Category Archives: Twin Cities

West St. Paul City Council Recap: Feb. 25, 2019

This week’s West St. Paul City Council meeting didn’t seem to have any major items on the agenda, but there were still several noteworthy items. So let’s do a quick recap of the Feb. 25, 2019 meeting.

Food Drive: South Side vs. West Side

In a bit of friendly competition, the West St. Paul city council has challenged the South St. Paul city council to see who can bring in more food and donations in support of the Neighbors Inc. food shelf. The losing city council will wear the hockey jersey of the winning city’s team at a meeting. So it’s South St. Paul High School Packers vs. Henry Sibley High School Warriors. You can find more details including a list of places to bring food or donations online.

It’s been reported that Neighbors Inc. has lost an $89,000 grant from United Way, so they could definitely use the extra support this year. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Recap: Feb. 25, 2019

How Much Do Election Campaigns Cost in West St. Paul?

We had a competitive and heated election season in West St. Paul, Minn., in 2018. That hasn’t always been the case, but it also means an increase in costs.

Let’s take a look at the cash spent in recent elections in West St. Paul.

Most Expensive Election?

2018 at nearly $37,700 total. Only one race was uncontested and there was an extremely expensive primary in ward 3 where all four candidates spend over $2,000.

I only looked at data going back to 2008, but given inflation and the rising cost of campaigns, it’s likely the most expensive election season in West St. Paul history (I don’t quite have the data to verify it, but I’m pretty confident). Continue reading How Much Do Election Campaigns Cost in West St. Paul?

I Support Lisa Eng-Sarne for the Open West St. Paul City Council Seat

With the election of council member Dave Napier to mayor, West St. Paul will have an open city council seat. According to state law and city charter, the mayor and council can appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Napier’s term (ends in 2020).

West St. Paul is currently accepting applications for this position. The newly elected council and mayor will consider the applicants and vote for a new city council member. Unlike normal city business, the mayor gets a vote in this process and there is no veto.

Democracy Adjacent

These appointment situations are always a little odd because we the people don’t get to elect our representative. We have a voice in the process through our other elected representatives, but it kind of side-steps democracy. (As an example of this democracy side-step: Of the six elected representatives voting to pick my new representative, only two of them actually represent me; the other four were elected by the people of wards 1 and 2.)

It’s democracy adjacent. Continue reading I Support Lisa Eng-Sarne for the Open West St. Paul City Council Seat

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