City Hall Renovation Tops a Million Dollars

MillionDollarMakeOver-1.jpgLate 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.

239 Comments

  1. kiffi summa said:

    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    It only mentions the comments at the open mic, but NOT the significant comment re: the withdrawn packet, who handled it, who returned it.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 …

    September 17, 2008
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  2. Anne Bretts said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  3. David Henson said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  4. Jane Moline said:

    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?”

    September 17, 2008
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  5. Scott Davis said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  6. Jerold Friedman said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  7. David Ludescher said:

    Jerold: Until a jury holds otherwise, the “neutral” position is that Victor is innocent.

    September 17, 2008
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  8. kiffi summa said:

    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
    /16year olds.

    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!

    September 17, 2008
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  9. David Henson said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  10. Jerold Friedman said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  11. David Henson said:

    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.

    September 17, 2008
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  12. Barb Kuhlman said:

    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?

    September 17, 2008
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  13. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  14. john george said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  15. Curt Benson said:

    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.”

    September 18, 2008
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  16. Jane Moline said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  17. David Henson said:

    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):

    http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/242fin.htm

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  18. kiffi summa said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  19. Curt Benson said:

    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.)

    September 18, 2008
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  20. Jerold Friedman said:

    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).

    September 18, 2008
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  21. David Henson said:

    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.”

    September 18, 2008
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  22. 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.

    September 18, 2008
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  23. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi wrote,

    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.

    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:

    Joe Grundhoefer’s comments on what happened to the packet after it left city hall are not germain to the focus of our story, or the investigation itself.
    The story and the investigation focus on whether the documents were illegally removed by Victor from city hall.
    I don’t believe what happened to those documents after they left city hall is being pursued at this point as a legal matter. If or when it is, we’ll cover it and Joe Grundhoefer’s comments will then apply.
    The story made clear that it was Grundhoefer who returned the documents to city hall, not Victor.

    http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=45973

    September 18, 2008
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  24. john george said:

    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!)

    September 18, 2008
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  25. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    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?

    September 18, 2008
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  26. David Henson said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  27. Anne Bretts said:

    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?

    September 18, 2008
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  28. Jane Moline said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  29. Julie Bixby said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  30. john george said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  31. Charlene Coulombe- Fiore said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
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  32. kiffi summa said:

    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?

    September 18, 2008
    Reply
  33. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi,
    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.

    September 18, 2008
    Reply
  34. Griff Wigley said:

    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?

    September 18, 2008
    Reply
  35. Griff Wigley said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
    Reply
  36. Patrick: That’s one of the issues I look forward to learning from the investigation, assuming a public statement is made at its conclusion.

    September 18, 2008
    Reply
  37. john george said:

    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.

    September 18, 2008
    Reply
  38. David Ludescher said:

    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.

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  39. Jane Moline said:

    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.

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  40. 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.

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  41. David Henson said:

    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 !

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  42. 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.

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  43. David Ludescher said:

    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.

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  44. Jane Moline said:

    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.

    Jane

    September 19, 2008
    Reply
  45. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Nfld News: Summa charges could come next week.

    A decision about whether city council candidate Victor Summa illegally took city documents is still pending. Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster said Tuesday his office filed documents with the court, but the judge wants more information before signing them… Beaumaster said he expects the charging documents will be filed next week.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  46. Ross Currier said:

    Wow Griff, I’m really surprised that this matter is being pursued.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  47. john george said:

    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.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  48. David Ludescher said:

    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).

    October 22, 2008
    Reply

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