Election 2018: Ramsey County Commissioner, District 3

I wrote about this during the primaries and would probably not have written about it again, but I got a cranky e-mail from Janice Rettman’s assistant (from a personal e-mail account, so there’s no particular reason to assume Janice sent her my way) wanting to set the record straight on a few things, so here we go.

On the ballot:

Trista MatasCastillo (endorsed by the DFL)
Janice Rettman (incumbent)

In the August post, I said that Commissioner Rettman voted against the All Abilities Transportation Network. According to her assistant, that is not true:

She and her staff were integral to writing that plan and she voted yes on it. She did vote no on a separate document called the “All Abilities Transportation Policy” which was a 1-page policy document that failed to specifically include language about people with disabilities. Her colleagues believed the “All Abilities” implied the inclusion of people with disabilities, Janice wanted to make that explicit, rather than implied.

So I did some hunting around and I found a two-page resolution and policy document online here. The first page has a lot of WHEREAS’s and it ends as follows:

RESOLVED: The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners adopts the Ramsey County All Abilities Transportation Network Policy as follows:

Ramsey County All Abilities Transportation Network Policy
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners is committed to creating and maintaining a transportation system that provides equitable access for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual preference, health, education, abilities, and economics. This is broadly defined as an “All Abilities” Transportation Network. Transforming this commitment into reality requires consistent leadership and collaboration over time, and must incorporate the best ideas from across the region, state and country. The policy set forth herein has been created to unify County transportation efforts under a shared vision and implementation strategy, and to clarify its commitment to: people of all abilities; an integrated and fully interconnected transportation system that utilizes a variety of modes; and safety, health, mobility and connectivity for all residents and businesses.

So first off, I don’t know how you look at something that is called the All-Abilities Transportation Network Policy, which says that people should be able to access transportation regardless of health or abilities, and say that doesn’t include disabilities, but I also don’t know why, if someone at the table is saying, “I want this to explicitly include disabilities,” you wouldn’t rewrites this to be explicit there. Why wouldn’t you just make that edit? (I have e-mailed Commissioner McDonough to see what he says. I’ll also note that I asked a disabled friend for input here and she read this as being precious and avoiding the word “disability” while also equating disability with poor health, so she’s on Janice’s side about the phrasing. She’s also been a bike commuter, though, so I’m pretty sure she’d vote for Trista if she lived in Ramsey County District 3.)

I went looking for some indication on how the debate shook out when the actual plan got voted on. This ought to be findable as County Board meeting minutes are online, but the website where they’re kept is such an absolute navigational nightmare I gave up.

EDITED TO ADD: an alert reader is better at navigating that site than I am and found the relevant discussion. It’s between 22:46 and 28:58. Janice Rettman brings up disability and making disability inclusion explicit. The commissioner who I think is Victoria Reinhardt says that it was purposefully not written that way “because what I’ve heard from folks is that they don’t want to be singled out.” (She clearly talks to very different disabled people than I talk to. The county board skews visibly old and I feel like here I’m seeing the results of an old-person bubble. Disabled people over 60 tend to have really different attitudes toward this stuff.)

Janice’s advocacy here was inarticulate and she probably did not help her case by saying “handicapped” (that’s a dated term, I don’t know anyone who’s super offended by it, but in a room full of well-meaning able-bodied people you probably want to say “disabled”).

Back to the post:

She says that Janice opposed the Dale road diet plan because the neighborhood opposed it. (“At a community meeting in 2014, 100 people showed up to voice their concern.”) In my experience as a St. Paul resident, people will show up to complain about literally anything anyone is proposing to change. I guess I would say there’s a balance to be found between “ignoring input from the people you represent” and “opting not to make a change that will literally save lives.”

She also objected to my characterization of Janice as a hater of bike lanes:

She, along with the neighborhood helped build the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary and Regional Trail, which took over 20 years to complete; she established the trail connection on Maryland that runs under 35E, which links to both Vento Trail and Trout Book Trail and connects the East Side and North End communities, and she is actively working on trail gaps and connections including the extension to Vadnais Heights with Trout Brook Regional Trail, Vento Regional Trail and Gateway Trail.

I find it super fascinating when the response to “this person hates bike lanes” is, “they don’t hate bike lanes; look at the bike trails they’ve supported.” I bike recreationally (well, I used to bike recreationally; it’s been a while) and I strongly preferred bike trails because for recreational riding, bike trails are great. If you want to ride your bike for transportation, however…you are going to need bike lanes. Even if there’s a lovely trail that takes you most of the way to where you’re going, you’re at least going to need an option for the last few blocks that doesn’t feel like you’re taking your life into your hands. A lot of bike trails are also meandering trails that go from one lovely secluded park on the edge of town to another, rather than giving you a nice straight shot from home to work. (There are exceptions, like the Midtown Greenway, and I’ll note that the Greenway is one of the most heavily used trails in the metro.) Bike trails are also frequently not plowed. (Bike lanes are supposed to be plowed, along with the street, although results are mixed.)

I found a map of where the Trout Brook Regional Trail runs. It runs between the Gateway Trail and Rice Street. Which has no goddamn bike lanes.

So I’m going to say that this person really missed the point I was making, which is that Rettman lacks any sympathy for or understanding of people who rely on bikes for transportation, despite the fact that 25% of those who lives in the Frogtown/Thomas-Dale neighborhood don’t own cars.

Anyway, I would still vote for Trista MatasCastillo. If you’re undecided, both websites have contact addresses and you can contact Trista MatasCastillo and Janice Rettman with your specific concerns to see what they have to say.



1 thought on “Election 2018: Ramsey County Commissioner, District 3

  1. I used to live a few blocks from a rails-to-trails shared bike/pedestrian route that actually works as the “Commuter Bikeway” that’s in its name–but a large part of why that works is that it terminates at a subway station with lots of free bicycle parking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s