We’ve made it to the last ward! I think (unless there’s a special election somewhere I’ve overlooked) that this is a wrap, the last of the elections in Minneapolis (which has 0 elections) and St. Paul (which has the City Council, the school board, and the trash referendum.) If you’re reading from the suburbs wondering when I’m going to do your town — I confine my analysis to the city limits of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. (I talked a little bit about why in my 2014 post about my complete lack of qualifications to be an authority on political races.)
Here’s who’s running in Ward 7:
CONTENT NOTE: Kartumu King’s writeup includes discussion of child abuse.
I’m just going to jump directly into why I would not vote for her. There was an article in the Pioneer Press in early October discussing everyone’s past brushes with the law. Most of it made me shrug: I don’t care if someone was convicted of a DUI in 2000. However, there were two people with histories that genuinely horrified me, and Kartumu King was one.
From the article (link goes to the PiPress databank at the St. Paul Public library; use a St. Paul library card for access). (CONTENT NOTE: CHILD ABUSE):
In April 2013, King was convicted in Ramsey County District Court of malicious punishment of a child, a misdemeanor, after school officials discovered that a child in her care was having trouble walking due to a severe belting. A second malicious punishment charge was dismissed. She was placed on supervised probation for two years, with credit for one day in jail. A no-contact order was lifted after three months.
(There’s more about her in that article — the fact that she has been involved in 19 lawsuits would also make me raise my eyebrows. But child abuse is the absolute dealbreaker.)
Parenting can be hard. (Although, “a child in her care” implies to me that she was not this child’s parent — I am not sure if that makes it better, or worse.) But if you ever in your life, even once, beat a child so hard that child had trouble walking, I don’t want you as my elected representative. This is all I need to know about you. I’m going to leave it there.
There are a lot of votes on the City Council that go 6-1, where Jane Prince is the one. She voted against the just-in-case-people-vote-no tax levy (it was 4-2 that time; Kassim Busuri also voted against it). She voted against the bonds financing the German School’s new building (the one that involved tearing down a historic church), again with Busuri. She cast the sole vote against a proposed quadplex on Grand Avenue and the sole vote against a five-story apartment building on Marshall. She voted against the Ford Site rezoning. And she voted against the coordinated trash hauling contract, because she thought it was a bad contract.
She did vote with the majority in favor of the Green-to-Go ordinance on containers and the ban on menthol tobacco products. She also voted yes on the $15 minimum wage, although weirdly I couldn’t find any articles written after the vote. She was a supporter, though.
I am kind of struck by the fact that her website mentions housing as her top priority, and goes on to say, “Prince is calling for the City to set an aggressive housing production goal – say 10,000 units by 2025, with at least 25 percent affordable to people earning from 30-50 percent of Area Median Income,” but she’s consistently voted against projects for multi-unit buildings because she thinks they’re too big, tall, or dense for the lot they’re going onto. In the case of the Marshall Avenue project she objected because the nearby buildings were 3 stories rather than 5. She’s also suspicious of proposals like Minneapolis 2040 and the idea of allowing duplexes and triplexes on standard lots. The thing about building new housing is that it has to go somewhere. (She does talk a bit more about what she thinks should be done in her response to the Neighbors for More Neighbors questionnaire.)
She replied promptly and thoroughly to my question about trash and priorities for future contracts. She first noted that she voted against the contract: “1) it was too expensive (compare the price of surrounding communities who have coordinated hauling), especially for people on fixed incomes and low income renters; 2) it provides no incentive for waste reduction (the price per gallon is lower, the larger the bin you use), and 3) it has led to the buy-out of small local and family-owned haulers, leading to a potential Waste Management monopoly.” She wants to seek broad community feedback on other changes to avoid making a new set of mistakes, and had at least a marginally compelling argument for why a no vote would allow for changes: “the contract remains valid no matter the outcome of the election, but a change of who pays under a NO vote means that the contract would need to be opened and amended – at which time we can try to get some improvements. By the way, I voted against putting the system on the property taxes, it is simply wrong. And it is appalling that our mayor is using it as a threat to get people to vote yes.”
I sort of assume that Mary Anne Quiroz is running as the Progressive Alternative, but I had some mixed reactions to her website.
On the plus side: she talks about universal design in transit and development (and gives a helpful link to explain what it is). I found the idea of universal design incredibly helpful for imagining what sorts of environments we ought to be creating. (The idea behind universal design is that we can build things for the people who face the most obstacles, and this actually makes everyone’s life better. If you’ve ever opened a door by pressing the door-open button with your hip because your hands were full, you have benefited from these principles.)
She talks a whole lot about community input into all development projects, which possibly makes me unjustifiably suspicious just because I live in a part of Saint Paul filled with people who will show up at meetings to complain bitterly about literally anything. (Link goes to a livetweet of a meeting to discuss a planned mixed-use building that has now basically been completed, at the corner of Snelling and St. Clair. People were complaining because it wasn’t brick. It was replacing a falling-down building of crumbling stucco.) Anyway, Ward 7 is very much not Highland or Mac-Groveland and “we need more community input into development” may be a much more valid statement there. In my part of St. Paul it tends to be code for, “we need to let people comment on projects until they just go away.”
But OK, here’s my major concern about her. As far as I could find, and I searched it twice, there’s nowhere on her website with any contact information. You can subscribe to updates, you can sign up to volunteer, and you can donate, but if you have a question, there’s no apparent way to get in touch with her or the campaign. I wanted to send her my question about trash, and resorted to her Facebook page. No one has responded to my message. (I also checked out her Twitter page. DMs are not open, and also it doesn’t seem like she’s using Twitter much anyway.) And it’s not just me: she didn’t respond to the Neighbors for More Neighbors questionnaire. The Pioneer Press sent out an invitation to every candidate to talk about their campaign in the paper, and Mary Anne Quiroz is marked “Candidate information not available.” Minnpost was unable to reach her for their question about her stance on the trash referendum. She didn’t send in a statement for the League of Women Voters voter guide. If you poke through these you’ll see that there are a number of candidates I liked who missed one or more but I think she’s one of the only serious candidates who didn’t respond to any of them. There was one forum held in October that I found; she had a name card out but didn’t come. (David Thom wasn’t there either, and had no name card. The participants were Jane Prince and Kartumu King.)
Something that’s very hard to measure as an outsider is how responsive someone is, or would be, to constituents. And it’s genuinely important! I don’t expect a swift personal response when I call or e-mail Betty McCollum or Amy Klobuchar; with national-level representatives, my goal is to be a tally mark in favor of the stuff I want, against the stuff I oppose. But with state legislators and City Council reps, they (or their staff) should be responding to the people they represent. You won’t always get what you want, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re shouting into the void.
If someone isn’t responding to me or Neighbors for More Neighbors or the Pioneer Press or MinnPost or the League of Women Voters, when they are running for office, that is a terrible leading indicator for responsiveness.
David Thom is anti-coordinated trash and anti-alley-plowing and if he has any other stances he doesn’t have them on his Facebook page, which is his only website. He did send in a response to that PiPress candidate guide. In response to the question “what qualifies you to hold this position?” he responded “1) Over 21 on 1/2/2020. 2) Resident of Ward 7 for 30 days before election. 3) Eligible to vote. These are the only requirements required to hold this office. Not a lawyer not a politician. Just an ordinary citizen that has owned a house in St. Paul and lived there for 42 years. I will represent the people. I owe no political favors and give none.”
I mean, he’s not wrong that those are the only requirements to hold the position, and possibly they should have asked instead “what makes you more qualified to hold this position than your opponents, all of whom are also over 21, residents of Ward 7, and eligible to vote,” although most candidates filling out questionnaires like this kind of get that this is implied.
Anyway, David Thom strikes me as a classic crank and I would not vote for him.
Overall: I disagree with a number of Jane Prince’s votes and would have been open to endorsing one of her opponents — but the people of Ward 7 deserve a representative who will be responsive to their concerns, whatever they are. I would prefer to be represented by someone who I disagreed with some of them but who acted as though she felt accountable to me (and to my surrogates at the Pioneer Press and the LWV), over being represented to someone who voted my way more often but was not available, transparent, or accountable.
If this were a partisan race and it was a choice between a responsive Republican (lol) or an unresponsive Democrat, I’d suck it up and choose the Democrat, but this is a nonpartisan race, Jane Prince is a Democrat (she even has the DFL endorsement), and the topics on which I disagree with her are things like “what is the best way to provide affordable housing in the City of Saint Paul” — our principles are aligned, I respect her positions, and we differ on some of the specifics.
If I lived in Ward 7, I would list Jane Prince first, Mary Anne Quiroz second.
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.