In the Sixth Ward, former community organizer Pakou Hang is squaring off against DFL incumbent Dan Bostrom.
Neither candidate has the DFL endorsement, as Hang’s strong convention showing blocked Bostrom from receiving the endorsement and the convention ended with a vote for no endorsement.
St. Paul’s Ward 6 covers large areas of the east side of St. Paul, including much of the Phalen Corridor and Payne neighborhood. Like the First Ward, Ward Six is comprised of a diverse mix of races, cultures and incomes. According to Hmong Today, Ward 6 “holds perhaps the most densely Hmong populated pocket in the United States.”
Bostrom hadn’t faced a challenger since his first campaign in 1995.
Bostrom does have the endorsements of AFSCME Council 5, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Saint Paul Area AFL-CIO Trades & Labor Assembly, Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades, Saint Paul Police Federation, Saint Paul Police Retirement Association, and Minnesota D.R.I.V.E. – Teamsters.
Among his accomplishments on the city council, Bostrom notes economic and job creation in Ward 6, adding police officers to St. Paul’s police force, a new radio system for police, fire, and other public safety officials, rebuilding and rehabilitating two recreation centers, and creating new housing as well as authoring requirements that landlords maintain quality rental housing.
Bostrom said he plans to “continue to promote home ownership and rehabilitate abandoned housing as well as removing the blighted housing when necessary,” if re-elected.
Other Bostrom priorities include “invest[ing] in our recreation centers, libraries, and schools to offer our youth better, healthy choices,” expanding the ward’s tax base and rehabilitating commercial strips like Payne Avenue, Arcade Street, White Bear Avenue, and 7th Street. Bostrom also lists living wage jobs as a priority.
When asked why he is the better candidate, Bostrom replied that “As a lifelong east sider, I know the people of Ward 6 well. I have decades of first hand, personal experience fighting crime [as a former police officer]. I have been a leader through tough economic times and have had to make hard choices before while in my role as a member of Saint Paul’s Board of Education. I have worked extensively and developed relationships with developers and planners.
“In short, I am a seasoned leader, and have already acquired and developed the vital relationships and knowledge to move our community forward during this difficult period and give the people here hope.”
Challenger Pakou Hang may not have held office before, but she brings considerable political experience to the table. Hang was deputy political director for Paul Wellstone’s 2002 campaign and was campaign manager for state senator Mee Moua. After graduating from Yale University, Hang garnered considerable experience as a community organizer, experience that helped her forge relationships that she says will help her be an effective city council member.
A Ward 6 resident for more than twelve years, Hang said she is saddened when she sees trash on the streets and vacant, boarded up storefronts. “I am running for Saint Paul City Council because I want to be part of the solution,” she said. “I want to take the skills I’ve learned working statewide and use them to help the East Side.”
She also maintained that “There’s a very protective circle of power on the East Side and the incumbent certainly hopes to keep it that way… And at the same time as I visit residents of this ward, I am realizing that there are a lot of people who feel they are not being served adequately.”
Hang’s three main concerns are:
• Public safety: “We need a comprehensive approach to public safety on the East Side. Increasing library hours and access to youth programming, cleaning up our parks, getting better lighting on our streets, and working closely with the St. Paul Police Department are just a few necessary measures that need to be addressed by the city council.”
• Education: “We need to work together as neighbors to continue to model and support learning for young people on the East Side. The city council should work with both traditional and non-traditional learning institutions in Ward 6 to better prepare our children for the global economy.”
• Sustainable economic growth: “We need to invite small businesses and people with an entrepreneurial spirit to join us in the revitalization of the business corridors on the East Side. The city council should work with existing businesses while fostering new business relationships to create a vital, sustainable economic community for the East Side.”
At the end of Hang’s term, she said she would gauge her effectiveness by asking herself these questions:
• Are people better off economically, socially, and politically than they were before I came into office?
• Have the number of foreclosed or vacant homes gone down?
• Do we have more successful, locally owned businesses along the major economic corridors?
• Are more people employed and owning their own homes?
• Have the rates of crime, especially those against children, gone down?
• Have voting rates risen on the East Side?
• Have I been visible and accessible?
• Have I communicated what is going on at City Hall to the people in Ward 6?
• Have I developed new leaders to continue to do the work of community building?
Isaac Peterson is a free-lance writer in St. Paul.