Election 2019: St. Paul City Council, Ward 3

This is my ward and it’s possibly the easiest race this year. On the ballot:

Chris Tolbert (incumbent)
Patricia J. Hartmann

Chris Tolbert

Given that Chris supported both the Ford Site plan and the coordinated trash pickup plan, I was surprised that no one challenged him for DFL endorsement. (I supported both, but I read my neighborhood Facebook group and also there were many signs complaining about the Ford thing. Also a similar number of signs opposing the trash thing.)

I have found Chris to be a reasonably satisfactory council rep. Since moving here in late 2012 it looks like I’ve e-mailed his office nine times, not counting follow-ups, and I’ve always gotten a prompt response. It’s almost never actually an e-mail that solves the problem but his aides are at least good at being appropriately sympathetic to my frustration if, as happened in 2014, Ford and Montreal got ripped up simultaneously and all traffic got re-routed onto Highland Parkway but without a temporary traffic light at Fairview.

He has, in general, been a proponent of increased density along transit corridors (even when people piss and moan about it). I wish he were a bit more of a proponent of bike lanes. He compromised a bit more than I would have liked with the “YOU ARE TURNING US INTO NEW YORK” (as if) kvetchers about the Ford Site Plan. He’s been OK, basically.

Patricia J. Hartmann

Patty is, if not a one-issue candidate, an almost-entirely-one-issue candidate, and her issue is trash collection. She opposed the idea of coordinated hauling, led the group that filed the lawsuit, and insists in the face of the Supreme Court decision that said “The outcome of a referendum on an ordinance that establishes waste collection will not terminate the contract and does not rise to the level of a constitutional impairment of a contractual obligation” that voting “no” will void the contract and force a renegotiation. I don’t know how much more clearly the Supreme Court could have said “no, you’re wrong, the city is still on the hook” but Patty is convinced. (This is particularly ironic because while some houses in the city will, in fact, see their costs go down if we raise property taxes to pay the bill instead, that is much less likely to be the case in Ward 3, which includes Highland and Mac-Groveland and a big section of the River Road. Patty insists that this is a scare tactic. The Supreme Court said explicitly that we were still obligated by the contract.)

She’s also a climate change denier. (Her supporters have insisted what she’s not. Here’s what she said:

I think in terms of the larger issues about temperature changes, I’m not sure, these are very gradual processes and I think there are a lot of scientists who are having difficulty agreeing on what we can do or when we’re going to see any kind of measurable impact so that we’ll know if what we are doing even makes any sense. 

That might not be the style of climate change you hear from your uncle who also has a QAnon t-shirt and posts “but it’s snowing! obviously climate change is fake!” memes every November but it’s very much the approach the oil companies have been pushing for a while now. “This is very gradual (so we don’t have to worry about)” is a sufficiently common tactic these days that there are articles debunking it. And “scientists are having difficulty agreeing blah blah blah” is a repackage of the same bullshit claim that climate deniers have been making since forever. It’s happening, it’s caused by humans, and we know things we could do to mitigate the problem, and if you get up while you’re running for office and say otherwise, don’t complain when people point out you’re parroting climate denial talking points.

Since I approve of coordinated trash collection, and want bike lanes, and am not a climate-change denier, I’m planning to vote for Chris Tolbert.

If you’re finding these useful and would like to make sure I know how much you value my work to help keep me motivated, I have two options for you this year. I have a novel coming out in November, CATFISHING ON CATNET, which you can pre-order. Also, you may remember that last year I linked people to a couple of fundraisers on DonorsChoose for Minneapolis teachers — there was one, in particular, who was raising money to take fifth-grade students at Green Central Park School to Wolf Ridge Environmental Center. My readers really came through for her, and her students were able to make the trip, which is amazing. She has another class of fifth graders, and is fundraising again for another trip. It would make me very happy if my readers supported this project.