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?

2018 Reading Statistics

I’ve given my total reading numbers for 2018 and my favorite fiction and non-fiction books, now it’s time to look at some stats.

I’ve been tracking my reading stats for a while. It’s a good way to actually gauge my progress and encourage diversity in the books I read.

Counting these numbers can be hard, but here’s how I do it: I base gender on the author, counting a book if any contributor is a woman. For race I count a book if a contributor or main character is a person of color.

Here are my numbers for 2018:

  • 55% POC books.
  • 70% female authors.

Here’s how that compares to previous years:

Graph of 2018 female authors and POC books.

It’s also helpful to compare it to my total reading:

Chart of total reading, female authors, and POC books for 2018.

It’s encouraging to see these numbers stay high. POC books slipped a bit from last year, but having it over 50% is good. The percentage of female authors hit a new high. That might not seem like a number worth paying attention to in the 21st century, but I’ve had years when J.K. Rowling was the only female author I read. Continue reading 2018 Reading Statistics

Top 7 Non-Fiction of 2018

I read 101 books in 2018 and about a quarter were non-fiction. I often say I don’t like non-fiction as much, but I still manage to read a fair amount.

Here are some of the year’s best:

  1. Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself by Amanda Litman – It’s quite fitting to have this guide for running for political office in the top spot in the year of the 2018 midterm elections when I became more politically engaged than I’ve ever been (and no, I’m not running for office).
  2. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown – Straight talk on race.
  3. The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright – A funny memoir on being a missionary.
  4. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison – Some engaging vignettes and illustrations.
  5. For Every One by Jason Reynolds – Inspiration from a prolific writer.
  6. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King Jr. – Reading about the nuts and bolts of an incredible civil rights campaign is pretty amazing.
  7. Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World by the Women’s March Organizers and Conde Nast – And reading more nuts and bolts about an incredible protest is also pretty amazing.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

And how about previous top 10 non-fiction lists: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

Top 10 Fiction of 2018

I may have read 101 books in 2018, but I’ve been in an ongoing reading slump. Makes it harder to choose a top 10.

I think I made the same complaint last year. These are good books, but I’m not sure they’re books I’d run up and down the street with. Those are becoming harder and harder to find.

I’m also not sure how well these lists hold up over time. After all, I did put Octavia Butler’s Kindred at #6 in my 2013 list. It’s probably one of my favorite books.

But aside from all that, I think it is a fun collection of books.

  1. Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray – A robot falls in love would be the cliche way to pitch this book, but it was a much more fun and engaging adventure than that trite description would have you believe.
  2. A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeleine L’Engle – I love the way L’Engle weaves this whole complicated story together.
  3. All Systems Red by Martha Wells – The opening chapter of the Murderbot diaries is gripping, fast-paced and fun.
  4. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan – This was a lovely little book. It also has cliche potential, but it was just a wonderful tale.
  5. A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain – I almost wrote this one off early, but it really shines.
  6. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland – Zombies in the Civil War. Need I say more?
  7. Front Lines by Michael Grant – If women were drafted in World War II. It’s an interesting thought experiment and artfully executed.
  8. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – A beautifully written bit of speculative fiction (this is the kind of book that helps you understand the difference between sci-fi and speculative fiction).
  9. Sunny by Jason Reynolds – My favorite installment of the Track series, this one just has a delightful quality.
  10. The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata – A fast-paced futuristic military thriller.

And let’s give an honorable mention to What Alice Forgot by Alice Moriarty. I had a rocky time reading it (listened to part of the audio book, slept through some of it, then read the rest), but I really liked the way it explored the overdone amnesia ground in a fresh way.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

And how about previous top 10 fiction lists: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

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

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.