This is part of a series on the 2019 St. Paul Elections
I’m starting off my guides to the city council races with Ward 3 because (a) I live here and (b) the race is pretty cut and dry.
Where is Ward 3?
Ward 3 is in the Southwest corner of St. Paul, basically everything south of Summit Ave and west of I-35E and Ayd Mill Road. Aside from a few exceptions, if you live in the Macalester-Groveland or Highland Park neighborhoods, you live in Ward 3.
There are two candidates running for city council in Ward 3 this year:
Patty Hartmann - an attorney who specializes in professional liability
Chris Tolbert - the incumbent councilmember who has served in the position since 2011.
Patty Hartmann is one of the leaders of the group who sued the city over coordinated trash collection and successfully forced the city to put the trash collection plan to a ballot referendum this year. She’s running for city council as an extension of her campaign against coordinated trash collection and mentions trash collection at just about every chance she gets. I think the lawsuit and the referendum are terribly misguided because coordinated collection drastically reduces pollution and road wear, so Patty Hartmann is off to a bad start with me there.
That said, looking around her campaign site’s issues page results in a few more worrying positions if you’re in favor of a sustainable city. She comes out against development “not consistent with our neighborhoods”, which is a common not-in-my-back-yard talking point for folks who oppose new housing being built in St. Paul (a city in the middle of a housing crisis). She puts “Stop Runaway Taxes and Fees” right next to “Fix The City Streets” as major bullet points, not connecting the dots that street maintenance costs are a big driver behind the city’s budget problems - you can fix the streets or you can lower taxes, but unless you’ve got a magic wand it’s going to be very difficult to do both.
Patty also gave a very worrying answer to a question about climate change at a candidate forum (the link should start the video at 36:21 with the climate change question). When asked what the city of St. Paul can do to control climate change, Patty gave a wandering non-answer that, at best, shows she doesn’t understand the severity and importance of climate change and the steps our city (and every other city) must take to try to reduce the damage we’re doing to vulnerable people around the world. She also mentioned trash collection.
Anyway, don’t vote for Patty Hartmann.
Chris has been the Ward 3 council representative for 8 years now, and he’s mostly fine. He seems like a thoughtful guy who wants to keep pushing our city forward but who is sensitive to concerns from people who are resistant to change. He’s voted the right way on all the big issues that have come before the council in the last few years - $15 minimum wage, the Ford Site master plan, trash collection, etc - and the list of accomplishments on his campaign site has a lot to be genuiunely proud about. We agree on probably 95% of policy issues.
But man, sometimes that 5% just sticks in my craw. Tolbert will vote against bike improvements that are in the St. Paul bike plan if the CM from the area opposes them as, what, horse trading? A show of support? Some weird tradition? It’s maddening. He was also totally non-responsive to an effort to add bike lanes on Cleveland Ave during scheduled street maintenance instead of sharrows, which by themselves do nothing to make cyclists safer.
To give you the most recent example, Mayor Carter recently proposed changes to Ayd Mill Road that would save the city a boatload on maintenance costs and create an excellent new route for bikes and pedestrians in the process. It’s a total win-win policy in line with the city’s stated climate goals and in line with a 2009 city council resolution on what should be done with Ayd Mill. A few councilmembers have strongly come out in favor of the plan, and Tolbert… wants to delay the changes for a traffic study. Classic Saint Paul.
You should vote for Chris Tolbert and keep his inbox full demanding that he take action on the city’s bike plan and climate goals.