As I’ve been out doorknocking, it’s common to have people ask me what I think are the most important issues facing the city.
The reality is, your City Council will have to deal with issues over the next four years that none of us are even thinking about today. That’s why I believe it’s most important to consider candidates’ approaches to policy and governance rather than their thoughts on any one specific issue.
When I was last up for election in 2018, and people asked me what I thought were the most important issues for the city to deal with, I’ll confess that my answers did not include an oncoming global pandemic that would result in our considering things like mask mandates, a business loan program for small businesses whose operations were suspended or curtailed due to the public health crisis, temporarily closing the community center to the public, and figuring out how to hold public meetings virtually when we couldn’t be in the same room.
Of course, there are some things we know the city council will have to deal with- for instance, redevelopment proposals at 580 Highway 96, at the former Deluxe campus at the southeast corner of 694 and Victoria, and the former Ramsey County Public Works site at the southwest corner of 694 and Rice. However, due to the nature of the quasi-judicial capacity in which the city council operates with regard to many land use questions, I can’t actually talk much about these significant issues that people have on their minds right now!
Just this weekend, I received this email:
> What is your position on the proposed development for the Union Gospel Site?
> Please confirm whether you are for or against this expansion.
> Thank you,
And this was my response:
“Thank you for contacting me. I realize this may be a frustrating answer, but not only do I legitimately not have a position for or against the most recent proposal the property owner had submitted, I am in fact not allowed to have a position. This is because if and when the proposal comes before the city council for a public hearing and subsequent decision, the city council will be acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, and so we are required to maintain an open mind and may not form an individual position until after the public hearing is conducted. Essentially, we’re akin to jurors. A juror shouldn’t have a position on whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty before the opening arguments have even started.
In fact, I would say that if any candidate tells you that they do have a position for or against this development, that person probably ought not be on the city council, because number one, it suggests that they really don’t understand the job and haven’t cared enough to try to learn about it, and number two, if they were on the city council when this comes up for a public hearing, which isn’t likely to happen before 2023, and they had already expressed that they supported it or opposed it, they’d almost certainly have to recuse themselves from the vote, or they’d be exposing the city to significant legal risk.
Hope that helps in some way!
So if we can’t give you a solid position on an immediate issue, how do you decide whom to vote for? While I just mentioned here that in some ways, we’re like jurors, I was explaining to someone else earlier tonight that in some ways, we’re like judges- we don’t necessarily get to vote on the things we wish we’d get to vote on, we take the “cases” on our “docket”- when something rises to the city council agenda, whether it’s a proposal from city staff, or one of our advisory committees or commissions, or an interested citizen, business owner, or other stakeholder, we need to deal with it. On my “Views” page, I have links to a variety of resources where you can see and hear each candidate’s own words about how they would deal with issues that come before the city. I would encourage you to check them all out! And if you have any questions for me after that, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks!