Melvin Carter, incumbent
Saint Paul today is larger, more diverse and more prominent than ever. As our community reinvents itself, so too must we be prepared to reinvent the services, systems, processes and resources we leverage to govern from City Hall. My administration has led that work, with an unapologetic focus on equity – passing a $15 minimum wage, eliminating library late fines, tripling free recreation center programs, establishing our first dedicated funding for bikeways, eliminating minimum parking requirements, and establishing College Bound Saint Paul, our partnership to start every child born in Saint Paul with $50 in college savings.
While the last 18 months have taken a profound toll on communities across the globe, Saint Paul is poised to thrive, as we transition into one of the most prolific phases of economic expansion in our city’s history. We must meet this opportunity with a big vision for our future.
That’s why my top priorities in my second term will be: driving safer outcomes through our Community First Public Safety framework, housing and job development to meet the demands of our growing population, and investing to ensure that every family in our community can access the greater prosperity our city has to offer.
Transparency and engagement may be the true themes of my administration: hundreds of residents have served on hiring panels to vet Cabinet appointees; over 1,000 residents provided input to inform our Community First Public Safety framework; and we engaged residents with police leadership in our first 100 days in office to rewrite our use of force policies – far before the murder of George Floyd drove other cities to follow suit.
As our clearest opportunity to demonstrate our community values, we’ve worked hard to reinvent our city’s budget process for accessibility, with hundreds of Saint Paulites having participated in our annual “budget games” these past 4 years. These events – held in coffee shops, libraries, breweries and online – invite residents to engage with city leaders in the trade-offs of city budgeting, and form the basis of my budget each year.
This summer, we held three virtual roundtables to arrive at a 2022 budget proposal that matches the bold vision Saint Paulites hold for our city’s future. Responses focused on neighborhood safety investments, housing and job opportunities, and building upon city services to ensure economic stability and prosperity; the core themes of my 2022 budget proposal.
Like every major city in America, our public safety challenges have grown more pronounced since the onset of the pandemic. This national phenomenon is a predictable reflection of the deep compound crises families have faced over the past year, as we’ve experienced more homelessness, hunger, unemployment and social isolation than ever before. While these challenges have become more pronounced during the pandemic, they are anything but new; Saint Paul families have been battling these ills for generations.
Our Community First framework, built by neighbors and officers working together, balancinginvestments in law enforcement with proactive interventions in our highest potential neighbors and neighborhoods, while establishing alternative 911 responses to more effectively address the cycles of crisis in which too many residents and families find themselves stuck. These strategies, in combination, form the most comprehensive, coordinated and data-driven approach to public safety that our community has ever endeavored.
If elected, my top priorities are to implement strategies that will show a decrease in violence, an increase in employment opportunities, housing assistance and providing additional community-based resources.
The budget needs to include more resources aimed at mental health and addiction rehabilitation services. Our goal is not to increase taxes, but to be creative in providing incentives to business owners who willing to participate in the employment increase initiative. We want to see our communities of marginalized people thriving, not just surviving. The budget needs to also include programs that provide education and/training for those individuals whose backgrounds have prevented them form accessing opportunities for advancement.
I believe the biggest concern is an insufficient number of people holding law enforcement positions, coupled with the lack of adequate training for those that do hold these positions. The best way to combat this is to restructure the officer training program in a way that is more conducive to carrying out the goal of “protect and serve.” Another avenue is to recruit more people of color into law enforcement so that the disconnect between our communities and officers can fixed and better relationships built. Third, I would like to see more partnership between law enforcement and mental health workers who may assist in protecting the communities we serve. Lastly, there must be better support for those boots-on-the-ground organizations that are working in the heart of these communities with the goal to provide resources to the people seeking assistance.
The single biggest issue facing our city is crime. Criminals have taken over the streets and violent crime continues to increase. For over two years now, Saint Paul has faced a record number of homicides, gun shots fired, carjackings, and other serious violent crime. My priority is restoring safety and security to the city for residents, employees, businesses, and visitors.I would hire more dedicated police officers to patrol the streets and serve the community. Several other issues will be resolved when public safety is addressed. Businesses will remain in the city and provide employment opportunities, people will visit the city for events, dining and entertainment, residents will invest in their property and their future in the city.
As Mayor, all aspects of the budget would be reviewed. I will consolidate services when possible and eliminate redundancy and waste. I will hold community listening meetings to determine what are the priorities of residents and business owners.
Controlling and reducing crime.Studies have proven that focusing on what may be considered minor crime E.g. graffiti, littering, panhandling, etc. can set the tone for the commitment to safety and security for the entire city. This in turn reduces violent crime. I am committed to hiring, training, and ultimately putting more dedicated Law Enforcement professionals on the streets to serve the citizens, businesses, employees, students, and visitors to the City of Saint Paul.
My answers forthcoming are long-standing positions. My priorities include: 1. Rebuilding people’s trust in city hall, 2. New city website to allow citizens to communicate with each other ‘on topics’ and with city hall, 3. All neighborhoods should feel protected. Higher crime areas do want a strong police presence, 4. Retrofit light rail stations to include fences and gates. Honor-system ends, Pay-as-You-Enter system begins. (Curbs crime, violence and millions in annual losses.) Metro Transit bus misconduct also addressed, 5. Downtown skyway ‘system-wide’ camera-audio security system to restore greater safety.
Numbers 6 and 7. More equitable City-Trash Collection fee structure and new ‘Opt-Out/Share’ trash program offered. Review ending ‘Individual Assessments’ for Public Works projects and capping Property Tax and ‘Fee’ increases to inflation rates.
Numbers 8 and 9. Since Union Depot’s $250 Million restoration in 2012, it’s lost nearly $30 million. It’s time we create the ‘Railroad and Riverboat Museum of Minnesota’ here! We’ll restore Saint Paul’s July 4th Fireworks and a ‘Taste of Minnesota’ style festival on our Capitol Mall as we also work to reinvigorate our Winter Carnival, Art Crawl & more!
Lastly, number 10. Referendum: Move City elections to even-numbered years to double or even triple future Voter turn-out!
2) Budget: 1. Most believe there continues to be significant needless spending, while basic services they are paying for such as road and sidewalk repair, tree trimming and tree maintenance, snow plowing and most importantly - keeping society safe, are being unmet. They will be met if I am elected.
2. As Mayor, I will also ensure the City’s website is upgraded to allow citizens to easily participate, within parameters/guidelines, in the budget process and to also publicly communicate with City Hall and each other, and to Vote online here on ‘topics’ before us. I would also like a discussion on allowing differentiation between Homeowner and Renter Voting/Comments. Would this be helpful? Should we also allow verified Saint Paul business owners to participate as well?
Together, we will install transparency and ease of participation at unprecedented levels.
I have been door-knocking our city since Feb. 25. By election day, I expect to have covered every block. The public agrees, we cannot place Saint Paul back onto a higher track until we get growing crime and growing lack of accountability under control and reversed.
Do we need more police officers and shot-spotter technology to do it? Most citizens in high-crime areas want this. Are judges and city/county attorneys perhaps being too lenient? Many say yes. Should we educate the need for personal responsibility and a need for achievable, large-scale mentoring and work programs – in the vein of 1930’s WPA programs? Yes, will have them.
Misconduct/crime on public transit has become commonplace. A quarter-century ago (I’ve used transit for 28-years) I spoke of this at a Met Council public-hearing. Staff came to me afterwards saying there was no political will to help them. I will provide it.
A city-wide, year-to-year Crime Map will importantly allow us to see what is occurring. Each New Year a new map begins, with the former ones retained for easy review – of our progress.
Don’t be discouraged or lose faith currently. Together, we can and will bring back a more vital and kinder city.
My first mission is to work vigorously hard on public safety, working with the police department and other departments to assure the people of the city of St. Paul are safe, secure the newest technology Shot Spotter in hopes to save lives. Work with police department to makes sure our police officers are healthy and give an incentive to live in the city they work in.
Create a youth gun violence initiative to begin to change the mindset of these youth in gangs and clicks to address the mental health and drug abuse that is plaguing our city youth.
Work with the homeless and those who experience repeated episodes of homelessness. Work with individuals on a one on one basis and tailor the program based on individual needs.
Help small businesses to thrive not just survive, give businesses an incentive to move back to downtown St. Paul, which will generate revenue back to the city and give jobs to youth. Also, bring back the fire works show to our city of St. Paul.
First, we must do a full independent audit so that we will know what we are truly working with. Where funds were spent unnecessarily and make adjustments based on our findings from the audit.
One of the things that our administration will do is create several decision making teams, these teams will make decisions for the people on behalf of the people and will respond to the people. This process will be transparent to voters and tax payers of the city of St. Paul, because they will be the ones to ultimately make decisions for the people.
The biggest concern is the rapid gun fire and the shootings of innocent people, the car jacking and the crime rate. Another concern that we need to address immediately is drug overdose of our young people taking fake percs and fentanyl and dying from them. The best way to face these concerns is to deal with it head on, those issues I named above are getting more aggressive as time goes on and we have to meet that aggression with aggressive action.
My campaign is about giving voice to the disenfranchised and empowering citizens. Two out of three registered voters did not vote in the last mayoral election. The disenfranchised voters include the politically disenfranchised, who are citizens that hold a minority position and want to engage, but have no traction, and the structurally disenfranchised, who are citizens that live in high crime-density neighborhoods and have lost hope after their pleas for public safety have been ignored. Here are my top priorities if elected:
1. Public Safety: Support community alternatives to policing and fund the SPPD; i.e. “Yes And..” approach. Improve trust between law enforcement and citizens via policies such as allocating time for officers to engage the community and police accountability (i.e. carry insurance)
2. Citizen Agency: Implement a participatory budget, and use this approach in allocating American Rescue Plan dollars to citizen-driven and citizen-led programs
3. Community Organizing: Pursue asset based community development (ABCD), which draws upon the strengths of local residents and local institutions to build stronger, more sustainable communities.
4. Digital Infrastructure: Build a digital civic engagement platform that encourage civic engagement and community organizing which includes building a neighborhood block club network; i.e. Knock my Block Initiative
There is limited public awareness of how the budget process works. The mayor has the power to draft the budget. Once the budget is drafted, it is too late for public input. The city council can tweak the budget for approval, but this role is limited. Essentially, it’s a top-down management approach from the mayor. This year, in particular, the drafted budget is unjust. Mayor Carter will be spending $72 million of federal money from the American Rescue Plan and the city council is planning to approve the budget before the election. This is unfair to the candidates who have their own vision of St. Paul, and the citizens who should decide their future. I made a public proposal on August 27th, requesting that the city council postpone passing Carter’s budget until he has won the election, and that an alternative budget is drafted in case he loses the election. I would like to implement a participatory budget where citizens can distribute a portion of their taxes however they see fit for different public programs. The participatory budget promotes a bottom-up management, where the citizens are investing, building, leading their own initiatives, and holding themselves and elected officials accountable. The greatest concern is the rampant crime in marginalized communities. Despite a record number of shootings, murders, and robberies in the last two years, the Carter administration continues to underfund SPPD. During my ride-along with the SPPD East District, there were several off-duty officers working the street, and the speciality gang-unit (responsible for removing guns) was disbanded due to low staffing numbers. All this additional stress on officers, increases the likelihood of a police-involved incident, which can lead to intensive civil damage. From the citizens perspective, the light rail is so unsafe that commuters choose to take the bus, and many long-time residents are leaving Saint Paul for safety concerns.
I would address public safety with a two-pronged approach. Provide the necessary resources for SPPD, and support other community engagement programs such as the Community Ambassador program. Finally, citizens can be proactive in protecting their community and making it more vibrant. I want to build a digital block club network, i.e. Knock my Block Initiative, that builds stronger relationships with neighbors and provides immediate safety. Finally, both citizens and officers, alike, need to treat each other with mutual respect and dignity. We close the empathy gap by having conversations.
My top priority is law and order. It’s time to prioritize the freedoms of our citizens, and their businesses, over the freedom of criminals. As Mayor, I will work to restore law and order in our city because our community cannot economically thrive without safe streets first.
2. Economic Opportunity: Provide a safe economic environment conducive for helping our small businesses thrive in. With a strong small business sector, the citizens of Saint Paul will enjoy a vibrant local economy, and increased access to good jobs. A stronger local economy is foundational in providing access to economic opportunity for everyone in our community. My goal is to help build an economy in Saint Paul that works for all of us.
3. Infrastructure: Aging infrastructure continues to remain a concern. It is paramount that we focus on renewing local infrastructure now given the increased national attention and funding coming from the Federal Government. Getting ahead on infrastructure not only helps to make our roads, bridges, and walkways safer; rebuilding our infrastructure also helps to grow our economy, enhance our local competitiveness, and create good jobs.
The City of Saint Paul publishes departmental projects on its website, insight into the budgeting process, charts and graphs, and access to the many different presentations. A great deal of time, effort, and resources are expended each year by department leaders and their teams to provide a departmental budget that works to address the needs and concerns of the community at-large.
Designing and submitting a departmental budget that makes everyone happy is a near impossible task. Having good leadership in place at the departmental level has never been more important as they must always consider public feedback while balancing that input with their career and training experience with a goal of providing the public what it needs, but not necessarily what it (passionately) wants. Long-term budget planning would not be possible if departmental leaders simply reacted to the loudest voice each year. We must trust the experience and insights of our departmental leadership, and if we later learn that our trust was misplaced, we will quickly find new leadership.
• The city provides a user-friendly set of tools online for the public to research both revenues and expenses. However, the level of drill-down on each expense category is somewhat limited to the broader categories. Accounting systems today allow a CEO to quickly drill down to the transaction level detail (or project detail) of any account category. Whether or not the public wants to get that granular is up for discussion; but knowing that this type of detailed information could be included only helps provide greater public transparency and bring to light any potentially questionable transactions for discussion.
• Salary / compensation transparency through yearly benchmarking and comparing findings to average private sector wages in St. Paul’s business sector. The city’s website should share these finding with the public each year.
It’s time to begin prioritizing the freedoms of our law-abiding citizens, and their businesses, over the freedom of criminals. If crime pays, citizens and our businesses will lose. As Mayor, I will work to restore law and order in our city because our community cannot economically thrive without safe streets first.
Here are the facts: Motor vehicle theft up 48% since 2016. Out of 2,774 theft attempts made last year, 99.03% were successful. Less than 1% were unsuccessful. These odds clearly favor the criminals, not our citizens. Furthermore, Robbery grew 32%, Commercial Burglary exploded 70%, and Aggravated Assaults rose nearly 32% last year leaving behind a growing number of shattered lives.
The path back to having a safe city begins with everyone uniting to demand the return of safe streets for everyone in our community. When a manager of a local business politely leans over to inform you as you’re checking out, “it may be best to begin heading home now to be off the streets before dark”, something is unequivocally wrong with our city.
Failing to respond to the growing threat of crime, will poison our economy, and chase away economic opportunities for everyone (except for the criminals).