Tag Archives: City Government

Recovery and Reinvestment Act may curb unemployment in Minnesota

As early as tomorrow the $789-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may be passed, leading to positive changes for Minnesotans and U.S. citizens nationwide (or not, depending on the perspective – added 2/14 1:15 p.m.). Today, I am calling up Northfield’s representatives and political experts to talk about how the act could directly influence our lives.

Congressman Jim Oberstar, who represents Minnesota’s eighth district, wrote about what the act could mean for the state on Tuesday in the Duluth News Tribune saying, “I want to see that bill on President Obama’s desk to be signed into law by Monday, Presidents Day. By June, that final stroke of the president’s pen will have men and women going to work building and maintaining roads and bridges, upgrading schools and modernizing public buildings.”

“In Minnesota, the department of transportation has a backlog of 200 shovel-ready road and bridge projects. This legislation will speed $477 million to the state to start work on those projects, creating nearly 17,000 jobs.”

“A recent economic analysis by Moody’s concluded that the recovery bill could put a total of 91,000 Minnesotans to work by 2010, holding the state’s unemployment rate down by nearly 2 percent.”

See Moody’s Report here.

Not everyone in Minnesota seems as optimistic as Oberstar, however. The Austin Post-Bulletin ran a story on Jan. 30 that questioned whether the act could actually lead to less funding for public schools.

“Fourteen area superintendents met with 1st District Rep. Tim Walz on Thursday to talk about the proposed “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” commonly referred to as the stimulus package. The education leaders were aware that the estimates are long from final.

Dover-Eyota Superintendent Bruce Klaehn said several people are worried that the Legislature will decrease education funding once the federal money is awarded.”

On the matter of federal funding of public schools, an article in the Sillwater Gazette offered a different perspective on Feb. 5.

“Buried in the $819 billion stimulus package approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week is an estimated $2.75 million for special education programs and construction projects in District 834.

If the stimulus package is also approved by the U.S. Senate, local school officials said the additional federal funds would help the district absorb any budget shocks at the state level, where money remains tight.”



Filed under City Government, Economy, National

Slideshow: Northfield Economic Development Authority’s Infill and Redevelopment Committee

Subcommittee Meeting 1/28

Stay tuned for comments from the subcommittee members regarding the meeting.

Update Wednesday Jan. 28, 10:45 p.m.: I asked members of the subcommittee to write a sentence about what they believed was the most important result of the inaugural meeting. The first to respond was Victor Summa, a member of the Northfield Economic Development Authority (EDA).

“With the exception of a series of rather non-public meetings in the past few years concerning the NW annexation effort, this meeting was the inaugural (your word, and an apt one) meeting of a new process for the Northfield EDA. While not all that innovative as meeting process generally goes, we have sorted our task into categories, assigned EDA members to serve on various committees and have opened these ‘sub-committee’ meetings up to more public involvement. In a sense, we have moved ourselves toward the prompt of getting ‘shovel ready,’ a term that’s been bandied about here in Northfield … argued over and redefined to fit our purposes. I found this new effort rather refreshing and reassuring.”

Update Thursday Jan. 29, 9 a.m.:

Ross Currier, executive director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC):

“I think the steady increase of the use of the Economic Development Partners, the Chamber, the NDDC and the NEC, by the EDA over the past year or so is a great idea that will get more leverage from our E D resources and accomplish more of our shared E D goals. The staffing of EDA subcommittees with a mix of EDA members and Partner members is more than a clear sign of collaboration, it is a powerful tool for implementation.

By the way, did you only take pictures of us looking serious? Although this group represents a wide range of economic theories, I was struck by how much we could laugh at ourselves and rib each other as we discussed our work plans. At least for me, it demonstrates the comfort and confidence we have with and in each other, and the positive energy that we are all bringing to the current challenges.”

Jody Gunderson, Northfield Economic Development Authority staff liaison:

“Today’s meeting represents the City of Northfield’s on-going inclusive approach to addressing issues that will strengthen our community and businesses utilizing our financial and intellectual resources. The Northfield Economic Development Authority is a results driven organization.”

Update Thursday Jan. 29, 10:30 a.m.:

Blake Abdella, director of the Northfield Enterprise Center (NEC):

Today’s meeting demonstrated that those groups who see Northfield Infill and Redevelopment as part of their purpose, do come together constructively, in an effort to work together. I was encouraged by the openness of all participants to roll up their sleeves and get things done. I felt we left the meeting with an understanding of where we are headed as a group, some key next steps, and a commitment to the work ahead of us. Thanks to Dave Van Wylen for taking the lead with this group. I’m encouraged by today’s meeting and energized to take action.

Update Thursday Jan. 29, 1:15 p.m.

Kathy Feldbrugge, executive director of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce:

“Local economic development partners and stakerholders understand the importance of working together and identifying action items that need to be accomplished in order to enhance, grow and develop the local business community and ensure economic prosperity for the Northfield area.”

Update Friday Jan. 30, 8:45 a.m.:

David Van Wylen, chairman of the Infill and Redevelopment Committee:

I think the most important aspect to the meeting was the development of a common sense of purpose in regards to the issue of infill and redevelopment in Northfield.


Filed under Economic development

Police Chief Mark Taylor answers more questions about narcotics investigation


Courtesy of LocallyGrownNorthfield.org

Northfield Police Chief Mark Taylor answered some questions I had earlier this month via email regarding the ongoing investigative work the relatively new Rice County Drug Task Force has been conducting. The interview is part of my ongoing observation of Northfield’s struggle to curb heroin use among young people throughout the city. The police chief’s answers are in quotes and boxed in gray.

Some people have said to me that they don’t understand why police “picked on” the drug dealers that were arrested in Northfield in October.

“It is difficult to respond to anonymous and very general info. The concept of selling drugs is illegal in the State of Minnesota and in most cases is a felony. The law deals with persons differently depending upon the severity of the crime, the punishment is meant to fit the crime. These cases were investigated thoroughly and professionally and there wasn’t anyone picked on.”

Some of those people think true drug dealers are in the Cities, running large operations and committing acts of violence.

“I have to ask: What is the definition of a true drug dealer? I know we all have an image but, that varies for everyone. Police officers have to follow the state law definition of the “sale and purchase of illegal drugs”. I think we all recognize that there are drugs sold and purchased in virtually every community. My job as the police chief is to deal with crimes and issues in Northfield. I certainly work cooperatively with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies sharing pertinent information. I must however concentrate on issues and crimes that are occurring in our community, especially crimes that have such a large impact on our community.”

Some people have told me the former police chief didn’t believe in arresting young people for crimes like the ones the suspects are being charged with because that wasn’t the best way to solve the problem. Can you tell me more about the drug task force’s philosophy of how to stop drugs in cities like Northfield?

“I think the idea is to work cooperatively with all professionals and groups in Northfield and Rice County. This being enforcement of illegal drug activity, education, and other community groups and opportunities that currently exist. Also to look for more opportunities that may arise in our goal of being pro-active in the fight against illegal narcotics.”

I’ve had a couple of people tell me that they gave tips about drug dealing to police officers and the officers appeared to not pay much attention to the concern.

“It is hard for me to respond to questions when I do not know who is saying this, who the officer is, when and where this happened. With such little information, I am not able to respond to that question.”

How are officers trained to behave in a situation where a person on the street gives them a tip?

“They are trained to ask investigatory questions. Questions that help us to verify information and give us hopefully enough information that we can follow up on. These are investigative skills officers receive before and after hire.”

What are the different ways police officers get information about drug dealing?

“Investigative techniques utilized by law enforcement. Citizens calling police and giving us information. People witnessing suspicious behavior and notifying police. Police enforcing traffic violations. There are many other ways, these are just a few examples.”

What are the most important sources of information?

“Probably the public and what they see and hear, at least initially, followed by police following up with thorough investigations.”

Could I get a copy of the budget that would show me how much money the county, or the Northfield Dept., has spent to combat drug dealers? I’d like to see specifically just how much money and resources it takes to put a dent in a problem like this one.

We have one officer assigned to the task force so let me break down the figures.

The following are City of Northfield approximate costs. They are the approximate costs for our involvement in narcotics investigation and a breakdown of what those costs are.

  • Salary for one full-time officer with benefits: $60,000.
  • One city vehicle and fuel: $4000.
  • Insurance for said vehicle: $200.
  • Annual fees to Rice County Drug Task Force: $4500.
  • Supervisory costs to supervise agent and our involvement in the task force. Portion of salaries of investigative captain and police chief: $15,000
  • Equipment costs, including computer, phone, cell phone, other office and field equipment purchase and rental: $3000
  • Total approximate cost: $86,700″

How much money is budgeted for next year?

“The costs should be similar with a minimal cost of living salary adjustment. I would anticipate a general increase to all of the items. I would approximate a four percent increase, making the cost approximately $90,168 for 2009. There is not a specific budget for narcotics investigation. It comes out of the regular police budget. I use monies currently from officer salaries, dept. equipment, fuel, dept vehicle costs, etc.”

How much money would the task force need to operate at its best?

“That’s difficult to answer. Probably $30,000 more. ‘Buy money’ is needed to conduct these investigations, and we need more funding for vehicles and improvement of technology. Lastly, being a large proponent of training, we could use more access to training dollars for investigators. With that said, I actually feel very fortunate to have one officer dedicated to narcotics investigation. If we get overwhelmed or need assistance we can rely upon the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Narcotics Division. We did that in our most recent investigation and arrests of heroin.”

What’s the best way for a citizen to express a concern to the police?

“It would probably depend on the severity of the concern. Let’s use as an example of drug intelligience or suspicious activity. They should call our investigative staff and share the concern with us. Again, the more we learn, the more likely we can deal with the issue. If it is something that should be dealt with right away, something that is currently occurring (examples would be a loud party, reckless driving in a neighborhood, etc.) we would want the person to call our dispatch and have an officer respond at the time it is occurring. The dispatch phone number is 507-645-4475.”

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Filed under Heroin

Creation is near


Photo by Griff Wigley

The following article to appear in the Northfield Entertainment Guide.

Every morning, I wake up, pop my head through my sandwich board and, lifting from the knees, begin walking around town proclaiming the death of journalism as we once knew it and the coming of a mysterious savior who may or may not be me, a burgeoning writer who is working on the Representative Journalism Project in conjunction with the three bloggers of LocallyGrownNorthfield.org.

Naturally, I’ve met with skepticism, including my own. But lately, I haven’t felt alone in my quest to discover a new way of publishing news. That’s because more and more people seem to be curious to find out if the power of the plugged-in masses could be harnessed and used to improve the flow of important information.

For example, Jaci Smith, managing editor of the Northfield News, touched upon the matter in an editorial she wrote on Dec. 5 titled “Sticking to the Plan.” In the editorial, she discussed how Victor Summa, a member of the Northfield Economic Development Authority, posted a comment on LocallyGrownNorthfield.org under a story I wrote about the authority’s participation in a decision to build a new municipal liquor store.

Continue reading


Filed under Anecdotes, Citizen Participation, Project progress

Who wants help? Who’s giving it?

Norman Butler, proprietor of the Contented Cow and Chapati Indian Resaurant, emailed this New York Times story to me this morning. He, among other people in Northfield, have asked me to pursue another business story. Earlier in my time here, I wrote about what some downtown businesses were doing to combat the looming economic downturn. Now, I want to see what business people are out there looking for help and who or what is helping them the most. Input welcome!

Update 6:15 p.m. 1/20/09: I posted a survey in a comment below that I am handing out to business owners as part of my reporting.


Filed under Business