Where you going, St. Paul?
Have you ever waded across a stream?
I'm not talking about something the size of the Mississippi River. I'm talking about a creek, a stream or a rivulet. A fast-moving but smallish body of water. I've had the chance to do this a few times- when the Minnesota River was flooding over its banks near where I went to high school. I waded through a cold little creek in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I also sloshed- and swam- a few times across Minnehaha creek, just below the falls, with my kids, when the water was high. It was a learning experience.
One thing you notice is that it's hard to stand up while walking across. The water is trying to tip you over- and you struggle to stand up and not fall in the cold, fast-moving water. Rocks are slippery. Get over knee deep and the current can easily sweep you downstream. Water is powerful. It's scary, and exhilarating at the same time.
Running for office has felt the same way. Each day, wading out into a new neighborhood to flyer houses- sometimes in areas that I know well, others that feel almost completely new to me. Being pushed- emotionally- in different directions all the time. Positive vibes followed by very not-so-positive vibes, sometimes on the same block. "I'm voting for you!" "I want a lawn sign!" "Get outta here!" (yikes) "I hope you win!" (yay) "You're a Republican!" (I'm not) "Why are you putting yourself through this?" (not sure) "God is with you!" (I hope) "I hope you kick all their asses!" (that was my favorite).
It has been educational and exhausting and even fun at times, and meeting so many new people in a city I've lived in for 20 years has been fascinating. I talked to everyone that I came across - walking their dog, picking up their kid from the school bus, sitting on their porch, or just coming to the door - curious about who was noisily trying to stick a flyer on the doorknob. What I've learned is the following:
Almost all people do want police to show up when they call. There are a few diehard police abolitionists in town- and I've debated a couple of them- but most people- of all races- want to have cops- honest cops- show up when they need them. Also- most people think the cost of living is getting too high. Talking about taxes or rent control is wonky- but there's a common thread in this- people are worried about being able to continue to live the way they currently are. People are worried about being able to keep living where they live. They worry about being able to afford groceries. They worry about their car being stolen. There's a lot of fear in St. Paul right now. I would think that would translate to people not wanting to talk to strangers on their front porch or walking the sidewalk, but most people were.
Most people also love this city and want to keep it more or less as it is. Big trees and old houses make up the bones of this town. The houses smell like curry and bacon and egg rolls and fresh cut grass, cigarette smoke and old, wet wood. Yes, the streets are kind of crumbly, but as long as they get plowed and - eventually - patched, most people are fine with them.
I'm grateful to my wife Gita and son Akhil for walking with me to deliver flyers, and to Michael, Deonne, Rich and Charmaine for volunteering to walk with me when my family had other things to do. Gita had her own project- she's running for school board (vote for her!) so I especially appreciate everyone who helped to free her up.
I appreciate the 50 people who took a lawn sign, and especially appreciate those to sent a donation as well! I raised $1000 without really trying! Much of that came from an endorsement by the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, but the rest came from regular people who wanted signs and insisted on sending a check after I hemmed and hawed about it.
I've been buffeted back and forth by the stream that is our city of St. Paul and it's been exhilarating. I'd like to represent our part of town- Ward 1- on the city council for the next four years. This is a great neighborhood. You know it and I know it.
You know where I stand, and I'm willing to hear where you stand. Vote for me tomorrow and we'll stand in this stream together.