Tag Archives: Northfield City Council

Attorney and Parks board member David Hvistendahl: 3-minute mashup of trash-talking Northfield City Hall

David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl Roger Schroder and David Hvistendahl
While listening to archived Law Review radio shows on KYMN recently, I noticed that Attorney David Hvistendahl, a member of the Northfield Park & Rec Advisory Board (PRAB), was particularly disparaging of the Northfield City Council, Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan, and Northfield Safety Center Director and Police Chief Mark Taylor.

Here is a compilation of some of these remarks, all rolled together into a single 3-minute audio clip.

If you have trouble with the above audio player, try playing and/or downloading this MP3.

What’s up with the Northfield Fire Department?

In Saturday’s Nfld News: Firefighters want to air concerns to Northfield council

Nfld Fire Dept letter to councilIn a Dec. 28 letter, 27 of the department’s 32 firefighters asked that the City Council schedule a work session “to discuss improvement to the road map for the Fire Department, specifically the selection or election of the fire chief and appointment of officers and the new fire hall.”

Northfield Fire Chief Gerry Franek said last week that he believes a meeting with the council will alleviate some of the firefighters’ concerns. In meetings with the city’s administrator and public safety director, who oversees the Fire Department, several firefighters have voiced their unhappiness with proposed changes the city plans to make when choosing a fire chief…

The mayor also prefers to honor the established chain of command, and continue communicating through the city’ administrator, public safety director and fire chief.

I’m way behind on understanding all the issues with the Fire Department, going back to early last year when an OSHA inspection raised issues and a subsequent report by a consultant cited criticisms.

It’s an odd request for nearly an entire department (27 people) to want to meet directly with the City Council, seemingly without the involvement of their supervisor, in this case, Public Safety Director Mark Taylor. Imagine if all the public works employees made a similar request, going around their supervisor.  Something’s amiss here and I don’t understand what it is.

The pros and cons of having Council wards and deciding about it now

In this week’s Nfld News:  Redistrict? Council wants to eliminate wards

Northfield Ward and Precinct MapA discussion about how Northfield should go about redistricting took a left turn Tuesday as the city council approved a proposal to do away with its four wards and elect all its councilors at-large… “I don’t think we have a need for wards at all,” said Patrick Ganey, who represents Ward Four. “I feel we could do a much better job with at-large representatives.”

Councilors Suzie Nakasian and Erica Zweifel said their positions as ward representatives foster relationships between council member and residents. Rhonda Pownell, who at one time suggested doing away with wards, said she’s since changed her mind, agreeing with Nakasian and Zweifel, saying that electing councilors only at-large eliminates the personal connection residents can have with their ward rep.

Having discussions about eliminating wards while considering redistricting irritated Nakasian, who said parallel discussions would be “prejudicial;” Zweifel added that they would “feel disingenuous.”

Ganey defended his proposal, saying that the time and energy needed to redivide the city into voting wards is too great and that the city isn’t large enough to have sections of town with similar issues. “I’d like to avoid the redistricting process,” he said.

Anyone know if Rossing, Buckheit or Imm weighed in on the issue with their rationale for supporting Ganey’s position?

I’m undecided about whether 1) wards for a city the size of Northfield make sense and 2) if this is a good time to consider the issue. See Northfield’s Ward and Precinct map (PDF) and chime in.

Randy Jennings excoriates the City Council for its economic development practices

Northfield Economic Development banner

Randy Jennings has a guest column in yesterday’s Nfld News titled What is economic development? Yawn? Nosiree. It is a benign title for a hard-hitting piece.  (I assume the headline was crafted by the editorial staff at the paper, hence my use of the word ‘excoriates’ in the blog post title. It essentially means ‘kicks the ass of’ but you can look it up.)

It’s a well-written piece, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. But here are some excerpts:

With its takeover of the Economic Development Authority and the resignation of yet another member of the city’s professional staff, the city council has completed its dismantling of Northfield’s economic development, community development and city planning efforts…

Since then, the city council has new members with their own agendas and priorities. Community re-engineering ideas with clever names like “green steps,” “strong towns” and “complete streets” get attention. Job creation and tax base expansion do not…

Several current council members are actively opposed to commercial and industrial development. They spent more than a year angling to take control of the EDA without advancing a single idea about job creation or tax base expansion. They are instead funding specific organizations and activities that enhance their definitions of quality of life in Northfield. No impact on attracting jobs or expanding the tax base. Not economic development…

Perhaps the next election will serve as a referendum on what kind of a future Northfield would like to develop: more quality of life re-engineering, or more jobs and an expanded tax base…

I’m not well-informed on matters of economic development but I’m more supportive of the direction the current City Council has taken.  Two large Northfield employers, Monster Games and Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting, were featured in the Northfield Community Video project for which Randy was hired to be the Project Coordinator by the EDA. If you watch the videos that feature their owners (here and here), you’ll see that they attribute their location of their businesses in Northfield in large part to the very things that Randy criticizes in his column: Northfield’s vibrant downtown and overall quality of life.

So let’s talk Northfield economic development: the good, the bad, the ugly.

Proposed: City of Northfield Statement for Our Safe and Welcoming Community

Ross Currier has sent this to City of Northfield Mayor Mary Rossing and other members of the City Council.

City of Northfield Statement for Our Safe and Welcoming CommunityMary –

I am writing to you not as executive director of the NDDC but as a citizen of Northfield.  It is on a subject about which I have very strong beliefs.

Northfield’s economy is driven by knowledge workers, the "creative class", or economic innovators.  These individuals, businesses, and institutions "export" their information-based products and services around the country and the world.  Their clients and customers reflect the diversity our our country and our world.  In addition, our economic future is based on our community’s ability to continue to attract and retain these people and these organizations.  Northfield must be safe and welcoming to all people.

Working with a small group of Northfield citizens, I have drafted a statement (which I have attached) that I hope the Council will adopt for MLK Day 2012.  For many Americans, Dr. King has come to symbolize the on-going struggle for human rights.  I thought adopting the statement for his birthday was a way of honoring his work.

I have only managed to share this idea with a dozen or so people.  I plan to come to the January 3rd City Council meeting to ask for Council adoption of the statement.  I may be alone or I may be joined by others.

Thank you for considering my request and thank you for all you do for Northfield,


Straw poll: Which applicant do you think will be selected by the City Council to fill the vacancy?

First see the blog post 9 guys apply for vacant City Council seat. What’s known about them? What are their pros and cons? and the attached discussion thread.

Then take the straw poll. Note: I’m not asking for your preference. I’m asking for your prediction.

Feel free to chime in with a comment here as to why you think the Council will pick that applicant.

9 guys apply for vacant City Council seat. What’s known about them? What are their pros and cons?

These are the citizens who’ve applied for the City Council seat to soon be vacated by At-Large Councilor Kris Vohs:

  • City of NorthfieldThomas Bisel
  • David DeLong
  • Jon Denison
  • Joe Gasior
  • Charles Michael Hayes
  • Ivan Imms
  • David Ludescher
  • Don McGee
  • Sean Daniel Hayford O’Leary

I’ll try to contact the applicants and ask them to copy/paste the info that they submitted in the application packet into a comment attached to this blog post, specifically their replies to:

Please summarize why you are interested in the appointment

Please list your education, training and/or experience that is relevant to the appointment

No, we don’t get to vote. The Council interviews the applicants and then chooses. (I don’t know how they do it exactly. I checked the Code/Charter here but it didn’t have details. Anyone?)

But an online discussion about/with the applicants might be helpful to members of the City Council when it comes time for them to make a decision.

Last day to file for Northfield City Council vacancy

Tuesday at 5 pm is the deadline, sayeth the City’s website here:

City-of-NorthfieldThe Northfield City Council invites persons interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy on the Council created by Councilor Kris Vohs’ resignation, to submit an application to the City Clerk no later than 5 p.m. on November 29, 2011. The term of the appointment will be January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012. Additional information can be found in the attached press release and attached application packet.

Five have filed thus far:

  • Jon Denison
  • Joe Gasior
  • Sean Daniel Hayford Oleary
  • Ivan Imms
  • Don McGee

Details at Nfld Patch and Nfld News.

Public humiliation, put downs, harsh treatment: Mayor Rossing & Councilors Vohs, Pownell unhappy with their colleagues

The Nfld News has a story today titled Mayor: Disrespectfulness unacceptable based on comments Mayor Mary Rossing made to the Northfield City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.  The text of her written statement:

Northfield Mayor Mary RossingOn a number of occasions during my tenure as Mayor I have felt the need to address the Council publicly, and to remind my colleagues that in order to be be effective in our jobs it is important that we maintain a level of protocol and respect in our deliberations. This is expressed in how we speak to each other, to the public or to our City Staff. In recent weeks I have personally observed, and have had it pointed out to me by various members of our community that it appears that it has become acceptable for staff to be discredited and put down in public.

That is not right and it should not be acceptable in these Chambers. That is not to say that we must agree with staff opinions or with their recommendations or that we cannot question the basis for such opinions. But when they speak from their position as professionals, they must be respected.

Councilors Kris Vohs and Rhonda Pownell are quoted in the article as also being unhappy with the tenor at times at meetings and elsewhere. No word from the others:

Councilors Betsey Buckheit and Suzie Nakasian declined to comment for this story. Councilors Patrick Ganey and Erica Zweifel could not be reached for comment.

Since I’m someone often accused of having a bug up his ass about the importance of civility in conversations, I’m interested in this issue. But neither the article nor Rossing’s statement mention any specifics, so it’s hard to know what’s going on. Sometimes when people are critical of others, that’s seen as automatic disrespect, whereas I believe that public criticism can be done in a way that’s respectful.

Back in March, Councilor Kris Vohs was unhappy with the interactions among the Councilors. I was critical of how he handled it but there were never any examples mentioned of what he was talking about. In May of 2010, Mayor Rossing was also critical of council decorum.

Can anyone who’s been at Council meetings lately or who has watched the proceedings via cable TV or live streaming cite some interactions that might be examples of disrespect towards city staff by councilors?