Back to the State Fair, sort of

I got an email a few days ago from Transit for Livable Communities because I’d signed up to receive updates when I visited their booth at the Minnesota State Fair.   TLC is a Twin Cities organization which is more than transit; it’s a non-profit organization working for “balanced transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and thoughtful development.”

I joined the Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force because I was interested in making walking and bicycling part of Northfield’s transportation planning and development; the new Transportation Plan is a move in the right direction if the Council works to implement its recommendations.

TLC does most of its work in the metro area, but Northfield can still benefit from their work.  TLC’s Resources page provides links to many reports and other info on transportation issues with a slant toward transit and non-motorized transportation, of course.  Check it out.

Front page news

Extra! extra! Read all about it on the front page of the News. Suzanne Rook has a story about women in Northfield politics in today’s issue.

From L: me, Mary Rossing (mayoral candidate), Erica Zweifel (3rd Ward candidate) and Dixon Bond (Council member)

I rarely think of myself as a “woman candidate” instead of simply a “candidate” and would prefer voters consider my experience and the personal qualities I’ve worked hard to develop instead of the accidental one of being female…but one of the reasons I have the luxury of doing this is because of the women of my mother’s generation like Elaine Thurston, Jane McWilliams, Molly Woehrlin who worked so hard to break gender barriers.  My mother died when I was 19, so I am particularly grateful for the wealth of role models here in Northfield.  I’m also interested and curious about the large number of women who decided to run for office this year.

Great Neighborhoods and the NDDC

Last night, the NDDC hosted their Annual Partnership Celebration at the Grand featuring a presentation by Jay Walljasper, author of The Great Neighborhood Book.  This is a book which has been recommended to me repeatedly but which I haven’t read quite yet.

I’d call Mr. Walljasper’s approach “low tech, bottom up community development” aimed at regular community members, not government officials, city planners, or other experts – although there is much officialdom could take away from last night’s presentation.

Besides official policy documents like the Comprehensive Plan and Council initiatives for improving neighborhoods, there are small steps you can take (and the Council can follow) to help make your Ward 2 neighborhood better.

Mr. Walljasper called dogs an indicator species for the neighborhood environment.  As the owner of 2 large dogs, I like this idea.   What do dogs need?  Places to walk, places to hang out (dogs can hang out together in the dog park in Ward 4), safe streets,  things to watch (things to sniff…).

But back to the Comp Plan and city action…Northfield has been working toward some of these small ideas in its big plan.  I’m a big supporter of the form-based Comp Plan which takes the street (and its sidewalks, public spaces, and how buildings are oriented to the street) as fundamental to making Northfield a place people want to live, work, play, walk and walk their dogs.

Walk to School Day

Wednesday, October 8 was International Walk to School Day and Northfield’s second year to participate.  True, some kids walk (and bicycle) to school every day, but they’re the minority.  So, events like Walk to School Day are intended to educate kids, parents, schools and the community about the benefits of walking to school: improving kids’ health, limiting pollution and environmental damage, and to create safer pedestrian routes to our schools.

Northfield’s Walk to School Day is a project of the Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force which I served on last year.  The City Council commissioned the Task Force for one year in May 2007 with this mission: To enable and promote walking, cycling, and other humanpowered activities as safe forms of transportation, thereby creating healthier, more vibrant, and more energy-efficient communities .”

In its 1st year – the Task Force was reauthorized for another year in August – the Task Force was very productive.  Its report to the council tells how it:

  • coordinated the first Walk to School Day for the Northfield Public Schools on October 3, 2007
  • Obtained $30,000 Safe Routes to School planning grant for the Northfield Public Schools
  • Provided input to the revisions of Comprehensive Plan, Transportation Plan, Parks, Open Space, and Trail System Master Plan and land use regulations

The Safe Routes to School grant will help the city and school district assess safety along routes to school such as mapping missing sidewalk connections and making recommendations for the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Highway 246.  The grant is also intended to underwrite educational activities to improve safety near our schools.

Bill Ostrem is the Task Force’s chair, and leader in getting the group established.  His Northern Letter blog often includes information on bicycle and transportation issues.  His work is a great grass roots effort by Northfield people who are bicycle and pedestrian experts (and enthusiasts) coming together to help the city get things done.  My own contribution to the Task Force was more technical; I served on the Transportation Plan Technical Advisory Committee.  The Trans Plan does a much better job than previous plans in planning for “complete streets” streets for not only cars but transit, bicycles, pedestrians, young and old, – but it’s just a plan.  Unless the Council makes implementing its recommendations a priority, safer routes to school won’t happen quickly or consistently.  One of my priorities if elected is make sure the Plan gets followed and the input of citizen groups like the NonMotorized Transportation Task Force is heard.

Upcoming events

The election season is heating up now.

You can hear from me and other local candidates at these forums:

On-line right now: Northfield Citizens Online has started its Election 2008 Forum.  You can read about my positions and background then ask your own questions via e-mail.  Candidates’ responses will be posted, then you can ask more questions…and so on.

Sunday, October 12 Northfield East Side Neighborhood Association (NESNA) Local Candidate Forum will be held at the First UCC Church, 300 Union Street from 4:00-5:30 p.m. followed by social time until 6:00.  Childcare will be provided.

Wednesday, October 22 Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce forum, 8:00 am at the Community Resource Bank meeting room, 1605 Heritage Drive.

Wednesday, October 22 The Contented Cow & The Key are cosponsoring a forum for the 2nd and 3rd Ward Council candidates beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Cow.

Thursday, October 30 League of Women Voters and Northfield News are hosting a forum for all candidates from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers.  This event will be replayed on NTV.

Last chance

Tomorrow is the last chance to comment on the new Comprehensive Plan before the Planning Commission makes a recommendation to the Council and the Council acts.  The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Comp Plan at 7 pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

New Comprehensive Plan is almost here!

The new Comprehensive Plan is almost here and I’m thrilled. 

Back in 2004 when I chaired the Planning Commission, I wrote this about the 2001 Comprehensive Plan.

Northfield, meet your Comprehensive Plan.

Hello, nice to meet you. Tell me about yourself Comp Plan…and what is it you do again…..?

Hi Northfield, I set goals for your growth and recommend steps to reach those goals: Basically, I help answer the questions: Where do you want to go and how will you get there?

After this, your conversation with Northfield’s Comp Plan will be rather like getting stuck talking to some boor at a party. You know the one, the guy who starts rambling on through a lot of long-winded and poorly thought-out ideas. He might have said some really interesting and useful things, but delivered them with so much hot air that you started looking around for someone to save you from this conversation so you can talk to someone who will just get to the point. Simply put, despite containing nuggets of good planning, it shows no clear vision of where Northfield wants to go nor how it will get there. I hope the Planning Commission and the community will focus this plan and make it a genuinely useful guide to Northfield’s future.

Dreams do come true. Since the end of 2006, the Planning Commission and City staff (with ACP consultants) have worked long and hard; other Boards and Commissions and many of you also contributed to the process in public meetings.

Now Northfield has a hugely improved Plan waiting to be adopted and, even better, the land development regulations are being revised right now to put some teeth in the Comp Plan.

You have 2 more chances to say something before the Council acts to adopt the Comp Plan:

First, there is an Open House Tuesday, September 23 at the Armory. After that, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on September 30 before making a formal recommendation to the Council.

I think we’ve really sharpened the tools in our development toolbox and now we need to use them to steer Northfield’s investments and development.

Time to get busy

Now that the primary election is over and the mayoral and other Council races have been narrowed to the two candidates who will face off in the general election, it’s time to get busy here in the 2nd Ward.

I haven’t been just sitting around during August and September, though.  I’ve been spending the time doing my homework about city issues, talking to people informally about their concerns, plus printing campaign literature, and getting organized.  Look for my lawn signs, attend candidate forums, read more information here, and VOTE on November 4.

Why I’m running

I’ve been watching and working with the City Council since 2001 when I was appointed to the Planning Commission; now I want to be part of the policy-making team rather than a member of an advisory board.

Northfield has invested time and money in planning for the future; we need to carry out these plans.  I’ve been involved with the drafting of both the Comprehensive Plan and Transportation Plan which the City Council should adopt very soon.  Northfield should also adopt a new Park, Trail and Open Space Plan in the near future.  These plans provide guidance for sustaining the historic downtown, improving our transportation network, and conserving natural resources.

Northfield, like most cities, faces financial challenges, but I believe we can find strategic ways to prioritize our facilities needs such as improving the Safety Center or expanding the Library, systematically address on-going needs such as street repair and park development, and maximize resources by partnering with colleges, business and surrounding towns and townships.

If elected to the City Council to represent Ward 2, I will give Ward 2 residents a strong voice and help develop the smart strategies Northfield needs to meet challenges and sustain its sense of place.

I’m currently a member of the Charter Commission and have also served on the Planning Commission, Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force, and Library Board.  I’ve been a Humphrey Institute Public Policy Fellow and part of the Blandin Community Leadership Program.  I’ve got the experience and vision to help Northfield grow smart.