Election 2008 discussion: Northfield Mayor – candidates and issues

Paul Hager Mary Rossing

Paul Hager and Mary Rossing are running for Mayor of Northfield. We’ve invited them to interact online with us (the LoGroNo Triumvirate) here in the message thread attached to this blog post for the next few days.

And then we’ll invite you, the citizens of Northfield, to also chime in over the next ten days or so.

Here are some links to find out more about the candidates:

Candidate web sites:

Representative Journalism (RepJ)


Northfield News:

Northfield East Side Neighborhood Association

78 thoughts on “Election 2008 discussion: Northfield Mayor – candidates and issues”

  1. Tracy,
    My answer to your question.

    Why I’m running for Mayor.

    I believe in public service and I want to help my hometown. Northfield has many volunteers that serve their community in so many ways, and through a variety of organizations. My interest is in government. My desire to serve doesn’t mean I have all the answers to the problems we face as a community, or as a people. What it does mean is that I have a desire to help, to step out of the crowd and work to find solutions that benefit the greater good of the community–not the demands of a single individual or group.

    I’m running this year, because I see a council without leadership, as evidenced by 18 months drafting a rental ordinance that is found to be unconstitutional; by dragged-out discussions about sidewalks on Lincoln Parkway, the Woodley Street infrastructure, the Fifth Street reconstruction, and the City’s Liquor Store. In censuring the Mayor, there was not leadership but gamesmanship.

    I am concerned that in a vacuum of leadership from the elected body, City of Northfield staff members are without direction and may act independently on issues of policy and development. This is ineffective, but more importantly, it bypasses the public’s role in decision-making.

    I’m running to restore the public’s trust in the Northfield City Council. I want the council to once again communicate with citizens and invite participation in the governing process. I want the council to work together for the common good. Governing is a difficult job, but leadership can make the job workable and successful. Leadership is needed to set an agenda, identify priorities, incorporate ideas from others, and direct a plan of action. I have demonstrated my leadership in previous service as
    both a councilman and as Mayor. It is this experience that I would like to bring the Mayor’s office again.

    A civic issus is: how do we bring the Hispanic community into the larger Northfield community ?

  2. Mary,
    I asked you about ethanol because you said (post 45) making Nfld a leader on clean energy was a goal for you. I will be equally interested in his response.

  3. Griff,
    Sorry for the double post- my wireless connection went down and I wasn’t sure if my original posting went through.


  4. Great job Paul and Mary at the debate today at The Contented Cow. There is one question that I wanted to ask (it was touched on a little bit by Paul) and goes as follows:

    Public transportation is seen by many in this community as a joke. Recently our transit cut back hours (because the two colleges removed funding) and works more like a taxi service, picking up clients an hour or two after they call. With the economy headed south, chances are there will a greater need for these services (and more difficulty in funding public trans). Those suffering economic hardship, volunteers, youth, families, and college kids are most affected by the limited hours and service, and this in turn affects the schools, nonprofits, and employers in the community. With all this being said, is there anything you would advocate changing with the current system, and if so, how would you get it done?

  5. Hello, to Paul and Mary. I would to ask both of you if you have any larger view ideas about how to bring a world class tourist attraction to Northfield? (besides our colleges, the contentment and the cows, that is)

    Bowling Green, KY has the Corvette Factory tour, other small towns have beaches, bird watching, golf courses, etc. What would you bring to Northfield,if you could?

  6. Paul and Mary, any response to Josh’s question?

    A reminder: Only five days left till the election.

    Citizens, feel free to keep asking questions of the mayoral candidates and/or discussing the candidates and issues among yourselves.

  7. Josh,
    Thanks for your thoughtful question. This is an issue that will have to addressed but I would like to be sure to include the people that currently and would potentially use the transit system in the conversation.

    The economy will eventually drive expansion of the system, but we must also be proactive and realize that it IS the role of the government to help people get to and from work so that they can be contributing citizens. We put money into the roads and the infrastructure already for this purpose. Transit, though not self supporting, will drive our economy and should be seen as an essential service. Any plans for job expansion should also include talk about getting those people to work. One of the keys to success of any expansion will be marketing its availability to users. It’s a chicken/egg thing in many ways.

    This issue was also raised as part of the youth platform before the primary. I would also like us to look closely at youth needs–after school, in the evening, and in the summer and see if we can come up with a few regular routes that would run at certain times. What will they use and when? Maybe we can partner with the schools. Maybe with the seniors.

    I don’t have the answers, but I do have the will.

  8. Paul, in your post #51 you wrote: “In censuring the Mayor, there was not leadership but gamesmanship.”

    Have you read the 33 pages of charges from Goodhue? If so, do you still believe that the council was involved in “gamesmanship”?

  9. Curt : absolutely, in answer to your question to Paul Hager re: his use of the term “gamesmanship”.

    If you have read the Everett report, and the 700 pages of docs that back it up, you will see that much of the complaint against Mayor Lansing is a rehash of some of those issues… just look at the issue of the park dedication fee.
    That is an example of why I continue to hold the opinion that the ER was a ‘bought’ opinion. Within the ER it actually states the errors that the staff made in initially calculating that fee, the corrected fee brought to the council and voted on, and passed, and yet the Mayor is presumed to have had a conflict of interest.

    For a simple parallel, Curt: If YOU were an elected official, and your water bill came to you saying you owed $763. 54, would you question the finance dept about that bill? Would that be a conflict of interest if the staff then looked at it and said , oh, we made a mistake … and reduced it to $76.35? Would you have exerted ‘undue influence’ by asking the staff? And would it have been ‘undue influence ‘ if they stonewalled you the first three times you asked, and you persisted until they found their error and corrected it?

    You are certainly welcome to your opinion of the events as you perceive them, but it seems more like a vendetta … in the constant return to your presumed guilt of the Mayor, and presumed poor behavior by the former Police Chief.

    The ‘game’ of defense that this council played, was only achievable by creating a voting bloc (which , by the way, contained some pretty unlikely allies) and then trying to ‘unelect’ the Mayor which the community elected.

    Finally … Here’s the question:
    I would like to ask both candidates how, or IF, they think it is possible for any person who is truly engaged in their small town community to not have a ‘conflict’ in some arena? How will you remove all the possible conflicts within your existence in NF, if you are an elected official in NF?

  10. Kiffi, the question was directed to Hager. He’s the one running for mayor.

    I do have a question for you, who are you and Victor supporting?

  11. Curt: in #56, Griff directs the ‘citizens’ to feel free to discuss the candidates and issues among themselves.

    I always (almost) follow Griff’s direction…

    as to my vote? there is a sign in my front yard.

  12. Outstanding job by both Mary and Peter at last night’s League of Women Voters/Northfield News forum. I will be delighted to be governed by either, and to serve with either if I am elected to Ward 2.

    I have heard, at last night’s forum and before, for the candidates to prioritize their “to do for Northfield” lists in discrete categories, such as prioritize your Capital Improvement list, prioritize your Budget list, and prioritize your desired attributes in a City Administrator. These cover the first many months in office.

    We can’t predict what issues may come over the four-year term, but what I’d like to hear is how Mary and Paul prioritize their lists generally. Imagining a time when Northfield’s current priorities are past us, what method will you use to set the priorities for the unknown things to come?

  13. Bright,
    I’ve always said that if Northfield had a lake, an ocean or some mountains then it would be perfect! But all kidding aside, I think we are fortunate that the two colleges bring visitors from all over the world. Also, DJJD brings over a hundred thousand people to town each year, and the museum draws internationally. We are perfectly situated between the Twin Cities and Rochester and between the Mall of America and Cabella’s, all of which draw people to our area. The key is to capture some of this traffic. The CVB and the NDDC just partnered to put up a second sign on I35. There is much to do, but this is start. Soon we will have the Mills Town Trail and the skateboard park which will draw youth and energy to the downtown. I would like us to look at a comprehensive recreation plan for the downtown as these projects move forward, and I am intrigued by the idea of a canoe/kayak run replacing the dam. Right now the best thing we can do is effectively market our assets–we are a charming town with cool places to shop, eat, stay, walk, bike and ski. For a midwestern, small town experience we really are “world class”!

  14. Kiffi,
    You make a very good point, and it is virtually impossible to eliminate all “conflicts of interest”, perceived or otherwise, if you are “engaged in the community”. We live here, we work here, we do business here. If a council person owns a home, for instance, should they have to recuse themselves from voting on a property tax issue? Of course not. But if an elected official uses their office to give preferential treatment or for personal or familial gain this would be inappropriate.

  15. Jerold,
    Excellent discussion question. This is the type of philosophical approach that I had been hoping for on locallygrown since we have already answered about every specific issue question under the sun at forums, online and here! I look forward to having this sort of discussion with the council.

    First, public safety trumps all. Second, projects that deal with essential services (although this is a discussion in itself as to what is “essential”) Another thing to think about is if the project provides economic stimulus or generates revenue for the city, and at what cost–cost benefit analysis is vital.

    I would insist that all the council members gather information from their constituents, perhaps by holding ward meetings, and bring back relevant information. We might even try having a city wide survey–web driven would be least costly. Eventually the council has to come to some conclusions about what levy amount the citizens can stomach in exchange for desired services. Then we can project this out over 20 years, see what we can afford and make some decisions. If there are private dollars available this also would work to move a project along sooner, and how many people benefit from the project. The ultimate voice is still with the people through a reverse referendum or their vote. I think we also need to decide at what dollar number we go to a referendum, if at all.

    One question I have had, but have not had answered is: “how does a project get put onto the CIP in the first place? But that is more than you asked for at this point. Any other suggestions as to method would be greatly appreciated, by the way!

  16. By the way, Jerold, I love the slip of the pen on your post–all of a sudden there are three mayoral candidates –Peter, Paul and Mary! Makes me want to break out in song!

  17. Paul: Sorry about the slip of the pen (that Mary caught). Good grief!

    Mary: I would add advertisements in the Northfield News, KYMN and other inexpensive media to encourage citizen feedback on key issues. The other media are necessary because some people don’t have easy access to the internet, and some don’t want access to it. Maybe the advertising media will give us a discount government/public service rate.

    A web page on the city’s site would be the most efficient way to manage citizen requests. All advertisements should direct citizens to the web page. I’d think the advertisements should also direct citizens to the library’s computers in case they have no internet access, and the ads should have a postal address as a last resort. I’ll volunteer to open envelopes in case we get a deluge.

  18. Mary…”if an elected official uses their office to give preferential treatment or for personal or familial gain this would be inappropriate.” Are you sure about this? For it is the crux of much misunderstanding.

    Instead, a person in office can, as a citizen, apply to City Hall to benefit in some way (eg put a liquor store in their commercial building) but is bound, both as an elected official and as a citizen, by rules and procedures as to how they apply and as to how the application is processed. Is this not the case?

    I suppose the key phrase is “using their office”, whatever that might mean..?

  19. From Josh on transportation:…..”With all this being said, is there anything you would advocate changing with the current system, and if so, how would you get it done?

    Transportation is one of the “off the radar” issues of the community. We currently have a service that ends at 4:30 pm. I know we are serving some riders, but we’re missing a lot- especially kids who are too young to drive and need to get home from after school activities and programs.
    I admit I don’t know all the details of why the service functions the way it does, but as Mayor, I would find out if we are getting the most benefit for the dollars we currently spend on the system. I would call a meeting with organizations, program providers and riders to identify their needs and what we (the City) can do to adjust our service to meet demand and improve ridership.

  20. From Curt Benson….”Have you read the 33 pages of charges from Goodhue? If so, do you still believe that the council was involved in “gamesmanship”?

    Yes, I’ve read the 33 pages. And I also read several of the Lansing and Roder interviews in the Everett report when it released (read it at the Library).

    I just haven’t seen many examples of leadership on the part of the Council. As a former Council member, I took leadership positions on many issues, including annexation and redevelopment in the downtown (Petricka’s grocery store). And there is a history of other, past Council members who have demonstrated leadership in their time on the Council.

    The Council votes to take away Lee Lansing’s key to his office- this is leadership ? Or a game ? I witnessed the battle over appointments- leadership could have cooled down the arguments, but instead it brought out the worst of gotcha politics.

    I’m certainly not defending Lee Lansing, remember I was one of the former Mayors who called for his (Lansing’s) resignation.

  21. Thanks for your response Paul. I think the word “gamemanship” applies to a couple actions of the council, mainly trying to extract an apology from Lansing in exchange for agreeing not to sue, and for offering Roder cash in exchange for not suing, prior to the results of the Goodhue investigation.

    Other than those actions, I thought the council did the best they could with a very difficult mayor. That report from Goodhue shows some really horrible (alleged) behavior–and yes, I know Roder is not off the hook yet.

  22. Bright Spenser: … World class attractions…..What would you bring to Northfield, if you could?

    Well, Carleton and St. Olaf are world class places to visit. The Carleton Arboretum is great, too.
    We also have history and architecture.

    If I could bring something world class it would be something like the Mayo Clinic, or Howard Hughes Medical Institute. It would add to our presence on the map and bring good jobs to the community.

  23. Jerold,
    I think the Safety Center is a “life safety” issue for the community and it should top the list for capital improvements. In addressing this issue, we have to look long-term, and consider placing the Center on a site where it meets the current ISO fire rating and affords us space to expand in the future.
    We should not act in haste, but in a well planned, forward thinking manner. That being said, we can defer City hall maintenance and transfer funds intended for that purpose to a Safety Center building fund. And, we also need to earmark funds on an annual basis to fund the replacement of our fire fighting trucks and equipment.

  24. Griff,
    As a candidate running in the (new to me) real-time world of on-line questions and answers, I have a few observations.

    I have to admit that it is easier to respond to questions as they are asked, or posted on a blog (this blog, specifically) as opposed to responding to a large batch of questions in one email. The benefit, for the candidate, is responding directly to a question with the possibility to follow up, or clarify a response. The on-line conversation is more fluid and dynamic as opposed to written responses with time or word limits.

    That being said, there are some pitfalls to the blog mode. If I’m offline, I can’t respond. The immediacy of the web dictates an immediate response; no response is taken as a refusal to reply, or a snub. Patience is advised. As you know, I missed your opening bell on launching the Mayoral blog because I was away from my computer for one day (which is a good thing to do).

    Responding to questions from Northfield.org is good, too, and offers side by side comparisons. Northfield.org had a deadline for responding, which I admit I missed by a few days–I’ve got a life, too. Their questions came in packets- one at a time, then multiples. When I did get the entire packet of questions, I got some duplicates and when I saw the responses posted, I obviously missed some of the questions. Sorry for that error. I realize Northfield.org is all volunteer organization and rather than make more work for them, I did not submit responses to the last questions. I have a lot of information at my website, which is noted at the Northfield.org elections page.

    The local election season has been civil and informative and that speaks well of our community.
    The on-line discussions, questions and answers, and blogging is, I believe, good for citizens who are on-line. In future campaigns, I would ask the information providers, hosts and bloggers to coordinate timelines for candidate participation in on-line forums and for submitting published responses. Candidates have lives outside of their candidacy. Let’s make it workable for all.

    My thanks to you, Griff and LGN , for hosting and the invitation to participate.

  25. 55 – Bright Spencer
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Hello, to Paul and Mary. I would to ask both of you if you have any larger view ideas about how to bring a world class tourist attraction to Northfield?

    Would a campground for tent-camping and RV-hookups be an incentive for people to come to Northfield? If I’m not mistaken, currently the only options are motels, hotels and relatives. If people have invested in an RV, are they interested in spending money to stay at a hotel when so many other tourist spots have RV hookups readily available? Is the closest campground to Northfield in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park?

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