Election 2008 discussion: Northfield City Council Ward 2 – candidates and issues

Betsey Buckheit Jerold Friedman
Betsey Buckheit and Jerold Friedman are running for Northfield City Council, Ward 2. 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:

Northfield.org (includes their answers to a dozen questions from citizens)

Northfield News:

Northfield East Side Neighborhood Association

83 Comments

  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Jerry and Betsey,

    Northfield probably has more civic-oriented online participation per capita than anywhere in the state and maybe the western hemisphere. 😉

    Yet no one on the current council nor any city staff in a leadership position has a blog, and they rarely take advantage of opportunities to interact with citizens on Northfield.org or here on Locally Grown.

    Both of you have launched blogs in conjunction with your campaigns. Both of you have been active participants here on Locally Grown. But the vast majority of politicians don’t keep blogging once they win, and few take the time to engage citizens in online venues like this.

    I’d like to hear your views about using online tools to both bring more transparency to one’s role as Councilor as well as to increase citizen engagement.

    October 19, 2008
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  2. Betsey Buckheit said:

    See my comment on the UCC forum thread.

    Transparency and responsiveness in local government are crucial. The Council should keep looking for ways to improve communication to and from citizens using as many media as possible. Certainly online tools are increasingly important tools in the toolbox, though all online tools are not equal.

    I’ll keep blogging if elected, although I don’t know quite how I’ll structure this. I’m not a natural blogger, I’m a policy person. It takes me a long time to write short, engaging posts. So I’d like to use my blog to help people understand issues facing the council beyond the black/white distinctions without boring them to death with long posts. I’d really like it if my blog could generate discussion.

    Blogging, whether on my own blog or commenting here on Locally Grown, is also a challenge. The interaction is good, especially learning what other people think about city issues. Yet they blur the line between personal and official (I know there’s been much discussion here on Locally Grown about which hat – especially Ross’s hats – are being worn at what time) which is both a bug and a feature, simultaneously, and I’ll just have to negotiate that tension one post at a time.

    Beyond blogging, though, I’d like to work toward making as much city information as accessible and searchable as possible.

    One complaint I hear when campaigning (and in many threads here on LG) is that decisions are made behind closed doors and the information/rationale/actors are not made public or only introduced after the fact. I’d like to see City Hall become something more like a library where staff help citizens find what they need online or any other form.

    October 19, 2008
    Reply
  3. Government officials are held accountable to more laws than non-officials, and policy making officials get another set of laws to abide by. For example, “sunshine” laws that seek to illuminate government communications, like the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state equivalents, can oblige an official to turn over all communications in any form on a certain subject. For simplicity’s sake, officials may restrain themselves to communicate only in a few ways, such as their government e-mail account and handwritten letters, so if they are expected to turn over their communications dozens of e-mail accounts and several blogs don’t have to be sorted through.

    That doesn’t mean that officials can’t maintain a presence on a few, select sites.

    If elected, I already intend to keep an active Ward 2 web page/blog on the City’s web site where Ward 2 residents and I can openly discuss the ward’s issues.

    Because of the role that Locally Grown Northfield plays in our community, I intend to keep a presence here as well. Depending on the subject, I might add a disclaimer about what is my *personal* opinion and what is my *official* opinion, the difference being that my official opinion is always affected by my constituents’ expressed opinions.

    I am committed to keeping my constituents involved in our ward’s issues, and keeping them informed about the reasons for my decisions before and after voting is a necessary component. Therefore, at a minimum, I’ll be quite active on Ward 2’s blog. Depending on the topic, I’ll be active with Locally Grown as well.

    October 19, 2008
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  4. Ross Currier said:

    Just so everyone is clear, I’m wearing my New Britain Rock Cats hat right now.

    Betsey and Jerold, Griff has raised one side of the elected official-electing citizen communication, that from officials to citizens, I would like to explore the other side.

    There has been much discussion the past eighteen months about citizen input to elected officials. Complaints about citizens not raising concerns until the eleventh (and a half) hour and complaints about city staff’s open houses being nothing more than window-dressing abound. Some praise the making comments at the open mic as democracy in action, others criticize it as a waste of our officials’ time. Suggestions of new possibilities, such as town hall meetings, are greeted with a mixture of open-mindedness and derision.

    Political debate has always been a part of Northfield. As Clifford Clark noted in his excellent essay “Evolution of a Community”, one of John North’s earliest actions was to found the town’s first civic organization, the Northfield Lyceum Society, with the purpose of “establishing a Reading Room, Circulating Library, and Debating Society”.

    If the sharing of civic opinions has always been, currently is, and will continue to be characteristic of Northfield, what method of communication from citizens to elected officials would you recommend to be the most appropriate and productive?

    October 19, 2008
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  5. The usual means that citizens can talk with their elected officials must remain. Whether that’s the open mic, writing, calling, or talking with me for a moment when I am shopping at Just Food, part of the job of being an official is to be accessible to one’s constituents.

    Through my planned Ward 2 web page, I intend to develop a mass e-mailing system where I can invite my constituents’ feedback on important and controversial issues (I’ll send postcards or find another economical means to invite feedback from those without e-mail). By developing a rapport as an easy person to write to, I hope that everyone would feel comfortable writing to me privately.

    Beyond the usual means is fundamentally up to you, the citizen, to become involved. I can sponsor Ward 2 meetings, but I need you to attend. If a neighborhood wants a park created so their children have a safe place to play, the neighbors can create an ad hoc committee to further that goal. Formal special interest groups, like the Northfield East Side Neighborhood Association, can form and hold meetings. I would want to be part of the meetings when possible, but nonetheless the meetings’ resolutions can be presented to me as a means to keep me informed of citizen needs.

    I will be responsive to the usual methods of contacting one’s elected officials. When citizens go beyond the usual methods, I’ll do my part to work with them and make sure it’s a success. I would like to see my constituents discussing issues among themselves and including me in the discussions as they see fit.

    October 19, 2008
    Reply
  6. Peter Millin said:

    Betsy and Jerold,

    Looking at your platforms I really don’t see any obvious differences.
    Could both of you give me three reasons what makes you different from the other?

    Why should I vote for Betsy over Jerold and vice versa?

    October 19, 2008
    Reply
  7. Peter: Thank you for such a probative question.

    Betsey and I haven’t had any real conversation nor have I seen her dossier. What I perceive as our differences may not true. That said:

    1. I have a lot of volunteering and political organizing experience. When I was 15, I volunteered for a U.S. presidential election, making phone calls and stuffing envelopes. While I wasn’t particularly political then, the volunteering spirit took hold. Since then, I have volunteered for several campaigns among many genres, all of a progressive nature (protecting the environment, civil rights, labor, and animals), even as recently as spending an evening volunteering at the Northfield DFL office for the 2008 election.

    I have been a National Lawyers Guild legal observer in several of their projects. Legal observers are trained witnesses who attend demonstrations and keep a watchful eye in order to protect the demonstrators. I have been a legal observer at many demonstrations, including May Day, anti-war, union strikes, farmers fighting the loss of their land to developers, and native Americans protesting their burial grounds being disturbed by developers. At the May Day protest, I later volunteered as a legal assistant for a journalist who was caught up in a mass arrest. I have helped other demonstrators who were cited by police in order to oppress them, from traffic citations to misdemeanors.

    Based on what little I know of Betsey, I have volunteered more, and spent more time working with people who are on the streets, demanding change.

    2. I have served on the board of directors of the National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles Chapter, and the Animal Care Foundation in Hawaii. Being a director for a nonprofit corporation is analogous to being a council member for a city. As a director, I have legislative and policy making experience. Based on what little I know of Betsy, her work with Northfield has given her advisory — not policy — experience.

    3. I am an ardent supporter of the environment and civil rights. I recently remembered a certificate I received in grade school, commending my work at the S.E.L.F. (Student Environmental Learning Facility) and awarding me with the title of “Super Environmentalist”. Throughout my life I have tried to stay on the cutting edge of environmentalism. This isn’t easy to measure, but as two examples, I bought a hybrid car in 2000 when they were first offered, and I have an all electric moped. There are certainly more environmental modes of transportation (especially bicycling and walking), but I offer these two as examples of my commitment to our environment. Of course I reduce, reuse and recycle. I love our Just Food Co-op. I do what I can in big and small ways to help preserve our ecosystem.

    If elected, I’ll endeavor to legislate more environmental protections for Northfield. I’d like all bags to be 100% biodegradable, because recyclable plastic bags are sometimes still thrown in the trash. I’ll work with the county to include Styrofoam, as presently we aren’t able to recycle them in the single stream bins. There are several simple things that can be done to help keep our city, country, and planet clean. Northfield can catch up to other trail blazing cities, and inspire other cities to join.

    My work in civil rights also reveals where my heart is. I want to work with people and for their interests. I am not swayed by businesses or other special interests who want to trample the rights of the people. While I don’t see any particular civil rights problem in Northfield, it’s important that you and other residents understand what I think about the relationship among people, businesses and government. I put my trust in people, as I’d want my elected officials to put their trust in me.

    Based on what little I know of Betsey, she doesn’t have as deep a passion for the environment nor civil rights as I do.

    Again, I don’t know much about my opponent and I definitely have no interest in telling falsehoods about her. I hope that if I am wrong in my observations, above, that she’ll take the opportunity to correct the record.

    October 19, 2008
    Reply
  8. Adding to my spirit of volunteering, I am working part-time with Northfield’s Youth Enrichment League. For three hours each week, I teach chess to some of our community’s grade schoolers. Three hours per week is not enough incentive to work for the money, but working with the children is a great incentive. I was the beneficiary of a big brother when I was young. In the same way, teaching chess to kids is a way that I can “pay it forward” to another generation.

    October 19, 2008
    Reply
  9. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Nice hat, Ross.

    Jerold covered the ways constituents can communicate with their Council rep from open mic to phone to email to talking on the street, as well as the bloggish options.

    But I read your question Ross as asking something more like “what can people do to influence city government?”

    Individuals can be heard in all the ways noted and I’ll try to listen and take notes, but organization is powerful. Groups like NESNA have come together to use email to share information about issues which affect their east side neighborhood and get people to Council meetings to speak at the open mic and public hearings. At the Planning Commission, when the whole neighborhood turns out to speak about a project, the impact is greater and it is hard not to listen.

    Using the city’s own boards and commissions more effectively is a goal of mine. Talented people are needed to join these groups and they can help the city’s outreach efforts, too.

    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  10. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Thanks for the question, Peter.

    Jerold’s comments about my background are almost entirely mistaken. Since he answered first, let me define myself in contrast:

    Volunteering is what I do for a living. I am a licensed attorney, but at this time my choice is to do a variety of volunteer work and home school my daughter part time.

    The distinction is that all my volunteering is local; aside from Jerold’s chess volunteering, none of his work involves Northfield.

    My service has not been national campaigns, large-scale demonstrations nor other high profile issues. Rather I have served on Northfield’s boards and commissions starting with the Library Board, moving to the Planning Commission, Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force, and currently the Charter Commission. As well, I’m on the board of the Northfield Soccer Association and have volunteered in school and at church. My roots in Northfield are deep and my knowledge of city government is not by abstract analogy like Jerold’s, but by direct participation.

    Jerold is also mistaken that my experience is merely advisory. While the Planning Commission is advisory to the Council, I have been involved with drafting Northfield’s Comprehensive Plan, Transportation Plan, and land use regulations – all fundamental Northfield policy documents. And my frustration with the role of advisory boards is one reason I am running for council – I can identify needed policy changes and work to implement them.

    I also care about our environment. I don’t own a hybrid car, rather I try to bicycle and walk and served on the Non Motorized Transportation Task Force to help Northfield be as pedestrian and bicycle friendly a community as possible.

    Beyond my personal habits, however, my focus has been on helping Northfield adopt land use policies which conserve land by developing compactly, include innovative regulations for managing stormwater and other impacts, and for assessing the impact of development before it happens.

    Our new, almost adopted Comprehensive Plan is a big step in the right direction and I have high hopes for the land use regulations which will give the plan some teeth (these are still under development).

    The new, again almost adopted, Transportation Plan is another step forward for Northfield. It consciously adopts a “Complete Streets” policy to encourage walking, bicycling and transit. The Plan won’t happen by itself and I want to serve on Council to make sure the recommendations in this plan are on the agenda and are implemented.

    To sum up my Peter:

    Northfield has invested time, money and citizen input in its Comprehensive Plan, Transportation Plan, Park Plan. I know these plans because I have participated in the process of creating them and I want to be on Council to carry them out effectively.

    My passion is good government for Northfield.

    This means I want Northfield to have the best tools available such as its Plans, Charter, and ordinances – I’ve already worked hard in this area.

    Northfield needs the voices of its citizens. I’ve served on boards and commissions. I know the frustration of being ignored or dismissed by Council; I know how board members make themselves experts in land use, environmental issues, housing, or economic development; I want these groups to have a stronger voice in Northfield’s government.

    Northfield needs sustainable government. This means environmental sustainability, but also long-term fiscal responsibility. The long term plans I’ve noted can help us plan our investing in Northfield for the long term. Plus, we need to be creative in finding ways to conserve energy, staff and money as we face hard economic times.

    I want the Council to be an effective, efficient and accessible body which uses its tools well, listens to its residents individually and on its boards and commissions, and keeps continually evaluating its performance to do a better job.

    October 20, 2008
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  11. Contrary to Betsey’s position, I don’t necessarily urge people to join organizations such as NESNA, or Northfield’s various commissions, in order to have greater access to or influence on city council. Some people are comfortable joining and others just want to send an e-mail and trust that their elected official will read it.

    The proper role of these organizations is to focus the people who are interested in a subject to take some form of action, which may be to recommend an action for city council. The organizations’ role is not to better influence city council.

    These organizations play a valuable role in voicing concerns to the city council, but individuals play an equally valuable role. I would never want a constituent to think it’s futile communicating to me because he or she has a different opinion than those organizations.

    The only right way to influence city government is with a well thought and articulated opinion. If city commissions, neighborhood organizations, or individuals have such opinions, I’m eager to hear them all.

    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  12. Peter: Now I understand why you said that you didn’t see any substantial difference between Betsey’s and my platforms.

    Still in the spirit of distinguishing our positions, here is my last observation…

    Betsey has volunteered in Northfield longer than I have. I make a point to volunteer, and now that Northfield is my home, I am looking to volunteer here in meaningful ways. That may be the most apparent difference. Betsey will market herself as having intimate knowledge of Northfield, and I’ll market myself as having a fresh “outside” perspective along with an immense capacity to learn.

    I don’t have any other observations at this time for more contrast between us. I gave it my best shot but I barely know my opponent. There are two fora on Oct. 22 and one on Oct. 30, so there should be more material soon for contrasting us if you can wait a few days!

    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  13. Ross Currier said:

    Betsey and Jerold –

    Thank you for your answers to my question. I think that you both assume I have rather high expectations of influencing policy decisions. Believe me, after serving for over five years on the Planning Commission, I do not.

    Perhaps some of my question pertains to a minimal level of courtesy to be expected from Councilors to Citizens. I have often watched a Citizen make a statement only to be greeted by absolute silence by the Councilors. I would hope that at the very least the Councilors could muster a “Thank you, Mr. Covey”. I know that some have argued that more substantial responses such as “Good points, Mr. Covey, I will include them in my decision-making process” or “To be honest, Mr. Covey, I must disagree with your analysis on this issue”, might take too much time, however, a simple acknowledgment of the Citizen’s statement would seem to me to be the bare minimum of respectful behavior essential for effective government.

    On the other end of the spectrum, there have been numerous instances of a Councilor attacking a Citizen for expressing his or her views. It would be difficult to see this reaction as strengthening the ideal of democracy, much less an open local government process. I would urge to contact Judy Dirks, Alex Beeby and Lee Runzheimer directly to hear more about their experiences and learn from them.

    I guess that there may be a number of more finely-grained questions to my original inquiry. I am assuming that a Citizen should take his or her concerns directly to their Elected Representative, not City Staff, do you agree?

    There are probably more than one category of concerns. There is the concern related to an issue scheduled to be discussed at a Council meeting, a concern that might be unique to the Citizen’s personal situation and not yet on the City’s “agenda”, and a concern that would be part of the bigger picture or longer time-line and probably requires some further analysis or discussion before being ready for an “agenda”. If I’ve adequately addressed potential categories of concerns, do you prefer different modes of pursuing these different categories of concerns?

    Finally, you’ve both acknowledged and expressed at least some support for direct contact, either through phone, mail or face-to-face at the grocery store, or speaking at a meeting, often characterized as “the open mic”, or some kind of intentional widespread input gathering such as a ward meeting. Do you think that we have the necessary Citizen-Councilor communication channels already in place or do we need new systems to strengthen local government?

    Thanks again for your participation in this discussion.

    – Ross

    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  14. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Ross, I’ll get back down to the human contact level.

    Like you, I’ve witnessed a variety of Council reactions to open mic participants from no reaction at all to anger. Early in my Planning Commission service with hot button issues like the CUB development, I felt the heat of a few Council attacks and I learned that lashing back is not only ineffective but undermines working relationships. I think I have learned from that experience that public service requires calm, civility, and verbal restraint.

    What should happen:
    Any person who takes the time and effort to speak at a Council meeting deserves the respect and acknowledgment of the Council: “Thank you, Mr. Currier” would be a bare minimum. Having a staff person follow up immediately to ensure your concern was properly noted would be good and, if an answer was requested, you should get one – perhaps not at the Council meeting, but very soon. Maybe your Ward representative should have the task of getting back to you.

    I am not convinced that any one method of communication works for all categories of question, so I would like to see multiple ways for residents to get the help they need. I hope constituents will feel comfortable bringing questions directly to me by phone, email, website, grocery store buttonholing, etc. If people ask me a question, I’ll try to figure out the answer, who knows the answer, or how to proceed.

    Residents should be able to call City Hall for answers or help. City staff have the advantage of being in the office during business hours while my schedule is more, well, unscheduled. Staff need to be able to listen to questions, give answers when possible, and/or ensure that the issue reaches the Council or Council member. City staff and the city website should be great resources – easy to ask/navigate.

    People should also be able to contact me directly. Some questions may be better handled by city staff, and I’ll be happy to direct folks to the right department/person if they call me first. Others may need asking the Mayor to put something on the agenda. Ask, and I’ll try to find the appropriate response.

    As a Council member, I’m willing to keep trying new strategies for access and communications. Griff has observed that no current Council member blogs; I’ve said I’ll keep that up. Ward meetings are a traditional means and you, Ross, wondered about town hall meetings on this site recently – both are good to organize regularly.

    Overall goal: Work for multiple avenues of communication and respond quickly to any citizen concern, even just to say “I heard you” or “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll try to find out.”

    Maybe commenters on this thread would like to weigh in on what they think would work:

    • Regular office hours at city hall?
    • Brief meetings before regular Council meetings?
    • More on-line forums like this one or on the official city website?
    • Being present at community gatherings of other kinds?
    • Email newlsetters?
    • Putting all Council members contact information on the front page of the city website?
    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  15. Anne Bretts said:

    I appreciate all the concern over public access to government officials, but I can see some limitations. I don’t think it’s practical to expect part-time politicians to do all their work and monitor and respond to comments on the Northfield News, Northfield.org, Locally Grown, their ward sites, the radio station, the League of Women Voters, NDDC and whatever other sites post a story or question.
    There are legal issues as well. I know that when I was on the Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force, we were not allowed to have online discussions among our members between meetings for fear that we would violate the spirit of the open meeting law. Even if we e-mailed in a round-robin fashion, it seemed too much like a serial phone discussion, which can be a violation.
    Most communications had to go through the chairman and staff person to maintain a record of them. It was very frustrating, but I understand the concern.
    If a quorum of the council participated here, it could be construed as an illegal meeting, in that the entire population wasn’t notified of the discussion and didn’t have a chance to participate.
    There is an argument that commenting in a number of places advances community discussion, but there’s also an advantage to having a limited number of open, public access points where all members of the public can come together and can review all comments in one place — and have a public record of them.
    Perhaps the answer is to have a place on the city hall site where the officials can maintain their blogs, and where each issue under consideration can include all the documentation and a place for each councilor or board member to post a comment or position statement. It also could include a place for public comments and questions.
    I’m not trying to preclude discussions on many sites by members of the community. Still, there is a reason why there are open meeting laws, which require public business to be discussed at set times in public venues. That ensures that all the public has a chance to be part of the discussion.

    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  16. Peter Millin said:

    Jerold and Betsy,

    My questions aren’t “trick questions”, but since I am new here in town and don’t know anybody I want to understand what everybody stands for.

    For the past two years living here all I experienced from the city is chaos, lawsuits and other questionable issues.

    Given that our country (and city) head in to some difficult times I think it is more important then ever to elect the right people. Especially at this level since their actions or inaction’s have a much more profound impact on our lives.

    So I am very sorry if my questioning come across as aggressive, partisan or probative.

    One of you will be representing me in city council and since I live here, I have a great interest on your general philosophy.

    Both of you have given extensive statements on the environment, transparency and open government.

    The tough issues facing us, will be budgets, infrastructure, taxation an attracting businesses.
    I would really like to hear more on those issues.

    I have asked the mayoral candidates similar questions.

    1) What is your definition of a ” green business”? What criteria will we use to define them?

    2) What is your specific plan in balancing out the tax base between residential and business?

    3) How much money will we spend on infrastructure and what are your priorities for these?

    4) How will we address projected budget short falls in combination with a slowing economy?

    October 20, 2008
    Reply
  17. Ross: Objectively speaking, a minimal level of courtesy is silence. It’s outrageous that “there have been several instances of a Councilor attacking a Citizen for expressing his or her views.” Such treatment of the public from government officials is not my understanding of what makes America dignified and special among nations. If I was the citizen being attacked, I’d resent that government official and I’d scorn the other officials who sat in tacit agreement. Building a community demands that the authorities do not act like petty dictators.

    At the Contented Cow’s first mayoral forum, I had a conversation about a citizen who exceeded her two minutes at the mic, so she was informed that she had to stop talking. In compliance, she stood in silent protest instead. The city council had her arrested. I don’t assume that the version of the story I heard was entirely accurate, but it certainly represents the opinions that some Northfield residents have about city council.

    That is why I wrote that the minimum courtesy by authorities is silence. Otherwise, I agree with you, something more should be said. Saying “thank you” in some manner after an open mic presentation may not be uttered every time by every councilor, but I hope that among a mayor and six councilors, that one of them can say something appreciating the citizen’s interest in addressing the council and trying to improve life for everyone in Northfield. It’s not easy for a lot of people to speak publicly, or speak to authorities. The council must go out of its way to ensure that citizens are not scared away from participating.

    The council exists to serve to Northfield’s population. A hostile council or councilor has already broken this responsibility. I don’t demand that the city council be stoic. On the contrary, members should be expressive, but never mean or nasty.

    This is especially important for how the council should address citizens who are upset. The council should be the voice of reason, the voice of moderation, and the voice of a cohesive Northfield. It is probably too idealized to claim that in the next four years citizens will never be upset, so assuming that it will happen again, a courteous or at least receptive council will help solve problems, not exacerbate them.

    There is no circumstance that I would attack, verbally or otherwise, citizens exercising their rights to free speech and petitioning the government. I want more citizens to feel more comfortable talking to government. I want more citizens to participate in government. The whole idea of having community is to believe that among many people, we can solve all of the issues that confront us because of our diverse ideas and skills. The city council plays a leadership role in this community and should never have to be reminded that leaders do not attack their people.

    Your second question, about whether citizens should contact council or staff, depends entirely on context. If the matter relates to policy, city or ward issues, the mayor or council is the appropriate contact. If the matter relates to a discrete issue entirely resolvable by city staff, like delaying payment of a water bill, then the citizen should contact city staff. If in doubt, the citizen should contact whom ever makes more intuitive sense, and the councilor or staff person can direct the citizen to the appropriate person if needed.

    Your third question, about whether there are enough channels for citizens to talk to councilors, depends on context of course but also depends on the councilor. Besides prospective city council meetings, I am always easy to reach by e-mail, sometimes by phone, and if the citizen has similar shopping habits, then I am easy to reach at the market. If councilors are easy to reach in at least one way, we don’t need other systems to be developed. If councilors are insulated, then either the insulation needs to be removed or a new means to reach them should be developed.

    October 20, 2008
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  18. Anne: I am grateful that you share your experience on the Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force as it relates to being accessible to members of our community. I won’t pretend to be able to keep current with all the groups that seek comment from public officials, but I’ll keep current with a select few.

    In the last twenty years, I’ve worked for several student newspapers. I was a writer for “The Generic Alternative” from U.C. Irvine, editor and writer for “The Focus” from Irvine Valley College, and editor and writer for “The Brief” from the University of West Los Angeles. It’s my understanding of a public official’s responsibility, as a citizen and as an amateur journalist, is to be involved in the media’s efforts to report on government, especially policy makers. Thus, I will go out of my way to talk with the “Northfield News” and, as I said previously, Locally Grown, because it provides the same function. I’ll be responsive to non-media organizations as best I can.

    There are many laws that cast a long shadow because they are not widely understood. Laws against loitering are an easy example. While loitering can be described as being idle, being idle is not a crime. A sign at a gas station that says “Loitering is Prohibited” does not prevent you from spending your day watching people buy over-priced gasoline (see http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/police/crime-reporting/loitering.asp).

    I suspect that the Open Meeting Law is similarly misunderstood, though admittedly I have plenty to read about it before I can comment definitively. I liken Locally Grown’s discussions to chance meetings at a social event. If I am at next year’s graduation ceremony of either college, and someone starts discussing city policy with me, then another joins in, then another, the spirit of the Open Meeting Law is not thwarted. As you explained, the problem is when a quorum of city council (4+ members) is in conversation about city business. You are right that we need to be aware of the law, but like loitering often being misinterpreted as prohibiting idleness, I think that it is too restrictive to interpret the Open Meeting Law in a way that forbids local officials from participating in community blog discussions.

    The city council can be proactive by working to resolve the matter. Perhaps the city council will agree that one member would be assigned to Locally Grown so there is never a quorum. Suffice to say, city council needs to be involved in community discussions, and Locally Grown is an effective medium to do so. If elected, I’ll work with the city attorney and city council to find a solution.

    October 21, 2008
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  19. Peter: Please send us probative questions. Anything less will not help anyone decide whom to vote for. Your questions do not come across as aggressive whatsoever, and I don’t think that you should shy away from partisan questions so long as they relate to city policy or business.

    1. “What is your definition of a ‘green business’? What criteria will we use to define them?”

    The term “green business” continues to evolve so my answer today may be different than in four years. The term is oriented toward identifying businesses that cause less net harm to our ecosystem than average businesses. Measuring “less net harm” is of course subject to debate.

    The method I’d use to define green businesses is to look at (1) how it treats the land it occupies, (2) the materials and energy used to build and maintain the business, such as utilities, (3) the materials and energy it consumes to be marketable, such as a tire company selling virgin or recycled tire rubber, (4) its programs to reduce, reuse, and recycle its materials and energy, and (5) any land, water or air pollution it creates.

    A business that does better than average in any one or more of these can be called some shade of green. A truly green business would try to excel in all five categories.

    2. “What is your specific plan in balancing out the tax base between residential and business?”

    I have talked to many residents and business owners, and most have said that property taxes are too high, measured by the high rate of increase over recent years. Even if tax rates are fair, all levels of government should be shrewd in their budgets to keep taxes at sustainable minimums. Therefore, first I would want to work with city council to make whatever changes we can to reduce our tax demands on our residents and businesses.

    Beyond that, I want Northfield to stop residential development and instead work on attracting new businesses and supporting existing businesses. Therefore, I’ll work with the city council and Economic Development Authority to simplify city bureaucracy, to protect the city’s rural and undeveloped land, and to attract businesses. As I responded to Northfield.org, I am generally against giving special incentives to new businesses because it might end up hurting us in the long run. If incentives are specifically recommended by the EDA and agreeable to the city council, I might agree to special incentives.

    I’ll work with the city council to develop relationships with other cities and businesses, such as to cross-promote Northfield’s interests with theirs. Intercity transportation should be improved so our city is more economical to reach, thus increasing our businesses’ employee selection and giving our residents a wider selection of employers. Locally, I’ll work with businesses and organizations, notably the Chamber of Commerce, to achieve common goals, especially to attract diverse businesses. We need more selection of some things, like restaurants, but we don’t need another university.

    3. “How much money will we spend on infrastructure and what are your priorities for these?”

    I can’t comment on how much money to spend, because that’s answered only by the best competitive bid.

    My sole priority on the first day of office is infrastructure concerns that relate to safety. Of course, this includes the Safety Center and any buildings, streets, etc., identified as in need of repair.

    Otherwise, I would like to see the library expanded, parking improved (perhaps with a downtown parking structure), more neighborhood parks so children have near-by places to play, and many other things. These priorities are limited to economic restrictions (present and forecast) and the innovation of the city council and EDA. I’ll work with the city council, staff, residents and business owners to set priorities.

    4. “How will we address projected budget short falls in combination with a slowing economy?”

    This is largely addressed above.

    Generally, everything should be reviewed for cost efficiency. I am against being cheap today if it means spending more money later, so the rule I follow is to look at the return on our investment. I learned long ago that Europe uses asphalt that is twice as expensive as what the U.S. uses but it lasts five times longer. In this way, I’d rather pay twice as much on any project if the return will be five times greater.

    The city should share its costs with other interested parties. While I am presently opposed to building more homes, if we agree to have more homes built, I will want the developers to partially or entirely pay for an upgrade to our sewage treatment plant. Perhaps Dundas and other surrounding communities could help pay for the library expansion since they benefit from it. Finding other interested parties to help share costs takes time, but such partnerships are well worth it.

    There may be grants and other unusual funding available depending on the project.

    Otherwise, safety concerns always come first. Projects that can be delayed should be. And we should be willing to spend money, as necessary, with the return on investment philosophy. Actor Larry Hagman was recently reported as converting his avocado farm to solar power, reducing his annual electric bill from $40,000 to $13. Northfield should constantly find ways like that to make itself lean, of course without compromising the needs of its citizens.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  20. Anne Bretts said:

    Jerold, I appreciate the idea of having one councilor assigned as a liaison with each interactive group to answer basic questions on issues. I do believe that public discussion by a quorum of a public body should be limited to City Hall, where the discussions and comments can be documented and all members of the public have equal access. The solution is to expand City Hall services to have an interactive version of listening sessions, with advance notification and the ability to maintain records of results. This could help augment the open mic sessions of meetings and allow people to be heard.
    Sites like Locally Grown and Northfield News and Northfield.org could link to the listening discussions and carry on their own discussions, of course.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  21. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Anne, you’re right about the open meeting law issues and it is increasingly easy to run afoul of these regulations with electronic communications whether e-mail or blogs like this.

    As a policy question, it becomes something of a Catch-22. If we are trying to use new media to be more open and accessible, why is it we get caught by the laws intended to ensure that government process is open?

    As a practical matter, the new Council could draft its own policy regarding blogs and email with the public which could give us some guidelines.

    Thanks, too, for your comment that part-time Council reps can’t do it all. If elected, I’d like to keep looking for effective ways to give and get information, but I can’t do everything all the time nor can any other Council member.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  22. Anne Bretts said:

    Betsey, I have been thinking about this more, and the problem with the News and Locally Grown and other sites is that there is no guarantee online discussions will be preserved, and because the institutions are private, there is no guarantee that the records will remain public.
    I think the answer is some version of the one I stated earlier, where councilors keep official blogs and e-mail accounts through the city, which are open to the public to review. Public comment areas can be maintained. In effect, you have a virtual version of City Hall, publicly monitored and preserved as public record as you do with paper documents now.
    For example, an online system would allow people on the nonmotorized task force to receive information and make routine comments to each other without having to convene a formal meeting, because the discussion would be public. Votes and public hearings would still be part of the physical meeting structure.
    As a citizen, I don’t want to have to go through a dozen sites to follow a public issue. Just look at how many sites and questionnaires and forums are involved in this election. It’s great to get lots of people involved, but over the years it would be very cumbersome for any citizen to follow an issue.
    I’m not trying to minimize LGN or the News, just address the public record issue. There would be no problem with other sites linking to the City Hall discussion, expanding on it, and forwarding questions from their discussions to the public site.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  23. Peter, tough questions are part of the job and I enjoy vigorous discussion.

    1) What is your definition of a ” green business”? What criteria will we use to define them?

    I don’t have a clear definition of “green business”–this is a rapidly evolving area and I’m not going to try to hit a moving target. I’m more interested in encouraging all businesses (as well as city government) to become greener by conserving energy, building sustainably, and improving transit and non-motorized transportation.

    2) What is your specific plan in balancing out the tax base between residential and business?

    “Balancing the tax base” is a hot topic, but I’m looking more broadly than just adjusting the proportion paid by commercial vs. residential properties.

    I chaired the Planning Commission when much of the southern part of Ward 2 was planned (at the time, master plans extending south to CSAH 81 were reviewed although not all this property could be annexed at once), approved and constructed plus another 80 acres at the north edge of the city.

    The PC asked: “Is this too much residential development?” The answer from the Council at the time was “We need the tax base” and Council approved all the residential development despite PC recommendations. Economic conditions have slowed/stopped the build-out for the time being.

    My point in giving this history is not to say that the PC was right and the Council wrong back in 2001-2002. Rather, I look at the impact of the growth of Ward 2.

    Pluses: increased tax base, well-laid out neighborhoods with pretty good street connections within the area, natural areas and trails, mix of single family and multi-family homes.

    Minuses: increased cost of city services (there is much debate over whether residential development costs communities more in providing services than it receives in increased taxes – see here, or here), strain on the transportation network (especially near the Jefferson Parkway/TH 246 intersection), trickle down effects on older neighborhoods from the abundance of new homes.

    When it comes to considering how/where to increase the commercial tax base, I understand the benefit of increasing tax base (the cost of government is divided up among more taxpayers so we each pay less). However, I have big questions about the current NW Territory business park initiative in terms of the costs to the city to develop “shovel ready” land, the unanswered questions about the transportation connections, the environmental issues, and the incentives the city might give to attract business. The new Comprehensive Plan is also quite clear that this is not the desired type of development.

    For any development the city is paying for, I want to see detailed impact analysis. I’m not in favor of many incentives because I believe it creates a “race to the bottom” pitting communities against each other to bid for industry. This may be good for an individual business, but it is not good business for the city.

    Northfield should work on multiple fronts and not focus exclusively on balancing tax base including

    • ensuring our economic development director and EDA are excellent resources and ambassadors for business – both new and existing
    • our transportation network effectively supports business needs
    • The Council maintains effective partnerships with businesses (including our colleges which are major employers), Chamber of Commerce>, and NDDC
    • Northfield will actively seek businesses which can fit into the community and further our Comprehensive Plan of remaining an independent city with distinct rural edges.

    3) How much money will we spend on infrastructure and what are your priorities for these?

    Peter, “how much?” can’t be answered effectively at this time, there are too many variables. At a candidate information session last night, we heard from Katy Gehler-Hess, the City Engineer, about the Pavement Management Plan. Her presentation included a chart showing how our current level of spending on street repair/reconstruction will lead to declining pavement quality over the next 10 years. Even for this very basic infrastructure need, Northfield is struggling to keep up.

    I would like to be able to spend more on transportation and infrastructure, but the ability to do so will depend on the overall budget, materials costs, and Council willingness.

    Safety and efficient delivery of services must be the first priority for improvements.

    My other goal is to ensure Northfield makes good investments for the long term – it may cost more right now to increase spending on repairing streets (to continue my example), but regular maintenance will likely save money in the long run because streets will last longer.

    4) How will we address projected budget short falls in combination with a slowing economy?

    I’m running out of steam here, but the basic strategy is simple (although individual decisions may be very difficult). Northfield’s Council will need to explore where it can save money through conservation and efficiency and considering reducing or eliminating services, projects, or staff. On the revenue side, the Council and staff should review fees, investments, use of grant income, and working to increase state aid. This will need to be a continuous process of assessment and action, not one time cuts.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  24. Betsey Buckheit said:

    Yes, Anne, I agree that the public record is crucial and any blog I’d write as a Council person, I’d want to be on the City site, not “just mine.”

    While on the Planning Commission, I had informal conversations with staff and others about “what would happen if we had a public, on-line Planning Commission discussion forum? ” My interest at the time was maximizing meeting discussion time by allowing PC members to bounce ideas off each other informally but publicly in the 2 weeks between meetings. I’d call the feedback I got “somewhat interested, but not passionate.” Perhaps the time is ripe now.

    I’d also like to see the City website search capabilities improved to make it easier to search Council and board minutes as well as any other new types of public discussion.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  25. Anne: It could go either way. The Ward 2 web page on the city’s web site could have a link to a Locally Grown thread and vice versa.

    I agree that for simplicity’s sake, limiting discussion to a few arenas make sense. Nonetheless, if a citizen makes a discovery request of the City, the citizen still has to check non-city sources, such as the newspapers, radio broadcasts, etc. Is it better to make it simpler for the occasional requesting citizen, or is it better for public officials to be relatively unrestrained when talking to the community via popular blogs? I’d rather have the public official being involved.

    Your remaining issue asks the duty of a private web site owner to keep a record of its discussions. I don’t know the answer to this, though I’d want to equate it to newspapers and other media. What is their duty? I’ll seek an answer to this and post what I find later today.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  26. Scott Oney said:

    Peter: Those are good questions, but I’m surprised you didn’t ask how the candidates stand on crazy lawsuits. After all, as you said,

    For the past two years living here all I experienced from the city is chaos, lawsuits and other questionable issues.

    Both of the candidates have legal training, and one, Jerold Friedman, has a history of what some would consider eccentric legal actions. My favorite is his case against Kaiser. He had a temp job there, but when they hired him full-time, he apparently had a change of heart. Instead of just stealing Post-it notes, though, or going out for lunch and never coming back, he invented his own religion and then sued the company for not accommodating it enough. You can read about the religion here:

    http://www.animallaw.info/pleadings/pb_pdf/pbuscaacfriedman.pdf

    and the outcome of the case here:

    http://caselaw.findlaw.com/data2/californiastatecases/B150017.PDF

    Can we expect more high jinks at city hall?

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  27. Peter Millin said:

    I did came across the same story when I googled him, but never made the connection.
    I would like to hear his side of the story.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  28. Patrick Enders said:

    Scott,

    Interesting reading. I learned a fair bit about the legal definitions of “religious beliefs,” and I was suprised to learn that they are more complicated than I would’ve guessed.

    The heart of the case seems to be this: Kaiser insisted on Jerold being vacinated against Mumps as a prerequisite of promotion to full-time employment. As a strict, ethical vegan Jerold is opposed to beig vaccinated with Mumps vaccine, presumably because the vaccine’s development/production is animal-related (the Appeals Court decision didn’t seem to address this, so I’m guessing at his motives here). He sought redress from the courts to void this requirement, and give protection to his decision to refuse the vaccine, on the premise that he held his beliefs in Veganism on a par with a religious belief. Ultimately, the appeals court did not agree.

    Even though he did not prevail in the courts, I would call that a man of principles, not “high jinks.”

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  29. Scott: Relating to the “common courtesy” topic raised by Ross, it’s courteous first to talk with someone about their history, to be able to present it to others in an unbiased fashion. I recognize that as a candidate for public office, I don’t have much control over what people say…

    My case against Kaiser rested on their demand that I take the MMR vaccine after I was offered the job, despite my having worked there for 8 months as a computer technician in a pharmaceutical warehouse with no foreseeable exposure to at-risk patients. The vaccine requirement was arbitrary for this and other reasons. California law requires that employers try to “reasonably accommodate” employees’ religious views. Federal and California law define religion not as a set of theistic beliefs — as you believe — but as a sincerely held set of moral beliefs (there are many cases that support this). I have a deep commitment to nonviolence that is pervasive throughout my life. The MMR vaccine uses animal products, and that use of animals is contrary to my commitment to nonviolence. I brought the lawsuit because I was a dedicated employee whom they rescinded a job offer because of my deeply held moral values, and that’s against California law. I can tell you or anyone more about this if you’re curious.

    You left out another high profile lawsuit of mine, where I was a co-plaintiff against Adidas. Adidas had been violating California’s state endangered species law for over 20 years, and law enforcement refused to do anything about it. So I sued Adidas to make them stop.

    I hope that these two cases show that I am an advocate of the people. The lawsuits were against oppressive and arbitrary business policies and corporate crime. I have volunteered as a legal assistant on several other cases, such as one I’ve mentioned repeatedly, defending a journalist after being caught up in a mass arrest. If you consider these high jinks, I ask that you reconsider your definition.

    Part of legal training is understanding the limitations of the courts. Lawsuits are always a last resort. They are expensive, exhausting, and have an uncertain result. One benefit of Betsey’s and my legal training is that we will be more prepared to avoid bringing the city into litigation. Also, we can supplement the city attorney’s point-of-view. Having a law degree does not mean that the person wants to sue everyone.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  30. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick: Well, I’m not sure what a “man of high jinks” is, exactly, but I don’t think I ever called anyone that. I do think it’s reasonable to wonder how much lawsuits like this would cost the city, though.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  31. Patrick and Scott: The federal rule on religion within the context of employment is stated in paragraph 55 of the First Amended Complaint:

    http://www.myerlawfirm.com/veganhistory.htm

    “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Guidelines on discrimination because of religion, §1605.1 provides in relevant part that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will ‘define religious practices to include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right or wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.'”

    Trying to answer your question, “it’s reasonable to wonder how much lawsuits like this would cost the city”, I could not force the city to sue anyone, as that requires the city council’s approval. I could save the city from being sued if my sensitivity to civil rights prevails in council discussions. If Patrick doesn’t mind me capitalizing on his compliment, I hope that you would want council members with a track record of being principled.

    Peter: I could write volumes more about the experience but, believe it or not, I am trying to be brief. If you have any questions, please ask.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  32. Tracy Davis said:

    Scott – your original comment about Jerold’s history came off as really mean-spirited, and my first thought was to wonder if you’d actually ever met him. Have you? Just curious.

    That said, I think the ensuing dialog has been very interesting, so even though I don’t care for the way in which you brought it up, I’m glad you did.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  33. Scott Oney said:

    Tracy: Yes, I ran into Jerold and Patrick at the Hideaway a couple of weeks ago, and we discussed, inter alia, a couple of Jerold’s legal cases. So, in the interest of full disclosure, they know or should know that my comments are just for fun.

    Jerold mentioned at the time a case involving athletic shoes made out of kangaroo hide. It’s probably the Adidas case he mentions above, although I was unaware that the kangaroo was an endangered species in California.

    And Jerold, the concern in Northfield has more to do with city officials suing each other. There was the Lansing lawsuit, and the $25,000 the council voted to give Al Roder was so that he won’t (they hope) come back and sue the city.

    Tracy, this stuff may sound negative to you, but for those still hoping to see Northfield written up in Chuck Shepherd’s column, News of the Weird, it may be the change we need!

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  34. Re-reading my post (#30, October 21, 2008 at 11:12 am), I should clarify that I worked as a *temporary* employee for 8 months and there was no MMR vaccine requirement. They loved my work, offered me a permanent job, but then the policy kicked in because their requirement applies only to *permanent* employees, as if one’s employment status makes them more or less susceptible to the mumps. This was one reason why Kaiser’s policy was arbitrary.

    It was around this time that I decided to become a civil rights lawyer.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  35. David Ludescher said:

    I sense a double standard here with regard to Scott’s comments. Scott cited a real case involving Jerold which is a matter of public record. The case speaks for itself.

    Tracy: When you and Ross brought up some crazy rumor about “hush money” on live radio, how was that OK, and what Scott did “mean-spirited”?

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  36. Scott: In 1975, Californians protected kangaroos in its penal code § 653o (that’s the letter “O”, not zero). Rather than petition the government to de-list kangaroos, Adidas has been selling kangaroo skin since 1985 to the best of my information. Endangered species laws are meaningless if corporations can ignore them and law enforcement won’t enforce them. My co-plaintiff and I won our case at the California Supreme Court, but by that time, Adidas successfully lobbied to have the law changed.

    I can’t tell by your “just for fun” posts if you’d rather let businesses have the right to force employees to take vaccines and terminate them if they refuse, or if you’d rather let corporations break the law with impunity until citizens take them to court. I don’t understand why you called the former lawsuit “eccentric”, or why you’d insinuate that Betsy or I would be prone to sue city council members because we have a legal education. Maybe I just don’t understand your humor.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  37. Tracy Davis said:

    David, you’re confusing tone and content. I didn’t object at all to Scott’s bringing up the issues, just in the way he did it.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  38. Patrick Enders said:

    Yes, that Sunday a couple weeks back was a busy one. I met Jerold and his fiance Natalie for the first time, and re-met Scott Oney (having met briefly in the past). Then it was off to the candidates’ forum.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  39. Scott Oney said:

    Jerold: Thanks for the update on kangaroos in California. You raised one point that I’d like to clarify:

    I don’t understand why you called the former lawsuit “eccentric”, or why you’d insinuate that Betsy or I would be prone to sue city council members because we have a legal education.

    I never meant to imply that Betsy would be prone to sue anybody, on the council or otherwise. I’ve been aware of her for years, and she’s never done anything that would make me suspect that. As for the first part of your question, I don’t want to get in trouble with Tracy again, so I’d rather not say. And as David said, the case is a matter of public record, if anyone is curious. (There’s a link to it in my first post of the day.)

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  40. Patrick Enders said:

    Scott,
    I agree, people should read the articles you linked to. The thing is, I’ve now read a fair bit of them, and they don’t say what you claim they say.

    October 21, 2008
    Reply
  41. Scott Oney said:

    Patrick: Well, then, keep reading. They say all that and more, and the stuff gets even funnier.

    For example, Kaiser, for whatever reason, wants its new hires to take a TB test. But Jerold was affronted by this. Here’s how the court opinion sums it up:

    In his first amended complaint, plaintiff alleged: defendants, with knowledge of
    plaintiff’s veganism, subjected him to a tuberculosis test injection containing animal
    products or products tested on animals after negligently (sixth cause of action),
    misadvising him it did not contain such products, resulting in a battery (fourth cause of
    action) and an invasion of his constitutional right of privacy (fifth cause of action).
    Plaintiff further alleged defendants by their conduct intentionally (eighth cause of action)
    or negligently (ninth cause of action) inflicted emotional distress.

    “Battery” is a legal term that covers getting beat up, punched, or pounded. “Emotional distress” means pretty much what it says. The judges went over the whole argument with a fine-tooth comb, and although they didn’t say anything mean or sarcastic, in the end they didn’t buy it.

    But was Kaiser being unreasonable? Jerold, you apparently think so. As you said yesterday,

    They loved my work, offered me a permanent job, but then the policy kicked in because their requirement applies only to *permanent* employees, as if one’s employment status makes them more or less susceptible to the mumps.

    At first glance, the policy may seem arbitrary. But, especially in this day and age, a company’s responsibility to its employees is different, and greater, than its responsibilities would be to someone contracting to provide a temporary service. So Kaiser may have had a good reason for the policy.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  42. Patrick Enders said:

    Scott,

    I know from speaking with you that you are opposed to frequenting a certain establishment (or establishments) in town, because you disagree with / are unhappy with the owner or owners on some principle or another.

    Why do you find it so hard to believe that Jerold wasn’t opposed to vaccination for a similar, principled reason?

    I hardly know Jerold (I’ve met him just once, as you have), but he is not the first vegan I have ever met. Vegans, in case you don’t know, are opposed to harm to all animals. They not only don’t eat meat, they are opposed to the use/consumption of all animal products. In essence, it’s the “do no harm” principle taken to a logical end.

    (More information on Veganism can be found here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegan)

    But you don’t just disagree with his principle, or the legal efforts to protect it. Instead, you claim that

    “He had a temp job [at Kaiser], but when they hired him full-time, he apparently had a change of heart.”

    …which is not supported by the documents you cite.

    You go on to say

    “Instead of just stealing Post-it notes, though, or going out for lunch and never coming back,”

    …which is also not supported by the documents you cite.

    And you assert:

    “he invented his own religion and then sued the company for not accommodating it enough. You can read about the religion here:”

    I didn’t find any evidence that Jerold “invented his own religion” in the documents you cite.

    Based on the Time survey data cited at Wikipedia, approximately 600,000 Americans consider themselves to be vegans.

    As the plaintiff in that case ten years ago (and not the lawyer for the case – or even a lawyer yet), Jerold attempted to secure for them the same right to opt out of vaccination that is offered to people of various religious faiths when their beliefs are in conflict with an employer-mandated vaccination requirement.

    If you read the documents you cite, you will see that the plaintiffs’ assertion in that case was that

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Guidelines… “define religious practices to include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right or wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”

    In the end, the courts did not accept that vegans hold their belief “with the strength of traditional religious views.” However, my past experience with vegans suggests that many of them care far more about veganism as a central organizing principle of their lives than do many christians in the observance of their faith. Therefore, it seems a valid case to have made.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  43. Scott: Again I remind you that talking with me about your concerns would have been the more courteous approach, and would have informed you about some of the things that you find confusing. Admittedly, many people will find them confusing, so I don’t fault you for asking the questions. But before you make mean-spirited posts or insinuations, you really should have talked with me first.

    There are three available TB tests, the injection, sputum, and chest x-rays. I was told from the manager of the Drug Research Dept. that the TB test was suitable for vegetarians so I took it. I later discovered that he was wrong. Had he done his work, I would have chosen another test. Anyone who wants drug researchers to be responsible for their work should understand why I sued.

    “Battery” covers a much larger range than “beat up, punched or pounded.” It covers any harmful or offensive touching, including being spit on, having your dinner plate pulled from your hands, or being injected with an offensive substance.

    You misunderstand why Kaiser’s policy was arbitrary. They did not require temporary employees to be vaccinated, only permanent employees and a few other categories, like visiting doctors or medical students. Scott, if their policy was not arbitrary, why would a temporary and permanent employee not be treated the same way for the same job? If Kaiser’s goal was to protect their patients from being exposed to mumps, what makes a permanent employee a greater risk than a temporary employee? Also, remember that I worked on computers in a pharmaceutical warehouse. I never had contact with patients, only administrative pharmacists.

    My role as a conscientious citizen is first to understand people whom I may not understand, and not to speak from ignorance, then say it was just for fun, then continue to speak from ignorance. If you were running for public office, I would have first spoken to you personally, then carried our conversation into the public if I still had reservations. Whether you vote for me or not, I recommend that you consider whether it’s more important to provoke controversy or to dig for the truth.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  44. Patrick: While in law school, my Constitutional Law professor announced in class that my case against Kaiser was “an absolute winner”.

    You might be surprised to learn that during the Vietnam War, there were two cases where atheists sought religious exemption from fighting because of their profound commitment to nonviolence. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with them, that despite being atheists, their commitment to nonviolence was so sincere that it was religious to them. In another case, a native American sued after he was fired from his construction job, for refusing to dig into the earth. He prevailed. A Catholic sued after he was fired from his engineering job when he refused to be transferred to a nuclear power plant. Despite nuclear power not being mentioned in Catholic tenets, he was passionately against it. He prevailed. In each case, the court decided that businesses should not terminate employees unless religious conflicts cannot be reasonably accommodated. Should a Catholic bus driver be fired if he doesn’t want to hand out abortion flyers as part of a city’s program? Should a Hindu gardener be forced to wear leather gloves and boots?

    The California Court of Appeal disagreed with the California Supreme Court’s opinions as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s when it ruled against me. They took a court opinion from the Pennsylvania area instead. If you want to know what is eccentric about my case, consider a lower court ignoring judicial mandates to follow upper courts’ decisions.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  45. David Ludescher said:

    Jerold: I think that Scott’s point is well-taken. If you are going to represent thousands of people in your ward, you will need to represent the view of the majority of the people in your ward. Right now, the City doesn’t need people who start lawsuits, but people who know how to settle them.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  46. Curt Benson said:

    David, even more than people who know how to settle lawsuits, we need people who can avoid them in the first place.

    Jerold, I think many people might think your lawsuits put you out on the fringe. You may have support in the kangaroo community, but unless ACORN finds a way to get them to the polls, I think you’re out of luck.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  47. David: Thank you for bringing that up. As you may remember, I was the only candidate at this morning’s Chamber of Commerce forum who said that my constituents’ opinions are influential on my official opinion. I have said in several venues, such as my web site, that if a clear majority of my constituents agree on an issue after a full exposé of the facts, that I would surely vote the same way. In the example you give, if I don’t want to settle but my constituents clearly do, and they understand the issues, then their is also my vote.

    From your question, I infer that you think lawsuits should be settled. I think that it is wrong for a public official to prefer settlement or non-settlement. Every case must be evaluated for its merit and its chances of success. Public officials need to look at the immediate costs of prosecuting or defending lawsuits, and any precedent (either case law or public memory) that it may set. If Northfield has a reputation for settling lawsuits, we will be sued more often. If Northfield has a reputation of fighting lawsuits where Northfield is surely liable, we will waste the taxpayer’s money.

    Holding Kaiser accountable for violating California labor law and holding Adidas accountable for violating California criminal law were in the best interests of the people. This is where I disagree with Scott’s insinuation. I hope that, as an attorney, you understand that.

    October 22, 2008
    Reply
  48. Griff Wigley said:

    Betsey and Jerry,

    Can you both comment on the plan for $880,000 of City Hall renovations?

    What are your top five, in order, Capital Improvement Plan projects?

    And has your thinking about this changed at all since the global financial meltdown has hit hard in the past month?

    October 22, 2008
    Reply

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