It’s an understatement to say that this year has been interesting for West St. Paul politics.
Earlier this year a dust-up over a committee appointment revealed a longstanding pattern of sexism directed at Mayor Jenny Halverson, the first woman to hold the post in the city’s history, as well as numerous other women who say they’ve been marginalized by their city council. The ensuing testimony spanned more than two hours and generated local and national media coverage.
In response to this, two women have stepped up to run for city council in Ward 3, which includes Smith Avenue. And in response to that, two men have stepped up in an effort to prevent them from succeeding.
One of those candidates, former mayor David Meisinger, has a documented history of sexist actions and other questionable behavior, as outlined by local blogger Kevin Hendricks. John Ramsay, another candidate in the race, has not condemned or disavowed those actions, and indeed the two candidates filed on the same day and have yard signs of the same design and typeface, suggesting the campaigns are clearly aligned.
The other candidates, Wendy Berry and Lisa Eng-Sarne, both decided to run in response to the treatment of Mayor Halverson. A commitment to a more transparent and inclusive city government is part of both candidate’s platforms. (Full disclosure: Ken Paulman, the author of this post, has volunteered for the Berry campaign)
As an example of this commitment, Eng-Sarne and Berry were the only candidates who committed to attend a recent candidate forum held at city hall (Berry had to change plans because of a death in the family, but later answered questions in a Facebook event). Meisinger said he had a conflict, Ramsay simply ignored the invitation.
And so this primary election is assuredly a referendum on sexism. But that’s not all it’s about.
As the High Bridge reopens this fall and a new high-profile restaurant arrives in the neighborhood, the Smith Avenue neighborhood is at a critical juncture. The neighborhood needs representation that will be responsive to citizens and attentive to community frameworks that have been developed in the past. How our city is represented to potential developers and prospective homeowners matters too.
This blog does not plan to endorse a particular candidate, but I encourage readers to research and reach out to the candidates and ask them about their vision for the neighborhood. Local elections have a major impact, and if you haven’t been paying attention in the past, there’s no time like the present to get involved.
Also, vote! First, determine if you live in Ward 3 (a roughly L-shaped swath including everything west of Charlton and everything south of Marie). Then, find your polling place or vote via absentee ballot at the Dakota County Services Center. You can only vote for one candidate, the top two will advance to the general election. This is a non-partisan race.
The primary is on August 14 and it’s very important you turn out. Here’s how to reach the candidates:
David Meisinger: (no known campaign website or Facebook page)
John Ramsay: Facebook (no campaign website)