This is part of a series on the 2019 St. Paul Elections
Where is Ward 2?
Ward 2 includes a very interesting and diverse set of neighborhoods: all of Downtown, the West Side, the West 7th neighborhood, and most of Summit Hill. It’s the only ward with the Mississippi running through it, and the river also serves as the ward’s eastern border.
Sharon Anderson - a perennial candidate and goofball
Lindsay Ferris Martin - an entrepreneur and marketing professional
Bill Hosko - an artist and gallery owner
Helen Meyers - the Socialist Worker’s Party candidate
Rebecca Noecker - The incumbent councilmember who has served since 2016.
Sharon is a local republican who runs for something or other every year. Her campaign website is full of half-finished sentences, conspiracy theories, personal vendettas, and support for Donald Trump. She also wants you to vote no on the trash referendum.
Don’t vote for Sharon Anderson.
Lindsay Ferris Martin
Lindsay Ferris Martin works in marketing and social media, and her expertise shows in her online campaign. She has an active presence on all the big social media platforms, her instagram is full of well-composed photography and relevant hashtags, and she presents herself as an engaged, high-energy citizen ready to engage and speak out on the issues that matter to her.
What issues are those, exactly? Well, the advocacy statement on her website makes a lot of hay about really listening, standing up for the little guy, doing the hard work, and a collection of similar fluff, but there are a few specific issues she calls out as well: “lack of support needed for our first responders”, “our right to commerce has been taken away”, and a “lack of what to do regarding homelessness and how to preserve the gems that make our neighborhoods unique and special”. I’m not sure what she means by “right to commerce”, but I’d have to assume that she’d be against recent St. Paul reforms like the minimum wage increase, mandatory sick time, and sustainable to-go packaging. I like all those policies, but there was substantial opposition from the business community, so it’s reasonable to assume that someone would try to tap into that opposition to run for council.
The dystopian horror of politics in 2019 has made me wince a little when a politician makes a big deal about supporting “first responders”, but Lindsay’s support seems to come in genuine, positive ways from what I can tell. Her site links to a series of #graciousmob tweets showing Lindsay and her friends working to deliver tasty food to police officers and firefighters, which is obviously a very nice and thoughtful thing to do for anyone who works long hours at a hard job that serves the public. Lindsay and I would probably disagree on whether to increase the St. Paul police budget, but I’ll refrain from harsher judgment until I see her waving a Punisher flag or some other neo-fascist paraphernalia.
The advocacy group Neighbors For More Neighbors recently released a candidate questionnaire, and Lindsay’s answers can give us a more specific view of how she looks at housing issues. I find some of her answers unfocused and there is some odd use of euphemistic language (she wants to “leverage our single family homes”, does that mean… build more? Or remodel them into multi-family homes? I’m not sure), but there’s a fair bit to like as well if you want to see more housing in St. Paul. She opposes minimum parking restrictions, which drive up housing costs and make us more dependent on cars, and her answer on homelessness shows at least a genuine desire to connect people in need to helpful services. She’s not as knowledgeable or experienced as the incumbent councilmember on affordable housing, but her answers are pretty good on balance.
Lindsay also posted her opposition to coordinated trash collection using a graphic that really captures the condition of St. Paul politics in 2019. Despite her excellent use of bitmoji, ending coordinated collection would be a really bad idea, and I think you should vote yes and consider other candidates.
Bill Hosko is an artist who also owns a gallery downtown. One of the recurring themes on his campagin website is how “Non-partisan” he is, which is about the most positive way you can spin not being endorsed by the DFL in a city in which that endorsement carries a lot of weight. He wants you to know that he’s not for sale and wants to put power back in the hands of the people, maaan.
Actually, I give Bill a lot of credit for his campaign site. Click the “issues” button at the top and you get a clearly laid out list of problems that he’s concerned about what action he wants to take to address them. That’s a lot better than average in a city council race, and it shows that you’re treating your audience with maturity and not just expecting them to come along with you because you’re able to say bland, agreeable statements like “crime is a problem”.
Unfortunately, I disagree with almost all his policy positions as described. He’s anti-trash, anti-transit on West 7th, he argues that crime is increasing (it’s not ) and that we should hire more cops, and he wants to crack down on the non-problem of fare evasion on public transit. He also says that property taxes are too high, but wants to end assessments (user fees for sewer maintenance, road repair, etc.) and cut back on metered parking, both of which would cut important sources of non-property-tax revenue. This is a recurring theme that irritates me a bit: candidates want to take a stance that “property taxes are too high”, but then they either want to enact big new spending policies (police officers, for instance, are very expensive) or cut other sources of revenue. I don’t think you need to propose a detailed budget to run for city council, but you should at least demonstrate an understanding that all the spending in the city budget has to come from somewhere.
It’s hard to learn much about Helen Meyers. She doesn’t have a campaign website and her official campaign filing just links to The Militant, “a socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people”. That same paper describes her as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for city council, and follows her going door-to-door campaigning in… Amery, Wisconsin? If Helen is running a serious campaign for the City Council of St. Paul, Minnesota, then she’s doing a very good job disguising that fact.
The nice thing about ranked choice voting in St. Paul is that if you value socialist candidates above all else you could rank Helen Meyers as your #1 choice as a raised fist in favor of the revolution and then also rank an actual candidate like Rebecca Noecker as your #2.
Rebecca Noecker is coming to the end of her first term on the city council, and from what I can tell she’s done a great job so far. She doesn’t tend to court a lot of controversy or headlines, but I’d describe her as part of the general pro-mayor, pro-progress faction on the council and her votes on major issues reflect a desire to keep the city moving forward on justice and environmental causes. She voted for or co-sponsored the minimum wage increase, the ford site master plan, mandatory sick time, accessory dwelling units, and worked on a number of small but tangible improvements in the city like gender-neutral bathrooms at city hall.
Rebecca’s answers to the Neighbors For More Neighbors questionnaire were honestly better than I would have expected. She supports expanding a variety of housing options, streamlining permitting for new housing, and ending minimum parking requirements. I’m excited that she’s open to amending the city’s zoning code to allow quad-plexes throughout the city; ward 2 residents should continue to push for that after November if she gets re-elected. Her answers on the homelessness question to me show a clear grasp of the problem and that she’s considering the right solutions for the city.
The list of endorsements on Rebecca’s campaign site starts with the DFL party endorsement and includes a wide swath of progressive and center-left organizations and a number of influential local DFLers. The implied message of her whole campaign site seems to be “if you generally like the progress the city has made over the last 4 years, vote for me again to keep moving forward on those issues”.
I generally like the progress the city has made over the last 4 years and want to see it continue, so if I lived in Ward 2 I’d rank the candidates:
- Rebecca Noecker
- Lindsay Ferris Martin