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.
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.)
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).
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.
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.”
After the 2016 election, I not only felt defeated, but I felt raw and shocked and a bit stupid. I hadn’t done a damn thing to advocate for the causes I cared about, so it was no wonder they lost.
That was a bitter lesson.
After the 2018 election, I feel empowered. Winning certainly helps. But I was also involved in these races. We had major wins in our local races, which is where I spent most of my volunteer time. And I think that sense of empowerment is greater than any sense of victory. Because I also know what empowered loss feels like. We lost a hard primary, one where I thought I would regret all the effort wasted.
But you know what? A loss isn’t a wasted effort. All that energy, all that enthusiasm, all those connections—they can build something that lasts, even in defeat.
So let’s do a “quick” (ha!) morning day after review of the 2018 election. (I laugh because I was awake until 3 a.m. last night, unable to sleep as all the storylines kept playing in my head.)
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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).