Moving Forward. What’s the Plan?

Lynn and Julie at Good MeasureCongratulations

A sincere congratulations to Julie Goodrich and Lynn Doney on their election and re-election to the Selectboard on Town Meeting Day.  I’m looking forward to working with Julie and Lynn over the next two years.

Moving Forward

So, what’s next?  While I won’t be setting the agenda, my thought is that the Board would do well to take a look at the Town Plan as a guide as we think about our vision for the future.  The Plan covers quite a few specific ideas which are forgotten over time.  However, Northfield’s Town Plan provides important recommendations for public spending and economic development, two of the most important issues in our community at this time.  This is why we need to review the Plan

What’s the Plan?

Northfield Town PlanThe Town Plan speaks for all of us.  It was created through a process which involved broad public input. A series of public meetings were advertised and open to everyone.  No voice was excluded or ignored.  Participation was excellent.  The Plan represents consensus in our vision for Northfield moving forward. 

There have been times in public discussion when the Plan has been dismissed as “a guide” rather than a serious tool for planning and action.  My point isn’t to get into negativity — it’s simply to point out that we have a great resource we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand.

You can download and read the Plan here:  NORTHFIELD_TOWN_PLAN_2014


An Apology

As many people know, I posted an endorsement for Jim Baraw a couple of days ago in my post, “Candidates Night:  Jim or Julie?”   I maintain my endorsement, but I owe Julie, her supporters, and all the women of Northfield an apology.

Julie, I am sorry.  To the women of Northfield, I am sorry.  

My post came across as a form of “subtle sexism” according to one neighbor who kindly sent me a note seeking corrective action on my part.  This was not my intent, but after meeting with others to discuss what I had written, I understand how my post could come across as patronizing, condescending, and even hypocritical.  Here are some concerns:


For many women, my endorsement for the male candidate runs counter to my January 11th post, “Women in Local Government:  Where Are They?”.  Additionally, my endorsement and support for Julie to serve as an appointee to the Economic Development Committee (EDC) appears to many women as a form of subtle sexism and an untoward electioneering tactic.  While no one used the phrase “glass ceiling” I can also imagine many women may feel I attempted, in a sexist manner, to keep Julie from breaking through it.

Additional Complaints

Beyond the subject of sexism, there have been additional complaints.  One email sums it up as follows.

In response to your “Update” regarding “Jim or Julie”, I am extremely concerned about your bias and the use of your position with this public posting.
First, I find it hypocritical of you to comment on Julie’s “generational support” considering that you are also a long time Northfield resident from a generational family.  There is nothing wrong with having roots in this community.  I think that it makes Julie an asset for us as a community in that she knows our history.  That does not mean that she will not have fresh approach to our problems.  As the first woman on the board in years (as your recent post on gender brought the forefront), I think she has an incredibly fresh look on our issues.   For you to assume that she will only win with the generational vote is patronizing and small-minded.
I also find that your “endorsement” of Julie for the Economic Development Committee to be unbelievably condescending.  Who are you to assume that she will lose the position for select board and recommend her for a different position?  I am not sure if it is sexist or just rude for you to make this suggestion BEFORE the election.
I find your posts, endorsements and active campaigning to be incredibly unprofessional and inappropriate especially considering your position as an elected member of our Select Board.
It took every ounce of my will power not to post all of this publicly.  I think it is more civil to reach out to you personally instead of publicly berating you, but you owe her a public apology on Front Porch Forum before Tuesday.  She had to defend herself from your post and now people think that she looks defensive.   You abused your power and you need to fix it.

NatesUpdates & Public Discussion

The first anniversary for NatesUpdates is coming up in a few days on March 10th.  Over the course of this last year, some readers have praised my work while others have found some of my posts offensive.  Some have suggested that I should delete posts they have found offensive.  Some have even suggested that I “shouldn’t be allowed” to write on public issues since I also serve as an elected official.  (To this last group, the answer is in the First Amendment to The Constitution.)

Risk and Accountability

I have certainly taken many risks over the last year by writing on controversial subjects.  Each time, I knew what I was getting into.  I knew I could come across as a trouble-maker and an arrogant know-it-all.  I knew that I would be held accountable in a more stringent way by writing my thoughts as vs. talking behind the scenes.

I’m being held accountable today and I acknowledge that my “Jim or Julie” post has come across as sexist, despite my intention to praise both candidates.  Once again, I apologize to Julie and every single resident of Northfield for my mistake.

While I still endorse Jim, this isn’t the place to discuss it except to say that my view isn’t about gender.  It’s about choosing a candidate who has clearly expressed a vision and an outline of actions which need to be taken.

Support for All Candidates

In fact, I would like to reiterate everything I said in my post, “Where are the Women?”  I also want to further my support for diversity in local government beyond the need for more women.  I support the candidacy of any person regardless of gender, age, race, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation.  I support the candidacy of any resident regardless of wealth or poverty, and regardless of their roots in Northfield or their recent arrival.  And I will work in good faith and as a member of a team with any candidate who wins on Tuesday.


Candidate’s Night: Jim or Julie?

With a little more than 30 voters in attendance, the Mix & Mingle with the Candidates was a huge success.  Before diving into details I’d like to thank the following:

  • Good Measure Brewing!  Our gracious hosts, Scott, Erin, and Ross, provided an excellent venue.  Scott and Erin also allowed tips to be donated to the Rotary Club sponsored High School trip to Tanzania!
  • Peter Evans!  Thank you, Peter, for catching everyone up to speed on the School Merger!
  • Supporters of the High School trip to Tanzania!  Every penny counts!  You raised a little under $40!  Special thanks to whoever threw in the $10 bill!
  • Our Candidates!  The Mixer was an open-to-all event.  Northfield voters had the opportunity to hear all four Selectboard candidates present their views and positions.

NatesUpdates endorsement for the 2-year Selectboard seat.  

Northfield’s Most Interesting Contest!   Wow, we have two excellent candidates!

  • Jim holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  His career marks the path of a public servant on both the local and state level.
  • Julie was a Vice President at Northfield Savings Bank until her retirement.  She’s very familiar with small, local businesses.

Who supports who?  In my view…

  • Julie’s base of support derives in no small part from Northfield’s generational families.  There are deep connections among long-standing families in the community.  Julie may also benefit by being the first female candidate Northfield has seen in quite some time.
  • Jim also benefits from long-term residents who dearly recall his service as Director of Northfield’s Ambulance, and more specifically for his professional emergency response to Hurricane Irene.

Who has the edge?  Wow, this is going to be a close race.

  • If Julie can pull a majority from the generational family base, she’ll secure almost 650 votes, which is about half of voter turnout in a normal year.
  • Jim bests Julie in campaigning.  He’s knocked on doors, spoken at events, built a website, printed brochures, and done just about everything humanly possible to get his message out.

Two Endorsements; Two Positions!

Jim Baraw for 2-Year Selectboard!


Update:  See “An Apology” in reference to below

Julie Goodrich for Economic Development Committee!



Look, it’s simply not possible to *not* endorse either candidate for a vitally important position in Northfield’s local government.  Both Jim and Julie bring different areas of expertise Northfield desperately needs right now.  Jim knows government; Julie knows banking and small business.  Jim, Julie — we need both of you.

The twist here is that the EDC position is appointed, not elected.  By throwing my support behind Julie for the EDC, my intent is to advocate for her to apply and be appointed.

Not a Consolation Prize!

I want to be very clear about my endorsement for Julie to serve on the Economic Development Committee (EDC).  It’s not a consolation prize.  In my view, the EDC is the single most important government committee at this time.  All of our committees are important — but the EDC is creating Northfield’s vision for the future.  Our Selectboard values and supports EDC’s work.

The EDC works directly with the Town Manager, professional consultants, and the Central Vermont’s Economic Development and Regional Planning Commissions (CVEDC and CVRPC, respectively).  The EDC was the source of the new Area Wide Plan which was showcased last June at the Night on the Common.  With that project complete, the EDC is in a little bit of a void, and we need to regroup to consider what work needs to be done in 2017.  We need a 5-year plan.  There’s a lot of work to do.  The EDC is where ideas about Northfield’s growth begins.

Julie, if you are willing to apply for appointment to this committee, you will have my absolute support.  The EDC needs banking and business expertise.  And it is yet another place where we need women in government.    



Candidates at Good Measure Brewing!

In follow up to the excellent Candidates Night a few nights ago, there will be a Mix & Mingle at Good Measure on Wednesday!  This may be your final opportunity to talk about Northfield’s future with Selectboard candidates and local leaders, so come on down and enjoy a local brew and appetizers!

  • What:  Mix & Mingle with Candidates!
  • Date:  Wednesday, March 1st
  • Time:  5pm – 7pm
  • Place:  Good Measure Brewing
  • Features:  People, Fun, Beer, Appetizers!

Save the Date!  Just click the appropriate link below!

iCalendar  •  Google Calendar  •  Outlook  •  Outlook Online  •  Yahoo! Calendar

Nick for Electric! John Sears for a Brighter Future!

As you may know, Northfield Candidates Night will take place this upcoming Wednesday at the Brown Public Library (6pm).  This is an important year for Northfield as we pivot on the balance of moving forward.  We need fresh faces across Town government.  New leaders, new ideas, and a new attitude toward the way things are done.

If asked to name the 3 most important votes this year, I’d list the following:


1.  Yes on Article 10!  Tax Stabilization

If you’re a regular voter at Town Meeting Day, you’ve seen this “tax stabilization” economic development initiative three years running.  The tax incentive policy requires a 2/3 majority — last year it missed by 6 votes.  Do you want economic development in Northfield?  Article 10 is the #1 issue where your voice can make a difference!  Seriously — 6 voters can push this important issue over the hump.  Will you be the voter who helps Northfield take a step forward?

2.  Nick for Electric!IMG_8413 (1).JPG

The Northfield Electric Utility is one of the most untapped innovation resources in our community.  The old-school model for utilities, which NED is still a part, assumes consumers don’t care where their power comes from as long as it’s cheap and the light turns on when they flip the switch.

But times are changing.  And this is where Nick Laskovski comes in.  Nick believes in innovation.  He is a renewable energy professional who has a firm grasp on Vermont’s utilities and he understands the unique position Northfield is in with its own electric company.

Nick believes NED can play a vital role bringing faster, more reliable internet to Northfield residents.  NED can help Northfield become a 1GB Fiber community through partnerships with local companies — building out infrastructure by way of federal grants.

For transparency, expertise, and innovation, I’m voting Nick for Electric!

3.  John Sears, “A Brighter Northfield.”

John Sears works for the State as a Business Analyst.  His website,, is truly an inspiration in a town that too often gets bogged down in negativity.  It’s refreshing to see a person who understands that, by focusing on Northfield’s potential, we can end chronic problems.  We can grow and prosper instead of constantly stomping out fires.  In John’s own words:img_0008

“It is an honor to live in this town and I want the opportunity to give back to the Town where Sara and I have chosen to make our home and which has already given us so much.  Together, we can form a Selectboard that is transparent, communicative and that works with the public to make a better Northfield; One that preserves everything special and unique to the town but also builds for the future, bringing new families and business to grow, and expand the community that is Northfield, Vermont.”

So, there you have it.  There’s another interesting race for Selectboard, but I’ll save that for another time.

Paving on the Horizon!

I had a productive phone conversation with Jon Kaplan from the Bike & Pedestrian program yesterday.  We talked about upcoming grants to build sidewalks and enhance street-side safety.  From an economic development perspective, pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets are essential features which help attract new residents and small businesses.

But before I get to that great news, here’s something you might really enjoy:  Routes 12 & 12A south of Northfield are scheduled to be paved in the near future!

Jon sent me a link to the VTrans site which shows the State’s paving and road maintenance schedules.  The picture above is a screenshot from  As you can see, segments of Routes 12 and 12A are identified as in “very poor condition” and, fortunately, are in the construction scheduling pipeline.  Let’s chalk that up as an item for in the Good News Department!

bike-and-pedS0, back to my conversation with Jon Kaplan.  The subject was about grant funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and other bike & pedestrian safety projects.

$3 million in federal grant funding is available for major projects, generally in the $300,000 or greater range.  Last year, there was about $6 million in requests, so obviously there’s plenty of competition from other communities who want to improve their local byways.  However, Northfield has done a lot of planning recently, so we’re in a better-than-average position to win if we submit a proposal.

The other opportunity is a Small Projects grant funded by the State.  $300,000 is available with average grant sizes in the $10,000 to $30,000 range.  Turns out, not many communities have applied for funds from this program recently.  The award amount can help build crosswalks with curbing, provide signage, install bicycle parking racks, or other smaller scale enhancements for public safety.

The application window opens near the end of April or mid-May.  Decisions are announced in September.  Falls from North

What do you think?  If you think sidewalks, crosswalks, or bike paths are a good idea, post the project you’d prioritize in the comment section below?  What small project rises above other small projects?  What kind of big project would you like to see?  Share your thoughts!





Calling Entrepreneurs: JM Kaplan Fund

Just a quick note today to share the announcement of a new application round for the JM Fund Innovation Prize.  It’s a fantastic opportunity that will bring you to a start up incubator in Manhattan, with all sorts of support.  And funding!

My 2015 application for a renewable-energy smart grid project made it to the second round, and from there I was recommended to apply for the then-newly-formed BeeSpace incubator, also in NYC.  I made it to the final round there.  Although I didn’t’ win the award, I now enjoy the benefits of good professional relationships with people who would support me in future projects.

While I don’t intend on applying in the future, I would like to recommend young, social-innovation minded entrepreneurs to take a shot.  The application process requires a lot of work, but even if you don’t win you gain a significant amount of knowledge, and potentially, excellent contacts in the funding community.

Check out the information and links below.  And take a chance.  Go for it!  This is the kind of application which assures that failure is a form of success.  And if you’re successful, you’re on your way!

Today, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, a New York-based family foundation, is pleased to announce the launch of the 2017 edition of The J.M.K. Innovation Prize. As in 2015, the Prize’s inaugural year, up to ten Prizes will be awarded in 2017 to support early stage ideas addressing our country’s most pressing social and environmental issues.

Prize recipients will each receive up to three years of support at $50,000 per year, as well as a $25,000 “bank” of funds available for technical assistance or targeted project expenses, making a total award of $175,000. Specifically, the Prize seeks to support social innovation in the fields of the environment, heritage conservation and social justice.


We support social entrepreneurs across the United States who are spearheading game-changing solutions to our society’s most urgent challenges.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize is an exciting initiative of The J.M. Kaplan Fund, a New York-based family foundation.  In 2017 up to ten Prizes will be awarded to those – nonprofits and mission-driven for-profits – tackling our country’s most pressing needs through social innovation.  The Prize will provide up to three years of support at $50,000 per year, as well as a $25,000 “bank” of funds available for technical assistance or targeted project expenses, making a total award of $175,000.  Specifically, the Prize seeks to support innovation in the fields of the environment, heritage conservation and social justice.  The Prize is particularly designed for early stage ideas being piloted or prototyped by dynamic visionaries.

Download The J.M.K. Innovation Prize one-pager.

For three generations, The J.M. Kaplan Fund has provided catalytic funding for projects in their early stages of development.  Whether a pilot project, a new organization, or a nascent initiative, work supported by the Fund has involved a certain level of measured risk that ultimately led to large-scale, transformative results.  The J.M.K. Innovation Prize furthers this legacy by providing funding to visionary social entrepreneurs throughout the United States who are championing emerging social innovations.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize was launched in 2015 and currently runs on a biennial schedule.  You can learn about the 2015 class of awardees here.

The emergent field of social innovation has become a recognized area in philanthropy.  The demand for funding of this type, however, has increased so rapidly that many worthwhile ideas fail to find backing from established funders.  The J.M.K. Innovation Prize aims to fill a gap in this marketplace, not only by providing critical capital to the social innovation field, but also by taking risks on projects that may be seen by others as underdeveloped or too small.

jm-kaplan-fund-winnerAnother difference is that The J.M.K. Innovation Prize builds on the Fund’s longstanding areas of grantmaking interest while remaining flexible enough for fresh and unexpected thinking.  This year, prize recipients will ideally present innovative concepts that fall within, in-between or in a matter related to the Fund’s three funding categories:

  • The Environment – Reducing the pace and impacts of climate change.
  • Heritage Conservation – Conserving America’s greatest monuments and places.
  • Social Justice – Supporting decarceration and humane immigrant integration.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize will be awarded to projects or ideas that: represent a game-changing answer to a clearly identified need; are innovative within, in-between or in a manner related to the Fund’s three funding areas; demonstrate the potential to develop an actionable pilot or prototype with Prize funding; and hold out the promise to benefit multiple individuals, communities or sectors through a clearly articulated theory of change.

Some cutting-edge social innovation can be more impactful using market solutions, but may require philanthropic seed capital.  Unlike the 2015 edition of the Prize, then, mission-driven for-profit organizations are also eligible to apply for the 2017 Prize.  In this case, funding would be in the form of philanthropic grants; the Fund would not take an equity stake in these companies.

Interested individuals or teams may apply for The J.M.K. Innovation Prize from January 25 through April 28, 2017.  A short application will be accessible at starting on January 25.  A sub-set of applicants will be invited to submit a second, longer application for the Prize in late spring.  A review of these second round applications will take place throughout the summer, with finalists being flown to New York City in the fall to present their ideas to the trustees of The J.M. Kaplan Fund.  The Prize’s awardees will be publicly announced in November 2017.

Awardees are eligible to receive $50,000 per year for three years, as well as a $25,000 “bank” of funds available for technical assistance or targeted project expenses.  Accordingly, the award amount will total up to $175,000 per Prize recipient over the three-year period.  These funds are intended to allow recipients to focus their attention on their social impact idea.  Awardees will also receive ongoing, dedicated support from The J.M. Kaplan Fund, including organizational development opportunities at in-person convenings.

Sign up to learn more about The J.M.K. Innovation Prize by submitting your contact details in the lower right-hand side of this webpage.

For additional information, please contact:

You can also follow us on Twitter: @TheJMKaplanFund