Welcome to City Hall Scoop, a Pioneer Press blog focused on city and county government in St. Paul. Reporters Tim Nelson and Robert Ingrassia use this space to expand the daily local government coverage they provide for the Pioneer Press. Look for short takes on news of the day, feature tidbits on politicians and other City Hall personalities and advance notice of events. Check back early and often for City Hall news you won't see anywhere else.
Friday, August 26, 2005
The mail - mostly other people's, anyway - has been seriously piling up here at the Scoop, so we thought we'd clear out the inbox today. Here's a quick rundown: ABSENTEE BALLOTS - The Kelly campaign has already started an absentee ballot campaign, mailing out applications. "I urge you to fill it this out, check both boxes for the Primary and General Election and send it immediately," the accompanying letter, signed by the mayor, says. AFSCME - The public employees union's political action committee is sending out a pre-primary mailing for Chris Coleman, reminding members of his opposition to the "Compete St. Paul" privatization effort lead by then-mayor Norm Coleman while Chris Coleman was on the city council. "COURAGE" - A mailing by the Kelly campaign this week is an 8 1/2 by 11 card, showing a profile portrait of the mayor, headlined with "COURAGE." It hits his usual campaign themes, like public safety, education, taxes, help for seniors and Housing 5,000. But most of the text is devoted to defending his Republican ties to President Bush, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. "I know that rankles some folks who believe we should be divided in this country by political party designation. The fact is, when all is said and done, if I can help Saint Paul by reaching out across party lines, I will do it." EDUCATION - The Scoop's spouse also this week got a window envelope with her name and address and a letter from Kelly about public education. Kelly came out publicly against the school board levy in 2002 but proposed another levy on his own this February - an offer the school board declined. The letter is signed by only one school board member, Tom Conlon but also by former City Council president Bill Wilson, who is now head of the Higher Ground Academy charter School on Marshall Avenue. If you get any interesting campaign mail. Or any, for that matter, from any other candidates, tell the Scoop about it. Email email@example.com or mail it to The Scoop at 345 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55101.
The Scoop has in the past few days acquired a new news toy, a Marantz PMD660 digital recorder, purchased at the suggestion of Minnesota Public Radio reporter Tom Scheck. (The Scoop officially offers a nod here to his infinite wisdom in all things audio and Boston Marathon.) This particular model supercedes the Marantz PM-222 cassette deck on which the Scoop has relied for much audio and interviewing, and while its quaint white-needled recording meter will be sorely missed, this is VERY good news for you, gentle reader. Starting next week, it will be contributing to some of the many FREE UPGRADES you'll see on this site and in online political coverage by the Pioneer Press. Cityhallscoop.com will be moving to a new blog provider, to Typepad, which will make it much easier to put up postings and hopefully clear up some of the Blog jams this site has encountered as it gathers steam. Just point your browser to cityhallscoop.com now and you won't miss a thing. We'll clear out Robert Ingrassia, now moved into the lofty ranks of newspaper management and probably introduce you to a new Scoop contributor. We'll also link you to a dedicated site on the St. Paul mayor's race, which will include archives and extras like online-only photos and audio (that's where the new toy comes in), as well as video from our colleagues at TwinCities.com. And last, but not least, we'll be adding an RSS feed, so that you can be up to date every time we post to cityhallscoop.com. Stay tuned. We've got lots more to come.
Someone is leaving some rather scurrilous communication around town, tacked to Randy Kelly for Mayor signs.
Kelly's son and campaign manager, Ryan, condemned the vandalism at a press conference this afternoon -- the second wave that's struck their campaign. (You might remember the "Supports Bush" graffiti we posted here a few weeks back.)
This new series of incidents involves letters with state seals and printed on authentic-looking city letterhead (listing the old address for the department of Licensing, Inspection and Environmental Protection, no less) and stuck to Kelly for Mayor campaign signs.
"I don't have any leadership ability, their has been negative business growth and negative job growth for the working poor. I'm not going to help the working poor; there is no hope for them. There is no welfare, or general assistance for the working poor, this is way their so much crime in the metro area. It has become unsurvivalable for the working poor. We want the working poor to go to prison, so they will suffer. We have a poverty crisis, but I'm not going to help the unemployable working poor. If you're pooor, I want you leave Minnesota. Our state of Minnesota is Billions in debt and this debt is hurting everyone. I want to jade the middle class and abuse the working poor. Many of the working poor have been out of work for years, I don't care."
"I want to make this city look beautiful, but I want to see you working poor suffer in poverty. I'm going to waste millions, but accomplish nothing for the middle class and the working poor."
The message ends with a common obscenity directed at the reader, followed by Mayor Kelly's name.
Ryan Kelly suggested that it was "highly organized" and said that the campaign received about a dozen complaints. "It's illegal. It's offensive. It's obscene. It's full of lies and slander," he said. "These type of political scare tactics are bringing St. Paul's political discourse to an all time low."
The Coleman campaign said they were equally disappointed in what's been happening on the lawn sign front, noting that they lost 30 lawn signs along Maryland Avenue this week.
"It's totally targeted on the East Side," said Coleman campaign manager Kris Fredson. "They just don't seem to want to allow any demonstration that Randy might be weak over there."
"A totally rewarding driving experience, like no other luxury car's."
Since St. Paul is thinking about putting the city's drivers under the lens of photo cop, maybe its time to share a couple of shots that have come into the Scoop's possession lately. Here's the first one: This brand new Audi A6 was parked in the mayor's spot at 9 a.m. this morning in place of his official Ford sedan. This picture is actually from several weeks ago, when the Scoop spotted the car sitting in front of City Hall with the Maplewood Imports plaque still on the license plate holder. It's the "3.2" version of the just-about-top-of-the-line Audi sedan, which rings up at the register for $42,600, according to the Audi.com website. The headline at the top of this item is a quote from the MotorWeek blurb on the Audi website. Kelly staff members have told the Scoop that this new Audi belongs to St. Paul's first lady, Katherine Kelly, a ranking school administrator. It did have the mayor's blue "R. Kelly" parking permit on the dash, however. Regardless of its ownership, there is a political point here, as one Scoop reader noted: If you consider an election campaign a job interview, the Kelly family seems to feel pretty good about the mayor's chances of landing a good position in the immediate future. Maybe they know something about the election that the rest of us don't yet.
Signs, Signs, everywhere the signs We're a little late on getting this up, with all the activity of the last couple of days, but here's a shot of the front yard at Ward 4 council member Jay Benanav's house.
He apologized, as he looked it over, for not having the John Brodrick sign up to complete the trio of DFL endorsed school board candidates. But he was making no bones about the Green Party mayoral candidate displayed front and center. Benanav says he's a DFLer. He ran for mayor with the DFL endorsement and the support of Progressive Minnesota in 2001. Both organizations are now backing former City Council member Chris Coleman. "It's not mine," Benanav said of the sign. "I can't get him [his son, Sam] to take it down for anything. I continue to remain on the sidelines here. Chris has not asked for my support. The mayor did. He called me two days after the convention and asked for my support. I politely declined. But it is my son's lawnsign. And you know 16-year-olds. If I asked him to take it down, he'd put up three more."
The Scoop got a call back from MDS Communications president Jay Mount this afternoon, who said that the autodialer survey the Scoop told you about earlier was in fact coming from his company, on behalf of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the pro-life political powerhouse based in Minneapolis. The calls are going to St. Cloud, St. Paul, Duluth and southwestern Minnesota, "a number of places that we think there will be a lot of political action," said MCCL executive director Scott Fischbach, when contacted by the Scoop. "Is it done for the St. Paul mayor's race? No. Is it done with the knowledge that there is an election happening there? Sure." He said, though, that the calling is part of the organization's continuing statewide Citizen Action Project, an effort that dates back more than 25 years. "It's to help identify who's with us," he said of the calls.
The Scoop has come into possession of a partial recording of an automated survey call recently placed to a phone in St. Paul a few days ago.
The three-question battery seems to be asking respondents to indicate by pressing a number their opposition to or support for abortion rights, their feelings about abortion law and whether or not they vote on the basis of their position on abortion rights. (Again, the recording is incomplete.)
The automated survey offered a garbled call-back number, most of which tracks back to a telephone fundraising outfit called MDS Communications, with offices in Mesa, Ariz, and Bakersfield, Calif.
The firm's website categorizes its clients as "Christian Ministries," and "International Relief & Development Ministries and Organizations," and "Conservative Public Policy Organizations" and "Political Organizations." The latter two include the National Right to Life Committee and Concerned Women for America, as well as the Republican National Committee. Check it out at http://www.mdscom.com/
(MDS director of marketing, Shelley Nelson, took the Scoop's phone number and promised to get someone to call back about the poll. Nothing back so far, though. Stay tuned.)
Hard to tell what's going on there, since it's an off-election year. There are really only two political contests underway: the nomination of federal judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court and the local city races.
The Minneapolis mayor's race doesn't seem to have much stake in exploring the nuances of the abortion rights debate in that city. Both R.T. Rybak and Peter McLaughlin are abortion rights supporters, according to prochoiceminnesota.org (http://www.prochoiceminnesota.org/assets/files/mplsmayor_dfl.pdf). But there is a difference in St. Paul.
Mayor Randy Kelly is a firm opponent of abortion rights. He is a regular speaker at the annual pro-life rally at the Capitol on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He is also a charter member of the Democrats for Life movement here in Minnesota.
Chris Coleman was a board member for the Minnesota chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League in the 1990s, and Elizabeth Dickinson is an abortion rights supporter and did some lobbying at the Capitol for the Minnesota Aids Project on comprehensive sexual education.
None of the campaigns on Monday, though, claimed any association with the polling. "We have no idea what this is," said Kelly campaign spokesman Vince Muzik. "Not me!" said Elizabeth Dickinson.
"Absolutely not," said Coleman campaign spokesman Bob Hume.
If you get any such calls, or want to pass along any candidate contact you have, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Scoop continues to hear rumors that U.S. Sen. John Kerry may come to town on behalf of mayoral candidate Chris Coleman. The Bush endorsement of last August continues to turn at the center of those opposing Kelly. Because it was pretty much Randy Kelly and Zell Miller on the Democratic side for the president last fall, Kerry could make the rounds of aisle-crossers pretty quickly, since Miller left office in January. "We're not prepared to say anything about that right now," says Coleman spokesman Bob Hume. He did hint, however, that the campaign thinks it might top Kelly's one-day fund fest on Summit Avenue, the gathering with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley that reportedly netted $100,000 in one fell swoop. It would take a big headliner for that kind of cash.
It looks like the Kelly campaign is enlisting the aid of the U.S. Postal Service to get out the blizzard of campaign literature the mayor's supporters are distributing around St. Paul. The Scoop has recently been made aware of a large 11-by-17 card, folded in quarters, with this on one face: "Success. Some people measure it by what they did yesterday. Randy Kelly measures it by what he will do tomorrow." It has a black and white profile picture of the mayor. The piece's mailing permit makes it look like it was sent out bulk rate. The mailing label has a bar code and a "Or Current Resident" tag on it. That probably means that it's the first mass mailing of the campaign season. It's enough to lift a blogger's heart. Check your mail! You may already be a winner!
The Duddingston brothers, Dan and Dave, as well as Dan's bride, Lara, were up at Overlook Park on Summit Avenue for this morning for the official kickoff of their campaign to gather pledges to vote against Mayor Randy Kelly.
"We mean it this time," Dan said earlier this week, as he rallied the protesters outside the Daley fundraiser for the mayor.
It was a small event, between rain showers, but had some interesting information. The Duddingstons said that they've given out about 200 of their 1,000 "Republican Randy" signs and that they're getting inquiries about obtaining large quantitites of the signs and hinted they're happy to get more.
Dan also made an interesting admission during the presser across the street from the University Club. "I actually voted for Kelly last time," he said. Nothing like a Ward 1 voter scorned.
Lara Duddingston read off a litany of grievances with the Bush administration: the federal government has underfunded the St. Paul public school system by $13 million, the Bush administration ended the COPS program that paid for additional local police officers and Homeland Security funding has dropped precipitously in the last year. (She was sporting one of those stamped rubber wristbands today, a blue one that read "DEMOCRAT.")
Most amazing, though, is that this may very well be the only political movement in St. Paul run by two nearly indistinguishable twins. Thankfully, they wore different colored shirts under their dark blazers today, or the Scoop would have never been able to get their mugshots straight. Take a look for yourself.
The Recall Randy folks, dormant for months since a failed attempt to recall the mayor for his endorsment of President Bush, are apparently set to make a reappearance in St. Paul politics tonight. Their website, which the Scoop noticed had gotten a recent updating, says the Recall Randy supporters are hosting a gathering of "true Democrats" across the street from the Kelly fundraiser featuring Chicago Mayor Richard Daley tonight. The 5 p.m. gathering will be at 245 Summit Ave., across the street from the James J. Hill House and just a few doors down from the home of Richard and Nancy Nicholson, who are hosting the official 5:50 p.m. Kelly fundraiser. Republicans Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman are listed as "special guests" on the invitation. "Let's all stop looking at the elephant in the middle of the room and pretending that it is not there," says the group's website.
Dave Thune's son Dusty got married in Irvine Park this weekend, and from all accounts, the Ward 2 City Council member got down like few other fathers of the groom. His Backstreet Boogie Band played the wedding on Saturday night. (They played "Here Comes the Sun" for the first dance between the bride and groom, by the way.) St. Paulites familiar with the Harley-driving, boot-stomping council member will recall the band also played for one of his election fundraisers (Were his son's marriage to meet with such success. OK, maybe not quite that close a finish at the polls.) The band also played the classic rock stage at the Taste of Minnesota, "It was a great night," said Thune. "It's just one more thing a dad can do for his kid."
Elizabeth Dickinson had a press conference this morning in front of the Xcel Energy Center, saying the city ought to squeeze some more out of its $17 million franchise agreement the arena's sponsoring electric and natual gas utility. You can hear the statement she made by clicking here.
And if you can't even spare a mere nine minutes of your political life listening to the file, here are her remarks, as provided by the Dickinson campaign. (If you haven't heard Dickinson speak, by the way, you ought to. The Scoop has heard her live three or four times, and this woman can seriously orate. A former actor, she may have the best speaking voice of any politician in town.)
"Today I want to offer key elements of a plan for keeping the City of St. Paul financially stable and restoring core city services including police, fire, public works and parks and recreation, while reducing pollution, and improving public health.
"I'm here to draw attention to some ways to improve St. Paul and St. Paul's revenue stream that have not been brought up by the other candidates.
"Mayor Kelly has proposed a budget that doesn't fully respond to years of decline in city services. That decline is largely because of reductions in local government aid. Ironically, tonight Governor Pawlenty - the man largely responsible for those reductions in LGA - will be at a fundraiser for Mayor Kelly's campaign.
"It's clear that the city needs the additional police and firefighters added in the Kelly plan. It is not so clear that the threats described at some length by the mayor, in the form of the MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha gang and its possible link to Al Qaeda, deserve to be highlighted. MS-13 has yet to make an appearance in St. Paul.
"The plan I propose goes beyond the Kelly 3 percent property tax increase - yes, it's necessary, and in fact it had become inevitable. However, alone it does not provide enough revenue for the city's long-term needs. Today I'd like to focus on the Xcel Energy Franchise agreement, set to expire in mid-2006. This is an important agreement, not just for Xcel but for all St. Paulites. Essentially, in return for granting Xcel a virtual monopoly to provide our heat-cooling and electricity and for allowing them to use the city streets and property to do so, we receive a franchise fee roughly equivalent to 5 percent of Xcel's gross earnings. This fee comes to slightly over $17 million dollars a year and is the third largest source of revenue for the city, at nearly 11 percent of the city's budget.
"Utility companies take these documents VERY seriously, and so should we. We are their valuable customers and we should expect value in return. I propose that we increase the franchise fees on Xcel from the current average of 5 percent of their gross earnings to at least 6 percent, as some other cities in Florida have done. This could bring increased revenue to the city of conservatively $1-2 million dollars. I am not being coy about what I call any attempt to raise revenue - whether you call something a tax, a user fee, or an assessment, it does mean money is coming out of someone's pocket. Xcel is given the authority through the Public Utilities Commission to pass along those costs to the customer.
"So in my proposal for instance, if your electric bill is $100 per month, you might pay an additional $1 per month, which would go into the general fund.
"With the additional $1-2 million dollars I propose that we more evenly spend it on the core city services: fire, police, public works and parks and recreation. With the active advice and help of the community, the city council and police, fire, public works, parks and recreation, we can decide where the money is most needed.
"To offset this increased charge on citizens, I propose that we also ask Xcel Energy to exempt low income citizens from the increased franchise fee, and to make their energy audits free to everyone, not just low income citizens. We might pro-rate electricity rates, so the less you use, the less you pay. We should be asking Xcel to aggressively market conservation programs, like their conservation improvement plan where any building designed more than 50,000 square feet given a free consultant to provide suggestions to make it the most energy efficient possible. Green architects tell me it's completely possible to achieve 15-20 percent better energy efficiency than current code and the payback is often only 1-2 years. Every single new building in St. Paul should be required to analyze and reduce its potential energy use.
"As an example of conservation, the School Energy Efficiency program in St. Paul will save $100,000 this year through their conservation programs - with the future potential to save at least 10 percent of their annual $7 million in energy costs. $700,000 can provide a lot of needed teachers. And this program should be extended through all city buildings, freeing up revenue for other things our city needs. "However, there is additional value we can promote through creative use of the franchise agreement by creating a Community Benefit Agreement, with Xcel that helps them become true partners in the community.
"Currently, we are assessed for street lighting. According to ACORN, there are even high crime neighborhoods where residents are assessed for street lighting they don't even have. We know the use of lights can deter crime. The cost to St. Paul citizens of street lighting is $70,000 dollars per month. Other cities have given that responsibility back to the investor-owned utility. Why shouldn?t we ask Xcel to take over the costs of maintaining the current street lights AND extend lighting into the neighborhoods which are going without? Or why can't we ask for Xcel to pay for alley lighting, which neighbors currently have to fund privately?
"I also propose during the renegotiation of this franchise agreement that we require Xcel Energy to provide 25% of St. Paul's energy usage from clean renewable sources like wind power and solar power, and create a renewable energy standard for St. Paul. Minnesota has promised to get 19% of its energy from clean, renewable sources by 2015. Xcel offers a WindSource program which charges customers an additional fee to get some or all of their power from wind. Wind power is now competitive in price with more polluting fuels. Why should individuals be paying more for wind towards Xcel's profits when we could have all of St. Paul get a portion of its energy from wind power without additional charges?
"What else could we ask for?
"Other cities like Chula Vista in California have asked their utilities during franchise agreements to fund new public parks with price tags of $350,000.
"The point of all these suggestions is that we can create the most visionary and far-reaching agreement and partnership with Xcel through the franchise agreement.
"Finally, I believe Saint Paul needs to create a Sustainability Programs director position from the increased franchise fees as Seattle, Chicago, Portland and Cleveland have recently done to implement the goals of the city sustainability plan, to work with the Neighborhood Energy Consortium and other non-profit environmental groups and to make St. Paul the greenest and most energy-efficient - and the cheapest city in which to do business relative to energy costs.
"Property taxes are essentially regressive, hurting those on fixed and low incomes. I propose we look carefully at this other ignored source of revenue, because it is less regressive and its costs can be offset by building in conservation measures.
"Why do I and many other St. Paulites care about this? Because our use and mis-use of energy affects absolutely every area of our lives.
"Whether we talk about the consequences of an unjust war in Iraq to feed our foreign oil addiction which is draining our country of money and squandering the lives of our brave young people, or whether we talk about the polluting energy we use that poisons the air our children breathe and the fish they eat, or whether we just talk about the increased energy costs absolutely every citizen has to pay, there is no excuse for St. Paul to avoid taking a more proactive stance. We simply cannot wait for national or state leadership on this issue. This isn?t about cutting fat, it is about cutting waste--wasted energy, wasted money and wasted lives. It is mayors in other cities that are leadingthe way on energy conservation and environmental issues. And we have an opportunity through this election to do something about it.
"There is simply no greater challenge to this country, this state, and this city in the 21st Century than energy policy. It affects our security - far more than MS-13 - it affects our health, and it threatens to affect our very existence on this planet. So I leave you with a question: Why am I the only candidate for mayor of St. Paul talking about these critical connections, and this pivotal issue?
Robert Ingrassia, a founding member of Scoop, is taking a new position at the Pioneer Press and will no longer be contributing to the blog. He is switching from reporter to editor, taking over a team leader slot for the local news desk. Reporters covering public safety, state and federal courts, Minneapolis and general assignment stories will report to Ingrassia. His new job begins soon. Ingrassia has covered St. Paul City Hall since June 2003. The paper has not yet named a replacement. Tim Nelson will shoulder the blog responsibilities on his own until Team Scoop is made whole again. Help him out by passing along news tidbits and other "blog-able" items
The Scoop is going multimedia this campaign season, and the first thing we're going to bring you is audio from a recent Randy Kelly "block party," held at the Klub Haus, at 1079 Rice St., on Aug. 10. About 35 people attended the gathering, one of about 70 the mayor is doing around the city this campaign season.
The main event was a 13-minute speech Kelly gave after the crowd had downed some meatballs and chicken wings. It was the second time the Scoop had heard the speech and while it changed slightly between appearances, the core features remained pretty much the same.
Kelly was introduced by Bruce Larson, proprieter of the Klub Haus and general North End legend. You can listen to the audio by clicking here.
It's about a 3 meg file, and it runs about 13 minutes. If you have dialup Internet access or don't want to sit throug the whole thing, you can also read a transcript of the stump speech below.
"Well, Bruce, thank you for that very kind introduction.
"Thank you all very much for coming tonight. Let me once again extend my appreciation to Bruce Larson for being such a strong community supporter, a great partner for the North End, Rice Street, but for the community of St. Paul. Over the four years that I have gotten to know Bruce as mayor, whenever I have needed, needed something, I have been able to pick up the phone and I have been able to access Bruce and his generosity and his warm heart. And he always says, Mayor anything that is good for St. Paul, that he wants to be a part of, and for that I thank you so very very much. The fact is that this facility, this beautifully renovated facility in which we are in tonight, would not have been possible without Bruce Larson. This is just one of many things he does for our community and for that we are very very grateful.
"I am so pleased to have such a great combination of people here tonight. It's wonderful to have some of our North End, Rice Street successful businesses, business people, here. It is marvelous that folks have been on this avenue for so long, have stuck through thick and thin to keep this neighborhood and this community strong and prosperous, and I hope that I will be able to serve for the next four years as a partner to help work in partnership with all of you to keep Rice Street, North End flourishing and moving forward.
"Things in St. Paul, I think are good. I talked to several business people here tonight. I say 'How are things going?' And if I had asked that question several years ago, people would have kind of hung their head and said, 'Well, we're making it.'
"But tonight, as I talk to business people here tonight, people are saying that the economy is strong that things are good and that business is good. And that is encouraging to hear. I think that both at the local, the state and the national level the economy finally seems like it is now starting to pick up, gaining momentum and that is good news for all of us.
"As we know, four years ago, next month, was 9/11. And that was a pretty traumatic time for America. But it had some devastating impacts in addition to the thousands of lives lost; it had a tremendous negative impact on our economy. That one incident, we calculate, sucked probably over a million jobs out of the American economy in a very short period of time, and we are still recovering, from an economic standpoint, from that.
"But in addition to 9/11, as I was telling a group just about a half hour ago, we have seen in the course of the last four years a war in Afghanistan, a continuing war in Iraq. We have seen the dot com burst, we have seen corporate scandals, and then here in Minnesota, when governor Pawlenty was elected in November of 2002, discovered that we had the largest state deficit that this state had ever faced, 4.5 billion dollars. And that has had a very difficult impact on cities like St. Paul, cities that are dependent upon on the state for local government aid. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth. We lost some 56 million dollars in 03, 04 and 05, in those three years, from the state of Minnesota.
"But you know, we didn't complain. We didn't wring our hands. We rolled up our sleeves, working with the city council and with great partners, we were able to balance our budget.
"Two thousand five marks the twelfth straight year that we have not raise the city's property tax share, and no other city, to the best of my knowledge, in Minnesota, can probably claim that. We did it by balancing our budget, not raising property taxes, not laying off police officers or firefighters. Not closing parks or recs or libraries.
"As a matter of fact, I was visiting with my library director some time ago, and she pointed out, she was comparing and contrasting St. Paul and Minneapolis. She said in the spring of 2003, St. Paul provided about 650 hours library hours (per week) to our community and Minneapolis was at about 700 (per week). Two years later, in the spring of 2005, we are providing 702 hours of library services. Minneapolis is providing 450. They have dropped that much. Their branch libraries are open only three days a week, and that is at a time when they have been systematically, each one of these years, raising their property taxes.
"So we have kept our city affordable, so that businesses and residents will not flee our city and be willing to grow and expand.
"We've kept our city safe. We've had double digit crime, overall crime decreases over the last, over the last three years. And that's important for...(A group of kids enter.) Welcome, welcome. Good to see you. And that's important because public safety is, of course, important if we are going to keep people in our city, keep business growing and expanding in our city.
"Our housing initiative is going very, very well in St. Paul. When I came into office, I pulled all of the housing stakeholders together and I said we need to build 5,000 additional housing units over the course of the next four years. That will bring over a billion dollars worth of housing production to St. Paul, allow possibly 10,000 additional people to move to our city to enjoy our quality of life. And we need to make sure that at least 20 percent of those, 1,000 of those units, are affordable to low income people. And I am happy to tell you that at the end of 2005, we will exceed that 5,000 goal and we will exceed our affordability goal and that means that our tax base is growing and expanding and that our neighborhoods are stronger.
"In terms of job growth, in spite of a sputtering economy over the last four years, things have begun to turn around in St. Paul and jobs are expanding in our city. This year we anticipate a job growth of about 2,300, so far as we calculated it, over 2,300 additional jobs in St. Paul. We will add a new corporate headquarters to our city every month during the year of 2005. Gander Mountain kicked things off in February -- the fastest growing retail sports chain in America -- by bringing over 230 some workers to downtown St. Paul. Kemps food has consolidated their headquarters in St. Paul, coming from Minneapolis. A company as far away as Boise, Idaho, an insurance company, moving to downtown St. Paul. Fifteen additional bioscience companies in our bioscience corridor as of September first, will be coming to St. Paul -- one as far away as Switzerland.
"Things are going well, we have heard good news on the transportation side. We all know that to have a healthy, prosperous, connected community you have got to invest in a strong transportation system. A little over a month ago we got good news form the U.S. Postal Service, saying that they would be willing to sell us their facility, their 16 story facility there on Kellogg right next to the river. That means that we can continue to expand and develop our riverfront. But more importantly, it means we can recapture the Union Depot, convert it into a multi-modal transportation hub, which will be the home for light rail transit, commuter rail, high speed rail, eventually to Milwaukee and Chicago, for our Jefferson bus lines, our Amtrak. And so I am very very excited.
"We are also completing this year, at the end of, I think, October, the Phalen Boulevard. And that has been a nine year process. That means we will have created over 1,200 housing units along that corridor. A couple thousand jobs so far on Phalen Boulevard. But we need to connect that to 35E and we were successful in getting some federal dollars to begin that process here just 10 days or so ago.
"But what we also need to do is we need to connect Pierce Butler where it stops right now at Dale Street. We need to push Pierce Butler under Dale Street and connect it to the Phalen Boulevard, creating a whole new east-west corridor from the East Side of St. Paul clear to Minneapolis and to the University of Minnesota.
"So there is much more that we need to do. We need to continue to make sure our city is affordable, that it is safe, that we continue to expand housing and provide people an opportunity to enjoy the quality of life that we do here in our strong neighborhoods. We need to continue to set a table here in the city of St. Paul, saying that this city is open for business, that we want business to prosper here and businesses to locate and relocate here.
"Now my opponent has, his major criticism of me, as far as I can tell, is that he believes that I am not partisan enough. And what I have been asking people is this: Is partisanship getting us anywhere in this country? I have talked to Senator. Coleman or Senator Dayton, Representative McCollum. Things are miserable in Washington D.C.. Democrats and Republicans fighting along political, ideological lines, rather than focusing on what's in the best interest of our country. And many times, in Washington, it results in gridlock.
"At the state capitol, we have seen that playing itself out for the last two years. The 2004 legislative session ended without getting much of anything done. It think we can shoot mourning doves now as a result of the 2004 legislative session . Two thousand five, again, the regular session ended because of partisan bickering, where they didn’t get a budget bill passed, education, a healthcare bill, transportation bill passed. And for seven weeks we watched partisan wrangling taking place to the point where we closed down part of state government, the first time in our 147 years as a state.
"That's what partisanship is getting us on the national and on the state level, and my opponent suggests that we need to visit that here in St. Paul.
"What I tell people is that over the last decade, the transformation that has occurred in our city and the renaissance that has taken place has not been the result of partisanship. It has been the result of partnership. People willing to work together. Democrats and Republicans. City working with businesses, working with labor, working with the neighborhoods, working with the foundations toward a common agenda of propelling St. Paul forward.
"And I can tell you as long as I am mayor, I don't care what your party label is. If we have a city that works, because we're willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with us to make St. Paul a better place.
"And so what I ask all of you to do is to be sure to get out and vote this fall in the primary, as well as in the general. I would love to have your support, your consideration.
"I am enthusiastic. I love this city. I am enthusiastic about its future, and I am enthusiastic about leading it in this first part of this new century. St. Paul has a tremendous amount of promise. We are a good city, but I can tell you that there are so many things that we can do to really become a great, great American city here in our country.
"So I would ask for your consideration, your support. I'll stop talking and I will be happy to answer any questions or to receive any advice and counsel that you good people might have for me. So thank you for being here tonight."
A new study by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research says St. Paul ranks 36th most liberal among the nation's 237 cities with populations of 100,000 or more.
The Berkeley-based think tank examined voting records across the country and ranked each city. Detroit, Mich, ranked as the most liberal and Provo, Utah, ranked as the most conservative.
You can see the listings yourself at http://votingresearch.org/USAliberalcities.doc.
There's some amusing correlations in the rankings. Madison, Wis., home to the nation's largest organized celebration of the marijuana harvest, known as Weedstock, ranked only two notches above St. Paul, and 11 spots BELOW that left wing bastion to the west, Minneapolis.
But it wasn't just a matter of politics, BACVR researchers found. They noted a direct correlation between voting patterns and racial makeup. The higher the proportion a city had of African Americans, the more liberally it tended to vote. "The great political divide in America today is not red vs. blue, north vs. south, costal vs. interior or even rich vs. poor. It is now clearly black vs. white," said Phil Reiff, a BACVR director in a release that accompanies the study.
That's certainly true in St. Paul, where minority and white precincts have been sharply divided in recent polling, particularly during municipal elections.