Tag Archives: election

West St. Paul City Council Ward 1 Race: Pat Armon & Bob Pace

So I’ve written about the West St. Paul mayor, ward 2 and ward 3 city council races, so I might as well explore the ward 1 race and cover all the bases. Incumbent Pat Armon is running for reelection in ward 1 and is facing challenger Bob Pace.

Pat Armon works for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Bob Pace is the owner of Pace’s Tire and Service Center on Robert Street in West St. Paul.

Like other races in the city, I think this one comes down to investment versus low taxes. Pat Armon sees the long-term benefits of investment, that investing in infrastructure will raise property values and bring more business and residents to the city. Bob Pace argues that those investments are costing too much and rising property taxes will drive people away.

But there’s also an added element of experience that Pat Armon brings to the table. Neither of these candidates are career politicians. For a town of 20,000 people, our council members are regular citizens who pitch in. I don’t think we should expect city council candidates to know everything, but being knowledgeable and engaged is a big plus. There are areas where Bob Pace admits he doesn’t have answers yet (which is certainly better than faking it or giving us political jargon), and that’s where I think Pat Armon’s experience and expertise shines through. Continue reading West St. Paul City Council Ward 1 Race: Pat Armon & Bob Pace

John Justen: West St. Paul Ward 2 City Council Candidate

West St. Paul ward 2 city council candidate John Justen is doing a meet and greet at Carbone’s Pizza on Saturday, Oct. 29 from 3-5 p.m. What a great opportunity to meet a local candidate face to face and get your questions answered.

John Justen for Ward 2 City Council
Can we take a moment and recognize the brilliant pun in John Justen’s yard sign? “For Ward 2 City Council” or “Forward 2 City Council”—Nice.

John has been one of the truly interesting candidates in our local West St. Paul race. He’s a business owner impacted by Robert Street who doesn’t think it’s the worst thing ever. He also appeared on the Streets.mn podcast, totally nerding out with host Bill Lindeke for an hour about local development, business opportunity, city design, sidewalks and more. If you want to see an example of a knowledgeable and engaged candidate, take a listen.

I especially like his take on Robert Street from the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce candidate questionnaires:

“One lesson we can learn from the Robert Street reconstruction is that the delay of necessary spending increases results in higher costs in the long run. As a retail business owner, I make decisions about how and when to spend my money every day. As is true in business, our city’s success is based on frugal but forward looking investment. Fiscal responsibility does not mean doing nothing; it means recognizing needs and opportunities and responding to them in a timely and efficient manner.”

That, in a nutshell, is the Robert Street project. It had to be done. Delaying the inevitable just makes it cost more. So let’s seize the opportunity. I think mayoral candidate Jenny Halverson has the same investment-focused view.

I’m also appreciative of John Justen because he gave a comment for my Robert Street easement story that included an actual opinion. I understand the current council members and mayor were advised not to weigh in (rightfully so), but the other candidates were free to share their thoughts. Even if you disagree with John Justen, at least he weighed in.

John Justen is facing Anthony Fernandez for the Ward 2 city council seat, which is being vacated by Jenny Halverson’s run for mayor.

More on John Justen:

Mark Misukanis Education Mailer Completely Misleading

I guess I’ve taken it upon myself to call B.S. on local election lies this year.

Today’s misleading statement comes in an education-themed mailer from Republican Mark Misukanis, candidate for Minnesota State Senate District 52. He’s challenging Democrat Matt Klein for the seat formerly held by the late Jim Metzen.

Mark Misukanis education mailer attacking Matt Klein
An education-themed mailer from Mark Misukanis for Senate received on Oct. 25, 2016.

Continue reading Mark Misukanis Education Mailer Completely Misleading

Women Shattering Political Glass Ceilings in 2016

This year’s election has felt more divisive and caustic than previous elections. That’s no secret. So in such an environment, it’s helpful to focus on the positive: Women achieving public office.

On my ballot there are at least three women running for positions that a woman has never held before. I think that’s exciting.

I think it’s worth talking about these potential milestones, regardless of your political leanings.

Let’s take a moment to address why celebrating this kind of diversity is important. Continue reading Women Shattering Political Glass Ceilings in 2016

Is How I Feel About Trump How You Feel About Obama?

The presidential candidacy of Donald Trump scares me.  Like more than just the usual disagreement with someone with opposing political beliefs. This isn’t just pro-life vs. pro-choice or tax policy or foreign policy. It’s his proud racist/misogynistic/xenophobic views and his ‘I’m Trump, you suck’ demeanor.

And I’m not the only one scared of Trump.

This will be the fifth presidential election I’ve followed, and while I’ve disagreed with and spoken out against candidates, I’ve never been afraid of the possibility of one winning.

Maybe the scariest thing is that people are voting for Trump.

So here’s my honest question for my Republican friends: Is this how you feel about Obama?

I get being passionately opposed to Obama, but except for the crazies (He’s a Muslim! He’s wasn’t born in the U.S.! … and who led that crowd? Oh yeah, Trump.), I would guess that opposition is mostly policy based. Or do you find Obama that odious?

Trump just feels like something different. I keep expecting his campaign to deflate as people come to their senses, but it just isn’t happening. (Yet. Lord, let it be ‘yet.’)

So are Republicans just as horrified by Trump? Even though we disagree on a lot of issues, is being anti-Trump something we can all agree on?

Or is Trump saying things that a lot of conservatives agree with and he’s just doing so with brashness and bluster that pisses off (and scares) someone like me?

I guess I’m asking if this is a fringe, splinter movement like George Wallace in 1968 (the pro-segregation campaign that captured 13% of the popular vote and carried five states for 46 electoral votes, possibly swinging the election—though I’m no political historian, so that last bit is uninformed speculation)? Or is this relatively mainstream GOP, just in a brassier packaging?

We’re a pretty polarized country right now. But one of those options means we have some hope. The other means it’s just going to get worse.

(FYI: I don’t like writing about politics. It usually starts Internet fights and I bristle when other people do it, so I hate doing it myself.  But sometimes you can’t sit there wondering about it anymore.)

School District 197’s 2014 Tech/Security/Stadium Referendum

Apparently this is the year I blog about local election politics. Sheesh. I didn’t intend to get into these discussions, but it’s been so frustrating to get misleading information. It’s hard enough to research local elections, we shouldn’t have to wade through misleading info as well.

197 Referendum Facts

So School District 197 (West St. Paul, Eagan and Mendota Heights) has a referendum on the ballot to approve levies for three separate things—technology, security and a new stadium.

You can get the full details of the referendum here.

The technology portion covers student iPads and other equipment, as well as software and training (there’s lots of personalized instruction that can happen with technology these days, but you have to pay for it). The security levy is to upgrade school entrances and minimize the risk of school shootings. The stadium portion—which can only pass if the other two pass (very smart)—is to build a multi-use stadium at the high school. Currently the football team plays 2.5 miles away at one of the middle schools.

For a $200,000 home, this referendum will raise property taxes by $32 per year. The district has some helpful graphs showing our property taxes compared to surrounding districts, before and after the levy.

Continue reading School District 197’s 2014 Tech/Security/Stadium Referendum

West St. Paul Mayor Race: John Zanmiller vs. David Meisinger

(I’ve posted my thoughts on the 2016 West St. Paul Mayor race here.)

Local elections are usually yawn fests, but this year the race for mayor in the Twin Cities suburb of West St. Paul is heating up. incumbent West St. Paul Mayor John Zanmiller is facing off against former West St. Paul Mayor David Meisinger.

Zanmiller has served as West St. Paul’s major since 2005 and ran unopposed in the last election in 2012. Meisinger served as mayor from 2001-2002. (You can see Zanmiller and Meisinger together in this 2013 photo from a gathering of past West St. Paul mayors.)

The contentious issue in the 2014 West St. Paul mayor race? Robert Street.

Continue reading West St. Paul Mayor Race: John Zanmiller vs. David Meisinger

2012 Election Reflection

Obama family at 2012 election night acceptance speech

Presidential election night is such a nervous, glorious mishmash of emotions. I can think of no other event when something so big is decided so quickly. Sure, the election drags on forever, but despite the polls you never know for sure who’s going to win. Then everybody votes, we tally ’em up while some talking heads blather on, and it’s decided (usually: thank goodness for not repeating 2000). Done. The next four years are in place. History is written.

It’s big.

I have a hard time getting anything done on election day (that’s why I turned to a distraction). Even today I’ll need to process for a while (and I’m doing that here… get ready for a long post). Continue reading 2012 Election Reflection

The Stephanies is Available

The StephaniesAll the wild frenzy of the U.S. presidential election comes down to today. I’ve been blogging about it almost non-stop lately, but today it’s time to shut up and go vote. And then spend the rest of the day in a state of unnerved distraction, trying not to reload your favorite news site every 10 minutes (oh wait, is that just me?).

So today I’m launching an election distraction: The Stephanies is now available. You can go buy the print version, the digital version or the “color-your-own” version where you (or your kid) can be the illustrator.

The Story
The Stephanies is a short, goofy little story about two girls who are both named Stephanie. Sharing a name causes all kinds of problems and the two girls continually square off:

“My name is Stephanie!”

“No, my name is Stephanie!”

“Grr…” both girls grumbled.

It’s great fun. If you’re into children’s books, think more Robert Munsch than Margaret Wise Brown. This is the book my 6-year-old daughter and I wrote together and then published through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Good Cause
Proceeds from the original Kickstarter campaign went to Lexi’s college fund, but for the month of November we’re going to share. Half the profits from The Stephanies will go to First Book, an organization that gives kids in need access to books.

Watch Lexi Read
We also put together a fun video of Lexi reading The Stephanies:

Thanks & Please Review
I’d be remiss if I didn’t send out a big thank you to everyone who backed our Kickstarter campaign and made this project possible. Thank you!

I hope you’ll check out the book, give it a review on Amazon and tell your friends. Thanks!

Going Door-to-Door for Politicians: Interview with a Door Knocker

Janice Mekula Golding and Barack Obama

In the midst of the political season I find myself wavering between complete fascination with the political process and utter dread that it will never be over. Facebook usually only encourages the latter, but earlier this year I noticed something interesting. I recently found my long lost high school writing teacher, Janice Mekula Golding, on Facebook. When she wasn’t posting about glorious retirement in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, she was talking about going door-to-door and canvassing for the election.

A political door knocker? Yikes. I hate it when those people come to my door.

But then I started wondering: Why does she do it? Does it actually work? How many people actually listen and how many slam the door? Seemed like an opportunity to learn a bit about the world of volunteer political campaigning. I found it fascinating and encouraging. Maybe next time I’ll actually listen to the political campaigner who knocks on my door.

OK, let’s start with the basics: Who are you going door to door for? How often have you done it?

Janice Mekula Golding: I’m currently going door-to-door for the Democratic candidate for Michigan House in Grand Traverse County, a peripatetic little Energizer Bunny named Betsy Coffia. I got my training in 2007-2008 as a full-time volunteer for Barack Obama in 13 states, where I probably knocked 200 to 400 doors per day, 10-15 times per month. My current campaign has held a canvass at least every other week since June, with a different purpose each time.

Why? Why door knocking as a political strategy?

Janice: Door-knocking is as old as campaigning itself, based on the principle that one smile is worth a thousand brochures or a hundred phone calls. The benefit of the personal testimonial is well known in advertising. If your neighbor raves about her new dentist, you’ll be more likely to go there than if you read about it on the Internet.

What does it look when you’re going door to door? What do you say to people? What are you hoping to get them to do?

Janice: The experience of going door-to-door varies from day to day, depending on the neighborhood and the campaign objective. A new candidate will need to gauge and/or establish name recognition: “Hi, I’m Jan from over in the Old Mission neighborhood. Have you heard of that awesome new woman who’s challenging Wayne Schmidt for State Rep in our district?” We record the answers on a check sheet to be entered into our computer database for analysis and appropriate strategizing. Another canvassing session may concentrate on determining which issues are most important to voters, and clarifying our candidate’s position on those issues, even offering to research the topic and report back or have the candidate give the voter a call (in a small, local race). Later in a campaign, the goal is ensuring that our friendlies are registered and know where and when to vote. In training, we emphasize to our volunteers that door-knocking is merely sharing our enthusiasm and personal stories with neighbors (or fellow concerned citizens, if we’re out of our own locality). Often, the most effective political strategy is simply to listen. Believe it or not, most people are receptive or at least polite. Especially when it’s raining.

Is this actually effective? Are you changing people’s minds?

Janice: This technique can be highly effective, if organized correctly. Preparation and training are key. If the campaign has access to a database of voter information, certain demographics can be targeted in advance (registered Democrats or Independents, age range, those who voted in recent primaries, those who pledged to vote for us, etc.). Volunteers must be familiarized with the candidate’s background and positions, the objective of the particular canvass, and principles of safety. Often, a canvasser’s job is not to change minds, but to disseminate and collect information.

[Check out Janice’s training video for the Coffia campaign.]

What was your worst door knocking experience?

Warning: If you can read this--you are in range.Janice: Door-knocking horror stories abound, from unleashed dobermans to unleashed racists. One of my colleagues was tackled to the turf by a 6-foot tumbleweed in Butte, Mont.! My personal favorite was the home sporting a poster of gun sight cross hairs reading, “If you can read this—you are in range.” Needless to say, I backed off that porch. Slowly. With my hands up.

What was your best door knocking experience?

Janice: Best experiences? I couldn’t pick just one! From the Massachusetts voter who left me with a bag of Granny Smith apples and a home-baked pie, to the disabled man who told me tearfully that no candidate had ever sent a canvasser deep into his wooded cabin to ask his opinion about handicap access problems in Keene, N.H., to the Texas senior citizen with an oxygen tank at her side, a lit cigarette dangling from her lips, and a hyper-kinetic poodle who liked his dog biscuits pre-chewed, door-knocking is one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life. (And yes, I did pre-chew. Hey, she was busy filling out her absentee ballot for Barack Obama.)

What has all that door knocking accomplished?

Janice: What have all of our blisters accomplished? Well, Betsy Coffia went from a social worker with a 4.5 percent name recognition to the landslide winner of the Democratic primary, over a candidate backed by the county Democratic Party. And oh yeah—there’s that guy in the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue…