January was not quite the month I expected.
If I generously give myself and the “new” Council 2009 to learn the ropes (including how to hang ourselves with them, or at least cut off our circulation here and there), then 2010 should be the time we get busy since we are now experienced in the issues and the process. Besides, politically speaking, if we don’t take control of the agenda very soon, 2010 candidates for Council seats will define the agenda for us.
We have squandered January 2010 with the Waterford Annexation agreement kerfuffle, the Hotel Study surprise, and setting project goals for 2010 without addressing the increasingly obvious problem of how the Council and staff interact. A quick recap of January:
Waterford: 2 very separate issues.
- Issue 1: the Annexation Agreement. The Waterford annexation agreement is a wretched document with all the benefits flowing to Waterford at the expense of Northfield. Contracts are supposed to allocate risks and benefits fairly with obligation on both sides. I fully support our City Attorney’s recommendation to stop making payments under this agreement.
- Issue 2: anything having to do with any actual land in Waterford. There are no plans to annex any land in Waterford. None. Speaking only for myself, my vision is for a Northfield which develops very compactly and preserves a clear rural edge. Before we look to annex land from any of our townships, we need to try to fill in unused or under-utilized land within the city and increase the intensity of land use within our incorporated limits. This is the vision of our Comprehensive Plan.
- Issue 1 + 2: Ideally, we would be able to sit down with Waterford and negotiate a new agreement. We don’t need to, as Council member Denison has pointed out, but could just allow annexation to proceed as per state statute. A new agreement, however, has a couple of advantages for both sides. A new agreement would allow us to agree where annexation would take place and at what rate. If that sounds scary, consider that this means we would also be specifying where annexation would not take place. The only annexation in Waterford which makes sense to me is to consolidate the commercial/industrial development on Highway 3 – it is close to existing city services (saves money, saves the environment) and close to prime transportation. I don’t believe any progress is possible, however, with the current Waterford town government and general paranoia on the part of township residents who speak at Council meetings; I hope they prove me wrong.
Hotel study: Surprise! That’s about my only comment – staff provided little information and did not ask for formal action to undertake the study so I know just about as much about it as all of you. I hate surprises.
Goals: I loathe “facilitated” meetings. I find it insulting to be being told to mind my manners and having everything (which we agreed to last year) read to me from large posters (I’m 49, had a mother who drilled me in manners, and have a BA, MA and JD – I can behave AND read). I dislike “get to know you” activities, too. But mostly I believe the passivity which facilitators induce is not helpful. If I knew I was coming to a goal-setting session with Mayor Rossing leading our discussion and the press and public listening (yes, where was the News?), I would have my homework done especially diligently and I’d be looking to help reach whatever outcome the Mayor requested. Instead, we meet in a remote location (Hospital Board room) with no recording facilities and little room for the public, have facilitators who lead the show, ask the questions as they see them, and generally relieve all of us of any need to be active participants.
We don’t set goals; we are lead to them.
We reviewed 2009 goals and, from that list, identified the top goals for 2010: finish the Land Development Code and continue work on the Safety Center planning. These goals, and those further down the priority list, will be massaged by the facilitators and returned to us for formal adoption. Stay tuned for the final version. Stay tuned for the discussion, to happen soon, of process, transparency, Council/staff relationships.
Ask for more if you’re not satisfied.