Voters across the Twin Cities arrived at the polls at sunrise on Tuesday morning to cast ballots on a variety of local races including school referendums, City Council and county commission seats.
A steady line of voters streamed into the North Dale Community Center on Tuesday morning to vote on the future of St. Paul’s organized trash service as well as a City Council race. Community center staff said voter turnout appeared brisk for an odd-year election with all local races.
Gretchen Zampogna said she voted yes to keep the organized trash system. She concedes the new system needs tweaking but said, “Let’s not throw things into chaos.”
Zampogna said she likes that fewer garbage trucks come rumbling down her street each week and she appreciates that her garbage and recycling pickup is now on the same day.
“It’s simple and convenient,” she said.
But Kathleen Hoffman was a strong “no” vote, saying the City Council didn’t listen to its residents who zealously opposed organized trash.
“There was no input from the people,” Hoffman said. “This isn’t just about garbage. It wasn’t done democratically.”
If St. Paul voters approve the organized trash collection ordinance, the plan is expected to continue unchanged, with property owners billed by their hauler every three months. If voters say no, the city’s contract with haulers will continue — city leaders say it is unaffected by the vote — but with the cost transferred to property taxes.
Ron Steave said he’s not too pleased with his new trash service. The retiree pays $63 every three months for trash pickup every other week. He begrudgingly voted yes because he’s worried the city will still be paying haulers for the organized trash contract even if residents vote down the ordinance.
“It scared me what they said about raising taxes,” Steave said.
To the north, residents in White Bear Lake Area Schools were voting on a $326 million school bond request — the largest in state history.
Brad Leafblad cast a yes vote at White Bear Lake City Hall on Tuesday morning.
“I think the schools are at a point where they need to be updated,” Leafblad said.
He especially supports expanding the high school so grades 9 through 12 can be under one roof.
Cathy Lydon also voted yes. She has three children enrolled in the district.
She said keeping the school district strong is critical to maintaining home values. She also thinks its best for the kids. She said she’s not too worried about increased property taxes.
“Taxes are high everywhere,” Lydon said. “It is what it is.”
In Duluth, a steady stream of voters got up early to hit the polls before work. Though the temperature was in the mid-20s Tuesday morning, a man stood on the corner of London Road and N 21st Ave. E attempting to catch the eye of drivers on the 8 a.m. commute by waving a sign for City Council candidate Derek Medved.
At Woodland Community Center in East Duluth, an election judge said 230 people had voted by 9:30 a.m.
Half a dozen at the site said they cast their ballots for incumbent Mayor Emily Larson, who is seeking a second term at the city’s helm.
Larson’s efforts to raise funds to fix city streets helped earn the vote of Kristina Frigaard, 37, who also wanted to support Duluth’s first female mayor.
“She’s done a lot for our city, and I just want her to continue,” Frigaard said.
Dean Kjellberg, 87, cast his ballot for Larson’s challenger David Nolle, a former executive director for Boy Scouts of America, because he thinks the mayor has raised taxes too much.
“I’d rather have anyone else in there than her,” he said.
More than 150 people had voted by 10 a.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church in West Duluth, including Sara Eder, who wanted to make sure Larson won another term.
Kim Swanstrom also voted to retain Larson and City Councilor Noah Hobbs, and cast votes for Janet Kennedy and Medved.
“I think it’s important to vote if you want to see positive changes in your city,” she said.
During the last Duluth City Council election in 2017, voter turnout was about 28%. In the last mayoral race in 2015, turnout was just shy of 43%.