Incumbent DFL council member Lee Helgen, fellow DFLer David Haas, and Republican Warren Anderson are all running in Ward 5.
Neither Helgen nor Haas is running with the DFL endorsement; the two agreed before the nominating convention not to seek the party’s endorsement, eliminating the perceived possibility of a locked endorsement.
Ward Five encompasses a good portion of the Como Park area from Lexington Avenue on the west, as well as the Rice Street corridor. Larpenteur Avenue is the northern boundary and the Burlington Northern tracks form the southern boundary.
Helgen is nearing the end of his first term on the city council and boasts a list of endorsements, that includes the AFSCME and SEIU unions, St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Council,
Firefighters Local 21, U.S Representative Betty McCollum, and St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman.
If Helgen retains his seat, he plans to focus on three areas of concern: community investment, safe neighborhoods, and a healthy economic environment. “Throughout the area
there is definitely a need to respond to crime,” Helgen said.
“The ward is very diverse,” he continued, “so each neighborhood has a different set of
issues: In Como Park, there’s a real commitment to maintain the quality of the housing stock, making sure that Como Park continues to be accessible without being too intrusive. We’re dealing with the Rice Street commercial corridor, trying to improve revitalization along the
corridor and dealing with a variety of vacant buildings and properties. We also have issues with unsupervised young people causing problems. On the east side [of the ward] we have challenges like deep poverty.”
When asked why he should be re-elected to the city council, Helgen replied, “I think in this race I’ve got the right mix of experience, background, and a record of accomplishment. I hope that people look at that and see that. I’ve been on the council now, I’ve learned how the city works,
how the budget gets put together. We are actually seeing the results of taking a very proactive agenda in support of the neighborhoods.”
Financial planner David Haas is running with the endorsements of the St. Paul Police Federation, St. Paul Retired Police Association, and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Haas’ signature issues are:
• Public safety: “Crime statistics show Ward 5 has seen sharp increases in quality of life crimes. I am pleased that the St. Paul Police Federation has endorsed me, because they know that I am the only candidate that has pledged to bring a district office back to Ward 5, and increase the beat officers in our neighborhoods.”
• Property taxes: “Residents are also concerned about the escalating property tax burdens they are being asked to shoulder and have not seen increased services…I share their frustration, because I am not opposed to raising revenue if it provides the addition services we need to be a safer and more healthy community.”
• Establishing and maintaining what he calls a “meaningful relationship” with the residents of his ward: “I strongly believe that a true community leader should listen, learn, and lead…I will make communicating with them a top priority. I intend to have regular meetings with community councils and resident issue forums to help forge a stronger community participation process with neighbors and local government.”
Haas believes that his financial planning experience makes him the superior candidate, along with experience “in listening to people’s ideas, hopes, dreams and concerns, and working with them to plan the right financial path for their future. I believe my ability to listen to residents, learn about the things they want done in the community, and use the partnerships I have formed to lead and deliver on these needs, makes me the most qualified to deal with the issues of top concern to residents in Ward 5
“…I also believe that as my opponent [Helgen] continues to vote for double digit property tax increases without demanding critical resources for Ward 5 … [and] that my background as a financial planner and commitment to deliver for our Ward make me a better fit for city council.”
Challenger Warren Anderson is running a less visible campaign. Anderson, a realtor, previously unsuccessfully ran against state senator Ellen Anderson.
The three pressing issues Anderson sees in Ward Five are:
• Safety and security: “People should be safe in our neighborhoods.”
• Transportation: Anderson seeks a “sensible, economical, environmentally sound mass
transit system” and vowed to introduce Personal Rapid Transit [a system that uses small vehicles that travel along a guideway and can be hired by individuals and small groups].
• Jobs: “I believe that transportation and the jobs go together.” Anderson’s proposal would see the St. Paul Ford plant converted to making parts for PRT.
Citing a record of extensive travel in other countries and familiarity with other cultures, Anderson said, “I believe I bring new ideas, a very good knowledge of history and other cultures.. .Why can’t we take some of those ideas and make them Minnesota friendly? Let’s improve St. Paul.
“I bring a lot of passion. I bring knowledge.. .that’s what I bring to the table.”
Isaac Peterson is a free-lance writer in St. Paul.