West St. Paul roundabouts

Medians & Roundabouts—Oh My: Where Do 2018 West St. Paul Candidates Stand?

The general election is coming faster than we think. In just over a month, on November 6, we’ll be voting for mayor and three city council seats here in West St. Paul. I’ve been asking our local candidates some questions to see where they stand on the issues.

Earlier we covered Robert Street debt and Pride flags. Now let’s talk about the ever-popular topics of medians and roundabouts (I wrote a post earlier this year pointing out the safety improvements we’ve seen from medians on Robert Street):

Medians and roundabouts are some of the tools that have been used to increase safety and improve traffic flow, both in West St. Paul and throughout the state. But not everybody likes these solutions. What—if anything—should the city do when solutions that prove effective aren’t necessarily popular?

I sent that question to [most of] the candidates on September 5 and gave them September 26 as a deadline. Here are their responses:

Candidates for Mayor

There are two candidates for mayor: Anthony Fernandez and Dave Napier.

Anthony Fernandez

(campaign site)

We should listen to our engineers while also listening to our residents. Many times, there are solutions to deal with both safety and concerns from residents but that requires community engagement. As Mayor, I will work to engage with the community as much as possible and connect staff and consultants with the residents.

Dave Napier

(campaign site)

With the example of Robert Street medians, we relied on the transportation experts from MNDOT and the multiple transportation studies performed over a long period of time, producing significant safety results. The medians would eliminate 90% of all left turns. A majority of the accidents on Robert Street where left turn related. With those facts and eight million dollars from the federal government, it was an easy decision to add the medians to the Robert Street project. As it relates to other projects, I would seek out support information to help make the decisions that are in the best interest of the city. Safety is always going to be my number one concern when making these decisions.

Candidates for Ward 1 City Council

There is only one candidate for Ward 1: Dick Vitelli is running unopposed.

Dick Vitelli

(no campaign site)

Effective tools need to be used, people need to accept change.

Candidates for Ward 2 City Council

There are two candidates for Ward 2: John Justen and Jim Probst.

John Justen

(campaign site)

The most important thing that the city can do is share facts and information with the citizens regarding these solutions. While there is always a transitional period while people become accustomed to unfamiliar changes in the road, those are small factors when compared to the safety of our citizens. I believe that if the safety statistics were more readily available, this would shift the conversation in a more positive direction. In the particular examples here, we should also make sure that people understand that in many cases financial assistance and grants require improved safety measures such as these. If we want to seek all sources of alternate funding to limit additional tax burden on our citizens (which I will always support), we need to follow certain guidelines.

Jim Probst

(no campaign site)

We need to look at each project individually, no two situations are the same. What works well on Wentworth may not work on Thompson. We need to listen to the experts as well as the community.

Candidates for Ward 3 City Council

There are two candidates for Ward 3: Wendy Berry and David Meisinger.

Wendy Berry

(campaign site)

Change is hard. It’s even harder when it disrupts your day-to-day habits like turning left into Granny Donuts or all of a sudden having to slow down while turning in a half circle to get through the Wentworth and Oakdale intersection. Something that helps people adapt to change is giving them information. By providing the people that live here the opportunity to learn about different things that they’ll be using on a daily basis, especially when it can be a brand new concept, it could help ease that anxiety. It could easily be put together as part of a city council open house, as part of the West St. Paul newsletter that goes out regularly, or even communicated out in neighborhood meetings led by city council members. Information and knowledge are powerful things and city council members should know how important it is to provide these things to the residents of the city.

David Meisinger

(no campaign site)

[Per a request from David Meisinger threatening to report me to the police for harassment if I ever contact him again, I did not ask Meisinger this question and therefore have no response to share.]

Vote on November 6

The general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. The West St. Paul city website has details on where and how to vote, including a handy ward map in case you’re wondering which ward you live in. You can also vote early with an absentee ballot, either by mail or by stopping at the Dakota County offices.

If you’d like more information on the candidates, there have been and will be several candidate forums:

Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to my questions.

(Full disclosure: I have donated to the campaigns of Dave Napier and Wendy Berry.)

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