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Role comparisons for St. Paul city council
On Saturday, July 27th, the DFL will probably endorse for city council. How does each candidate describe her or his role in the city council? Exact answers as provided by the candidates can be compared on the next page. Order determined by date the answers were turned in.
Let me say how incredibly impressed I am with all the candidates and all the answers on all the questions. For short notice, this an impressive set of choices. Note that Mark Voerding’s answer focuses on being great technician whereas the other answers focus on community decision making. Here is a teaser summary:
Matt Hill – plan, advocate, listen, cooperate
Dai Thao – listen, inform, cooperatively decide, heal relationships
Johnny Howard – include everyone, work toward visionary goals
Kazoua Kong-Thao – lead and focus the community decision making
Debbie Montgomery – advocate, develop expertise and understanding, work effectively in city political relationships
Mark Voerding – deliver services in the most effective, most efficient manner to a diverse community
Noel Nix – champion, partner, cooperate, promote knowledge and understanding
Listening to the constituents of the community is the priority for the city councilor for Ward 1 in St. Paul. From there, a council member must make plans to represent the community by bringing actionable plans based on those constituents concerns to City Hall. Focused on community wide outreach and integration of all perspectives (working with citizens, neighborhood councils, community organizations, private businesses, and other policy makers), I intend my tenure to be strong and effective. Further, by working with the rest of the City Council I will make sure the ward and city continue to grow stronger together.
A city council member should seek out the vision, values, goals, concerns, and brilliant ideas of the community. That council member should then create the opportunity for dialogue between community members and people with policy expertise to identify the best policy tools for advancing the community’s vision and achieving their goals. Policy experts should inform the discussion but not determine the outcome. The council member, privileging the opinion of community stakeholders, must choose the best course, taking into account the big picture. That person’s job then is to negotiate the hardest bargain they can on behalf of the community, in order to secure the greatest benefits. They should attempt to build up and credit the communities responsible for driving the change, depolarize and restore any relationships strained by the tension created by those efforts, and prepare for the next round. Often, they will have to do all of these things at once.
The city council person should make certain that Ward One works for everyone. There is tremendous economic and cultural diversity in our ward. The council person should assure that everyone enjoys safe, walkable streets, good libraries, well-maintained homes, access to green space and a healthy environment.
A city council member is a collector of community voices. My goal is to hear and value all residents so we can grow important community relationships.
The main responsibility of a Saint Paul Council member is to advocate on behalf of all the people within her Ward. To become successful, the Council member must first know the people. She must know the area. She must understand the role and authority of municipal government. And finally, she must have the ability to work with her colleagues on the Council and in the Mayor’s office to clearly articulate the value of investing in her Ward.
The primary responsibility of city government is delivery of services. The job of a city council member is to see that the best possible services are delivered to residents and property owners in an efficient, equitable manner regardless of where people live or work in the city, their income, race, religion or even the amount of taxes they pay. This is done successfully with attention to detail, an understanding of the city budget and budget process, an understanding of the city itself including the unique attributes of each neighborhood, an understanding of the roles and activities of each department and an understanding of the finance structure. In Saint Paul’s case, only 21.4% of the revenue comes from property taxes and only 26% of a property’s tax bill goes to the city. The budget picture is further complicated by the fact that about 25% of the property in the city does not pay taxes yet receives the same services as those that do pay.
A city council member should be a champion for community voice and an effective advocate for the goals and interests of the communities he or she represents. He or she should be a community partner that works with residents, business owners, and workers to advance local projects that will make our neighborhoods better. As one vote among seven, the city council member should also have good working relationships with his or her fellow council members and the mayor’s office, as well as be a creative problem solver that can identify opportunities to bring together government agencies, non-profits, and for-profits to work together.
An effective council member should also work to help constituents understand how their city government works and push to ensure that government is effectively addressing issues like public safety that impact quality of life. This requires that a council member have a good understanding of the concerns and hopes of residents, business owners, and workers from all parts of the ward he or she represents. The council member should also have good relationships with city staff and understand how the city can be a resource for constituents.