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In the West St. Paul municipal election this year the mayor and three City Council members are on the ballot. We’ve asked the candidates a series of questions to see where they stand on the issues. We’ll share one question and the responses at a time leading up to the general election on November 8. See our 2022 voter’s guide for more.
Previously we asked about creating positive change, housing, the budget, public safety, and the city manager. This time we’re asking about top priorities.
What are your two to three top priorities for West St. Paul over the next few years? How will you address those issues?
Here are the candidates’ responses:
Candidates for Mayor
This is an uncontested race.
Public Safety and Financial stability
Public Safety – I will continue to support our over 200 outreaches we do each year. Officers and firefighters get out into the neighborhoods to get to know our residents. This includes many events in our parks and at our rental properties. As a member of the SMFD board of Directors; I will continue to support their efforts to provide top of the line services.
Financial stability – We need to assure that large projects are done without adding to our debt. If this may include placing a project on hold until it makes financial sense. For example, we placed Marthaler Park reconstruction on hold for almost 2 years. We are well on our way with a plan to maintain our public infrastructure now and into the future.
Candidates for City Council Ward 1
Simply put, people want to live in or visit places where they feel safe. They also want to live in, visit, and conduct business in cities that are clean. Public safety and a clean city are my top priorities.
St. Paul is right next to us and has experienced an uptick of violent crime. The police department is doing a good job of being able to keep the largest problems confined there and needs continued budget support to ensure the future. We need to consider police reform policies that have first proven effective in other communities in keeping people safe.
The South Metro Fire Department has shown that sharing services with other communities can work without diminished results and save taxpayers funds. As a former council member and member of the South Metro Fire Board, we were working on expanding South Metro to other cities which would save further money that could be used to prepare for the inevitable need for replacement of fire trucks, engines, ambulances, etc. If elected, I would try to continue those efforts, or bring them back into the discussion.
We can keep the city clean through volunteer efforts where volunteers are motived to help through improved recognition. Tasking sentenced to serve crews could go a long way to keeping things orderly. We should do everything possible in order to keep big boxes responsible for the litter they generate. We should encourage property managers to offer reduced rent to tenants who keep their property orderly.
Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson
I think it makes sense to take a look at the rent density ordinance and consider increasing the percentage in order to give families of color an opportunity to improve their lives without having to leave West St. Paul. Currently there’s no city level protection for renters on the books, landlords are allowed for any reason including retaliation to terminate a lease without cause. With 50% of the city being renters, it’s imperative to address this now as more apartments are built.
I will start by advocating for a 3 percent late fee and rent cap while working on policies that prevent landlords from evicting renters just because it’s Tuesday, this will give our struggling families and families of color the opportunity to thrive.
Candidates for City Council Ward 2
This is an uncontested race.
John Justen did not respond to our questionnaire.
Candidates for City Council Ward 3
A big priority for me is finding a way to hear new voices. Encouraging and maintaining engagement was important to me four years ago, and we’ve done a great job at involving and developing our volunteer committees and commissions. I want to make sure we continue focusing on that, which means eliminating communication barriers by offering things in multiple languages and finding alternative ways to reach out to those we haven’t heard from yet.
Public safety always must be a priority. That means allocating the right resources to our fire and police departments; maintaining quality infrastructure in our streets, sidewalks, and parks; and again welcoming community input to ensure residents feel safe in their homes and throughout West St. Paul.
We need to continue being responsible with our money. I’ll work to build strong relationships with our new state lawmakers in West St. Paul to make sure they understand our city’s funding needs so they can better advocate for us at the State Capitol. I’ll also make sure we’re keeping our levy as low as we can for our residents while still maintaining day-to-day operations. I know we’d all like to see big things happen in West St. Paul, and we deserve them—and I will always keep in mind how that will impact our residents.
Jake Nelson has dropped out of the race and did not participate in our questionnaire, but will still appear on the ballot.
Vote on November 8
The general election is on Tuesday, November 8. Learn more about where and how to vote. You can also vote early with an absentee ballot, either by mail or by stopping at the Dakota County offices.
See our 2022 voter’s guide for more on the candidates and other races.
Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.
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