretion, and doesn’t charge this out. I would hope the same thing from the Goodhue County attorney on the other allegations (whatever they may be).
David L: I agree with you about Victor’s charging–I would hope the county attorney could come up with better use of his time. I know what Victor is accused of doing and I understand the legal issues involved, so I do not think anyone would be harmed if the charges were dropped.
However, I disagree with you on the Goodhue County issue–it is nowhere near the same–I do not know who was acccused of what and what the affect of such crimes were–I know nothing. I would like to either know they have investigated and found no substance or they have evidence against?….Who? before I make any judgment on their dropping charges.
Jane: Regarding Mr. Summa, it just seems like common sense should dictate, even if what he did was a crime. Some consequence is appropriate, but a criminal record for a 76 year old man?
Regarding the Goodhue County matter, Northfield already hired an investigator and paid him about 83 gazillion dollars. Why isn’t that good enough?
I never called for the former City Administrator to suspend his work while he was being investigated. After learning, from documents distributed at a Special Council Meeting, that the investigation might include his handling of City Contracts, I merely suggested to the City Council that perhaps they should step up their oversight in this particular area.
Nor did I ever call for the City Council to suspend their work. After hearing that the investigation’s scope would be larger than what was said between the former City Administrator and current Mayor in that closed room for 18 months, that it could possibly include other City Staff, other Elected Officials, and even Private Citizens, I wondered out loud about an Elected Official who might be part of at least the investigation, and maybe more, voting to give money to the former City Administrator. It would have seemed more appropriate, and prudent, at least to me, to wait until the findings of the Goodhue County Investigator had been released.
But David, as I have tried to make clear to you several times before, I don’t think it’s a good use of your and my time to talk with you about this subject, in this forum, through the e-mail, or over the phone, anymore. As I’ve said before, let’s see what the team in Goodhue County has to say. I’m confident that they’ll be finished soon.
Ross: If you used the same standard on Victor that you are using on the investigation in Goodhue County, then Mr. Summa should withdraw his candidacy, and step down from his current appointed positions while he is “under investigation”. That doesn’t make much sense to me, even though Victor and I have very different political persuasions.
With Goodhue County, we don’t have any idea what the allegations are, nor who is implicated. So, why are we waiting for that investigation before acting? Given that all of the major players are gone, or soon will be gone, what’s to be gained? What does it matter for Northfield governance?
And, your persistent rumor-mongering, and refusal to reveal the sources of your rumors are just making matters worse. I’m not sure what you are trying to achieve by your rumors of “hush money”, and City Council involvement, contract improprieties, etc.
You know, I cannot tell you how affecting the immediate comments, as well as the depths of this entire controversy is to me…
Yesterday morning, after the Chamber forum, Kathy Felbrugge was commenting how dapper Victor looked in a nice sport jacket and his grey wool British cap, and she wanted to take his picture…
David, you and I had been chatting about sex ed in schools, and families eating dinner together, and you came over and put your arm around Victor’s shoulders for Kathy’s picture… And we all were laughing together about what a great picture it would be on the Chamber’s full page in the newspaper, maybe bearing the Caption, “we believe in partnering”…
I feel that good moment to be lost in some other reality, when I read the comments on the NFNews site this morning, and see the constant reiteration of old accusations here on LG.
And here’s the really big jump … these alternate realities validate to me why I am no longer a “religious” person, at least in a formal way… Hypocrisy is hateful to me, and behavior to others in our community can be critical on issues, but not solely on personal confrontation.
Obviously “anne”on the News site is Anne Bretts, and I would assume that “curious” on the news site is Jon Denison from the way happenings at the council meeting are quoted. The viciousness of personal comment, as opposed to informed comments on the substance is appalling; and especially from persons who haven’t the courage of their convictions to use their name.
Now it will just come back to me… oh, you weren’t so concerned about Mr. Roder, and then that could go on spinning around and around for another 700 comments.
Just rambling now, but I think this town is F’d if it can’t get a grip on what has actually happened in the past, what is actually happening now, and what it wants to see happen in the future…. And no number of XL T-shirts saying “Plays well with others” will fix it. We will need people who will commit to dealing with the facts, ALL the facts.
The use and abuse of the law by City Hall is very troubling and must nowadays be seen in the context of the change in political paradigm from representing the electorate to managing it (google ‘Tony Benn’ and open your ears & eyes).
Victor, and a few citizens like him (including me), are deemed by City Hall to be unmanageable and therefore prone to, and deserving of, victimization and punishment by City Hall.
For Victor, his chastisement is timely in that it is an attempt by City Hall and its camp followers (eg Anne & curious on the NNEWS blog) to jeopardizes his chances in the upcoming election.
For me, this blatant and unsubtle attack on Victor will have the direct opposite effect. Victor has my vote and hopefully all those (many?) citizens who can see through this gauche, politically-motivated charade.
I’ve never made any attempt to hide who I am, in comments here or elsewhere. I have no idea who the other commenters are on the Northfield News site. My comments about Victor are not personal, since we have never had a personal conversation, but reflect my opinion of his public behavior only. As I said on the News site, I find his removal of the papers from city hall to be wrong and a serious breach of his trust as a public official. I based my view on the facts of the situation.
I will vote but am not involved in local elections this year. I am not trying to sway anyone’s vote, as I believe that people are smart enough to make their own choices.
Hope this clears things up.
Anne -You say you base your view on the “facts of the situation”. What are the facts? Does anyone except Victor & Deb Little actually know what took place and who said what to whom and why…?
Most of us at one time or another jump to conclusions BEFORE we truly have any facts.
I have known Victor Summa for a long time. He is extremely respectful of city procedures and is a law abiding person. How is it possible with several people involved in this situation that only one, Victor, is singled out as guilty? I am sure that the others involved want to protect themselves against the claim of wrongdoing. Victor has not tried to protect himself. He has tried to protect the others. Doesn’t this tell people something about his character? Doesn’t this speak as to how he would be on the council with respect to his fellow council members and the citizens of Northfield? Victor is not a self-serving person. This complaint by persons as yet unknown is obviously politically motivated.
Anne: I have to disagree that what happened with Victor is a serious breach of the law. It might be a breach, but, it certainly isn’t serious. (The judge’s refusal to sign indicates that it probably lacks probable cause to believe an offense was committed). I hope that the County Attorney uses some common sense (and not sophisicated intelligence) and decides not to prosecute.
Victor: I would suggest that the “witchhunt” against you carries much of the same flavor as the “witchhunt” against Roder and Lansing. The City has been running for 18 months without knowing what the allegations are. Does it really matter anymore? If the problems were serious wouldn’t someone have told us by now?
I have been keeping away from this site for awhile, as it only reminds me of the issues that Kiffi mentions.
However, I have to chime in here just a tad, with yes, my name attached. Victor’s actions HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS APPOINTED POSITIONS. He did NOT use any authority from the EDA or the Charter to bring papers or remove papers that were null & void anyway. Let it go….There should be no affiliation between his powers (?) nor should he be asked as a volunteer to step down. This site has clearly had numerous discussions about the many roles we all may play in or out of Northfield. Be it a mom, a friend, a collegue, etc., on plan commision and so on., Victors role (or hat he was wearing at the time) was a citizen trying to address a citizen issue. Again, the comments, to have him step down appear vindictive, personal, wrong and are not related, in my humble opinion. Let it go….
Charlene: The County Attorney has drafted a complaint stating that Victor committed a crime. I hope that he uses some sense and doesn’t charge out the crime.
I would also hope that those who want to cut Victor so much slack now that he is in trouble would also cut Roder and Lansing the same kind of slack on the Goodhue County matter.
I do not see the relationship here that you are trying to make. One, I NEVER had an issue with the Mayor and NEVER SAW MR. LANSING DO OR SAY ANYTHING UNETHICAL. Period!!! As for Goodhue & Roder, I never spoke about it nor would I care to get involved in that nightmare, period. The Mayor and Victor are not threatning to “sue” the City.
As for Summa, again…. I look at the bottom line. He does not have power (like Roder had) nor any authority and is a UNPAID volunteer, and his issue with the paperwork is null and void. He did not steal documents of value nor did he take anything from City Hall that he did not bring into City Hall. There is no logical relationship between any of these issues, so again, I have no idea why you would even stir up this stuff. Makes no logical sense to me…. just cannot see any light of comparason here on either of these two individuals.
David: I don’t see how these relate.
We know that Victor was acting in the interest of the public, trying to stop City Hall from spending $880,000 during a difficult economy, and that he purportedly stole public documents from the failed petition.
Lansing and Roder are public officials with an immense responsibility to fulfill the public’s trust. We don’t know what either will be charged with, if anything, but because of their status as public authorities, their culpability is that much greater.
I don’t want anyone committing crimes, but especially not public officials. And I suspect that if any charges come against Lansing or Roder, they will be more severe than stealing public documents.
I’ll wait and see what Goodhue concludes before deciding whether to cut Lansing or Roder slack.
Jerold, I don’t understand how motive plays a role in this. Who decided that opposing the renovations was in the public interest? Who decided that those who support the renovations, including the council, are not acting in the public interest? At what point does an individual get to determine the value of a council action? If a council member had tried to remove the documents, I think the discussion would be quite different.
This isn’t a felony, and might not be a misdemeanor, but in my opinion, it still is a breach of the public trust. Mr. Summa isn’t an innocent novice making an honest mistake, but an experienced public official who prides himself in his knowledge of government protocol. The clerk told him not to take the documents. And while he says he was taking them to protect others, that action also could be defined as covering up for their wrongdoing. The court will decide.
I wonder whether Mr. Summa would have been as forgiving if the opponents of the mayor had submitted a faulty recall petition and then tried to remove parts of it.
As usual, the simple incident is being made into high drama. Mr. Summa is not the victim of a witch hunt and he’s not facing prison.
He will get a slap on the wrist at best. He failed to gather the support he needed and the petition failed. The voters will determine for themselves whether his actions were in their interest.
In short, he was speeding and might end up with a ticket. If he doesn’t he should consider himself lucky. If he does, he should pay the fine. In either case, he should slow down and follow the rules of the road.
Charlene and Jerold: Victor was not acting on behalf of the body politic; he was acting in his own self-interest. The body politic had already decided this issue.
Even though the two cases aren’t related, we need to decide how we are going to treat these useless lawsuits. I just don’t see how the results in either case is going to change how we govern the City.
Frankly, I can’t imagine anything the Goodhue County Attorney is going to tell us is going to change anything helpful. The prosecution of Victor is going to get us nowhere. It is time for the City to take some control over these lawsuits. They are just a waste of time.
We’re not talking about lawsuits, are we?
David: Either way, it still goes back to seeing the actual charges brought and the evidence presented. Without knowing the results of Goodhue, I can’t say that we should ignore the alleged crimes and just move on. (I won’t necessarily trust the Goodhue results. I have read many police reports that contradict themselves. Investigators are imperfect beings.) However, simply because public officials are involved, I am less interested in cutting them slack.
I take the same position if I am elected. I am under a greater responsibility to do the right thing as a public official than as a random joe.
Y’all can gab on about this forever… appreciate the support … expect the usual criticisms.
But as far as the “public interest” goes … there were more signatures collected than needed for the referendum (gross #) so considering that it was done in approximately two weeks, and over Labor day, I think it VERY safe to say the public interest was being served.
As far as “at what point does an individual get to determine the value of a council action” … one individual didn’t, but way over 400 did …
And as a matter of FACT, having watched all the council candidate forums, those city hall renovations are not coming up anywhere near the top of the priorities of any candidate, so whoever thinks it IS a good idea, better get ready to make YOUR case in January…
After attending the candidate forum at “The Cow” last night, it is clear to me that Summa is the best, most qualified person for the “at large” two-year seat.
Victor’s problem, if he has one, is that he knows too much and is feared in some sectors for that reason. I hope voters can get beyond rumor and innuendo his detractors have been putting out and recognize how valuable he would be as a voting member of the Council.
Kiffi: I’m with Victor on this charge. The only charge that makes any sense to me is for Victor to be charged under Minn. Stat. 609C3.14 – Causing a Sensory Unpleasantness in the Gluteus Maximus. I think the maximum penalty is 90 days loss of loquaciousness. Oh, and an apology to Deb Little for victim restitution.
Unfortunately there are many here, and on the NFNews site who have not just a difference of opinion on the issue, but an ongoing vindictiveness personally … lots of crocodile tears, and attacks against anyone who disagrees with their POV. (example: attacking ONLY the ‘moniker’ who disagrees, for being anonymous, instead of speaking against ALL anonymity) I think there’s an old African proverb about ‘crocodile tears’ falling only on the scorched earth they have created, but I haven’t found it yet; I’ll keep looking, it’s relevant.
It is virtually unbelievable to me, that some of the things that have been said in this election period, can be said and not challenged. Has the angst with our national politics, our global view, poisoned every aspect of our political scene? And has our fear of reprisal silenced us too often?
One of the best examples of working together has been the four 2 YR at-large candidates, at their forum at the Cow as well as other fora (thank you Jerold F.); they have consistently been able to disagree with each other without making noxious statements to, or about, each other… and not having a primary for those four has put them in a position where they could be much more contentious with each other.
Anne: I didn’t overlook your response to me in your #214, but I didn’t want to answer it without time to ponder.
Motive plays a significant role in most crimes. Killing another human for profit or self-defense is treated differently. Motive is also important at sentencing.
Any time a citizen organizes a petition, I think it’s presumed to be a matter of public interest. Because the petition was to take the renovation matter to the public for a vote has me certain that it’s a matter of public interest.
We agree that Victor and all drivers should obey the rules of the road. What should we do when that doesn’t happen? Should we treat the street racers the same as the commuter who is speeding to get to work on time? Should we treat both the same as the parent speeding to the hospital with a sick child?
I don’t know all the facts in Victor’s controversy. From what I’ve read here and in the Northfield News, Victor is not a threat to the public, nor is he likely to repeat what he allegedly did. If you carry through with the speeding analogy, some jurisdictions have traffic school as a diversion for people who break traffic laws. Again, acknowledging that I am unaware of what actually happened, I think that anyone acting for the public’s benefit who makes a mistake should be given a similar opportunity.
Last I saw, Victor will be charged with a gross misdemeanor or a felony. Felonies have different definitions in different states, but they are generally the crimes where those found guilty are sent to state prison.
Back to David’s point, equating Victor’s alleged crime with Lansing and Roder, I am not prepared to equate them at any level. David might be right, that any crimes alleged by Goodhue should be forgiven and Northfield should move forward. But I can’t agree with David until I see what Goodhue concludes. For me, if Lansing and Roder were street racing or driving their sick kid to the hospital will make all the difference.
Jerold: Not to beat a dead horse, but didn’t we pay Mr. Everett, a former FBI investigator $35,000.00 to investigate this whole sordid affair, and didn’t he come up with nothing but that Lansing was advocating for his own site -which we already knew? Wasn’t Roder cleared completely?
The only difference between Everett’s report and what Goodhue County has is whatever Gary Smith put together. Given Mr. Smith’s credibility on the herion numbers, and his steadfast refusal to offer any evidence on those numbers, I doubt Goodhue County is going to tell us anything that we didn’t already know.
David: The Everett Report and Goodhue investigation do not overlap. See this from the Greene Espel Memo dated Dec. 17, 2007:
I wish that I could share your optimism. Until Goodhue concludes, I don’t assume to know what it will conclude.
A friend in Northfield forwarded the information to me this afternoon. Hopefully the numbers of those arrested for distributing heroin may lend some pause David to helping you regain some confidence that I might have had some good intel after all. I’ll also check with Bill Everett as I thought he was a cop in Faribault and worked for the Minnesota League of Cities but I wasn’t aware of his affiliation with the FBI. As a graduate of that great institution’s training facility I would have sworn I never saw his name on the graduation roster there. I sincerely hope that those arrested and those that should be facing forthcoming arrests and exposure will help put an end to the unfortunate early deaths due to overdoses. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Gary, you wrote:
“I’ll also check with Bill Everett as I thought he was a cop in Faribault and worked for the Minnesota League of Cities but I wasn’t aware of his affiliation with the FBI.”
I don’t know that Everett has any connection to Faribault or the FBI. According to this article, he is an independent investigating attorney from Buffalo:
There is no mention of the FBI in the article.
I do know that the Norfolk, NE did hire a former FBI investigator to check out Al Roder before they hired him. I’d guess Roder passed the test, because Norfolk did hire him.
David, you wrote:
“Jerold: Not to beat a dead horse, but didn’t we pay Mr. Everett, a former FBI investigator $35,000.00 to investigate this whole sordid affair, and didn’t he come up with nothing but that Lansing was advocating for his own site -which we already knew?”
Apparently, Everett made sure his investigation didn’t overlap with the Goodhue investigation. More info here:
Curt: I don’t know why the City hired Everett if they aren’t going to follow his recommendations. And, I don’t know why we care about the Goodhue County investigation. What I really don’t understand is why Mr. Summa should get a free pass, but no one else should.
David, I’m not tracking you. What exactly were Everett’s recommendations? I think his report consisted of “findings”, not recommendations. Please correct me if I’m wrong. The city council acted on the findings, censuring Lansing.
Re: Summa, it goes back to Orwell again: “All animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others.”
Curt: I think you are tracking me.
Gary G. Smith: What do you mean by “good intel”? The few times I talked with you and dropped something that an honest cop would have considered a good lead, you blew up and basically told me to shut up or I’d be in trouble for telling tales out of school. (I would be glad to provide details if anyone is interested.) My impression of the ill-received press conference in the summer of 2007 was that it was finally beginning to sink in that the townsfolk who had been hammering away at you for two or three years, trying to get you to do something, were about to go over your head. I personally had talked to a BCA agent in St. Paul a couple of times about six months before the press conference.
Would you be able to provide a timeline for your efforts between the summer of 2004, when the NPD became aware of the uptick in heroin and other opiate use, and July 2007? In particular, I would be curious to know what you were able to uncover about officers in the NPD who were acting to facilitate the drug trade in Northfield in that period.
Curt and David: If you think anyone is getting a “free pass” here, you’re wrong. You have no idea of what this experience has been from Sept 8 ’til now.
As to Orwell: some “animals” ARE more equal than others, because they adhere to working for principle, rather than personal power.
If you think this is anything but a thinly disguised act of character defamation, during an election, against a candidate, I think you are wrong.
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment … The petition was not sitting on a coffee table in the administrative office for anyone to peruse or “take”.
The petition was brought out from a rear office, given to Victor to peruse, discussed, and THEN a portion of it was GIVEN TO HIM in EXCHANGE for the requested RECEIPT.
Let’s at least keep the facts straight in the midst of all the hyperbole.
It is important for people to understand the facts that Kiffi has presented. Victor REQUESTED the receipt. I have never heard of anyone requesting a receipt for so called “stolen” goods!
With respect to all the candidates running for the 2 year at-large seat it very clear that Victor is the only one who truly knows the issues and how to deal with them. The candidate forums have made this evident. Victor is definitely the obvious choice for city council.
Posted to Nfld News site: Candidate charged with taking public documents.
See the statement of probable cause (PDF) posted to the Nfld News site.
I thought I posted one time but must have missed the mark. Mr Oney, I recall several phone conversations with you. If you wish to make a public issue please do so rather than contribute to the paranoia and rumor mongering. I am also quite protective of my professional reputation so I will take strong exception to the degree necessary to keep the facts straight. Mr. Benson, if you have concerns about NPD I would suggest you contact the current chief. I also believe they are probably hiring officers if you feel you might be able to lend your expertise to the profession.
Gary: I think that Scott was trying to make it a public issue. The basic question is why didn’t the NFD do something before the press conference?
My question has been, and continue to be – what are the facts about drug usage, especially heroin? The consequence of the press conference seemed to be a lot of paranoia and rumor mongoring, but nothing concrete from the NPD.
Do know there were alot of people in Northfield who stood behind you and all your efforts including those who are (now) shaking their heads….knowing you were right all along.
Those same people enjoy taking credit for work others have done, while pointing their fingers.
I think it is nice you took the time to get back to your old stomping grounds and setting the story straight!
Gary G. Smith: I don’t believe you’ve ever addressed the issue, in public or privately to me, of what, if anything, the NPD was doing to disrupt the drug trade in Northfield prior to July 2007. Perhaps you don’t understand what I mean by a time line, so here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
August 23, 2008: Jill W. dies of what appears to be a heroin overdose. Northfield police begin investigating immediately, even before the cause of death has been verified.
September 11, 2008: Northfield and Rice County authorities have discovered who they should be looking for, have enlisted someone to work undercover, and begin a series of controlled purchases from the suspects.
October 24, 2008: Eight individuals are arrested, and two heroin distribution rings are disabled.
OK, that’s what the NPD is doing now, and it’s working very well. But what about some of the earlier deaths? On the Faribault Daily News Web site this week, two were mentioned.
Did his drugs come from a source in Northfield? What did you do to find out?
How did your investigation proceed for this one? What had the NPD accomplished by March or April of 2006?
Now that we’ve seen what the NPD can do if they try, you can hardly call it paranoia and rumor mongering if some of us begin to suspect that you were following an explicit policy of “de-policing.” If that isn’t the case, please enlighten us on the specifics of your efforts in these two cases.
I have another question, too. Above, you posted the following:
As written, that statement is ambiguous, but when it’s parsed the way I think you meant it, it’s sort of dark and vaguely threatening. Perhaps I’m associating it with the old “by any means necessary” mantra. Would you care to elaborate on what you meant?
Scott and Gary: If you are going to discuss the heroin issue, could you move it to that thread? This discussion is about spending a million dollars on city hall and the citizen petition related–I would like to see your comments over on the drug thread. Thanks.
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