There have been a number of great recent additions to Minnesota’s Capital City, including the Green Line light-rail line, CHS Field and new residential and entertainment options downtown. And on Friday, St. Paul officials confirmed that a soccer stadium will be built in the Midway area.
Despite the progress, the city faces challenges, including public safety concerns after a rash of shootings, complaints about declining basic services, concerns about too few living-wage jobs and objections to top-down decisions made without citizen input.
Eighteen candidates will be on the ballot Nov. 3 for the City Council’s seven open seats. The Editorial Board’s endorsements are based on candidate interviews and additional reporting. The two candidates who are running unopposed were not interviewed. Here are our picks:
In this diverse, central-city district, incumbent Dai Thao, 40, should be re-elected. He first came to office two years ago in a special election to fill out the term of Melvin Carter III. Thao is an IT manager for a local nonprofit and is known for his responsive constituent services. Though he remains on a learning curve about some city operations, he works hard on social justice, jobs, affordable housing, road and pedestrian safety, and parks and green space. That makes him a good fit for the ward. Thao is being challenged by Trahern Crews, 41, a spokesman for the Green Party who did not attend an interview with the Editorial Board.
Dave Thune’s decision not to seek re-election to the seat he’s held for 20 years opened the door for a flock of first-time candidates. His successor should be Darren Tobolt, 43, an aide to a Ramsey County commissioner, a former St. Paul DFL Party chair, and a district council veteran. He is knowledgeable about city budgeting and has worked on successful projects in juvenile crime prevention, pedestrian safety, bike trails, and housing and commercial redevelopment.
Rebecca Noecker, 31, is a city planning commissioner with roots in education. She is smart, energetic and well-versed on the issues. But Tobolt has more experience and could easily step right into the job.
Patrick Fearing, 56, Bill Hosko, 53, and Michael Johnson, 36, are running but declined endorsement interview requests. Perennial candidate Sharon Anderson, 76, is also running.
Council President Russ Stark, 42, should be re-elected. He’s done good work on transit, energy and environmental issues, including championing improvements to the city’s recycling program. His challenger is Tom Goldstein, 58, an attorney and former St. Paul school board member who’s a vocal stadium critic.
Incumbent Amy Brendmoen, 45, should be returned to office in what can arguably be called the most contentious of the council races. The former city communications director and mediator is seeking a second term to continue work on public safety, housing and economic development. She chairs the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority and wants to focus more resources on the neighborhoods to make them “vibrant, safe and walkable.’’
Her major opponent is David Glass, 64, who filed a breach-of-contract suit against the city when parks officials declined to renew his cafe contract at Como Park. Glass, who partly blamed Brendmoen for the dispute, won that battle when the council awarded him an $800,000 settlement.
In forums and other appearances, the tension between the two is clear. Glass says he’s running in part because people are “tired’’ of heavy-handed city decisions like the one that canceled his contract. He says city leaders need to build better public partnerships, improve community policing and make better, more collaborative decisions.
Brendmoen said people tell her that the settlement may have been worth it because the new restaurant, Como Dockside, is making more money for the city and the new vendor than Glass’ operation did.
Also running for the Fifth Ward seat is David Sullivan-Nightengale, 42, a disabled veteran with an engineering background.
Longtime East Side councilman Dan Bostrom, 75, has two challengers for his sixth race. However, neither makes a strong case to unseat the incumbent. A retired police sergeant and former school board member, Bostrom has deep roots in his district and a long list of accomplishments, including new housing, parks and recreational facilities, and the Phalen Corridor development. We don’t always agree with his positions — including his recent opposition to locating a mental health facility in his ward. But on balance, Bostrom is a strong advocate for his district and the city. His challengers are Kevin Bradley, 58, a counselor and interfaith chaplain, and Edward Davis, 48, a substitute teacher and community organizer.
Third Ward incumbent Chris Tolbert, 32, is the sole candidate for the district that covers the southwest corner of the city. And in the Seventh Ward, attorney and former council aide Jane Prince, 61, is running unopposed to fill the seat held by former council President Kathy Lantry.
Incumbents Thao, Bostrom, Stark and Tolbert won DFL endorsement, as has newcomer Prince. The competition for DFL support in Wards 2 and 5 resulted in no endorsement from the party. Crews has Green Party support, and Sullivan-Nightingale is endorsed by the Independence Party.
The Nov. 3 election will be the third race in St. Paul — and the second City Council election — to use ranked-choice voting, where voters may list up to six candidates in order of preference.