Category Archives: Politics

2018 Minnesota Judicial Races: Statewide & 1st District

Voting for judges is always kind of weird. Usually it’s the back of the ballot and there are a flood of names in uncontested races. It often feels like it doesn’t matter. But then there are a few contested races, and it definitely matters. Unfortunately, no one has talked about it, so if you haven’t done your research (and brought it to the polls), these judicial races can be challenging.

I’m looking at the specific judicial races on my ballot. This does not cover all judicial races in Minnesota, so if you live somewhere else, you’ll have to do your own research. You can visit the Secretary of State site to see what races are on your ballot. Continue reading 2018 Minnesota Judicial Races: Statewide & 1st District

2018 Dakota County Commissioners: Kathleen Gaylord vs. Todd Podgorski

County commissioner? Now there’s a race people don’t know much about and aren’t very excited about. While this can be a snoozer of a race, it’s important because county services really fill in some of the gaps between the state and the city.

Here in district two (West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Sunfish Lake, and parts of Inver Grove Heights), incumbent Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord is facing South St. Paul city council member Todd Podgorski.

I won’t pretend to be thoroughly up to speed on all the ins and outs of county government. But I did attend the League of Women Voters candidate forum held in West St. Paul. I came away with a clear and simple verdict: Kathleen Gaylord is an impressive public servant and she gets my vote. Continue reading 2018 Dakota County Commissioners: Kathleen Gaylord vs. Todd Podgorski

2018 Minnesota Attorney General: Keith Ellison vs. Doug Wardlow

I’ve tried writing about the Minnesota attorney general race, and I haven’t been able to do it justice. We have extreme conservative Doug Wardlow or accused abuser Keith Ellison.

Unfortunately, I think that’s what this campaign has come down to. While I think Ellison is an inspiring candidate, all that matters is what I believe about the allegations against him.

And so I’m a reluctant vote for Keith Ellison. I didn’t vote for him in the primary. I don’t want to vote for him now. But it’s a binary result, and the other choice seems far, far worse.

Others have written better posts about this than me, so I’d encourage you to read those (this one is really helpful, if lengthy; so is this one; this is a good look at Ellison on the issues—including video of him directly addressing the allegations). I wish I could marshall my thoughts into a more coherent argument, but I just can’t. However, avoiding this race entirely feels like a cop out, so I’m going to wade in and lay bare my inadequacies. Continue reading 2018 Minnesota Attorney General: Keith Ellison vs. Doug Wardlow

2018 West St. Paul Ward 3 Race: Wendy Berry vs. David Meisinger

The 2018 West St. Paul Ward 3 city council race is an open contest since incumbent John Bellows is not running. After a heated four-way primary, Wendy Berry and David Meisinger are vying for the seat.

No shock to anyone who’s been following along, but I’m voting for Wendy Berry.

The Candidates

Wendy Berry has a decade of experience in human resources and leadership. She is a mentor and volunteer. She completed the Citizen Police Academy shortly after moving to West St. Paul, showing her commitment to the city. This is her first run for office.

David Meisinger (no campaign site) previously served on city council (first elected in 1996, again in 2002 and resigned in 2003) and served two non-consecutive terms as mayor (most recently losing to Jenny Halverson in 2016). He runs a residential and commercial contracting business. Continue reading 2018 West St. Paul Ward 3 Race: Wendy Berry vs. David Meisinger

2018 West St. Paul Ward 2 City Council Race: John Justen vs. Jim Probst

The 2018 West St. Paul Ward 2 city council race is an open contest since incumbent Ed Iago is not running. John Justen and Jim Probst are vying for the seat.

I’m supporting John Justen (I don’t live in Ward 2 and can’t vote in this race).

The Candidates

John Justen is a local small business owner with longtime roots in the community. He first ran for city council in 2016 (losing to Anthony Fernandez). He’s notable for diving into policy discussions and taking clear positions, something many candidates avoid.

Jim Probst (no campaign site) is a South Robert Street Business Association board member and dedicated Kiwanis volunteer. He was recently appointed to the Charter Commission, and this is Probst’s first bid for public office. Continue reading 2018 West St. Paul Ward 2 City Council Race: John Justen vs. Jim Probst

2018 West St. Paul Mayor Race: Anthony Fernandez vs. Dave Napier

The 2018 West St. Paul mayoral race is an open contest since incumbent Mayor Jenny Halverson announced she wasn’t running. Current council members Anthony Fernandez and Dave Napier are vying for the job.

I’m voting for Dave Napier.

The Candidates

Anthony Fernandez currently serves as Ward 2 council member (first elected in 2016) and was a previous city council candidate in St. Paul (lost to Melvin Carter in 2011). Fernandez also served on the Planning Commission (appointed by Dave Meisinger in 2015). He’s a real estate broker with a background in construction.

Dave Napier currently serves as a Ward 3 council member (first elected in 2012). Napier has been a longtime pillar in the community. He’s the former director of buildings and grounds at local nonprofit the Dodge Nature Center and has volunteered in a range of places in West St. Paul, from sports to Kiwanis. Continue reading 2018 West St. Paul Mayor Race: Anthony Fernandez vs. Dave Napier

How Much Economic Development Does West St. Paul Need?

Expanding the tax base and economic development are solutions thrown around by candidates in West St. Paul. That’s all well and good, but sometimes they act like it’s a cure all. To get the kind of revenue we need, expanding the tax base can only do so much.

It reminds me of a comment Ward 3 candidate Wendy Berry made at the Ward 3 candidate forum:

“I think we all know that we have to bring economic development to West St. Paul. That’s not some top secret thing nobody knows about and that nobody has ever heard of. It has to be done, or else we’re going to turn to Little House on the Prairie or something and there won’t be any businesses here. We have to do that, checkmark, everyone knows that.”

Some of the other candidates seem to focus on economic development and expanding the tax base as the sole approach to bringing in more revenue and helping us tackle our budget challenges. Those same candidates don’t seem to be fans of the proposed sales tax (though most seem to agree that they’ll follow the will of the voters).

So let’s do a comparison, just to get an idea of impact (because it’s not a binary choice).

How much would we need to expand our tax base with economic development to equal the $1.3 million the proposed sales tax is estimated to bring in? Continue reading How Much Economic Development Does West St. Paul Need?

West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council Fact Check: David Meisinger

I think the soul of West St. Paul is on the ballot in the ward 3 city council election. I’ve written extensively about the inappropriate behavior of candidate David Meisinger. As if that isn’t disqualifying on its own, in the rare public comments he’s made during the campaign, he’s outright lied and distorted facts.

Meisinger tries to present himself as the experienced, professional leader. But his behavior and his own statements show the opposite.

The Bully

As I’ve written before, Meisinger has bullied, intimidated, and shamed local residents:

  • He bullied a woman in the City Pages comment section by calling her the c-word.
  • His own account of an interaction with another woman at Cub Foods, as told to the Pioneer Press, is simple intimidation.
  • He shamed a local family by posting pictures of their property to his Facebook page, calling them lazy and disrespectful and urging people to report them to the city.

This article should end right there. That should be enough to convince anyone not to vote for Meisinger. However, for whatever reason, some 450 people voted for Meisinger in the primary, enough to advance to the general election.

Fact Checking Meisinger

So if for some reason bullying behavior isn’t enough to dissuade people from voting for Meisinger, let’s look at his statements on the issues. Continue reading West St. Paul Ward 3 City Council Fact Check: David Meisinger

West St. Paul’s 2018 Sales Tax Proposal: Vote Yes

West St. Paul has a sales tax referendum on the ballot on Nov. 6, 2018. Here’s the question that will appear on the ballot:

Shall the City of West St. Paul, Minnesota, be authorized to impose a sales and use tax of one-half of one percent (0.5%) to finance street projects identified in the City’s Pavement Management Plan?

The West St. Paul city website has basic details and an FAQ on the sales tax.

The Basics

Real quick, the reason the city is doing this is because we have to pay for Robert Street. The state wouldn’t chip in to pay for their road, so we had to do it. We’ll be making $1.84 million debt payments every year for the next 15 years. The sales tax will give us about $1.3 million each year, which cannot go directly to pay the debt, but it will allow us to pay for other street projects that we might otherwise have to forgo.

This will ensure that our Robert Street debt doesn’t cripple our infrastructure improvements over the next 15 years. Continue reading West St. Paul’s 2018 Sales Tax Proposal: Vote Yes

West St. Paul Ward 2 City Council: Fact Checking Jim Probst

We’ve had two West St. Paul city council ward 2 candidate forums in the race between John Justen and Jim Probst. In watching those forums, I’ve seen a few comments from Jim Probst that didn’t seem entirely accurate.

You can watch the forums yourself:

I’m thrilled we actually have these candidate forums. It’s great when candidates participate. The only downside is that candidates can say anything they want and nobody is checking up on them. So let’s do some fact checking.

[Update (Oct. 19, 2018): This post went live on Tuesday, Oct. 16. About an hour and a half later I got a response from Probst with the answers to the questions I sent him a week earlier. One of his answers didn’t have a clear explanation, so I asked for clarification the same day. I haven’t heard back yet, but Probst assured me on Wednesday at the Optimists’ Club forum that he would get me an answer.]

Continue reading West St. Paul Ward 2 City Council: Fact Checking Jim Probst