Category Archives: Twin Cities

West St. Paul City Council: Appointed, Apologized, Attacked, Admitted

West St. Paul city council meetings continue to be full of drama and public outcry. Last night’s June 11, 2018 meeting (you can watch online) was the third meeting since the infamous April 23 meeting when charges of sexism were levied against four male council members—and it was the third meeting in a row that featured a packed house and multiple citizens addressing the council.

It’s so encouraging to see people standing up and speaking out. As Councilperson Dave Napier said, “It’s your city.” Continue reading West St. Paul City Council: Appointed, Apologized, Attacked, Admitted

2018 West St. Paul Candidates on Sexism Controversy

The candidate filing period closed on Tuesday and the last chance to withdraw ended yesterday, so we’ve got our official candidates for the 2018 election in West St. Paul. How do the 2018 candidates stack up in terms of the current hot-button issue in West St. Paul: sexism?

The April 23, 2018 council meeting erupted into charges of sexism over the rejected appointment of Samantha Green that spawned harassment of Mayor Jenny Halverson and Green, as well as an estimated 150 people showing up at the May 14 city council meeting and another 75 or so at the May 29 city council meeting. The story sparked local news coverage and even national attention.

Obviously this isn’t the only issue in the 2018 election, but it is a big one. So where do our newly minted candidates stand? Continue reading 2018 West St. Paul Candidates on Sexism Controversy

Anthony Fernandez Shifts Story While Running for West St. Paul Mayor

At the April 23, 2018 West St. Paul city council meeting, council member Anthony Fernandez pulled the nomination of Samantha Green from the consent agenda and voted against her appointment to the Planning Commission. The move sparked accusations of sexism and a packed house at the next city council meeting. Fernandez has changed his story on this multiple times.

Anthony Fernandez seems to say what he thinks you want to hear. And that changes from day to day.

This is problematic for an elected official. It’s also problematic for someone seeking higher office. Anthony Fernandez filed to run for mayor of West St. Paul last week. So his word is even more important than ever.

With that in mind, I’m going to explore some of the contradictory public statements made by Anthony Fernandez that came in response to this issue. Continue reading Anthony Fernandez Shifts Story While Running for West St. Paul Mayor

Women Confront West St. Paul City Council

Last night’s West St. Paul city council meeting was incredible. Women came out in droves and packed the city council chambers—bearing tampons—to protest sexism.

More than 150 residents showed up (is that a record for a West St. Paul city council meeting?) and citizen comments went on for an hour and a half as women berated the sitting council members, detailing stories of harassment, mistreatment and—at best—neglect.

The tensions spilled over after the overt sexism on display at the previous city council meeting on April 23, but as Mayor Jenny Halverson testified (and former council member Darlene Lewis, who served from 2005 to 2012, confirmed), sexism has been an ongoing problem.

The tampons were part of a Pad Drive where feminine hygiene products were donated to a local food shelf (and over $2,600 was raised online), after the mayor and another citizen were harassed.

Many of the woman dressed in green and wore buttons quoting Mayor Halverson, “This will not be forgotten, folks!” Continue reading Women Confront West St. Paul City Council

Sexism in Committee Approvals in West St. Paul?

Last month controversy erupted in West St. Paul over allegations of sexism at city council. The story has received national attention and prompted a major charity effort that’s raised more than $2,000 for a local shelter.

The fireworks focused on the appointment of Samantha Green to the Planning Commission by Mayor Jenny Halverson, an appointment that was denied by the all male city council. I detailed the back and forth on that issue, and women are expected to rally to Halverson and Green at tonight’s council meeting.

I mentioned other committee appointments that didn’t happen that night, noting the four applications and four vacancies on the Environmental Committee, where only one person was appointed, and the 10 applications and three vacancies on the Parks & Recreation Committee, where only two people were appointed.

With tonight’s meeting agenda, we get the minutes from the Open Council Work Session (page 6 & 7) when those appointments were voted on. The council voted by secret ballot, so we don’t know who voted for whom, but it appears not everybody voted and there was a definite slant in who received votes.

There were twice as many male applicants as female applicants, yet men received nine times the votes as the women did.

Only three people—all men—received enough votes (four) to be appointed. Continue reading Sexism in Committee Approvals in West St. Paul?

District 197’s 2018 Bond Referendum: Vote Yes

District 197 has an bond referendum on the ballot May 8. They’re asking for $117 million for additions, renovations, and repairs at all schools.

So how much is this going to cost and what does it mean? Let’s take a look.

How Much Will It Go Up?

For a median value home ($237,200), your taxes will go up $87 per year, or $7 per month.

The district has a handy chart showing how much we’re paying right now:

District 197 tax comparison
Total 2017 school property taxes for a home valued at $200,000.

The proposed bond will increase taxes on a home valued at $200,000 by $77 per year. On this chart, that would raise us to $819, and past Inver Grove Heights by a whopping $20. We’d still be well below most of our neighbors and other metro districts.

It’s not a big increase. Continue reading District 197’s 2018 Bond Referendum: Vote Yes

West St. Paul City Council: Sexism in Appointee Debate?

The West St. Paul City Council meeting on April 23, 2018 was a curious descent into misogyny and sexism. It can be a little hard to follow city council meetings if you’re not aware of the entire history and context. Sometimes it seems our elected officials rely on that fact. You can always watch the video yourself (11:51 in the council video), but I’m going to try to clarify some of what happened.

Here’s the short version: Mayor Jenny Halverson appointed three people to fill vacancies on the Planning Commission. City council has to approve those appointments. In the past, mayoral appointments have mostly been honored, though that hasn’t been the case for Mayor Halverson. Two of Halverson’s appointments were confirmed, and a third was rejected. Two of the council members who voted ‘no,’ (Ed Iago and John Bellows), argued back in 2015 that mayoral appointments need to be honored.

That honor seems to have disappeared in 2018, during the term of West St. Paul’s first ever female mayor, while considering female appointments.

So let’s look at what happened in more detail. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council: Sexism in Appointee Debate?

Run for Public Office in West St. Paul: April 4

I’m organizing a run for public office in West St. Paul event along with some fellow citizens and the League of Women Voters-Dakota County. It’s a nonpartisan, informational meeting to learn more about running for city office, serving on committees, and volunteering with the city.

Mayor Jenny Halverson and a few city council members will be joining us to share their stories of running for public office and answer questions as a part of our moderated panel discussion.

The event is coming up pretty quick—Wednesday, April 4—primarily because the filing period is in May and there’s not a lot of time to decide if you want to run. Of course the event is open to anyone, whether you want to run this year or just some day.

Why?

I’m doing this because a lot of people don’t pay any attention to local politics. Yet the local level often has the greatest impact on your daily life. Roads, parks, trash collection, noise, and petty crime—that’s all local politics.

“If you love where you live (or if you hate where you live and want to fix it), you need to run for city council.” -Amanda Litman, Run for Something

Continue reading Run for Public Office in West St. Paul: April 4

Greenway Is Going Through

Last week the West St. Paul city council voted unanimously to approve the River-to-River Greenway tunnel. It’s a project I’ve been pushing since January. It’s great to see it finally moving forward.

Of course it’s not done yet. This is just the first step.

The plan was passed with all kinds of ifs and buts, but the hope is the tunnel goes through and development comes with it. Everybody wins.

We’ll keep pushing the tunnel with the WSP Greenway Project on Facebook.

Robert St. Tunnel: Invest in West St. Paul Without Raising Taxes

Right now the West St. Paul city council is debating the 2018 budget and a potential 10-12% levy increase. Yes, taxes are going to go up.

This really isn’t a surprise, especially since the city has been unable to secure state help in paying for the recent Robert Street reconstruction (I explored taxes vs. investment last year).

These are preliminary numbers and the city council and mayor are working to bring those numbers down—nobody wants a huge tax increase. They will wrangle over ways to slash the budget, including closing the city pool and Thompson Golf Course, delaying improvements to Marthaler Park and more.

Budget cuts are painful, no way around it. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to invest in West St. Paul without adding to the budget? 

Oh yeah, there is: The Robert Street Tunnel. Continue reading Robert St. Tunnel: Invest in West St. Paul Without Raising Taxes