What would an economically healthy Northfield look like?

The Gauntlet, Clint Eastwood version

Mayor Rossing, in her post-meeting conversation on KYMN’s Morning Show on December 8, described the item about the EDA by saying she has challenged the Council to imagine what an economically healthy Northfield might look like.  I’ve been thinking (researching, considering, conferring, talking) about this very idea for at least 10 years so I’m thrilled and delighted the Mayor has thrown down this particular gauntlet especially after she indicated that her own view of economic development was limited to “jobs and tax base.”

(More) Jobs and (increased) tax base are good things which I, too, would like to see, but pursuing these as isolated goals, throwing huge dollars at big projects and subsidizing individual businesses is not how I think Northfield should allocate its (very limited) resources.  I have a bigger vision for an economically healthy community than the Mayor’s and EDA’s rather old-fashioned conception of economic development (I’d call the Mayor and EDA firm Second Wave proponents).  Here are 2 visions

Economically healthy Northfield from 30,000 feet will

  • have a distinctive “sense of place” while being actively engaged in regional collaboration
  • succeed in the global marketplace by building on its local competitive advantages
  • serve the needs of local residents, workers and businesses while working to build social equity and protect the natural environment as interrelated parts of its economy.
  • leverage its resources through strategic partnerships and investments
  • or, more briefly, Northfield will work locally and regionally to build a prosperous, livable community which understands and enhances the economic value of its natural and human capital.

Economically healthy community from inside City Hall (and higher levels of government, too) will be

  • Efficient and adequately consider the economic, social and environmental consequences (the Triple Bottom Line) of its policies and work toward policies which have the least economic, social and environmental cost over the long term.
  • Accountable and working toward policies which assign the true costs and consequences of development to the beneficiaries and evaluate programs and proposals for their effect on the economy, the environment and community quality of life.
  • Consistent with policies which do not contradict or undermine each other and are consistent over time.
  • Transparent to the public where all information not explicitly private is accessible to residents, decisions are obvious, public and well documented; and information from city staff clearly demonstrates how policy leads to recommended action.
  • Recognize the interdependence of decision-making: budget decisions have social consequences, land use planning has tax consequences, spending money on infrastructure means it can’t be spent on environmental protection, bonding for a safety center constrains city finances which impacts the rest of the budget for years to come.

The stuff above is the dreamy, vision-thing.  I’ll try to follow up with subsequent posts and bring these ideas down to earth because I think Northfield already does some of this stuff or has at least included these ideas in their planning documents.  I’ll also try to point out that the dreamy stuff does not entail Big Government, Anti-Growth politics, but a reorientation of how we think about what government does.  I’ll also try to provide a reading list of sorts since I didn’t think up these ideas by myself, but rather they are available in varying forms from many sources.  You can steer the follow up blogging with criticism, questions and comments below.