I have asked a standard list of questions for all the candidates of Ward 1 for St Paul City Council. I requested brief answers, no more than 300 words. All answers are given as they were provided.
My grilling of candidates for my personal endorsement is legendarily tough although I think I ask reasonable questions. This is not my ward, so you can decide, based on the answers given. I gave the candidates two weeks notice using the publically accessible contact information. Matt Hill is the first to answer, although I am expecting two more sets of answers. Personally, I want a council person who responds, so take the willingness to answer a questionnaire as part of an indication of responsiveness.
Using my editor’s privilege, I am taking my favorite question out of order, hoping that this will entice you to read the rest:
7) Please provide an example where you stood up for people or for rights against a powerful organization.
When I was an elementary student, I had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes in the office of then Senator Paul Wellstone out in Washington D.C. His interest in us being there would lead me to following him as a champion for the rights of all people, making me volunteer with his campaign going forward. (He even wrote a letter of recommendation to a scholarship I received in college!). But it was his ideals and passion that instilled in me at a young age a commitment to serve others, something I carry forward to this day.
So in a recent example of standing up against a powerful organization, a handful of lawmakers floated the idea of using Legacy designated funds to further underwrite the state contributions to the Vikings stadium. Because of this threat to the public trust I helped to organize a coalition to advocate against this. Within one week we saw thousands of messages inundate the state capitol advising legislators that using this Legacy money to help fund the stadium would damage the rights of the people who voted to benefit from their tax dollars providing access to art, culture and history in the state. Subsequently this idea was turned back.
1) What do you think the job of city council person should accomplish?
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.
2) What is your background? How does this background make you the better choice for city council person?
Raised in the ward, my background reflects the diversity and experience of Ward 1 residents. I am proud of my public school education, having attended the ward’s JJ Hill elementary and St. Paul Central High School. I’m from a multicultural family that also still resides in the ward, so I know and care deeply about this community.
Further, my current position with the Minnesota Historical Society requires time spent at the state legislature where I get to experience the discussion and creation of state law and policy impacting city and local governments. Secondly, I have the pleasure of serving on St. Paul’s Heritage Preservation Commission, where I hear and vote on some of the biggest issues impacting the city and the ward.
This state to local experience with the city’s issues makes me the strongest candidate to hit the ground running and efficiently work on the priorities of the ward.
3) What are the unique characteristics of your city council area?
Ward 1 is unique for the diversity of its people, communities, and stories. As the city council member I would strive to focus on ways to serve all members of this great community by understanding and appreciating all corners of the ward. With this diversity, issues of equality and inequity are an unfortunate reality. So as an effective city councilor I would ensure that we learn from our past so as to understand our future. From the history of Cathedral Hill, the continuity of community in Rondo, and the stories of the newest residents in Frogtown, we must understand each other and this diversity so we can be better together.
4) What three goals would you hope to accomplish as city council person?
As the Ward 1 City Councilor, the three areas in which my goals fall into are:
Economy- The economic development of this ward is imperative for future success in our neighborhoods and city. I will make sure that when a job is created we are supporting local, living wage jobs. With the biggest potential in the Central Corridor, we must work together to have the strongest vision possible for building our community assets.
Education – I will continue to be proactive in decreasing the opportunity gap for our students in the ward and city. I will work to make sure the city council allocates adequate resources to ensure before and after school opportunities for our children.
Equality- Together we will work to make this ward equal in the city, and deserving of its fair share of resources. But with these resources I would work to make sure that they are equitably allocated. We are better together and must share these challenges in the 21st century.
5) Since the city council involves negotiation of competing interests, please give an example where you successfully negotiated a difficult problem among multiple parties.
From a young age, when I was trained as a peer mediator, to my current profession, I have always had a natural ability to manage competing interests and lead difficult negotiations. One current example is leading the development of a statewide $300+ million public fund, where there many differing opinions and perspectives on the future of these resources. In this role I am guiding the negotiation of competing interest to lead multiple stakeholders into a unified and collaborative agreement for the next 20 years.
As the city council member I will make sure issues get fair hearings, with all sides being heard. Whether it is from city service issues for residents or a major impasse between a neighborhood council and developers, I want all parties to feel that a win-win situation is the outcome.
6) When do you think it is alright for the city council to give special financial consideration to a single business?
As an elected official, one can never forget their sworn duty to fairly represent their constituents within the rule of the law. The public trust must always be upheld, so when it comes to a city council considering special consideration to a single business, I believe it must be conducted within the prescribed ordinance and governing rules.
That said, there should always be room to debate modifications and alterations of laws, rules, and regulations. That is what is so great about democracy. In St Paul, something could be said about the need to revisit the “Bostrom Ordinance.” Or conversely the Ward 1 councilor can succeed in finding ways to engage in creative financing roles, such as the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative or brokering ways to help sustain community pillars.
8) Please tell us why your campaign is better choice (i.e. more organized, works harder, works smarter) with specifics?
This campaign is built around a five point plan which makes me the best choice to serve the ward.:
1. Candidate: Raised in the community, working in the ward, enjoying the offerings of the neighborhoods, I truly understand the needs and issues of the community.
2. Team: From a chairman who is an education leader in our community, to staff and advisors with experience on federal, state, and local politics, my campaign is not taking this opportunity lightly.
3. Vision: Thinking beyond elections I would be the better choice to voters because I have a focus on setting a strategic vision that is comprehensive and engaging on all issues.
4. Effectiveness: I would be the most effective candidate to get the business of Ward 1 accomplished at City Hall because I have experience with the state and local issues impacting St Paul and our communities.
5. Energy: Being young and energetic I am determined to engage with all constituencies in order to make the strongest possible case for my candidacy. I do not take any support for granted and understand the commitment required to serve the voters after the campaign when the real work begins.
9) Please tell us how you as an elected official or your campaign would help other DFL endorsed candidates get into office?
Using my campaign or elected official to help other DFL endorsed candidates get into office is an important reciprocal action that comes with the support of others. The endorsement of the DFL or other endorsing group, comes with a responsibility to recognize and assist them with their issues and platforms going forward. But this mentality seems to escape other candidates in this race, as a recent article found that I was the only candidate to openly indicate my intention to abide by the DFL endorsement.
10) If you could magically fix one thing about the city of St Paul right now, what would that one thing be and why?
My magical wish for the city of St. Paul would be to raise additional revenue while lowering the tax and fee base, especially those impacting residents. As additional resources for the city become available, so do greater opportunities to invest in our communities. This means additional city services like better roads, safer streets, and stronger communities.
Additionally, by lowering the tax and fee burden on residents we can alleviate the stress it is causing on both homeowners and renters, which will subsequently create increased capital that can be spent on the local economy.
As a city councilor, with a 21st-century focus on revenues and the city’s tax/fee structure, I believe this wish is obtainable and something I would work to accomplish during my time in office.