West St. Paul Ward 1 City Council forum with Julie Eastman and Bob Pace

West St. Paul Ward 1 Candidate Forum Live Blog

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Tonight is the Ward 1 candidate forum. These forums were organized by the Women of West St. Paul, Residents of Color Collective, and the WSP Greenway Project. The forum was moderated by Kimber Scott. Look for the forum video to be posted soon on the West St. Paul Candidate Forums Facebook page. Or watch it here:

Who’s Running?

Here’s our 2020 voter’s guide.

Live Blogging

(Most recent updates first)

6:54 p.m. Closing Statements

Pace: This was fun, it’s great how well it went. Third-generation business owner and experience running a business translates to Council. Wants to work for constituents to offer amenities but keep taxes low.

Eastman: Thanks for doing this forum. She did then in 2018 and knows how much work it is. Appreciates engaged neighbors. We’ll need more of that as we approach the winter months. “I want to hear your voice, I want to hear your ideas.”

6:51 p.m. Question #14: What do you suggest about bringing arts to WSP?

Eastman: Happy about the art park project. Mural in the Robert Street tunnel? All for more art.

Pace: The art park is fantastic. Personally donated to the effort. It’d be great to have art in all our parks. Touts his own art collection. It comes down to money, but the city could partner with businesses. There should be some art in the former golf course when that’s developed.

6:47 p.m. Question #13: What can WSP do to attract more small businesses and a greater diversity?

Pace: We have forgivable loan programs. People ask why we don’t have specific things. It comes down to demographics and how things work. We have fast food because that’s what works. The city needs to come up with marketing and incentives. At the end of the day, what comes in is what will work. It’s hard to control what comes in and what goes. We don’t have a lot of control over it—as it should be (it’s America).

Eastman: I think we can do changes on the economic development side. We need business and community representation, at least in an advisory capacity. We should have broader community discussions about what the community wants to see. Build a development portfolio including goals and metrics.

Pace offers a rebuttal. He doesn’t disagree with Eastman. He notes that we’re pretty full and we’re doing a pretty good job.

6:43 p.m. Question #12: List three items of concern specific to ward 1 and what will you do about them?

Eastman: Additional development closer to renters. Additional improvements to parks, like skating. Adding a second basketball hoop where we only have one. Sidewalks!

Pace: Trail on Oakdale needs to be finished. Development along golf course needs to be finished. Food truck park would be nice. Should look at our parks, add skate boarding or pickleball. Emphasized amenities that the whole city can enjoy.

6:38 p.m. Question #11: What weight should be given to staff recommendations?

They’re going to chat questions now.

Pace: “I’ve challenged staff recommendations a lot. I’m always questioning.” We refer to the experts. The staff are paid to do a job, they’re the experts. Council takes all the recommendations, input from the citizens, and makes a decision. But he does challenge things—points to the changing of the sidewalk assessment policy and pushed back on staff over that.

Eastman: I probably bother staff with questions as much as Council Members do. I appreciate the work they do. “But I am who I am, I will always research and ask a lot of questions.” Strongly encourages citizens to ask questions.

6:35 p.m. Question #10: What does WSP have to offer that other suburbs do not?

Eastman: We have the most engaged people. We have a good reputation.

Pace: We have a lot of great amenities. Great parks. The River-to-River Greenway trail, getting people out. Robert Street. There’s a reason WSP is one of the hottest home markets.

Eastman adds that a great thing about our community is that we invite people to do things. Wants to see more community engagement in economic development.

6:33 p.m. Question #9: How can the city improve access to affordable housing?

Pace: “I think we’re doing a fantastic job.” Points to several new projects. A few years ago our percentage of affordable housing was pretty high, definitely highest in Dakota County, and it’s probably higher now.

Eastman: It’s the most serious issue facing Dakota County. We have a lot of seniors and renters. We have the lowest area median income in Dakota County, and when those numbers are used to determine income for the Dominium project, they’re looking at income numbers nearly twice as high as incomes actually are in WSP.

6:29 p.m. Question #8: Police and relationship with people of color: Eastman talked about trying to start conversations even before George Floyd was murdered. Pace said it’s terrible when anyone has to fear the police. Firmly believes our police force is one of the better forces in the Twin Cities. He wants police initiating friendly interactions with people. Supports more training. Eastman added that Chief Sturgeon has talked about a community board and she wants to see that group happen and have BlPOC and renters on that group.

6:26 p.m. Question #7: If you could change one thing in our zoning what would it be?

Pace: Parking. It’s antiquated. FoodSmith is a good example of a place with no parking that can still work. Should look at each project as an individual project and not have a one-size-fits-all. One of his number one to dos.

Eastman: Nothing specific to the code. Does appreciate the changes being made, like codifying the Environmental Committees standard suggestions. Would like to see community meetings for developments, much like the K-mart meeting.

6:22 p.m. Question #6: Should the city manager be the only one able to hire/fire a police chief? Should there be a citizen oversight board?

Eastman: Never thought about a citizen oversight board, but that might be an option. Did her own research on nearby hiring processes when former WSP chief Bud Shaver retired. Wished we had more community involvement, but there was a good process.

Pace: There has been talk of a citizen oversight board. You can never learn enough about how to do things correctly. Doesn’t have a problem with the city manager doing it, but we could look into different options in the future. Does think the oversight board would be important.

6:20 p.m. Question #5: How have you engaged with constituents who fundamentally disagree with you?

Pace: “It’s communication. … listen to what they have to say.” Just like his business, the constituents are number one.

Eastman: Campaigning she’s had people say they’re voting for Pace but wish her well. She’s had frank and open conversations and they’ve gone well.

We got an opportunity for rebuttals here, but neither wanted to.

6:15 p.m. Question #4: TIF (tax-increment financing)

Eastman: Wants to see improvements to process. She talks about plans coming forward without ducks in a row or things change. She wants a tighter process. As for TIF, it depends on the approach and the program. She has concerns when it keeps changing.

Pace: TIF is a tough subject for everybody to understand. He talks about relying on the experts. Notes that we’re at 3% of TIF, and it should be in the 3-7% range. He thinks changes are part of the process and the negotiation. Touts the benefits of TIF.

6:12 p.m. Question #3: How will you include under-represented groups?

Pace says he supports anything we can do to address these issues. He talks about his family and being aware of the challenges.

Eastman wants to know about diversity and implicit bias trainings our city staff is or will be receiving. Talks about reaching out to businesses and mentions her attempts to reach all potential voters, including renters.

6:10 p.m. Question #2: Ranked choice voting. Eastman supports it, wants to have further conversation about it. Pace is not in favor. He’d consider it, but he’s a firm believe that what isn’t broken doesn’t need to be fixed. He’d prefer doing something on a state level or having voters speak on it.

6:08 p.m. Question #1: Why are you interested in running?

Pace: I’ve had a lot of fun on council, I want to see things through. My experience can help us lead to bigger and better things.

Eastman: I’ve been active on a community organizing level. I want to contribute more, but it’s been difficult to do.

6:04 p.m. – Opening Statements

Julie Eastman: List of experiences. Attended all the meetings (she does). Does the research. A lot of growth to come, “a lot of work to do to make sure all our neighbors are welcome.”

Bob Pace: (rough start as Bob was muted, yay for technology) Local government has opened my eyes to all that happens. We’re in the middle of a lot of things that I want to see through to completion.

More:

See our 2020 voter’s guide and full 2020 election coverage for more.

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