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City Council Headed for a Major Overhaul in November

Courtesy of The Highland Villager

-by Jane McClure

With 30 candidates on the ballot and at least four of the seven incumbents stepping down at the end of the year, the November 7 general election promises the biggest shakeup of the Saint Paul City Council in many years. At the close of the two-week candidate filing period on August 15, here is how the races were shaping up in each of the city’s seven wards:

Ward 1

Vying for the Ward 1 seat now held by interim City Council member Russel Balenger are Anika Bowie, Yan Chen, Travis Helkamp, James Lo, Lucky Tiger Jack Rosenbloom, Omar Syed, Suz Woehrle and Jeff Zeitler.

Bowie, an unsuccessful candidate for the Ward 1 seat in 2019, said she is hoping to be part of what could be Saint Paul’s first women-only City Council. She filed for the race alongside incumbent Mitra Jalali and fellow candidates Cheniqua Johnson, Saura Jost and Hwa Jeong Kim. Among her priorities for the city are public safety, protecting the $15 minimum wage, promoting the work of the newly formed Reparations Commission and ensuring safe and accessible sidewalks through snow removal.

Chen describes herself as “an immigrant, mother and scientist.” Born in Shanghai, she came to the U.S. at 19 to attend college. “I’m at the right time in my life to give back what America has done for me by making my neighborhood better,” she said. Chen cited budget management and crime as the core issues of her campaign. To combat what she described as Saint Paul’s budget pitfalls, she would stabilize the property tax rate and ensure city government leverages all potential revenue streams.

Helkamp did not respond to a request for information prior to press time.

Lo, whose family moved to Saint Paul from a refugee camp in Thailand, cited housing and educational opportunities, economic development and public safety as his top priorities. A counselor at Harding High School, he is a member of the Saint Paul Federation of Educators and has been endorsed by that organization as well as former City Council member Dai Thao and former School Board member Keith Hardy.

Rosenbloom, the son of local boxing legend and entrepreneur Tiger Jack Rosenbloom, operates the store his father founded. A firearms instructor, paralegal and former chair of the Council on Black Minnesotans Legacy Committee, he advocates increased police funding, dismissing police officers involved in misconduct, establishing state funding to support affordable housing and scrapping the proposed Rondo Land Bridge.

Syed, a Somali immigrant and unsuccessful candidate for School Board in 2019, owns two small businesses. A member of the Saint Paul Planning Commission, he said if elected he would promote affordable housing and tenant protections by building more housing with fewer zoning restrictions, supporting rent stabilization and funding legal services for multilingual tenants. He would increase funding for first responders and violence prevention programs, work to improve public safety on the light-rail Green Line, and reduce red tape and fees for small businesses.

Woehrle has served as an organizer for several regional and local political candidates. She supports the city’s rent control ordinance along with efforts to provide affordable housing for homeless people. Woehrle would also expand District Energy, the nonprofit, carbon-neutral utility that powers parts of downtown and the West Side. She seeks closer civilian review of the city’s police force and would work to reduce or prevent “violent interactions between vulnerable communities and the police.”

Zeitler is a 20-year resident of Ward 1. He and his wife own a small business in Minneapolis. He served on the Union Park District Council and helped create the Merriam Station Community Garden. “I’d like to see our city streets maintained properly without increasing taxes,” he said. “Saint Paul needs to focus its resources on things that a city needs to do, such as plowing streets, patching potholes and public safety.” Zeitler also supports fully funding the police and fire departments.

Please see the August 22 Highland Villager for full story

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