Category Archives: Twin Cities

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

West St. Paul’s Targeted Women Look for Answers & Make Their Own

“#MeToo. It’s still going on. We’re past the point of being shook up about it. We’re just sick and tired of it. We’re scared for our families, I’m not scared for myself, I’m just sick and tired. … Enough. Just so we’re clear. We’ve had enough. No more.”

You could hear it in her voice, the frustration that West St. Paul Mayor Jenny Halverson felt after multiple women spoke up during the Oct. 8 city council meeting—again—to decry targeted attacks of tires punctured with screws.

I immediately thought of the timeless quote from civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer:

“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Continue reading West St. Paul’s Targeted Women Look for Answers & Make Their Own

West St. Paul 2018 Mayoral Forum: Anthony Fernandez & Dave Napier

The League of Women Voters Dakota County hosted the first ever West St. Paul mayoral candidates forum on Friday, Oct. 12. More than 50 people filled the council chambers at city hall to hear candidates Anthony Fernandez and Dave Napier answer questions. We had the best attended of any of the League’s candidate forums.

You can watch the forum online.

In previous years West St. Paul has never had this kind of attention paid to its political process. In the past two election cycles we’ve had hotly contested mayor’s races, and West St. Paul even had a mayoral primary in 2016. But most years there’s the Town Square TV candidate forum, and that’s it. That forum includes all mayoral and city council candidates for the general election, which means a limited time to dig into the issues.

This year’s Town Square TV forum included 7 questions.

Last night’s League of Women Voters forum included 31 questions.

That’s an incredible opportunity for the citizens of West St. Paul to hear from their mayoral candidates and make an informed choice. I couldn’t be more proud of my city, and I’m grateful to the League of Women Voters for organizing this event and to the candidates for participating. Continue reading West St. Paul 2018 Mayoral Forum: Anthony Fernandez & Dave Napier

Where Do West St. Paul’s 2018 Candidates Stand on David Meisinger?

The mayor and three city council seats are on the ballot in West St. Paul this year. I’ve been asking our local candidates some questions to see where they stand on the issues.

Earlier we covered Robert Street debtPride flagsmedians and roundabouts, and making better headlines. For my last question, I wanted to ask our current candidates specifically about the behavior of another candidate.

A lot of people have seen my article about the inappropriate behavior of David Meisinger. In some ways it’s an awkward question to ask candidates to go negative on a fellow candidate. On the other side, I don’t think it takes much bravery to condemn bullying.

At any rate, here’s the question:

I’ve written a detailed article about the recent inappropriate behavior of former mayor and ward 3 city council candidate David Meisinger. I want to be clear that these incidents come from Meisinger himself and they are not partisan political issues. It’s important for citizens to know about his behavior and to know if other elected officials will condone his behavior—especially considering the multiple endorsements Meisinger has received in the past. What is your position on his recent behavior? Based on his behavior, do you think he should continue his campaign for city council?

I sent that question to [most of] the candidates on September 5 and gave them September 26 as a deadline. Here are their responses: Continue reading Where Do West St. Paul’s 2018 Candidates Stand on David Meisinger?

River-to-River Greenway Trail in West St. Paul Moves Forward

I’ve been a big proponent of the River-to-River Greenway Trail in West St. Paul, including a tunnel under Robert Street. I’ve blogged about it, I’ve got the T-shirt, I talk to everybody—seriously, my barber asks about it and just this week I told the bank manager about it while getting something notarized.

This week the West St. Paul city council approved an agreement with Dakota County that’s a big step forward for the trail and tunnel. It’s been a long process, and we were in danger of losing $2.2 million in state money if action wasn’t taken by the end of the year.

But we did it. Continue reading River-to-River Greenway Trail in West St. Paul Moves Forward

West St. Paul in the Headlines: How Our 2018 Candidates Will Do Better

The 2018 election is less than a month away. Here in West St. Paul we’ll be electing a new mayor and three city council seats. I’ve been asking our local candidates some questions to see where they stand on the issues.

Earlier we covered Robert Street debtPride flags, and medians and roundabouts. This time I wanted to ask candidates about negative behavior and how that impacts the image of our city. The recent sexism controversy was on my mind (here’s how the candidates have responded to that), but there are plenty of other examples.

Inappropriate behavior by candidates and elected officials has been making headlines—from the local to the national level. How are you going to ensure West St. Paul is making positive headlines?

I sent that question to [most of] the candidates on September 5 and gave them September 26 as a deadline. Here are their responses: Continue reading West St. Paul in the Headlines: How Our 2018 Candidates Will Do Better