Tag Archives: Keith Covey

Where’s the public process on City’s budget cuts?

NDDC Board Chair Keith Covey’s letter to the Mayor and City Council last week (Nfld News here; NDDC blog here) notes that

Keith Covey …given the size of our financial challenge and the pursuit of cost reduction-driven solutions, we all realize that cuts will not be painless. To that end, the values and priorities of the citizens of Northfield should be the guiding factors in determining recommendations for which services should be maintained and which services could be eliminated.

The NDDC requests that a formal, open, two-way process be conducted to provide citizens the opportunity to share their values and priorities for funding decisions that will impact their municipal services.

The reaction by two councilors to the layoff of Marj Evans-de-Carpio (Nfld News story, Interpreter layoff criticized) indicates there’s some support for Covey’s position:

At a council meeting in May, both Zweifel and Buckheit voted for to approve “general direction” of the city’s budget reduction plan, but said they felt discouraged from pulling single items out of the overall plan for discussion.

Both councilors also voiced frustration about how the city has approached planning for the cuts. “I realize the need to make short-term cuts, but we’ve never had the bigger picture conversation about our values and priorities in the community,” said Buckheit.

The Northfield City Council recently approved its Strategic Direction and Goals for 2010 and the first three goals under Direction #1 all have to do with citizen communications. ‘Twould be cool if they could be put into play for the budget cuts.

Council directs staff to include sidewalk trees on 4th St. reconstruction

Leif Knecht speaking to Northfield City CouncilLocal landscaper Leif Knecht, former mayor Keith Covey Green trees on 4th St.and I spoke at open mic at last night’s Northfield City Council meeting, asking the Council to find a way to incorporate new trees on both sides of 4th St. between Washington and Division for this summer’s 4th St. reconstruction. (See the video of last night’s meeting in this KYMN blog post.)

Knecht said that there are varieties of trees that can do reasonably well in an environment where buildings block the sun and bedrock limits root growth. I distributed a printout of the above photo from 2008, showing that the current trees, although tilted and stunted in some cases, still did a reasonably good job for 30 years.

Councilor Rhonda Pownell made a motion to rescind her vote on last week’s Council decision to accept Streetscape Option 1 (“Small planters along 4th Street curb line, provision for hanging baskets on decorative light poles, no bump-outs or large-scale planters” – Page 27 of packet PDF) since it didn’t include trees. Jim Pokorney seconded.

I was impressed with the subsequent Council discussion. Some councilors were reluctant to rescind because it could delay the whole project. Others were understandably reluctant to get involved in this level of detail. They considered the pros and cons of sending the design to the Streetscape Task Force. Several times, they asked for input from City Engineer Katy Gehler and City Attorney Chris Hood. Mayor Mary Rossing did a masterful job of keeping the discussion on track, helping with the language of various motions, and making sure to get input from everyone.

In the end, they voted unanimously to accept the 4th St. plan but they then followed it by passing another motion, again unanimously, directing city staff to incorporate as many trees as possible into the sidewalk areas.

Nice work, Councilors!

Update 3/18, 10:30 PM: