Category Archives: Twin Cities

Wentworth Avenue in West St. Paul Needs Trails on Both Sides

In 2019 Dakota County plans to rebuild a stretch of Wentworth Avenue in West St. Paul from Delaware to Humboldt. The project will add trails to Wentworth, including a trail on the entire north side of the corridor and the south side from Charlton to Livingston.

At the last city council meeting on Nov. 26, the public hearing consisted mostly of complaints from local residents about adding sewer hookups and the associated assessment costs. The council seemed willing to drop the sewer requirement from the project, though some council members wanted to debate the necessity of adding trails on both sides of Wentworth before approving the project.

Ultimately they voted to continue the matter to the next meeting on Dec. 10 (when they’ll also be readdressing the site plans for Garlough).

So given that there may be continued debate on the project and the public comment period is closed, let’s look at the rationale for including trail on both sides of Wentworth. Continue reading Wentworth Avenue in West St. Paul Needs Trails on Both Sides

West St. Paul City Council Fails to Approve Garlough Site Plan

On Monday, Nov. 26, the West St. Paul city council considered a site plan for construction at Garlough Environmental Magnet School as part of the 2018 school district bond referendum improvements. In addition to classroom and facility additions, the plans include adding a second driveway and expanding the southern parking lot to create a separate drop off/pick up loop, a change that should vastly improve morning/ afternoon congestion and safety issues.

Garlough site plan
The Garlough site plan, showing the separate bus loop and parent drop off/pick up loop.

But the city council failed to approve the site plan over concerns that Garlough doesn’t have enough parking. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Fails to Approve Garlough Site Plan

West St. Paul Wins: 2018 Election

After feeling somewhat despondent after the 2016 election, I decided to focus on local politics. I couldn’t do much about things at the national level, but I thought maybe I could make a difference at the local level.

I wasn’t alone.

An army of volunteers and supporters came forward, and together we worked for change. People tried to join city committees, we supported a local trail, put on a bike rodeo—we got involved.

Then the sexism controversy exploded and West St. Paul made national news. And not in a good way.

People were already starting to pay attention, but that issue galvanized people like never before. A progressive advocacy group, Women of West St. Paul formed, and they organized voter registration efforts, rides to the polls, and multiple candidate forums.

On April 23, 2018, West St. Paul’s first female mayor, Jenny Halverson, expressed frustration at what she saw as sexism, and declared, “This will not be forgotten, folks.”

On Nov. 6, 2018, it was not forgotten. Continue reading West St. Paul Wins: 2018 Election

Blogging the Ballot: West St. Paul 2018 Voter’s Guide

For the past several years I’ve been blogging about local elections. I’ve tried to stay quiet about broader politics and avoid stupid comments, but this year I couldn’t help myself. Well, I hope I avoided most stupid comments, but I couldn’t stay quiet about what was happening in our democracy.

So this year, instead of just blogging about West St. Paul’s races, I found myself blogging about the entire ballot. From city council to U.S. Senator, I covered it all. 18 posts in 18 days (plus a lot of posts before that).

Let me offer an obvious disclaimer: This is my opinion. I’m biased. Take it for what it’s worth. Do your own research, make up your own mind. Then vote. Please vote. Continue reading Blogging the Ballot: West St. Paul 2018 Voter’s Guide

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 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