Tag Archives: media

Podcast: 2/3 of the Triumvirate on public input

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

lg-banner-triumvirate-poster-x-rossIt was just me and Tracy yesterday as Ross was prepping for the Action Steps for Infill and Redevelopment open house at the Grand. We spend part of the show talking about topics related to next week’s NCO/Northfield.org annual meeting where they’re having a panel discussion titled Beyond Letters to the Editor: How everyday people can be heard in Northfield. Related to that, of course, is the Council’s current effort to review all aspects of public input/engagement. Councilor Erica Zweifel is participating in the discussion thread here on LoGro attached to the blog post Public engagement for the City of Northfield: Councilors want to know what should be changed and she’ll be a guest on our show next week to talk more about it. Continue reading Podcast: 2/3 of the Triumvirate on public input

Hager clarifies financial relationship between city and NTV


Note: This is a story in progress. You might want to join the existing conversation on this topic. I’m excited to read about what people have to say! Please email me directly at RepJNorthfield@gmail.com if you would rather not post publicly.

Paul Hager, president and founder of Northfield’s public access television station (NTV), emailed me last week with some more information about the city government’s financial relationship with his non-profit organization. The full text of his email is below, with a comment in brackets from me.

“Maren Swanson, the city attorney, heard of a law change that disallowed a city from having a contract to fund a non-profit, but a city could contract for services from a non-profit. There is a difference. The law must have been passed in 2002 or 2003, Maren could tell you those details.”

[Swanson has told me in the past that she does not answer questions from the general public unless a member of Northfield’s city government staff asks her to respond. Members of the city’s staff told me the details of financial dealings between the city government and NTV could be found in in the city’s files.

I submitted a written request to see any NTV-related documents having to do with contracts or finances. Only one of the documents seemed to refer to the law Hager mentions. That document, dated July 21, 2003, is titled “Resolution 2003-211: A Resolution by the Mayor and the City Council of the City of Northfield, Minnesota, relating to agreement with NTV 26.”

The part of the resolution that references a state law reads “It is important that the legal status of NTV 26 as an independent non-profit corporation be confirmed before August 1, 2003, so that it is clear that NTV 26 and the city are not required to comply with the requirements of Minn. Stat. 465.719, which might otherwise apply.”

I still have to find out from Hager if he met that confirmation deadline. I could not find “NTV” or “Northfield Television” on the non-profit listings on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Web site.

The resolution shows the City Council unanimously approved an interim financial agreement between the city and NTV in 2003. The interim agreement read “NTV 26 will continue to provide services to the City and the community as it has recently been providing, without further compensation from the City.” NTV had typically received anywhere from about $10,000 to $85,000 in the previous 17 years.

The resolution also states city government staff would work toward negotiating “the terms of an on-going contract with NTV” and present it to the council by Oct. 31. The staff requested multiple deadline extensions and the council did not approve any significant changes to the interim agreement until 2005, when NTV’s money reserves began to run out. NTV received $3,000 at that time.]

“We had the option to dissolve NTV, become part of the city, or contract for services, which is what we did. By mutual agreement, NTV and the city terminated our agreement (in 2003) to provide public access services and agreed to a new contract (in 2005) to provide access services as an independent contractor.”

“Starting in 1985, our funding had always been somewhat secure, but the possibility remained that the funding by the cable company could evaporate overnight and the city could direct the franchise fee to other purposes and public access would go dark. So I saved money and built up a reserve to fund operations in the event of a funding failure. I built a reserve large enough to buy us time to operate the channel for up to a year during which we would either reorganize or find a new funding source.”

“With a new franchise agreement with Charter Communications and a new agreement with NTV, the city wanted to come up with a new idea for public access. Until that idea was in place, NTV would spend its reserve and not receive any funding from the city. All PEG and franchise fees would go into the city’s cable account.  (See more information about franchise fees and fees for programming for education and government).”

“Susan Hoyt, then city administrator, proposed a new model for access: Hiring a new “cheerleader” of public access to encourage people to produce programming. Susan also contacted the public schools to see if they (the school system) would be interested in taking over public access, but the schools declined.  Susan left her position at the city and the city did not come up with a new idea for access.”

“I submitted my proposal to the City in October 2005.  The council asked Scott Davis to convene a committee (task force) to address the issue of public access, media and my proposal. The history of that committee is documented, I believe, but the item of note for this discussion is that the future of public access was not resolved in the meetings of the committee.”

On creating a vibrant online eco-system for civic engagement in Northfield

emerging news ecology chartEarlier today I linked to and excerpted from an article in today’s Wall St. Journal (pointed out to me by Ross) titled: All I Wanted for Christmas Was a Newspaper; Bloggers are no replacement for real journalists.

Paul Mulshine, opinion columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger, misses the point when he argues that citizens aren’t likely to voluntarily ‘cover,’ for example, city council meetings for their blogs in the same way that a reporter does for a newspaper. Continue reading On creating a vibrant online eco-system for civic engagement in Northfield

Public access TV takes investment of time, money


Note: This is a story in progress. Please see my bulleted questions in green and help me move the story forward. I would like commenters to write the question(s) they are addressing into their post. You might want to join the existing conversation on this topic. I’m excited to read about what people have to say! Please email me directly at RepJNorthfield@gmail.com if you would rather not post publicly.

Three leaders of public access stations in other communities talked to me about what their jobs are like on Friday and I hope the information will reveal some possible ideas for Northfield Television (NTV).

Those three people were Jerry Abraham of Central Minnesota Access Television (no Web site that I found) in Little Falls, Mark Hotchkiss of Burnsville/Eagan Community Television and Chad Johnston of The Peoples Channel in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Little Falls is about an hour-and-a-half drive northwest of Northfield and has less than half Northfield’s population. Northfield has nearly 20,000 people, according to city-data.com. Burnsville and Eagan are suburbs of the Twin Cities, about a 40-minute drive north of Northfield, and have a combined population of about 130,000. Chapel Hill, home to the University of North Carolina, has a population of about 50,000. The Little Falls public access station is a for-profit company, the city governments of Burnsville and Eagan run their station and the Chapel Hill station is a non-profit.

Of the three stations, the one in Little Falls operates on the smallest budget—about $90,000 a year, which is money that comes mainly from the cable company’s franchise-fee payments to the city government. Governments can use franchise fee revenues for any public purpose. The 2,800 cable subscribers in Little Falls pay that fee. NTV receives just $30,000 in franchise-fee revenue yearly. I am asking Charter Communications, Northfield’s cable provider, to let me know how many subscribers are in Northfield. Each of the stations is 23 years old and operates two channels. I could not imagine I’d be able to make $2144 in one day. I’ve decided to give myself a chance and try Fintech LTD Test and I have no doubt I will get rich trading the markets before the year ends. Learn more at cybermentors.org.uk

Of the $90,000, Abraham pays himself about $48,000 a year and works full-time including “quite a bit of evening and weekend” hours, he said. He employs three part-time videographers who earn about $10 an hour and he sometimes supplies pizza to volunteer members of a youth video club. Paul Hager, NTV’s executive director, pays himself $17,946 and works part-time at that job in addition to a full-time part-time * job as the technical director of cinema and media studies at Carleton College. He has no employees and about 10 people consistently volunteer, he has said.

  • Should NTV receive more money from Northfield’s Cable TV Fund? If so, how much?

The $90,000 is still a “shoe-string” budget, Abraham said. He buys used camera equipment on eBay.com and builds his own television sets. The station now has four cameras that stay in the studio and three that members of the public may borrow. NTV has one camcorder to lend. Hager said his station’s camera is used less and less because many people own their own camcorders now.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Abraham moved his station from the public high school to a space in the Great River Arts Association building, which is on the main drag in downtown Little Falls. The move, he said, is one step toward his goal of expanding the station. One day, he would like to take on the task of branching out into other communities to help them begin or expand their own public access television stations. NTV’s station in Northfield’s downtown is hardly visited by members of the community today.

The Little Falls station has begun to attract more and more participants since Abraham extended an invitation for people to record their own monthly, half-hour show at the station. The mayor, local sports analysts and senior citizens telling stories about the past are the most popular.

While Abraham seemed excited about what is happening at the Little Falls station, Hotchkiss said he grew disappointed with his station after the city governments of Burnsville and Eagan took over in 1998. The cable company now known as Comcast managed the station previously, and the city stepped in when the cable company no longer wanted to manage it.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Hotchkiss said of the shift, and pointed out that the city government can pay employees much more than an independent organization can.

He employs nine people, broadcasts to 32,000 subscribers and has a budget that fluctuates between $850,000 and $1.2 million, he said.

Burnsville and Eagan governments consistently disagreed about the management of the station, Hotchkiss said. So, as of this week, the station is splitting to give each city its own programming. That programming, however, is not the kind Hotchkiss would like to see on the station. The government-approved shows can seem one-sided, with documentaries about street-side curbs and bituminous concrete, Hotchkiss said, laughing.

Hotchkiss said he believed the ideal management could be if a cable company franchised with the state instead of individual cities and towns. That model already exists in some states. Hotchkiss believes it would reduce the conflict of interest he sees with government or local cable company management. In addition, he said the fees a cable company pays to support educational and government programming (PEG) should go directly to the public access station instead of routing through the government as it does now.

I asked him what he thought about PEG fees going to other organizations that disseminated educational and governmental information, such as community Web sites. Hotchkiss said the idea seemed reasonable, but that cable companies might be reluctant to support content that would be available to people who aren’t cable customers.

As for advice that NTV could possibly use, Hotchkiss said he believed it’s important for public access stations to network with other stations through organizations such as the Alliance for Community Media or the Minnesota Cable Communications Association. He also said a station should have plenty of shows that are consistently popular with viewers such as children’s concerts and high school sports in order to “sell” local-government and nationally produced public programming.

In North Carolina, a cable company now franchises at a state level, but Johnston said that has only resulted in less funding for his Chapel Hill station. His budget is $123,000 and he employs two full-time staff members and several part-time workers.

Johnston said that as a result, he has had to find ways to raise additional revenue by charging service and member fees and selling advertisements. He also barters with local businesses by exchanging advertising space on television for, as an example, food for volunteers.

Johnston also collaborates with other non-profits to work toward common educational goals. For example, the station partnered with an arts center to offer classes in media arts. That kind of teamwork has been especially helpful, he said, in gaining the support of local government officials.

Update 12/20 4 p.m.: I corrected several grammatical errors in the story, removing the word “moved” from the first sentence and removing some extra words from the paragraph third from the bottom.

Update 12/22 3 p.m.: Griff Wigley filled me in on the following info: While Northfield’s official 2000 census is 17,000 and recent estimates place it near 20,000, that includes the 5,000+ college students. So for this NTV story, I think a population estimate of 13,000 is more relevant for comparing us to other cities since none of the college students are potential cable subscribers.

*I indicate corrections with a strikethrough mark through the mistake, followed by the correct text.

St. Paul network might aid NTV


Note: This is a story in progress. Please see my bulleted questions in green and help me move the story forward. I would like commenters to write the question(s) they are addressing into their post. You might want to join the existing conversation on this topic. I’m excited to read about what people have to say! Please email me directly at RepJNorthfield@gmail.com if you would rather not post publicly.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

The executive director of the Saint Paul public access network is interested in helping its Northfield counterpart thrive.

“With the number of people who care about the city, and with the educational resources available, you’ve got a lot of potential for doing good work,” Mike Wassenaar, of the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, told me on Tuesday.

Wassenaar said he learned Northfield Television (NTV) is operating on a bare-bones budget by reading the article about the matter posted on LocallyGrownNorthfield.org. Wassenaar is an individual member of the Alliance for Community Media and he volunteers some of his time to help other public access stations around the nation.

“It’s important for us in Minnesota that places like Northfield actually do well,” Wassenaar said. “If they don’t do well, people start saying, ‘Oh well, this isn’t really worthwhile, so it isn’t worth investing in.’ And that can lead to changing the laws so that these types of resources aren’t available anymore.”

Wassenaar said he wanted to talk to Paul Hager, NTV’s founder and president, and come up with a few ways to improve the station, with or without additional funding

After I talked to Wassenaar, I called Hager, who said he would be willing to speak with Wassenaar about those ideas. Hager agreed that Wassenaar’s offer to help seemed like good news.

Wassenaar said he believed NTV could use more than the $30,000 a year it receives now from the city-managed Cable TV Fund to make significant improvements its facility and potentially hire staff.
Wassenaar said he acknowledges, however, the differences in size between the Saint Paul network and NTV. His network, he said, has 52,000 subscribers and receives $2.5 million in cable franchise fee revenue a year. The network also receives $800,000 a year from the fee cable companies pay for communities to produce educational and government programming.

Wassenaar said Hager’s proposed model of creating a pool of money to provide “micro-grants” to citizens to produce content for the station has worked in other communities. He said he could also share some other ideas about business models.

“It’s awfully hard to run something that only has a virtual presence,” Wassenaar said, referencing the little-used NTV station on Division Street and lack of paid staff. “You need a place for people to go to.”

As one way to attract more people to visit the station, Wassenaar said he might be able to connect NTV with larger stations in the city suburbs that could donate equipment. Wassenaar said NTV might develop its presence in places around Northfield where people regularly visit to participate in community events, such as a recreational center or at Saint Olaf or Carleton colleges.

Wassenaar said he would also help NTV explore the possibilities of asking people to support the station as members.

In one of our earlier conversations, Hager said it could be difficult asking cable TV customers for more money than they are already paying in subscriber fees to support the station.

Wassenaar said the larger community, not just cable viewers, directly benefit from the services his network provides, however. For example,
he said, the network once produced a show about a local clinic, and then gave a copy of the show to the clinic to use as an educational tool. He said the network also provides youth programming.

As another funding source, Wassenaar said, the network has sought grants from other organizations.

  • I wonder what organizations or individuals would consider becoming members of NTV?

Wassenaar said he would also be willing to help inform government officials and the general public about what a well-supported public access station can offer to a community.

  • What would it take for NTV to thrive in Northfield?

Note 12/17 9:45 a.m.: I corrected the spelling of the word “network” at the bottom of the thirteenth paragraph.

    NTV’s future uncertain after 23 years of providing public access


    Note: This is a story in progress. Please see my bulleted questions in green and help me move the story forward. I would like commenters to write the question(s) they are addressing into their post. I’m excited to read about what people have to say! Please email me directly at RepJNorthfield@gmail.com if you would rather not post publicly.

    Photo by Josh Rowan A letter "N," once part of a downtown supermarket sign, now stands for NTV in the entryway of the station.
    Photo by Josh Rowan. A letter "N," once part of a downtown supermarket sign, now stands for "NTV" in the entryway of the station.

    Paul Hager, who is NTV’s founder and president, told me on Thursday that Northfield Community Television (NTV), which is an independent public access station on Channel 12, is operating on a “lights-on” budget these days.

    I asked Hager what “lights-on budget” meant. He replied, saying NTV receives $2,500 a month from the franchise-fee revenue sitting in the city’s Cable TV Fund. That amount, which totals $30,000 a year, is enough to pay rent, insurance, utility bills and a modest salary for him to produce some content and air some governmental meetings. He has no employees and about 10 volunteers who regularly produce content for the non-profit organization.

    The station is on the second floor of 309 Division Street View Larger Map, which is under the relatively new ownership of JB Enterprises. Hager said he is optimistic the new owners will repair the building very soon. In the past two years, he said, the station has been uncomfortable to use because of heating and cooling problems. But, he said, most people now produce video at home and give him a digital file. The station houses the public access channel’s video equipment. Hager does not keep regular hours at the station, but the public can contact him via NTV’s Web site. Phone: 507-645-6917. Email: NTV@charter.net.

    As an example of the kind of programming NTV airs daily, the schedule for Dec. 15 included:

    • Northfield UMC Adult Forum: A Talk by Jay Walljasper
    • I Cantanti 2003 Concert: A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
    • Twin City RNC Pre-emptive House Raids: What about the Bill of Rights? Produced by Andy Kornkven
    • St. John’s Church Service
    • Dennis Kucinich Rally at Carleton College on Feb. 21 2004
    • I wondered why the city government isn’t allocating as much money to NTV as it used to.
    • I also wondered what the general public thinks of NTV.
    • What does the station bring to the community?
    • Could NTV do more, even with its small budget?
    • Should the community show more support for the station?
    • Have other forms of information sharing, such as the Internet, replaced the need for public access television?

    What is the Cable TV Fund?

    Cable systems have offered access channels to the public since the 1970s so that people could make programs for others in their own communities, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications Web site.

    I first learned the basics of the Cable TV Fund by reading an article Jaci Smith, managing editor of the Northfield News, wrote on Nov. 28., which had the headline, “Cable fund holds wealth of possibilities.” Smith said city governments collect two kinds of fees from cable television companies and that money flows into the Cable TV Fund. The cable company serving Northfield is Charter Communications. There is currently about $766,000 in the Cable TV Fund.

    One kind of fee is called a franchise fee. Time Warner Cable’s Web site gives a brief overview of the rules of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984.

    “The franchise fee is intended to compensate a community for the cable operator’s use of the local rights-of-way, and to offset any costs associated with administering the local cable franchise,” the Web site reads.

    A city government can use the franchise fees to pay for any public service. According to Smith’s article, cable companies pay Northfield about $100,000 a year in franchise fees.

    In addition to franchise fees, cable companies also pay a fee that a city government can use only for purposes of public education and government (PEG) programming. Smith reported PEG fees total up to $15,000 a year.

    Deb Little, the department manager for the City Clerk’s Office, said she could help me find out how much money in the Cable TV fund is from franchise fees and how much is from PEG fees by the end of the week.

    Additionally, I asked what PEG fees are paying for now, if anything. Little said she would have to research that, too.

    Kathleen McBride, Northfield’s Financial Director, said most recently, the city government used that money to install a new video recording system in the City Council’s chambers. The work on the nearly $100,000 equipment upgrade finished in 2007.

    Why does NTV receive less funding than in the past?

    The $30,000 NTV receives a year is less than half what the fund used to provide NTV in the 1990s, Hager told me. The station has been around since the 1985. I wondered about the dramatic decrease and how it had affected the quality of the station, if at all. I don’t own a television and so have never watched the station’s programming.

    Scott Davis, a city council member who has worked to define the relationship between city government and the station in the past, told me on Friday that changes in state law led to the decrease in funds. Davis did not have time to explain further because I visited him in his photography studio on Bridge Square and he had a client waiting.

    • I did not find a copy of the Minnesota statue online that could apply to the matter. So I am still searching for more information about how the law changed and how it affected contracts between the city government and NTV.

    I did have time to ask Davis if there were any other reasons why the city government might have cut NTV’s funding, such as NTV not providing enough of a service in exchange for the money. Davis said that was not the reason.

    Hager told me that all he knew about it was that, a few years ago, the cable company and city government did not renew a contract that outlined how much PEG fee and/or franchise fee revenue could go to NTV. For a time, NTV operated without a contract and ran on savings and the city government paid no funds to the station, Hager told me. In 2005, the City Council decided to allot the $30,000 a year in franchise fee revenue to keep the operation running.

    Photo by Josh Rowan. Paul Hager stands in one of the station's studios on Monday.
    Photo by Josh Rowan. Paul Hager stands in one of the station's studios on Monday.

    Should we change how public access television works?

    Hager had asked for more than renewed funding at that time, however.

    He had come up with a four-page proposal to make dramatic changes in the way NTV worked.


    The summary bullet points of his proposal are:

    • The primary attraction of public access television has been erased by changes in technology. It is time to re-think the model for public access.
    • We could capitalize on the digital technology revolution that has created a visual storyteller in every household that has a video camcorder.
    • We can and should provide a modest financial incentive to spur production of community programming.
    • We must create a higher level of visibility for public access and invite local institutions to take an active role in creating programming.

    The proposal sounded to me like an interesting model, not wholly unlike the goals of the Representative Journalism project.

    Davis said one of the reasons Hager’s proposal never went into action is because the City Council has a lot to do. When the council decided to renew some funding to the station, it considered the situation fixed for at least a little while, he said. Davis compared it to patching a crack in a window. The window still isn’t a good window, Davis said, but you can live with it.

    In addition, Davis said Hager’s proposal relied a lot on individuals who would be willing to work as videographers in exchange for a small amount of grant money and there might not be enough people willing to perform such work.
    I could see his point, but I’m wondering how many other people would feel the same way.

    Davis said the new members of City Council and the new mayor might revisit the city’s relationship with NTV in the coming years, but the struggling economy might now present another obstacle to further funding or attention.

    • At that, I wondered how many people might deem the station undeserving of any funds in the near future. In tough times, some people might think that $30,000 a year could be better spent on something else.

    As a journalist, I shuddered at the thought of another of America’s independent, information-distribution services closing down. However, I also believe that those services do have to learn how to better compete for attention in order to survive.

    I put in a request for data at city hall on Friday to take a look at all the contracts the city has had with NTV over the years. I plan to share that information here so we can better see what kind of service NTV has provided to Northfield over the years.

    Should the city government control public access television?

    Smith quoted McBride in her article about the Cable TV fund, saying, “McBride said she recommends using only part of the money so that if the city does decide to get into the public access broadcasting business it has the startup funds to do so,” Smith wrote.

    I asked McBride via email to expand on what Smith reported.

    McBride wrote, “It would be a Council decision – and while I’m not close to the process (at all!) – I do think there is interest in starting a public access function – where we would buy the equipment and hire a company or employees to run it.”

    I haven’t heard any of the City Council’s discussions on the matter, but I’m confused about why the council would consider making city workers take on the public access station responsibilities. I imagine there could be cost savings but I’m not sure how. I wonder, too, if the city would cease to fund NTV altogether, and what would become of the station in that situation?

    Hager pointed out that if the city government controlled the station, and someone produced something controversial, the government would then have control over when to air the program (perhaps during a time when no one would watch it). Right now, Hager has ultimate control of the programming schedule.

    But are people producing content that challenges the government, or any other institution for that matter? Would they if Hager’s proposed model were adopted?

    Update: 12/15 7 p.m: I forgot to put Kathleen McBride’s full name and title when I first referenced her in the story, so I fixed it.

    Also, I wanted to note that you can still borrow a camcorder and tripod from NTV and use the station’s editing equipment to produce video content for the station.

    A Small Town with Big Ideas on Citizen Journalism

     northfieldorg Mackenzie Zimmer  Locally Grown Northfield

    Mackenzie Zimmer, a student in Doug McGill’s journalism class at Carleton College, has written a piece titled A Small Town with Big Ideas on Citizen Journalism (PDF – full text below).

    A Small Town with Big Ideas on Citizen Journalism

    By Mackenzie Zimmer

    On any given day at the Goodbye Blue Monday coffee shop in downtown Northfield, you will see several people scanning their computers instead of perusing a newspaper, as they nurse their morning coff   ees. 

    The reason is that Northfield has two citizen journalism blogs, LocallyGrownNorthfield.org and Northfield.org, that are highly popular morning reads in town. With a total population of only 17,150, Northfield has two citizen journalism web sites covering local news, events and activities — Locally Grown, which attracts nearly 7,000 visitors a month, and Northfield.org, with a monthly readership of about 9,400. 

    Unlike their newspaper counterpart, the Northfield News, these websites provide citizens with more than just breaking news and a calendar of events. They also serve as important social and community hubs by providing a forum for civic discussion and a database of comments on articles from readers. They even showcase other local citizen blogs. 

    Continue reading A Small Town with Big Ideas on Citizen Journalism

    Love Your Town

    DowntownNorthfield.jpgIn yesterday’s Star Tribune, there was an article titled “Love your city? It might love you back“. The piece suggested that well-loved cities are more economically successful.

    A three-year study of more than two dozen cities has found that there is a relationship between civic pride and economic growth. Paula Ellis of the Knight Foundation, the group funding the study says, “This is a new way of looking at how engaged residents create successful communities”.

    For the Minnesota cities studied, the findings indicate that a city’s offerings for social life, how welcoming residents were to others, education and community aesthetics were the qualities that most inspired loyalty and passion. There’s a significant correlation between this loyalty and passion and the gross domestic product growth over the past five years in each of the 26 cities studied.

    A vibrant social life, welcoming environment, quality education, and community aesthetics…could this be the conceptually elusive “sense of place”?

    Chicks, broads, and sluts in context: Yo, people, lighten up

     jaciblog jaci-smith

    Jaci Smith, managing editor of the Northfield News, has been getting hammered by citizens who were offended by her Broadening the Field front-page headline in the Nov. 5 edition of the paper, announcing the results of the city council elections.

    See the letters to the editor in this week’s paper. Her column in last Saturday’s paper was titled, Defining a ‘broad,’ and a race in which she wrote:

    In my e-mail to the councilors- and mayor-elect, I wrote that I think of a “broad” as a woman who is smart, savvy, tough and confident; a woman who can balance work, family and business and still find a way to be involved in the community. A leader. I can’t think of anything we need more for our city. So, in my eagerness to impart that message in three words or less on Tuesday night, “Broadening the field” seemed appropriate.

    I am profoundly relieved that our new female leadership took the headline in the spirit that it was intended. But by choosing the headline I did, I managed to sidetrack the momentum and the conversation from all the exciting possibilities before us onto something much less interesting and noteworthy. And that’s what I regret most of all.

    We joked about ‘broads’ vs. ‘chicks’ on this week’s Locally Grown podcast… a show where Ross and I regularly turn to Tracy and say, “Tracy, you ignorant slut!” ala Dan Akroyd-to-Jane Curtin in SNL’s Counterpoint.

    I thought Jaci’s headline was clever.  If the term once was offensive, it no longer is, just like the phrase “that sucks” used be offensive but no longer is. Even old timers from Frank Sinatra’s day might remember that he used ‘broad’ as an affectionate term for a girl or woman with sex appeal.

    Jaci should not have (weakly) apologized, but rather should have defended herself by citing none other than Eve Webster, president of the League of Women Voters Northfield-Cannon Falls, who was quoted by Suzi Rook in the Northfield News in October:

    Having women and men at the table when determining the city’s course is important, said Thurston, who served two terms on the council. “I think it’s good to have a woman’s voice and a man’s,” she said. Webster, with the LWV, agrees. Decisions about public policy are more wisely made when a variety of perspectives are available,” she said. “It’s a matter of broadening the field.”