Don McGee

Candidate for City Council, Ward 3

mcgeeNorthfield is in the midst of a perfect storm.  The the present council has carried on the tradition of prior councils by delaying decisions regarding m,any of the things we need to maintain the financial and physical health of Northfield.  All of this is happening at a time of national economic troubles that mean we cannot rely on any aid  from our state or national governments.  We have to address these problems decisively on our own.

We have a new Capital Improvement Plan that calls for over $13 million expenditure in 2009.  This $13 million is over and above the $10.9 million general fund budget that has been given preliminary approval by the council.  The $10.8 million will increase property taxes by over 8%.  Any CIP projects will have to be paid for with further tax increases or corresponding decreases in the $10.8 million budget.  There is no magic solution.  As part of the new council on Jan. 1  I will make sure that the over 60 items in the CIP are prioritized and that every decision made by the council regarding expenditures is evaluated in terms of whether it accelerates or delays our ability to fund the priority projects in the CIP.
 
The new Comprehensive Plan is the result of a major effort by the planning commission, the staff and our citizens to define our vision for the future of Northfield.  Unfortunately the key part of the plan is not complete.  The "Land Use Regulations" ie: the ordinances to enforce the plan have to be reviewed and implemented.  Based on past experience this could be a long and painful process.  For example, the rental ordinance which will be about 1% of the new regulations took over 1 1/2 years to approve.  At this rate it will take about 150 years to implement the new regulations.  When I join the council I will lead an effort to establish an orderly procedure to review, edit and approve the regulations in an efficient and expedited manner.
 
Northfied is in the process of annexing 530 acres of farm land.  I expressed concern to the council that this was too big a bite.  They have approved the annexation so now I want to make sure that it happens in a way that contributes positive cash flow to the city as soon as possible.  I believe the best way to to achieve this goal is to maintain local control so that it meets our goals and expectations.
 
We claim to have a "walkable and bikeable" city.  We do not.  Pedestrians are being killed and injured on our streets.Highway 3 has divided us in a way that Division Street and the Cannon river did not.  At least we have four bridges crossing the river.  Half of the residents of Northfield are isolated from city amenities such as the library, swimming pool, soccer fields, city hall, post office and banks.  I will provide a loud voice for pedestrian safety and inclusion of the West Side in the city vision.
 
Ward 3 (which is generally north of Greenvale Ave) is becoming isolated from the core of Northfield.  The council has to be sensitive to the needs of this area including public amenities, commercial development and transportation issues.
 
Northfield has a drug problem.  The council cannot solve it but they can make sure that the people and organizations working on the problem have the resources they need.  The next council has a lot of work ahead of it.  I understand how to develop a plan and implement it in an orderly and efficient manner.  I understand what has to be done I am ready to get to work to get Northfield back on the right track.

Background:

  • Northfield resident for 46 years.  Lived in same home on Highland Ave. for 45 years.
  • Married to Lee for 46 years.  Four children, Mike, Kathy, Tom and Mary. Four grandchildren, Joseph, Amber, Ed and Sam.
  • Education:  Bach. of Aero. Enginering, Univ. of Minn, 1962
  • Retired founder and owner of an engineering and manufacturing company.
  • Member of the Rental Housing Board of Appeals, Past member of the Northfield Task Force on Rental Housing

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?

No.  I am the person who approached the council to create an ordinance to control rental problems in residential neighborhoods.  This grew into a full blown rental ordinance.  Over 18 months I worked to create a ordinance that benefited all of Northfield including tenants and landlords as well as the neighborhoods.

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 has just made a major investment in the appearance of downtown.  Going forward the city should respond to the input from the NDDC, EDA and Chamber when appropriate.  The only major spending to be considered is related to parking issues.  Tax relief and promotion to visitors and local citizens is important. 

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?

My career as an engineer,  project manager and small business owner have been based on my skills as a problem solver.  As an engineer we are trained to not ask if something can be done, rather "how do we get in done to meet the users needs?"  As a councilor I want to make sure that requirements or problems are well defined, objectives set and then the most efficient approach identified and implemented.

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

The city finances are complex and have different issues than the finances of a private company.  I am in the process of understanding all of the complexities so that I can make informed decisions on all of the future decisions regarding spending and revenue sources.

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

We must be aware of the options available to use.  There is a state of flux in state and national policy and we have to be aware of what is happening in order to set local policy.  The best way to do this is to make the energy task force a permanent group and rely on them to keep the council abreast of the technology advancements.

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 colleges and local industry can benefit from closer cooperation.  For example the colleges can support the development of new industry in town.  The right industries can form partnerships with certain departments on technical and operational issues.  Their career development departments can set up mentoring and part time employment opportunities with companies that complement the college goals.  This does not require financial involvement by the colleges but some staff involvement and possibly support from alumni.

Local industry should be tracked closely for expansion opportunities.  Also industries can identify vendors and suppliers that they would like to have locate in Northfield.

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

Financial planning stability must be our first priority.  Once we know where we are financially we must determine how to move forward with our CIP items within the financial constraints.  The current national financial situation dictates that increasing taxes without public approval is not an option.

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

I believe the most important characteristic of a employee beyond the basic skill set in the job description is a long term commitment to Northfield.  A person who views Northfield as 'home' has a different set of personal objectives than a person who views Northfield as a jumping-off-point.  We have to create an environment that makes people want to stay.

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

Besides the obvious requirement for a skill set to understand the technical requirement of the job we need a person open to all input and most important of all someone committed to a long term stay in Northfield.

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

We have to follow the lead of our lawers on this issue and spend time, effort and money only if there is a chance of recoveringall or part of the funds.

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.  I would hope that the city already considers sewer and water demands for all developments.  If they are not, the council should instruct staff to include that this requirement be included in our approval process.

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?

At an intersection serving three schools and the NCRC and a high traffic density traffic lights are not an option but a necessity.  We have to demand that lights are installed and not accept a "no" from anybody.  In addition we have to address other intersections in town before they are the site of similar tragedies. We must build a pedestrian bridge across Hiway 3 at 2nd street.

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 North Avenue?

When my wife and I bought our house in Ward 3 over 45 years ago North Avenue was described as being a potential ring road.  Since then development has pushed far north of North Ave. and running a major road through a developed area and park makes no sense at all.  The present proposal to delay it but leave the option open to revisit extending North Ave is unacceptable.  Home owners cannot be required to live under the threat that their property and home may be over run in the future.  The council must take the maximum step allowed by law to bar all future discussion of extending North Ave.  When elected to the council I will introduce a motion as soon as possible to make sure that there will be no further effort to extend the street.