If they gave out awards for being an excellent role model and quite frankly, just a very nice young man, Melvin Carter, III, who represents Ward 1 on the St. Paul City Council, would win hands down. Carter shared with Insight his take on everything from why he became interested in politics, to the campaign trail, to his first 100 days in office and the kind of issues he addresses as a member of the St. Paul City Council.
Carter said it was the 2000 presidential election, along with his education and training at Florida A&M, that peaked his interest in politics. It was then he decided he wanted to represent the public and be an agent of change.
Reflecting on his voting experience in the 2000 Presidential election, Carter said: “My sister, who I was staying with at the time, my brother-in-law, their daughter and myself were all in line to vote and after having waited in line holding his little girl for close to three hours my brother-in-law was turned away from the polls.”
Carter said one of the things that makes us uniquely American, is the fact that “no matter what, you have the right to vote. And when we were standing there arguing about the right to vote with the one person who had the decision making ability at that time, I had the most profound sense of powerlessness. I had never felt that before.”
After this, Carter made a personal pledge to make a difference, to advocate for the rights of others. Carter began graduate work at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute for Public Policy while beginning his career in the corporate business world. “Corporate America was treating me pretty well. I was doing all the things that college graduates imagine themselves doing, like meeting with VPs and getting on the fast track to upper management. The problem I was having is that I realized that my work [in corporate America] was not getting me any closer to my life’s work –public service,” said Carter.
Answering his call, Carter left corporate America to work for a non-profit. He also helped his mother, Toni Carter, campaign for the St. Paul Board of Education, on which she served for three years. Carter also assisted his mother in her successful campaign for a seat on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. Melvin Carter credits these experiences, and the training in political organizing he gained by working on the 2004 Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign, for preparing him for his own campaign.
While seeking voter support, Carter pledged to give the same kind of high quality representation to Ward 1 constituents that he would expect from someone representing him. Last week, Carter marked 100 days in office and in that time, he’s been able to successfully direct over $1.5 million economic development dollars to Ward 1.
Another big issue Carter and his colleagues are working on is the foreclosure crisis. “We have some very difficult issues we are dealing with and one is the sub-prime lending and foreclosure crisis,” he said.
“Through working together we are being very proactive in demanding that the owners of over 1,800 boarded-up and vacant properties (of which at least 600 are owned by lending institutions) maintain them in a viable and decent manner. The City of St. Paul has retained legal council to make sure that our request has some teeth to it.”
Last week, in a press conference, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the Saint Paul City Council announced that the City has taken specific measures to increase its capacity to respond to the foreclosure crisis. These measures include reorganizing a department, increasing counseling staff, and retaining the services of Mark Ireland of Housing Preservation Project, Inc. (HPP) as special counsel to explore and recommend various legal strategies to the City Attorney.
To begin this effort, the City Attorney’s Office issued a letter to all property owners in violation outlining legal options the City is prepared to take to ensure that these foreclosed properties are safe, secure, and remain assets to the neighborhoods.
“Vacant property owners must recognize the detrimental impact their neglect has on our community and step up to repair these properties or sell them to buyers who are willing and able to restore them for re-occupancy,” said Carter at the press conference. “We will no longer allow owners to choose to let their properties sit idle and erode the fabric of our neighborhoods.”
Some of Carter’s other initiatives include making sure there is proper training and concrete policy involving public safety issues and working to include environmentally viable and friendly programs to events like Rondo Days.
In addition to his duties on the council, Carter is also a family man. He and his wife Alecia have two children, Maylena who is two-years-old and the most recent addition to the family a newborn baby, Naomi who just turned two-week’s-old.
Paul Edward Hamilton welcomes comments at Paul@insightnews.com.