Dana Graham

Candidate for Council-At-Large (4-year term)

grahamI am running for City Council because we have to get Northfield government going again. How do we do that? We do that by being Responsive, Responsible, and Respectful. Responsive to our community's needs while being fiscally Responsible and Respectful of each other as well as the role of city government. We do that by being leaders and giving direction to city staff as well as our boards and commissions so that we are moving forward for the common good.

Northfield needs people with leadership experience, people with common sense, people of decision and people who can work in a team setting to get things done and bring the pride back to our city.

I believe that I am one of those people. My previous service to the city includes being a council member from 2000-2004 (I did not seek re-election due to business reasons), a member of the Planning Commission, as well as a member of the Economic Development Authority. I have a solid business background and a deep commitment to do the difficult job of shaping Northfield's future. I want to put an end to wasteful spending and create a vision for Northfield that consists of economic growth, lower property taxes, and vibrant retail activity.

We cannot continue to do things the way they are now. It's not working. We ned to be willing to have the tough discussions and we need to have the courage to make the tough decisions. If elected, I will work hard to make sure that we do.

We live in a wonderful, beautiful city which boasts two of our nation's top colleges. We have a unique downtown area that will always be the focal point of our town, and should be. But, change is inevitable. There are societal and market forces that we cannot control. We need to anticipate and respond. We can't be afraid to call upon our greatest resource, our citizens, to get involved to help make sure that we have a bright future.

I am asking for your vote because we do need change. I believe that I can be part of the solution to the problems that have developed with our city government over the last several years.  Together, we can make Northfield a community we can all be proud of.

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 have not had experience as a landlord. The rental ordinance is an issue that stirs emotions from those who it affects most directly-mainly residents who live near the two colleges and owners of rental properties.

City council should have been the driving force behind the updating of this ordinance. Instead, what we got, initially, was a document that was staff driven and rubber stamped by the council and then found to be illegal. I believe that this is another example of the lack of leadership exhibited by this council in the last couple of years. Eventually, after many concerns were voiced, some proper research was done by simply finding out what other communities are doing and an ordinance that could pass the legal was formed.

We must listen to our citizens and take into account their concerns and make sure, as elected officials, that we are the ones giving direction on how we want the final document to read. In this case, we must have a document that recognizes our need to co-exist with renters while making sure that we are maintaining the character of our neighborhoods and providing living space for all. The danger is that the ordinance becomes so burdensome on owners that the cost of compliance will ultimately reduce availability. As I understand it, inspections are initially done and then re-inspected every two years to ensure compliance. Any unruly behavior, drug/alcohol issues, or anything of a criminal nature must be enforced by law enforcement as well as illegal parking situations.We should re-visit this ordinance after the first two year period has expired and address any concerns.

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?

I have said many times that our downtown area should be the focal point of Northfield. We have something that so many communities have lost. It will take attention by many entities to make sure that we don't become one of them. I believe that we should have a sub-committee of council members that is focused on downtown issues and regularly reports back to the full council. We need to work hand-in-hand with the NDDC and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure that we keep our downtown attractive and not let detioration and complacence creep in. Market forces could change many things but we need to ensure that our downtown is always an attractive option to retailers and shoppers alike. My vision in ten to twenty years is a Northfield that has gone through a very successful period of economic growth that has created jobs and lowered our taxes, that has a vibrant downtown with many successful small businesses, but also a city that has kept its small town character and sense of history.

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?

I have been fortunate enough to have been in retail and sales management for almost 30 years. In that time I have certainly made my share of mistakes but, I like to think that I have also learned from them. I know what it means to be a team player. It's going to take all seven members of the council working together to get thing accomplished.

I strongly believe in two principles: that we check our ego at the door when working with others and that we have should listen more than we speak. We can't take every decision that doesn't go our way personally. It may take several years before we know if a decision made today turned out the way it was intended.

Not that long ago, former mayor Keith Covey said to me that even when we disagreed we were always able to talk to each other. Somehow, that has been lost on this council. I want to help bring that back.

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

Fortunately, I have been on the council before so, even though there have been changes, I don't feel that I will need to "ramp up" before feeling comfortable. I want to jump in with both feet and start bringing the trust back to city hall. Now, none of us can be experts in every area. I certainly have a lot to learn, but I know what questions to ask and who to address them to.

I feel it is important for this new council to set the tone right away and give direction to staff as to how we want information disseminated. That we are the ones that the people elected and will hold accountable.

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

I believe that this is an area that we should be working very closely with our two colleges. Obviously, they have taken the lead in wind energy along with Renew Northfield. There may be other forms of energy that they are studying. Why can't we propose  some kind of working relationship with them to further this cause?  I would certainly support such an effort.

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?

I have asked several city officials the very same question. What I have gathered is that unless there is an instance that requires communication, there is none. I would like to see us be much more pro-active. We once had what were called mayor’s visits once a month. These were visits by the mayor, and any council members that could make it, along with select staff members, to businesses and the colleges to keep that communication line open. This is just one way. There may be several others that should be discussed. Doing nothing should not be an option.

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

The top priority should be to restore confidence and trust back at city hall. We must be transparent. There are many areas where we have to be pro-active. I want the council to be aggressive in economic development issues. Let’s get busy on bringing business and jobs to Northfield.  We must prioritize our capital improvement plan. My plan is to be responsive to the community’s needs while being fiscally responsible. We must set the tone immediately and give direction to staff while letting our boards and commissions know that we will seek to have good communication with them. There has to be changes. What we are doing now is not working. I want to be part of the solution to city government.

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

I believe that, over the years, we have had some tremendously talented individuals on city staff. It is up to the council to hire the best city administrator possible. After that, it is the administrator’s role to fill other staff positions as necessary. This is where the council’s leadership can help. If you have a city administrator that has a good understanding of how the council wants things to work, he/she will be better able to convey that same message to staff hirings. We don’t need any surprises down the road. On the flip side, I believe, without council leadership, talented individuals will try to get something done anyway and this can lead to conflict.

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

While on city council, I was involved in the process of hiring a city administrator. I thought the process was very thorough. We had hired an executive recruiter that the city had used many times before. We, as a council, conveyed to him what traits were important to us. He then solicited applications and narrowed the search down to five candidates. These people were then put through an exhaustive series of meet and greets as well as individual interviews with each council member. We then met as a group and compared notes and came up with our top choice.  I think it was a good procedure. We did everything, except the individual interviews, as a group. There was not any situation that could have arose that would have allowed the mayor, or anyone else, to do something on their own. I know there are some people that would like to be assured that anyone who is offered the position would agree to stay in Northfield for a long time. The fact is, life changes and there are no guarantees. It is up to us to provide a good working environment and a process that allows us to hire the best.

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

I’m afraid that we are at the end of the line in trying to recover our missing millions. I don’t know if that means that we will get some of it back, all of it back, or none of it back, but I am not optimistic at this point. This is a shame. I will do everything I can to keep this issue at the forefront until we know where we stand. For too long, it seems like we just sat back. Again, once this issue came to light, the council should have taken a leadership position and demanded action. Instead, we waited. Why can’t a claim be put against the accounting firm?

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?

I have been a strong advocate of economic development and the jobs that will come as a result. We should always be open to a wide variety of industries and companies that offer attainable jobs. We have a council that, in my opinion, does not promote economic development. We need to work hand-in-hand with the EDA and come up with strategies that will promote Northfield as a great place to locate a business.

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?

If we have done our job and hired competent staff ( see previous answers on hiring), anytime there is development in Northfield of any size, there should be a report on how that development will affect any and all services. How close to capacity are we? We have to put the interest of Northfield citizens ahead of those of Dundas. I would expect this to be standard procedure.

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

(No response.)

14. What is your position on the North Avenue issue?

My position on North Avenue is that it is and should be a resolved  issue. It certainly made sense, and, to many still does, to have North Avenue extend to highway 3 before the development of homes and the building of the park. It is not fair to ask people living there now to disrupt their lives and look for new housing.