Naomi Kritzer’s Fiction, 2015

Wondering if you missed any of my stories that came out in 2015? Here is a handy list with links!

Short Stories

Cat Pictures Please, Clarkesworld, January 2015.

Wind, Apex, April 2015.

“The Silicon Curtain: A Seastead Story,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July/August 2015. You can buy the back issue online.

“Cleanout,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2015. You can buy the current issue online.


“Jubilee: A Seastead Story,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 2015. You can buy the back issue online.

So Much Cooking, Clarkesworld, November 2015.


The Good Son, Lightspeed, March 2015. (Originally appeared in Jim Baen’s Universe, 2009.)

“Artifice,” ESLI (“If”), translated into Russian. I have no idea how you’d get your hands on this, if you really wanted to read me in Russian. The magazine’s website is here. (Originally appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, September 2014.)


Election 2015: Endorsements

These are only for St. Paul, because as far as I was able to determine, there are no elections in Minneapolis tomorrow.

The St. Paul City Council seats are voted on with Instant Runoff/Ranked Choice, which means you can rank your top preferences. I didn’t find any races that I thought were likely to be competitive beyond two people, though. The school board is a “pick four” race, but it’s not ranked choice, so you just vote for the four candidates you like the most and can’t rank them.

The race I feel the most fundamentally undecided about, not surprisingly, is Ward Two (the open seat). I like both Rebecca Noecker and Darren Tobolt quite a bit. Rebecca e-mailed me back about police body cameras (she’s for them) and Darren didn’t, so I’m going with Rebecca, but if you read my analysis of them and decided on Darren, I’m happy to have been of service.

Dai Thao

1. Rebecca Noecker
2. Darren Tobolt

Chris Tolbert (uncontested)

Russ Stark

Amy Brendemoen

Dan Bostrom

Jane Prince (uncontested)

Mary Vanderwert
Zuki Ellis
Steve Marchese
Jon Schumacher

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow, and one of my friends was very startled to find out last week that her polling place had moved, so it’s probably not a bad idea to check yours right now. The polling place finder is here: and you can also see your sample ballot.

I guess next up is the 2016 Presidential Race. Minnesota doesn’t have a presidential primary, but caucuses, on Super Tuesday (March 1, 2016). I’ve been figuring I just won’t even worry about it until after New Hampshire and Iowa, frankly. I need to catch up on some fiction writing (by the way, I had two stories published today, “Cleanout” in the new issue of F&SF and “So Much Cooking” which you can read online at Clarkesworld!) and think about what I would buy this year if I were gift-shopping for someone I deeply disliked.

Election 2015: St. Paul City Council, Ward Six


Candidates in the Sixth Ward:

Dan Bostrom (incumbent, DFL-endorsed)
Kevin Bradley
Edward Davis

Kevin Bradley

Kevin Bradley is a libertarian: “My political philosophy is centered on personal liberty, non-aggression, and the belief that the only legitimate function of government is to defend and protect the rights and freedoms of individuals. … I will do everything in my power to make sure taxpayers’ money is spent only on services that are absolutely necessary, or is at least not spent frivolously. Everything else can and should be done by private businesses.” His website is set up on a blog, and you can leave comments, and there’s sort of a hilarious conversation going on in the comments of this page between him and a very persistent local resident.

Resident: My two utmost concerns are the lack of economic development on Arcade and the need for residents to find and pay for snow removal in alleys. Care to comment on how you would attend to these two issues?

Kevin: The issue underlying both of your questions is the high cost of starting and running a business in Saint Paul. I would work to reduce licensing fees and prohibitively expensive insurance requirements, which are among the complaints that I hear from current and potential business owners. If these problems could be addressed, Arcade would be bustling with new and expanding businesses. There would be enough professional snow removal companies to force competition for customers, which would mean ample advertising and affordable service. Any efforts by the city to remove snow from alleys would required higher taxes, which I oppose.

Resident: I understand the impact on taxes. However, in our case we rely on the goodness of one neighbor to find a vendor, collect for cost and put up with all the calls to complain. Some neighbors refuse to pay so the balance is passed along to others. It is just an archaic system that is wrought with contradiction. The City re-surfaces the alley, charges us a special assessment (i.e. a friendly term for taxes), but refuses to take on the snow removal issue. Mpls is able to do it. I can’t believe there isn’t a workable solution for St Paul.

Kevin: The fact that some of your neighbors do not contribute to removing snow from alleys implies that it may not be as important for them as for you.

I mean it’s basically:

Resident: Working with my neighbors hiring a private service provider is incredibly annoying. I want to just have the government tax everyone and provide this service.

Libertarian: No, you don’t understand. This is exactly how it’s supposed to work.

Resident: I totally understand and this SUCKS.

Libertarian: Well, of course it sucks but the actual problem here is too much government.



Don’t vote for Kevin if you’d like to see the city take over alley plowing. It’s definitely not a priority for him.

Edward Davis

Ed Davis’s top priority is term limits for the City Council. He has ties to a group that has a long list of grievances, some legit and some oddball. He’s not accepting donations (although he’s recruiting volunteers) and his Facebook page is just his personal page and one of the only things visible to people who aren’t his friends is about a farmer who got in trouble for selling raw milk (“A victory against the industrial food complex controlling our urban food options and producing sterile food that is responsible for many of the chronic diseases of society today.” You know, I respect the right of adults to drink raw milk if they want, but if you’re convinced that pasteurization causes disease, you’re a weirdo.)


Dan Bostrom

Dan Bostrom is an elderly Eastsider who’s been on the City Council since 1996.

He has a long list of genuinely impressive accomplishments from the years he’s been on the Council. He’s endorsed by freaking everybody, and if I lived in Ward 6, he’s who I’d vote for.

Election 2015: St. Paul City Council, Ward Four

So, it’s literally the day before the election and I’m feeling like I may have waited a little too long to start my term paper and trying to remind myself that once upon a time I felt no particularly obligation to blog about every damn race in the two cities and just stuck to my own ballot. And my own ballot is done! All the rest of this is gravy.

I could totally get this done if the two remaining races (City Council Ward 4 and City Council Ward 5) were like one serious candidate and a couple of flakes, but they’re both real races.

In Ward Four, the candidates are:
Tom Goldstein
Russ Stark (incumbent, DFL endorsed)

Russ Stark

Russ Stark’s very first accomplishment listed on his accomplishments page is, “championed the creation of a citywide streetcar plan.” I am not a fan of streetcars, which combine most of the major downsides of both buses and trains and cost a truly staggering amount of money. (I went to France this summer and rode buses a whole lot, and you know what, it is possible to build an amazing bus system, where all the bus stops actually tell you what stops there and have maps so you can see where they’re going and electronic signboards to tell you when the next bus is arriving, and the buses can be set up with electronic signboards that tell you what the next stop is, and all the stops can have names like on a train system to make it easier for users who aren’t familiar with the area, and you can have an app that adjusts automatically if you miss a connection — actually, that feature was sort of annoying and it would’ve been nice to be able to lock in a route, but having an app that would navigate you to your destination was pretty cool. Anyway: you can do all that for your whole metro area for like the cost of half a streetcar line. I really think we under-rate buses in part because we’ve done such a crappy job with buses for years and years and instead of saying “let’s have something cooler and more expensive!” we could do buses WELL, instead.)

He also “championed the creation of the City’s first sustainable transportation coordinator,” who led the citywide bike plan. I’m more of a fan of the citywide bike plan.

I have to say, I’m struck by how non-accomplishment-y some of his accomplishments are. He “championed” a bunch of things, he “encouraged” Public Works to apply for bike-friendly city status, he “was a leading voice” on some committee. He “championed the creation of a new City position to work solely on development along the Green Line,” which despite being solidly liberal made me think “oh good, because an additional city bureaucrat is definitely the best possible use of tax dollars” (I think the “concierge” system for making it easier to get all the necessary permits and stuff that Rebecca Noecker is suggesting might be better than someone whose job is to be “out on University Avenue every day connecting developers, property owners, and business owners, to ensure we achieve the University Avenue we envision.” (That … honestly makes me think about the Wandering Librarian system, where they’re supposed to bug you while you’re browsing for books like a retail salesperson to see if you need help finding anything, instead of being at a desk where you can find them if you need them. But maybe this works better than it kind of sounds to me?)

He “helped secure the 3 missing stations on the light rail project at Hamline, Victoria, and Western Avenues” — yeah, so, here’s the thing. Adding endless additional stations is why it takes a truly absurd amount of time for that train to get from one downtown to the other. And if we want to get to the Green Line from my house, which is just east of Hamline, we have to walk to Snelling to get to the north-south bus line that’ll take us up to University. But God forbid anyone right up by that line have to walk that half mile to get to their light rail stop. (People who ride the line seem generally happy with it, though, so… maybe those stops were a terrific idea.)

He “championed” improvements to the recycling program, and that’s a plus (I like single-sort, even though I actually still put all my paper in one box and everything else in another). He “led an effort to ensure that every vacant or foreclosed house that the City is investing in be made more energy efficient, ensuring long term-affordability for those moving into the housing and a smaller carbon footprint for our community.” This is the sort of thing that I wonder what the actual ramifications have been. I support energy efficiency; I wonder whether this means that there are vacant/foreclosed houses that have sat rather than being fixed up or sold, because there wasn’t the money to do the energy improvements and, like, putting the pipes back in after they got stolen for the copper, and whether there’s anything in this regulation that says that if a house already meets some benchmark you don’t have to try to push it even higher (there are some very energy-efficient houses! And sometimes the low-hanging fruit has been grabbed already.)

Under Neighborhood Livability he mentions leading the effort to create a new Affordable Housing Trust fund but also this hilarious bullet point: “Developed a sidewalk snow-shoveling doorhanger so that people who walk in their neighborhoods could give a gentle reminder to others to shovel their sidewalks.” Do I need to get into the hilarity of developing new ways for Minnesotans to be passive-aggressive?

His goals for a third term include changing the city’s “process for dealing with icy/snowy sidewalks so that clear sidewalks are expedited in order to improve mobility for families, the elderly, transit users, everyone!” — I’d be in favor of that, though the city is already in charge of plowing the actual streets and reviews are mixed, to put it mildly. He also wants to work on municipal trash collection. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT. I swear this was tried a few years ago and went down in flames.

Tom Goldstein

So here’s a nice quote that sums up a lot of what I’m seeing from Tom’s materials: “People in St. Paul don’t want more tax-subsidized development [like the soccer stadium], [Tom Goldstein] said. They want potholes filled and their alleys plowed.”

Tom’s website hits those two themes pretty hard. (a) You’re spending our money on stupid stuff (like stadiums) and (b) what people actually want is everday stuff like alley plowing. His goals are heavily pragmatic, which admittedly is easier to push for from the outside. He’s one of the people pushing for a citywide broadband initiative. (I’m all for it! In Minneapolis we used the municipal Wi-Fi and it was terrific. Here in St. Paul my options are Comcast and CenturyLink, i.e., the faster and more expensive evil vs. the slower and cheaper evil.) He wants alley plowing — so, in addition to not picking up our trash, St. Paul doesn’t plow our alleys. Instead, you’re supposed to get together with your neighbors and all chip in to pay for the plowing, which is problematic in all sorts of ways, like someone has to organize it, and if you don’t pay up they get stuck covering the gap, and sometimes people just freeload on their more community-spirited neighbors since it’s not like you can plow just part of an alley. (I feel like in some cities, you could probably find an alley plower who would work with you on the goal of demonstrating to the freeloaders the many disadvantages of not participating in the cost-sharing. I mean, the snow has to go somewhere, right? That doesn’t seem to happen here.) Also, I am pretty sure that the city could add alley plowing to the to-do list for a less than what we pay per year for our alley, but even if they couldn’t it would eliminate a lot of hassles.

He wants to ban free plastic bags from stores, which I would find annoying. (I re-use my high-quality paper bags with handles every week, but I like plastic bags for stuff like raw meat, and also the small plastic bags from the produce department for things like green beans.)

He wants to create “an ‘Office of Enterprise Development’ that will encourage businesses to locate in St. Paul, identify barriers to making that happen, and provide technical assistance to start-up ventures so that they can find funding sources and successfully navigate the St. Paul municipal code,” which makes me wonder if he likes Russ Stark’s guy who is “out on University Avenue every day connecting developers, property owners, and business owners” so much he wants an entire office of these people.

My biggest concerns about Tom come from reading through this somewhat contentious Facebook thread about bike lanes on Cleveland Ave. He said that he’d run into a lot of opposition to the bike lanes (but apparently was unaware that there’s been a concerted effort on the part of a few of the businesses to quash the bike lane striping). Someone posted to say, “I’m a Midway resident, I work at St. Kate’s, I bike, and I strongly support bike lanes on Cleveland. You shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that I’m supporting Russ because of his leadership on these issues.” Tom replied, “if you’re going to vote for a candidate based primarily on whether or not he supports putting bike lanes on a street that even avid bicyclists have told me they won’t ride, there’s nothing I can say to change your mind. I don’t think the St. Paul Bike Plan falls apart simply because people might need to take another look at whether Finn or Prior works better than Cleveland. That a few bike zealots are willing to take such umbrage over the fact that I’m willing to consider the opinion of Ward 4 residents that might differ from yours is a pretty sad commentary on the state of democracy in this country–and this city.”

Which….wow. I mean, if you get that bent out of shape when someone disagrees with you, I don’t think you have the temperament to be on the City Countil. (If you read the whole thread, there’s a fair amount more: “If the bike plan is a superior document and the process for selecting Cleveland Avenue without any significant flaws, then winning over detractors shouldn’t be difficult” — ugh, that’s a recipe for Madisonian-style paralysis, actually. You have to strike a balance between listening to residents and saying “yeah, you’ll adjust” and pushing something through. I mean, everyone wants bike lanes somewhere that they will never inconvenience cars in any way, and that may not be possible, and that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have bike lanes.

“Mike, this became a campaign issue because it was clearly a concern that neighbors expressed when I knocked on their doors this summer. That’s called representative government. I realize your preference would be that I should have ignored all the people who expressed concerns because they are not well informed or under the influence of ‘parking enthusiasts,’ but I give people more credit than that” — I am basically unable to read this in a non-patronizing tone.

Endorsement: Russ Stark. Not because I’m entirely satisfied with him, but because I think his opponent isn’t really ready for prime time. Also, St. Paul desperately desperately needs better bike routes, and someone who will push for them.

Election 2015: St. Paul City Council, Ward Two

Open seat! So there are a bunch of people running and no one’s endorsed by any party.

Sharon Anderson
Patrick Fearing
Bill Hosko
Michael C. Johnson
Rebecca Noecker
Darren Tobolt

Sharon Anderson

Man, it would suck to be any other person named Sharon Anderson who wanted to go into politics and lived in St. Paul. Because at this point, everyone would assume that you were this particular unhinged weirdo with the worst eye for website design this side of 1997.

Patrick Fearing

Patrick Fearing considers it a selling point that he has lived not just in St. Paul but in Ward 2 for his entire life (he’s fifty.) In fact, I think every single job he lists (Mancini’s Char House, Pearson’s Candy Company, Schmidt’s Brewery) is in Ward Two. I don’t find that endearing, I find that unnerving. Is there some reason he can’t cross water?

His primary issue seems to be that he’s opposed to parking meters on Grand Avenue.

In a questionnaire he filled out, he gets asked for his top three priorities, and lists five. He must have filled that out before the parking meter issue blew up, because the first thing he says is, “I want to get the Bay Island Station area back on the map. It used to be a great place to go down and fish off the dock, until the city put a fence up. I want to bring back the dock and open it up for the community to go and fish, possibly open a boat launch there.” He also thinks St. Paul is too boring and needs more of a night life, and he is very proud of the fact that he’s raised no money (“Unlike Darren and Rebecca I haven’t had my hand out for two years asking the people of Saint Paul for their money to run my campaign.”)

Bill Hosko

BilL Hosko appears to be an artist and a political hobbyist. A search on his name turned up a Facebook page for a Ward 2 race, last updated in 2011. The Facebook page has a link to a website other than his current website, which is now entirely in Japanese. His principle issue seems to be parking meters, which he opposes.

So since that’s the ISSUE DU JOUR for Ward Two, I just want to say, as someone who lived in Minneapolis for seventeen years, I am baffled by the lack of parking meters on Grand Avenue and also by the willingness of St. Paul to post “permit [i.e., resident] parking only” signs on any streets near a popular shopping area.

There are large sections of Grand I won’t even try to shop on anymore because it is such a pain to park. I am totally willing to pay to park. I am totally willing to park a block away and walk. What I am not willing to do is to circle endlessly, like a vulture, hoping that something will open up so I can park and get my errand done. LIFE IS TOO SHORT.

Years ago in Minneapolis, I used to have to go to the Lake/Minnehaha post office once a week. That post office has a ridiculously small parking lot and I pretty much never got to park there. There’s also angle parking along the street outside the post office, but that was also nearly always full, so I had to park an annoying distance away and walk for my two-minute errand. One day, Minneapolis installed parking meters for all the angle parking. They were super cheap parking meters — 50 cents an hour — but this meant that suddenly, parking in those spots was nearly always available and for a mere 25 cents I could get my errand done efficiently. BLISS. I am a huge fan of metering high-demand parking; it works really well, and it makes money for the city. There’s been all this kvetching about how those proposed Grand Ave meters aren’t really trying to ration the parking, they’re trying to raise revenue for the city — even if that’s true, so what? On-street parking spots are not plowed and paved and generally maintained using magical coins pooped out by unicorns. That money comes from somewhere. Why not parking meters?

So all the “oh, I am SO TOTALLY against parking meters, I was against them before anyone else was against them, I was basically BORN opposed to the ENTIRE CONCEPT of parking meters” is not actually a selling point for me. YMMV.

Michael C. Johnson

Michael Johnson has a Facebook page that says he’s running but no other website, or any positions to speak of (someone asked him what he stood for and he said, “I am working on coming out with some bullet points to hammer out… I just made the decision to jump about 24 hours ago. I am for small business, civil liberties, and public safety. I would like our community to keep going down the right path.” That was in August.) He did not fill out any of the candidate questionnaires that I could find, and there are a grand total of four posts on his campaign Facebook page, one of which is a family picture and one of which is a “Michael Johnson for City Council” graphic.

And now we come to the two people who are actually running for the position: Rebecca Noecker and Darren Tobolt.

Rebecca and Darren both tried for DFL endorsement and the convention deadlocked. The problem I have making decisions in contests like this is that the differences between the candidates tend to be pretty subtle. Everyone is pro-transit, pro-living-wage-jobs, and pro-youth-development; everyone wants to be YOUR representative in all caps and they will listen! and respond! and by the way they hate parking meters just like you do.

Rebecca Noecker

Rebecca grew up in St. Paul, but attended Harvard, taught in Louisiana, and lived for a few years in Pune, India, which seems like a respectable amount of exposure to broader horizons. (She tells a story about standing endlessly in line in an office in India to get her visa renewed, and how this gives her empathy for non-English-speakers interacting with the government in St. Paul.) She now lives in the West Side neighborhood and notes her dissatisfaction with the fact that some of the core neighborhood businesses have closed in the last year, transit and bike connections are problematic, and they saw a spike in crime over the summer due to teenagers with nothing to do. (“And I know I’m not the only one who has felt infuriated at the lack of basic city services as I drove over horribly rutted streets last spring.” Actually, this past spring wasn’t nearly as bad as the year before. But the year before was the stuff of which legends are made. The road horrors of St. Paul that year were EPIC. There was this one pothole in Randolph Ave that I swear was the size and depth of a bathtub. They did at least patch that one quickly. I should probably add “bitching about road maintenance” to the list of issues that unite absolutely everyone in the city, though. I mean, it’s a cheap way to score political points but she’s also probably absolutely sincere.)

She’s got a little expandable section at the bottom of her About Rebecca page (easy to miss!) that counters claims that she says are being made about her. One of the claims is that she’s anti-teacher, which got me wondering if her Louisiana teaching experience was with Teach For America. She did, in fact, teach with TFA. I am not a TFA fan, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to hold the program against the recent college grads who get suckered into working for TFA (especially when the graduated in a recession, which I’m guessing she did). Under “Claim: Rebecca supports keeping incompetent teachers in the classroom,” I appreciate that she subtly but clearly points out that the St. Paul public schools are the domain of the school board, not the city council, and adds, “She also believes the City can support our schools by ensuring kids have outstanding enrichment opportunities during their out-of-school hours, at parks, rec centers and libraries.”

I do think it’s a little funny that under the claim “Rebecca thinks feminism is radical and outdated,” it doesn’t counter by saying that she’s a proud feminist, but rather, “Rebecca is a strong female leader who has worked tirelessly throughout her career to ensure that all people – women and men – are heard and valued. Rebecca has been endorsed for her pro-feminist positions by womenwinning, the DFL Feminist Caucus, and MN-NOW.” Apparently the “not really a feminist” accusation comes from an essay she wrote as a 17-year-old college freshman.

Over on her Issues page, she says she stands for transparency, inclusivity, and courage. (Transparency is big this year. I predict that in the next year the City Council and the school board will make some genuine efforts to be transparent, which will then slack off as they realize that most of the citizens really don’t want to see how the sausage is made.)

She goes on to break out four key issues: city services, economic development, investing in youth, and social justice. Under city services, she comes out strongly in favor of snow plowing and road repair, and on safety, says “Endorsed by the Police Federation, Rebecca has advocated for fully funding a model of policing where the police are a part of the community.” Community policing is one of those things that I’m strongly in favor of when it means what it meant in Madison when I was growing up. Depending on how it’s implemented, it can be just as problematic as any other model. This also made me wonder where she stands on the issue of body cameras for police: I didn’t find anything on her site about it, and Google didn’t help me here, so I tried e-mailing her.

Down in her “social justice” category she says she wants to set up “an advisory board of citizen leaders that reflects the racial, socio-economic and linguistic diversity of our community.” She also says, “Rebecca’s personal journey from the ivy-covered walls of Harvard University, to dilapidated school buildings in Baton Rouge, through the slums of India, and to the diverse West Side community has taught her to seek out different perspectives in order to appreciate the complexity of every issue.” Which … hmm. I don’t know, this is the sort of statement that sounds like a privileged kid’s college essay.

Although Rebecca is clearly a Democrat, if you’re one of the six Republicans voting in Ward Two, she’s probably your candidate. She’s endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, she worked for TFA (which the teacher’s union loves to hate), and she’s endorsed by the Police Federation. That said, she’s not actually particularly conservative. (She doesn’t talk about taxes anywhere on her site, which is also kind of interesting and makes me realize that none of the candidates I’ve looked at yet have talked about taxes. It’s not actually a particularly conservative stance to complain about property taxes, though, since they’re regressive and St. Paul’s are some of the highest in the state.)

Looking for her stance on taxes brought up the East Metro Voting Guide questionnaire. Her bio on that one rather neatly sums up some of my issues with TFA. She got a BA from Harvard in Social Studies, which is sort of a generalist approach to the Social Sciences, I think. She taught 8th grade Earth Science (without a degree either in Education or in Geology or in fact any natural science) and notes in several places that a lot of these kids could barely read. (The argument against TFA is that the kids they’re sent to teach really need educated, experienced teachers and instead they get bright-eyed college kids with marginal credentials who are there for two years, max. Yeah, yeah, she went to Harvard. She was teaching 8th grade Earth Science with a Social Studies degree! That’s a marginal credential, right there.)

Anyway, she does get into taxes in that questionnaire: “Expanding our tax base is essential because generating additional public revenue can not be done solely by tax increases – residents and business owners have already seen their taxes skyrocket in the last decade. The way to address this challenge is to attract more businesses to Saint Paul and to prioritize commercial/industrial uses of available land. Commercial/industrial land use is the only type that gives more in revenue to the city than it takes in services. Because Saint Paul is a fully developed city, with little additional land available for redevelopment and 33% of its land untaxable, we need to use our available land for commercial and industrial uses whenever possible.” She goes on to suggest that St. Paul expand its business incentive program to cover small businesses, make it easier for businesses to navigate city hall, and “overcome our persistent reputation for being an unfriendly place to do business.” She’s on the Planning Commission, something that doesn’t get a lot of play on her campaign website but she mentions several times in the questionnaire.

See, that’s the sort of insider understanding of the details that makes me think someone could be really effective on the City Council. The risk is that she could be the next Jackie Cherryhomes (former Minneapolis City Council rep MADE OF PURE EVIL.)

Darren Tobolt

I just want to note that if he gets elected, there will be a Tobolt and a Tolbert representing adjacent wards, which is going to be confusing as heck. I don’t think Noecker has brought this up, and maybe she should consider pointing it out?

Darren has worked as a community organizer and a DFL Party Chair, and he’s been a legislative aide to a Ramsey County Commissioner. (I bet he knows our water comes out of the Mississippi.) He worked in a blue-collar job when he first graduated from high school, then joined the National Guard to pay for college.

Rebecca and Darren both have a long list of impressive endorsements, FYI. Rebecca is endorsed by several sub-groups within the DFL (the Stonewall DFL Caucus, the Feminist DFL Caucus, and Young DFL), State Senator Sandy Pappas, and the Police Federation; Darren got most of the Labor endorsements, Mayor Chris Coleman, and the Firefighters. Rebecca was endorsed by the Pioneer Press; Darren was endorsed by the Star Tribune. The Pioneer Press takes note of Rebecca’s pragmatic attitude toward business, and the Star Tribune likes Darren for his prior experience.

On Darren’s Issues page, he calls out:

* Citizen Engagement (“To build an active engaged citizenry, I will hold office hours throughout the ward during off-business hours, will return every phone call, and will be where I’m needed when I’m needed.”)
* Economic Development (“I will work to eliminate the complicated work of opening and running a small business by streamlining city processes across departments and expecting faster turnaround times. … I will put forth and passing an earned sick and safe time ordinance to support families who do not have the option of taking time off work if they or a family member are sick or in need.”)
* Public Safety (“Safety is more than police budgets; public safety is also about providing positive opportunities for all. I will fight hard to ensure all of our rec centers, parks and libraries are open and staffed when working families need these resources. … I will grow Saint Paul’s role in ending gender violence by focusing on early violence prevention, police and prosecutor training, and by providing cross-jurisdictional resources where people live.”)
* Public Services (“As a community-elected board member of the Fort Road Federation and a member of the Saint Paul Long Range Capital Improvement Budget Committee, I have worked side by side with other concerned neighbors to successfully advocate for [a long list of nice amenities including a rec center renovation and improvements to the 35E bikeway]… I am an advocate for curbside organics collection.”)
* Safe Streets (“A healthy transportation system for all means more sidewalks and safer crosswalks so that all people feel comfortable walking from their homes to schools and local businesses.” This is also where he stashes his opposition to Grand Ave parking meters.)

So, okay. I guess I’m seeing some differences showing up, at this point.

* Both Rebecca and Darren talk about streamlining stuff for businesses opening but Rebecca puts more emphasis on making the city more business-friendly (and gives some good reasons for it, i.e., you can tax them); Darren puts more emphasis on requiring paid sick time, though Rebecca is also a supporter. (I am a big fan of mandatory paid sick time; I think it’s a win/win. I don’t want my sandwich made by an employee who was barfing in the bathroom five minutes ago but can’t go home because he’ll get fired or because he really needs to get paid. I mean, this is just basic epidemiology: if sick people can go home they are a lot less likely to share their germs. It’s also the right thing to do as decent human beings, to make sure people can take time off when they get sick, but even aside from “basic human decency” factors, there is a self-interest element here you’d think would be obvious.) Both support living wage ordinances.

* They are both fans of transit and eager to get better transit options into Ward 2, which is good because the situation right now is kind of ridiculously terrible. (I don’t live in Ward 2, but it’s where my kids go to school, and I’ve looked to see what would be involved in having my high schooler ride the bus to the U. I was not impressed with the options.) Darren avoids talking about amenities for cars as much as possible; Rebecca puts a lot of emphasis on basic street stuff like patching potholes and plowing snow. (I will note that those are not just services for cars. Potholes are potentially lethal to bikers, and a lot of Minnesotans bike year round. Buses also use those streets.) Both Darren and Rebecca filled out a questionnaire about transit for the Smart Trips voter guide. In that, I was pleased that Darren specifically noted that St. Paul is riddled with spots that don’t have sidewalks and that we needed to fix that. I was happy they both talked about pedestrian safety but a little dismayed that even though Ward 2 includes the West 7th neighborhood, neither got into pedestrian safety on West 7th. (West 7th cuts diagonally across a lot of streets and creates all these five-way intersections that are nervewracking to cross on foot and frankly pretty irritating even in a car.) If transit is important to you, it’s probably also worth noting that Darren and his wife own only one car between them and use transit for a lot of their trips; they have genuine skin in the game. (Rebecca says she gets around by car, bus, and bike, which is exactly what I’d say. I don’t actually ride the bus very often at all and my biking is purely recreational.)

* They both talk about public safety but Rebecca puts more emphasis on policing than Darren does. (They both talk about providing productive activities for teenagers to keep them out of trouble.)

* Darren wants curbside organics collection; Rebecca doesn’t show any particular interest in it. (For the curious out-of-towners, I will note that one of the really odd things about St. Paul is that the city doesn’t picks up recycling but not trash. You can theoretically haul it to the dump yourself, but most people hire a company to pick up their trash weekly and sometimes also their yard waste. There are six different companies that come down my alley picking up people’s garbage. I think some mayor tried to implement municipal trash pickup a few years before I moved to St. Paul and that went down in a flaming mass of aversion to any sort of change. St. Paul also does not plow the alleys; you have to get together with your neighbors and hire a guy. It does at least plow streets to the curb, rather than expecting you to shovel out the parking lane.)

* Rebecca makes a point of her willingness to disagree with the mayor; Darren is clearly long-time friends with Chris Coleman and has his endorsement.

* Both of them claim they’re running a positive campaign but being attacked by their opponent. In Darren’s “News” section he objects to the “unfair criticism” of Rebecca in the most passive-aggressive sideways way possible: “my opponent was unfairly criticized simply because she has the endorsement and financial support of an organization that is fighting against the paid family leave and living wage ordinances.” (In context, I don’t think it’s intended to be sarcastic.) There was an article in the Press that noted that the swipe at Rebecca came from the AFL-CIO (the organization that opposed living wage ordinances is the Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Rebecca); the Police Federation, meanwhile, sent out a flier suggesting that Darren would be Chris Coleman’s yes-man.

* Darren has strong ties to Ramsey County government, which will definitely be a plus in terms of getting things accomplished. Rebecca’s experience is on the City Planning Commission, which is not bad, either. (Hilariously, Darren’s wife is also on the planning commission.)

Anyway, I e-mailed both of them to ask about body cameras. The election is Tuesday, though; I’m not going to be surprised if I don’t get a response.

I am leaning toward Rebecca Noecker.

Election 2015: St. Paul City Council, Ward One

The Ward One candidates are:

Trahern Crews (Green Party)
Dai Thao (Incumbent, DFL Party)

Dai Thao’s website starts out with the statement, “My whole life has prepared me for the position of Councilmember for Ward 1. I was born in Laos and escaped the communist regime there as a youth. I survived refugee camps in Thailand and came to Minneapolis, where I grew up in a housing project.” That made me blink and think that this may be an excessive level of preparation for the St. Paul City Council. He also calls out some of his top accomplishments (he was elected for the first time two years ago — I think maybe someone resigned mid-term, since terms are normally four years long): “We approved Paid Parental Leave, secured pool vouchers for low-income youth and supported the Women’s Economic Security Act, ensuring all women contractors are paid the same as men.”

Before taking office he worked as a community organizer for Take Action MN (working against the evil constitutional amendments of 2012) and ISAIAH (organizing to help people in poverty, basically). You really could not ask for a candidate more committed to racial and economic justice and progressive issues.

Trahern Crews is Green Party endorsed. He starts off by saying he wants to end government tax breaks to Wal-Mart (does the City of St. Paul even give tax breaks to Wal-Mart? I mean, I suppose it’s possible?) and then says he wants to implement rent control. Rent control is a terrible idea. (Though I’m not super surprised that a Green-endorsed candidate would disagree with me on that issue.)

His website looks fully functional but if you click the donations link it says “Online donations coming soon!” and then suggests you set up a meeting with Trahern to give him a donation in person. Since the election is on Tuesday, I’m thinking that online donations are not coming soon.

And that’s fine with me, because Dai Thao is absolutely the person I would vote for if I were a resident of Ward 1.

Election 2015: St. Paul City Council Ward Five

I have no council race in my own ward — Chris Tolbert, who pronounces his last name toll-bert and not like Stephen Colbert’s last name but with a T, is running unopposed. Given the complete and utter mess that was this summer’s road construction projects, I find that a little surprising. Possibly it was such a hassle to get out of our neighborhood that possible opponents couldn’t get down to City Hall to file?

Anyway, there are other wards that have interesting races in various ways and let me see if I can get through any of them before election day, which is Tuesday of this coming week.

Ward 5 has the following candidates:

Amy Brendmoen (incumbent)
David Glass
David Sullivan-Nightengale (endorsed by the Independence Party)

This is mostly a race between Amy Brendmoen and David Glass. Which is mostly a furious vendetta on the part of David Glass because he blames Amy Brendmoen for the loss of his business. Not entirely unreasonably, except that if anyone ever deserved to lose their business… maybe I should back up.

St. Paul has a lot of lovely parks, and one of the nicest is Como, which has the zoo, the conservatory, and a lovely tiny lake with a pavilion next to it. Some years back, David Glass moved his coffee and sandwich shop to the Como Pavilion. He paid about $25,000 annually in rent, often paying late, and was making about $250,000 annually in revenue.

Let me just reiterate a few things about this pavilion. It’s big, first of all. It is right by the water, with both indoor and outdoor seating available, and it’s right in a park, but also right off of Lexington Avenue, so it’s easy to get to. It’s got parking. You can also park in the neighborhood and walk to the pavilion without a lot of trouble. The lake itself has a beautiful little one-mile path going around it and lots of the people in the neighborhood go for walks on that path daily. You could not custom-design a more perfect location for a restaurant. And in this location, they were selling coffee and stale baked goods.

I’ve eaten there, FTR. Every time I went inside it was empty or nearly empty. Because seriously, the baked goods were TERRIBLE. I don’t remember ever eating the sandwiches, but they definitely didn’t have a panini maker or any of the setup that would let you make really good sandwiches.

Over in Minneapolis, there are two parks that have in-park restaurants where they just rented the space out to vendors: Minnehaha Falls has Sea Salt, which is freaking amazing, at least if you like fish (and if you don’t, well, they also have excellent ice cream sold out of a separate window so you won’t have to stand in the huge line that forms for the restaurant on nice days…) and Lake Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska has Tin Fish, which isn’t as good but rakes in just as much money because that is one of the busiest park locations in the city. At some point, St. Paul park officials found out how much money Minneapolis was getting in revenue sharing from the restaurants in its parks, and choked.

So St. Paul went back to Black Bear Crossing and said, hey, you know, you’re really underusing this space. Why don’t you look at what some of those restaurants are doing in Minneapolis? He wasn’t interested. And then they said, You know what? If you want to stay in this space, we want you to partner with Sea Salt. NOPE. So then they refused to renew his lease, and he sued for breach of contract, and they settled. Whether they actually had a good reason to settle or not, I’m not sure (sometimes cities just pay out because fighting it in the courts is also expensive and much less certain) but OH MY GOD, given that the new restaurant earned 1.02 million dollars in revenue between May and August (of which the city got a share), it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.

If in fact Amy Brendmoen is personally responsible for removing an underperforming coffee and sandwich shop that was always empty and survived only because it was allowed to pay vastly below the market rate in rent, and replacing it with a restaurant that is holding interesting new events, serving food people want to eat, employing 79 people, renting boats and bikes, and in general using a publicly-owned pavilion in ways that benefit the public in many ways, then that all by itself is an excellent reason to vote for her.

Whoever negotiated a contract that said “David Glass can just keep renewing his lease forever and we will never raise his rent or make any other demands on him and if we terminate his lease because we want some other business in that lease, he can totally sue us” should lose their job, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Amy, since she’s a first term Council member.

I will admit that this cute little “checking in with the newbie!” article did not fill me with confidence about her (“Who knew that we get our water from the Mississippi river?” — wait, there are people who don’t know that? Maybe I overestimate the state of civic knowledge. FYI, we get our water from the Mississippi river. Then we treat it. Then we use it. Then we treat it again, and we put it back in the river when we’re done with it. This is part of why the cities are so strict about not wanting rain water dumped in our sanitary sewers, because anything that goes into the sanitary sewer has to be treated, whereas rain water can just be allowed to run straight into the river.) (Possibly I find water systems more interesting than most people?) But her website gives you a cute map and you can see all the stuff she’s done so far and hey: it doesn’t even list the improvements to the Como Pavilion.

David Glass also hates bike lanes and he’s endorsed by the Police Federation, which I count as a strike against him.

The third candidate, David Sullivan-Nightengale, is endorsed by the Independence Party. He has sort of a half-assed website with minimal information, and a Facebook page. Scrolling through his Facebook page is a little unnerving as it alternates between perfectly reasonable stuff (“let’s make naloxone more widely available”), pieces that start out with legit complaints that veer into religion (he links to an article about a small businessman having hassles with St. Paul regulations and then extensively quotes Samuel), a rant about robot armies (“Already we’ve seen armed civilian robots. Like the Cylons of science fiction, there are few rules which regulate the arming of robots. Asimov’s Laws of Robotics is certainly a starting point for humanity to regulate the rise of the machines”)…

He’s a safety engineer so a lot of stuff goes through that particular lens. Some of which is super legit, like concerns about oil trains running through the city and paid sick time. Some of which just makes him sound kind of nuts. (Robot armies and his rant about China.)

If you really loathe Amy Brendmoen, I guess you can pick between the resentful failed businessman and the slightly paranoid safety engineer for your 1st and 2nd choice. (St. Paul has ranked-choice voting, so you can order them by preference, you don’t have to pick just one.)

Otherwise, vote for Amy.