Jon Denison: Something to Prove and Much to Learn

About twenty Northfield residents showed up at the St. John's Fireside Room Saturday morning to meet the new Ward 4 council member Jon Denison.

The self-described "townie" answered many questions -- some basic issue focused, some more pointed. Denison describes himself as an atypical candidate who represents people who are usually not involved in public policy. He says he has always been interested in politics but only recently has become involved. He has worked at McLane for about four years, walks instead of drives, and rents instead of owns. He identifies with low-income and younger residents and says he ran because he wanted to prove that someone like him has something important and intelligent to say in public policy.

Denison answered many issue questions -- focusing more on his vision than on specific positions. While he says the library is essential to the downtown, he also says it is too early to support one plan over another. When asked about the EDA's plan in regards to a new industrial/business park, Denison responded that Northfield has needs, but also lacks land.

When asked about specific issues, though, he aknowledges his inexperience. When asked whether we had too many or too few parks, he said that he doesn't know the specifics, but that parks are a good thing. He said that rental issues are an issue, but that he will have to study it more.

When asked about choosing between the many expenditure needs, he said that he doesn't know how to choose, but that we should start with things that help us grow.

A couple of topics raised tension at the meeting. At one point a former landlord began describing a series of rental issues he experienced with Denison, including issues of payment, condition of property, and difficulty in contacting him. Denison aknowledged some past issues, but said his story differs from the landlord's and that he is in a new stage of life now.

Heated discussion also focused around the issue of links to offensive content on Denison's MySpace page. Citizens raised concerns about the impact of pornography and these links on youth and issues of sexual violence. They also asked whether he, as a public official, should have and be held to a different standard than the general public.

Denison defended the content of his page, pointing to it as a first-amendment right, and that people should have looked before they voted. He also said that he isn't hiding who he is and those who know him best aren't concerned. Residents also voiced concern about the pornography issue distracting from city issues and the comfort level of female constituents in interacting with him on public policy issues. Denison aknowledged that, "I didn't realize that it would be such a big issue," and indicated he would consider removing the content from his site.

The meeting ran the full one-and-a-half-hour allotment and spilled over into further informal discussion afterwards. While many attendees see potential in some of his policy ideas and applaud his willingness to meet with the community, many continue to share concern over his ability to represent the ward. Denison, for his part, aknowledges that he has a hill to climb, but indicates his willingness to rise to the challenge. "I'm new at this," says Denison, who admits he was surprised he won, "I've got so much to learn."

Alexander J. Beeby is an active community volunteer and a regular contributor to

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Discuss in our cafe.

Join us for discussion in our Web cafe here.

Alexander J. Beeby

Father, Friend, Citizen


"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." (Charles Darwin)