Jerold Friedman

Candidate for City Council, Ward 2

friedmanA Vision for Governance

What helps people, helps government. All levels of government exist for the sole purpose of protecting and improving the rights and welfare of the people. Therefore, the guiding principle for government is to be the most effective in helping people.

My campaign relies upon that principle. I have a passion for civil rights, the keystone of a free, democratic society. Government needs officials who come from a civil rights background so that your freedoms don’t wither away. I also have a passion for the environment. If our ecosystem is polluted, our land, water and air will pollute us. These passions combine under my vision that government should play a relatively minor role in the lives of people. Government has a duty to help keep people healthy and safe, and to provide a means for people to improve themselves when the public will ultimately benefit, such as through public education, developing cultural centers, and loaning or granting money to individuals and businesses for society’s benefit, such as financial aid for higher education. Regarding other matters, government should be reluctant to make laws or spend money unless it’s clear that it would benefit society and the government is in the best position to do it.

If elected to represent Ward 2, I will combine my passions with your voice. I am inspired to work with my constituents, and all people of Northfield, to shape Northfield’s future.

I have been on the board of directors of the National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles Chapter, and the Animal Care Foundation in Hawaii. Working with them, I have used my law degree, my passions, my life experience to help guide them into staying productive, and to keep them true to their missions. I am an experienced social activist, having volunteered with a variety of individuals and organizations, from the Libertarian and DFL political parties, to labor unions and farmers, to the Humane Society of the United States.

I bring to Northfield a passion for public service, to keep government lean, effective, and respectful of its people. I bring critical thinking, independent opinions, a proactive attitude, and the drive to work toward consensus. The issues facing Northfield today will be solved within 6-18 months. What I bring to Northfield will help shape these solutions, and the solutions to the projects that Northfield will need to address over the next four years.

Return to Election 2008 page.

Responses to questions submitted by Northfield.org participants:

1. Have you had experience as a landlord of rental properties? What do you think about the current rental ordinance? Would you recommend changes? What enforcement mechanisms do you recommend?

I own a rental house in California.

I disfavor the idea of rental licenses. Apart from zoning rules and building codes, I believe that a homeowner should have the right to have their house occupied as they see fit. Unless there is a compelling reason to the contrary, and I am aware of none, I’d rather the rental license bureaucracy be abolished.

Otherwise, the current rental ordinance needs to be amended to comply with state law, which provides looser requirements for homes originally occupied by the owner. Also, the ordinance should be reviewed for simplicity so that owners of rental property have a clear, concise guide to the rules. Currently the rental ordinance is 39 pages; it could be cut in half without sacrificing substance. For one thing, the ordinance could simply refer to the building code being applicable rather than restate its content. Enforcement of these rules is the usual: if an inspection or a complaint from a private individual reveals a violation, the property owner must receive notice. Then the owner must fix the violation or contest it at a hearing. Based on the hearing, the owner will prevail, appeal, or fix the problem. If the owner fails to act, fines (or a suspension of the rental license) is a possible remedy.

2. What will you do to help ensure the economic vitality of our downtown area? What vision do you have for what Northfield should be like in ten or twenty years?

The city should review its policies to ensure that it is assisting, not impeding, local businesses. For example, are property taxes too high? Are some regulations, like outside dining, too restrictive? Are administrative procedures confusing? To help existing businesses and to attract new ones, Northfield should take a simple, business-friendly, low-overhead approach. Especially with regard to downtown, the city can improve the environment without compromising its historical character. A cultural or fine arts center, perhaps complemented by a low-profile parking structure, would attract visitors. I’d like to see Northfield’s historical areas left intact while other areas are built up but not out: avoiding suburban sprawl helps to preserve the natural environment. Northfield can be a center of green technologies, which would be a boon to our economy. Our roads should be safe not only for motor vehicles but also for pedestrians and bicyclists. Our public transportation should be modern and so convenient and comfortable that residents tend to prefer it to driving.

3. What are the particular skills you bring to the council? What are the most important personal attributes a council member can bring to the table?

Having a law degree and legal experience, I have the skills needed to review, amend, and enact local legislation. My most important personal attributes are steadfast integrity, sound judgment, and a deep concern for others’ well-being. As a council member, I would see my role as one of service. When I consider problems and projects, I try to consider everyone who will be affected and base my decisions on promoting the public good. I treat others with respect, work toward consensus whenever possible, and always do what I deem to be the right thing. Before voting on any issue, I weigh the benefits—to everyone affected—against the disadvantages. I value all people’s civil rights, I am a committed and lifelong environmentalist, and I am accustomed to volunteering my time in behalf of good causes. I try to approach every situation without bias so that I am fully open to other people’s points of view and to all available evidence. Finally, I can articulate my positions in a way that informs and, as appropriate, persuades others.

4. Can you identify an area where you will need further information or experience before you can be an effective council member?

Everyone gains knowledge and experience through serving on a city council. However, I already am ready to be an effective council member on the first day. I will maintain open communication with my constituents and all of Northfield so that I remain informed about their needs and desires. I will build relationships with local businesses and with other cities and the state to further Northfield’s interests.

5. What role does the city play in developing a sustainable energy supply for its citizens? What plans should be set in place?

The city should invest in today’s energy sources only if doing so will yield a return on our investment. Otherwise, our attention should be on sustainable energy. Northfield should encourage our city’s entrepreneurs to provide safe, affordable, sustainable, environmentally friendly energy. When our economy can fund new development, Northfield should look into clean energy sources to supplement or replace today’s sources. The city can invest in solar, wind, and other clean energy and do so at a profit. If Northfield “goes green,” we will reduce energy costs in the long run, and perhaps in the short. The investment in alternative energy will more than pay for itself.

6. What is the state of relations between the city and its major employers, particularly the two colleges and Malt-o-Meal? How should these relationships be improved and sustained?

The city should continue to welcome its current major employers as well as smaller employers and new employers of all sizes. What’s implied in the question, that bad relations presently exist, can be cured by both parties understanding their responsibilities and working together to achieve them. The surest way to sustain a good relationship is honesty, and cooperation with shared interests.

7. As a candidate, what are your top two or three priorities for the next two years?

The new city council will inherit several projects. My priority will be to complete the urgent ones, such as needed expansion of the Safety Center. I will work with other council members, city staff, and residents to identify worthy projects and needed change. For example, I would like to see land annexation and other plans for new development resolved; property taxation reviewed for fairness and accuracy; road safety improved; and intercity transportation expanded.

8. What steps should be taken to ensure that the city employs talented and motivated public servants?

Job candidates must be thoroughly screened, and hiring should be based strictly on merit. To maintain high employee performance and morale, the city should expressly value and gratefully acknowledge good work. When available, staff should be sent to seminars and other job training events to improve their skills.

9. How do you think the council should go about hiring the permanent city administrator?

Northfield should create a hiring process that carefully vets potential administrators, directors, and managers instead of relying on word-of-mouth referrals, inexpensive job postings, or expensive headhunters. The council should favor candidates who have the necessary educational background and experience, are highly intelligent, have a record of excellent job performance, have demonstrated integrity, and have shown a commitment to public service. How does the job candidate treat others? Is she or he fair, open-minded, honorable, and genuinely concerned about others? What is the candidate’s personal investment in Northfield? Is this job too big or too small for the candidate? Will the candidate be an energetic advocate of his or her positions yet flexible enough to change those positions when reason and evidence indicate that it would be wise, just, and in people’s best interests to do so? To choose wisely, the council must assess and compare candidates thoroughly.

10. What will you do to try to recover the missing 2.3 million city dollars?

I will work with the Finance Dept. to be as vigilant as possible working with the FBI and local law enforcement. They are the best bet on recovering our millions. Second, I would create an investment committee review to ensure that better diligence and research is done to ensure that proper guidelines are established for investment managers going forward (e.g., track records, adherence to regulations, firm reputation). When handing public money, the city should go through a Request for Proposal process that allows the investment committee to vet the aforementioned concerns. It also takes more research and diligence from the finance committee to go to their headquarters, speak with the money managers, top officials, etc., to give us the greatest assurance that the city's money is safe.

11. Northfield and Dundas share a sewer plant that may be approaching its capacity. In an effort to not find out in 2012 that we "broke the plant" in 2010, the Dundas planning commission and city council have in place a simple worksheet that is used to evaluate every platting request to see if it would make us exceed the capacity. This should keep us from finding out after the fact that we have overpromised this growth-limiting resource to developers. This simple analysis will also let us not have to go to taxpayers and have them subsidize other people's profits in an unjust way. As a city council person, are you willing to ask for and use this question of capacity BEFORE you consider and approve new growth?

Yes. City infrastructure should not be pushed to its limits unless there are exigent circumstances, such as disaster relief. The city cannot open the way for development that risks damaging or overwhelming any of its infrastructure. Whether that means preventing new development until Northfield has enough capacity for the new demands on its services, or whether developers will be required to fund or build the new services, should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Our residents should not be asked to pay for any improvement in services unless they clearly directly or indirectly benefit from them, which means that developers should pay for the entirety or the substantial majority of increased infrastructure when it's their development that requires the upgrades.

12. Given the fatal traffic accident that occurred at Jefferson Parkway and Division Street, if elected how would you prioritize the concern over the safety of this intersection against the other infrastructure plans?

According to the Northfield News, there have been two fatal accidents at that intersection since 1997 and an unknown number of injuries. The investigation of this year's tragic accident was conducted by state police but their conclusions haven't been released. Before determining whether and how the intersection needs to be changed, we need to see the state police report. Naturally, if the report cites a problem with the intersection, the city council will be compelled to have it fixed promptly. If the investigation finds the intersection did not contribute to the accident, city staff should nonetheless be assigned to make an initial finding about the intersection's overall safety and suggest ways to make it safer. When we have reason to suspect that part of the city is unsafe, we must investigate it and then fix it without delay.

13. What is your plan for integrating the working poor into the economic growth potential of our community?

Creating well-paying jobs in harsh economic times makes it incumbent upon a city to be as lean and efficient with businesses as it can. Therefore, for existing businesses to grow and to create different strata of jobs, Northfield needs to do its part in making sure that its administrative processes are as business-friendly as possible, and to keep business-related fees and taxes to a sustainable minimum. Northfield needs to do the same for its residents by being reluctant to implement any policy or project that will cost you more taxes. Northfield also needs to attract new businesses that will seek Northfield residents for employees. With a business-friendly attitude, Northfield can do its part in supporting new and existing businesses, keep taxation at a sustainable minimum, and therefore help everyone -- especially the working poor.